According to prosperity theology, faith is not a theocentric act of the will or trust in God; instead, it is an anthropocentric spiritual force directed at God. Indeed, any theology that views faith solely as a means to material gains rather than the acceptance of heavenly justification must be judged faulty. There are many reasons the prosperity gospel is damaging the continent of Africa today, but this paper examines five of those reasons:
• It is mixed with occultism birthing cultic theology
Before Christianity came to Africa, people visited witch doctors and sacrificed goats or cows to get prosperity; they poured libations on the ground so the gods would hear their prayers. Today similar practices continue because the prosperity preachers have replaced the Ifa priests. There are stories of church ministers who buried live animals under the floor of their churches to win people’s favor. The people who follow these prosperity preachers are reminded that their promised windfall will not materialize unless they donate considerable money or properties.
• It drives greed by fueling self-indulgence
The prosperity preacher teaches people to focus on getting, not giving. Church members are continually urged to sow financial seeds to reap more significant rewards. In Africa, Christian revivals are dedicated to collecting offerings to achieve wealth. Preachers tell their followers that their physical prosperity measures spirituality. This greed preached from the pulpit spreads like the plaque in God’s house.
• It promotes conceit
The greedy atmosphere in prosperity churches has produced arrogance and a warped leadership style. A Kenyan, Gideon Thuranira, the editor of Christian Professional magazine, called these men “churchpreneurs.” The prosperity preachers plant churches not because they have a burden to reach lost souls but because they see different currencies of the world when they fill an auditorium with chairs.
The most successful prosperity preacher is the most dangerous because he can convince a crowd that Jesus died to give them a Lexus, airplane, or several mansions. In Nigeria, there are many cases of these preachers accumulating fabulous wealth and living in luxury while their followers become poorer.
• It works against the formation of Christian character. The prosperity gospel is a poor imitation of the true Gospel because it leaves no room for brokenness, suffering, humility, or delay. Prosperity preachers promise instant results and overnight success; if someone does not get a breakthrough, that person is not giving enough offering.
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him; prosperity preaching calls us to deny Jesus and follow our materialistic lusts. Some church ministers are so set on getting rich; they cannot go through the process of discipleship that requires self-denial. Spiritual formation has been scrapped for materials’ formation.
• It keeps people in poverty:
The government of Malawi was once under international scrutiny because of fraud carried out by top leaders. The so-called “Cash-gate” scandal is that professing Christians in the administration of President Joyce Banda was implicated. One of these people stole millions of kwacha from the government and hid the cash in a teddy bear! Most people today in Malawi live on less than $1 a day, yet their leaders have been known to buy fleets of cars and vast plots of land with money that was not theirs. Sadly, the prosperity gospel preached in Malawi has encouraged pastors and leaders to follow the same corrupt pattern.
As a result, God’s people have been financially exploited. The same thing happened in Nigeria during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan when the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria was implicated in the seized cash from his plane by the South African government. Jesus described false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Churches have been multiplying in many parts of Africa today, yet sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where poverty has increased in the past 25 years. So, according to the statistics, the prosperity gospel is not bringing prosperity! It makes their followers more miserable, so it is a flawed message!
• Seeker Sensitivity
The attempted integration of self-esteem into Christianity has influenced the theology of Christian counselors. Still, it has also distorted the mission and proclamation of many evangelical and mainline Protestant churches. Influenced by the Church Growth Movement, church leaders ask the questions: If the people in our community seek a sense of self-worth and self-esteem, how can we reach them? How can we be sensitive to the desires of these seekers? How can we produce a Sunday morning service that will allow these poor people with their wounded hearts and victimized lives to go home feeling good about themselves? The preaching of the Law, the doctrine of original sin, the confession of sins, the preaching of a bloody cross as the payment for human sin have been forsaken. As a result, in the thinking of many evangelical “Christians” today, Jesus is no longer primarily the suffering Savior who gave his life for the forgiveness of our sins. Instead, it is prosperity preaching, the Gospel of feeling good about self and happiness. So, instead of gathering together in contrition and repentance, acknowledging sin, and hearing the Good News of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, Christians today often hear sermons on politics, morals, values, and principles for living the alleged Christian life. The integration of the self-esteem concept into Christianity has produced devastating results.