Dear God ,
As for this one, you have to come down. I know we don’t have any pictures of you or your Son Jesus, but the photo shopped images of pastors and prophets plastered on bill boards across Africa is driving me insane. Usually the billboard is wide enough to block a grove of trees and high enough to eclipse the sun. In the middle of this board, you will spot an ostentatiously dressed man with a gold chain dangling over his collar. This ‘anointed man of god’ is usually inviting people to a revival where he is supposed to perform miracles. The most memorable board I saw was of a caftan clad priest, resting his hands on a bejewelled sword, obviously inviting commuters and pedestrians to his church. (Doubting Thomases should visit East Legon Ashiashie area).
I thought this trend was exclusive to Ghana, but my visit to several African countries confirmed that cities have become an album hosting the profile pictures of pastors, right reverends, bishops and prophets. Unfortunately, this idolatry wave of Christianity sweeping through Africa is particularly prominent on the radio where gruff and authoritative voices cast out demons and chastise sinners to repent. It seems like the gruffer you are, the more popular you become. Now if your on-air persona is matched by a real life dramatic performance at a church, your reputation will grow in leaps and bounds. I once seated in a church where a visiting pastor was so charged that he was hopping and trotting on the podium, sweat flying off his forehead. After 2 hours of this performance, the congregation started to fidget. I still don’t remember what the message was.
God why is it that in Africa, there seems to be an insatiable appetite for deliverance from a variety of woes in the physical and spiritual realms? It is as if we do not believe in the power that Christ vested in us, so we latch onto ‘powerful men of god’ to perform miracles in our lives. Some pastors feeling pressured by the load of the expectations seek out other medium to help them perform miracles. Last year, things nearly exploded when a well publicized voodoo man threatened to storm the premises of some churches to confront pastors who had sought his supernatural powers only to goad him in the media. Who can blame the pastors for being spiritually ambitious? Powerful men are adulated and showered with gifts. In a particular church where there is a lot of ‘action’, I heard a pastor boldly state that he had just received yards of fine lace as a gift from an appreciative congregant. He urged the rest of the congregation to give handsomely to pastors because they pray for them. My head did a quick spin and I experienced my first WTH?? moment in church. I expected to see multitudes of eyes rolling in disbelief at the utterance, but they were all clapping instead.
Many churches have become money making machines that exploit the word for God for personal gain. Sadly, they project a bad light on the true teachers of the scriptures who counsel the afflicted, heal the broken and transform lives. The humility of the true disciples speaks volumes; they shy away from grandiose or hyphenated titles, and want to heal the world. Even when they are blessed with abundance, their focus remains on the poor, so they give bountifully and call on the earth to love one another just as Christ loved us. So God, we need you to help us separate the deceivers from the disciples before another vanity board is mounted.