Why is prosperity theology such an important issue to address for Africa?

What Africa needs more than food, aid or democracy

As a church planting missionary serving with ABWE in Africa, this article is not only timely, but it is crucial in our efforts to speak truth into people’s lives. We regularly face those in our communities preaching a false gospel and misleading thousands of people. The Gospel Coalition (TGC) this month posted an article (by Bill Walsh) which not only embodies what is happening in Kenya, but is true of our ministries in South Africa as well. Pray for us as well as our colleagues scattered all over Africa, that we will make an impact for Jesus in the face of a false prosperity gospel. Thank you for your ongoing support. I trust this post will be beneficial to you, too, in your efforts to make disciples!

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Why is prosperity theology such an important issue to address for Africa?

There are millions of Africans attending churches where the only message they hear is the prosperity gospel. The churches that preach this false gospel are everywhere, but sadly they seem to thrive even more in the poor communities of urban areas. Famous prosperity gospel preachers in the United States are very popular here in Africa. Their books are readily available, and their sermons are played on local television. Many are caught up either as preachers or followers without ever having heard the true gospel. A softer version of the same false teaching is affecting even mainstream churches.

From the Jerusalem Council to the Council of Nicea, the church has been called to contend for the faith against many different distortions. The primary distortion the gospel faces in Africa is the prosperity gospel. Although many believers and preachers oppose it, there are few resources addressing it. In many ways the prosperity gospel is being allowed to raid and plunder the church freely. We need more voices in the African church to put up a fight against this false gospel before it’s too late.

Africa needs the gospel more than it needs food aid. We need the gospel more than we need democracy. The prosperity we need the most is not offered by the American dream.

In what ways does this teaching negatively affect the lives of individual Christians?

There are poor people giving their small earnings to false gospel teachers in exchange for a false hope that will often leave them broken and doubting. There are middle class people getting conned out of their wealth, being told to give up their cars, land, and so on to the pastor. There are thousands of Christians attending church every Sunday to hear messages void of the gospel but full of self-help poisonous fluff. There is the constant shame brought to Christ and his church at large when the media exposes one false teacher after another.

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“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Mt 7:15)

Right now in Kenya this false gospel is destroying the foundations of the faith that are supposed to sustain Christians through times of persecution. As persecution of Christians increases in Kenya, we need Christians who truly believe that dying is gain and that Jesus is worth it all a million times over. The prosperity gospel, soft version or otherwise, is doing nothing but harm to a church that might soon be called to the same thing the church in Smyrna was called to—“faithfulness unto death” (Rev. 2:10)

How does the biblical gospel bring the truth to bear on this false teaching?

The biblical gospel tells us that the problem is far worse than the prosperity gospel suggests. Our greatest problem is not that we are broken or sick. Our greatest problem is that the God of the universe is righteous in his holy anger, and he is coming to pour out his divine wrath on all who do not worship him as God. The biblical gospel tells us that the good news is far better than the fact that we will be made healthy and wealthy (even though this will be true of all believers in the new heavens and the new earth). The biblical gospel tells us that we get God as our treasure. We get to worship God as God. He sets us free from all other posers that promised joys they could never provide.

Africa needs the gospel more than it needs food aid. We need the gospel more than we need democracy. The prosperity we need the most is not offered by the American dream.

Bill Walsh is director of International Outreach for The Gospel Coalition. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-africa-needs-more-than-food-aid-democracy

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