Friday, December 18, 2015


Paul Gifford, Professor of African Christianity at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London was puzzled in his book African Christianity: Its Public Role that "Africa is not reacting to globalization by revitalizing African traditional religion but instead appeared to be opting into exotic religions." These "exotic" religions can be seen as the Spirit-empowered revivalist movements that are wide-spread throughout the African continent.  Many of these movements target the rich and poor alike.  They preach that wealth, healing, and even national peace will come as people give of their finances so that the Holy Spirit can work in their personal lives and communities.  From personal experience, I have seen an evangelist ask people to bring money to the altar so that he can pray a blessing on them and promises that their sacrifice will end in their request being answered.  I once could not understand why people would flock to a preaching crusade and give money freely when it was hard to get them to come faithfully to their local church and support it with their tithes.

Some of the fault lays with traditional Western thinking that is many times brought to the continent by foreigners.  We (non-Africans) seem to believe that witchcraft is a figment of the uneducated minds of the people and that every witchdoctor uses psychological delusion to gain power over the people.  We forget that the power of the devil and demons is real so witchcraft is real.  Africans know that it is real because many of them have experienced it firsthand.  So the traditional western evangelical missionary comes in and tells them it is all in their heads and the African non-evangelical missionary comes and tells them that witchcraft is the major reason for the underdevelopment of their country, their poverty, and their disease.  This second approach appeals to Africans who want an answer to the demonology that they see all around them which they believe causes illness and poverty.

Andrew Walls wrote in his book, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, when describing the modern African Spirit-empowered Revival Movement "Gone are the African drums of the aladuras [spiritualists]; the visitor is more likely to hear electronic keyboards and amplified guitars, see a preacher in elegant agbaba [robe] or smart business suit and a choir in bow ties." He goes on to conclude that Africans want a church that emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit in healing and public witness [tongues speaking] in the lives of the Christian followers.

Many traditional African churches have now joined this trendy non-evangelical Christian movement with more vibrant experiential worship, spontaneous healing, a media driven worship service all worked around an entertainment culture.   Some of these things are really not what I think is the problem. Hopefully Christians everywhere sing vibrantly before the Lord no matter the style and media should help us to get our faces lifted up toward the God we are worshipping.  I think the real problem is that the church is not a hall where we go to be entertained. It is not a place where we go to see the Holy Spirit do His thing!

The church should be a place where folks go to be taught, to be convicted; a place where they find a Holy God who is worthy of their worship and expects obedience from His followers. The church should be a place where the Holy Spirit does work as we submit ourselves to God.  A church should know that doctrine (content of belief) and certitude (conviction of belief) are important reasons that people choose a church.  A pastor must be uncompromising on the Word of God. The congregation must really believe what is being taught and preached and live it out in their lives.  A "truth" church cannot preach that every illness will be healed; and that every financial crisis will be relieved just by our faith. God is working all things out for His glory and His plan. God is in control and bad things do happen but He has promised to work all things together for our good and His glory.

In Africa we do have to tackle the witchcraft issue especially if this issue is pushing people into false religious thought.  We need to realize that witchcraft is real. Satan does have power to scare and intimidate people.

I once told a group of African pastors: "You are more afraid of the devil than you are of God." They looked at me shocked but many knew that it was true.  I have to consistently remind people that in Hebrews we are told that Jesus' death rendered Satan powerless.

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." Hebrews 2:14,15)

How do we overcome the fear of witchcraft?  The answer is not found in just becoming the trendy church or claiming to be able to command the Holy Spirit to do this or that.  The answer is found in a belief that everything is under the rule of Jesus, the One who has made us complete in Him. (Eph. 1:22,23) In Jesus, we have the truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Paul tells us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 13:14) Witchcraft has already been defeated by Jesus; we need to live in that victory.

Injili (Gospel) Baptist Church and our other churches are in a constant battle between teaching the truth and facing witchcraft (Demonology).  But God is greater and has won the victory.  When IBC started working in Majaoni village there were no less than five "mganga wa kienyeji" (healers/practitioners of magic).  Today, three of them have presented their lives to Christ and given up their magic. Praise God for his faithfulness.

Preach Jesus...He is the only one who has the power to redeem and save that which was lost.

"And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor. 6:11

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