First, let me say this. I am not a pessimist, a fatalist or a racist. I am just an honest guy. I care about Africa as I do the rest of the world. Being a Christian, I cannot reconcile these things with the Christian faith. I raise this issue to provoke us Africans (particularly African Christians) and the rest of the world to think about some of the deep underlying issues which might help explain why Africa hasn’t developed – and why it really doesn’t seem to be developing at a rate proportional to all the aid and investment that has been made in Africa since the end of colonialism. Continue reading
You are here reading this post. The title of this post has drawn you in for one reason or another. Perhaps you outraged by the assertion that this title seems to suggest at face value. Perhaps, you are one of those skeptics who has always thought this to be true but have been afraid to say it for fear of being labelled a pessimist, fatalist or worse still a racist, especially for those of you who are not African. Whatever the reason, I am very glad you are here. Get a cup of tea or coffee (or whatever you like), sit down and let’s talk.
Lord willing, Conrad Mbewe will be speaking at the 2013 Chosen Generation Missions Conference. I can’t wat to hear God’s Word faithfully proclaimed by this brother whom many refer to as the “Spurgeon of Africa.”
The explosive growth of Christianity in Africa and South America has led many observers to speak of this demographic shift as creating a new Christendom. Unfortunately, the teaching that has fueled growth in these areas has been tainted by an American-style prosperity emphasis that focuses on health and wealth at the expense of sin, redemption, and repentance.
A PLEA TO REJECT THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
Femi Adeleye is the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students Associate General Secretary for Partnership and Collaboration. A Nigerian based in Ghana, Adeleye argues against the prosperity gospel from a place of personal experience and from an up-close view of how his country (and continent) is developing theologically. His book Preachers of a Different Gospel: A Pilgrim’s Reflections on Contemporary Trends in Christianity is a heartfelt plea to reject the prosperity gospel and embrace the biblical message that saves.
Adeleye begins his book by describing a “strange gospel” that has created “strange Christians.” He laments the fact that many no longer adhere to the gospel as it was first presented in Africa. “The gospel that downplays human sinfulness and the eternal benefits of the gospel is not a gospel of Christ” (134).
Throughout the book, Adeleye contrasts the revivals of the 1970′s with contemporary gospel presentations in an effort to show how quickly the degeneration has taken place. Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A.W. Tozer and others, Adeleye seeks to show the disparity between the prosperity teaching in Africa today and historic Christian witness. He writes: “Whereas the gospel of the cross calls for repentance and denial of self and other things, the gospel of champagne calls for self-satisfaction in response to stimuli from diverse entertaining attractions” (19).
Adeleye sympathizes with the early aspects of the charismatic movement. He traces the history of recent African renewal movements and recounts his personal experiences during this time. At the same time, he laments the tendency of Africans to focus on the gifts of the Spirit more than the fruit.
A PROPHETIC SERMON AGAINST THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
Preachers of a Different Gospel reads like an extended sermon in which Adeleye, like an African prophet, seeks to correct his brothers and sisters and bring them in line with the gospel that was once for all delivered to the saints. And, like a good preacher, Adeyele turns some striking phrases, such as the polarity between “the God man uses” rather than “the man God uses.”
But Adeleye is careful to not critique in such a way as to create a different sort of distortion. When speaking of God’s immanence, for example, Adeleye seeks balance and makes sure to not rule out a believer’s experiential piety and relationship with God.
Toward the end of the book, Adeleye points out ways that the prosperity gospel is responsible for some of Africa’s ongoing cultural problems. He sees the witness of the church as tightly tied to the content of the gospel it preaches. “The primary purpose of the gospel is to save us and bring us into a living relationship with God and with one another. The goal is to produce transformed people who bear witness to the righteousness of God” (134).
It quickly becomes clear that Adeleye believes that the prosperity gospel has left the church in a state of impotence, totally unable to address many of the societal and structural issues in Africa today. He writes: “When there is a fire in the church, society should feel the heat” (121). And again: “True renewal is not just personal; it must also have an impact on society.”
Some may not agree with Adeleye’s description of Christians as “transforming agents” in society, but it is clear that Adeleye views societal transformation as intricately connected to personal evangelism and the church being the people of God. Preachers of a Different Gospel is a clarion call to the contemporary church to return to authentic Christianity, not only for the sake of the church, but also for the good of the world.
– first published in the 9Marks eJournal, Jan-Feb 2012
I was greatly shocked when my wife shared this article with me this afternoon. Al Jazeera published this article on their website. I encourage you to read it here. Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Margo MacDonald has launched a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die – which in my mind is outrageous and grossly immoral, cruel and careless. It totally degrades the intrinsic value of human life as given by God the Almighty, who is our Creator (Genesis 1:27) and the Creator of heavens and earth! This “End of Life Assistance” Bill sets out that anyone over the age of 16 could request assistance to die if that person was diagnosed as terminally ill and that he/she finds life unbearable. Ms. MacDonald tried to get this bill passed in December 2010 but it was defeated. According to the Huffington Post (UK), “A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.”
I find Ms. MacDonald’s arguments flawed and unconvincing – but that’s not all that disturbs me. The bill that she is pushing is in direct violation of the Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). This bill seeks to give man the legal freedom to take one’s life or that of another with impunity.
Here are some quotes from the article:
Assisted Suicide (“Mercy Killing”) – currently banned by law in Scotland & the UK:
In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, it is currently a crime to help someone end his or her own life. A doctor who injects a patient with lethal drugs in order to kill them could be prosecuted for culpable homicide or even murder.
Margo MacDonald wants that legal ban repealed:
“If it came to the worst and I was faced with a very bitter and protracted end, I should have the right to ask for help to end my life earlier than nature intended,” Macdonald told Al Jazeera.
She added: “I would like the insurance policy of knowing that if it gets near, and I would like to shorten it, I would not be putting my family at risk. It is not about pain, it is about making sure you are still yourself.”
Margo wants autonomy not dignity – She has a warped view of “dignity” according to what she says here:
She told Al Jazeera that the same debate is going on all over the world and if her bill is passed: “Scotland would be seen as a place where humanity, above all, and individual autonomy is respected. This legislation is really about the right of a person to see their life through and keep their dignity to the very end.”
Some church leaders are fighting against this:
When this issue was last debated, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, told a special Mass for Healthcare workers: “Laws need to be objective in their statement of principle. It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.”
Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told Al Jazeera: “Nothing has changed. Deliberate killing, even when assisting someone who is in a state of despair, is always wrong.”
Many doctors are concerned:
Many doctors are also concerned that legalizing assisted suicide could lead to frail or elderly people being coerced into taking their lives.
I hope that this bill is defeated once again in the Scottish Parliament. I also hope and pray that Christians in Scotland and around the world will continue to speak out against this and similar violations of God’s law and order for His people. From a human stand-point, Ms. MacDonald seems “unstoppable.” She probably thinks so. She is quoted as saying:
Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I’ve received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees.
But those of us who believe in the Sovereign LORD who rules over the universe, know that the LORD is ultimately in control and that He has the power to stop this and all ills that have plagued Scotland and the world (see Proverbs 21:1).
Why Am I So Concerned for Scotland?
Just for the same reasons that I would be concerned if this was happening in any other country primarily because it goes against the will – it goes against the Law of God clearly stated in Scripture. That’s the main reason why this disturbs me. But there is more:
As one who has not in the least sense benefited from what the Lord has done through Scotland over the years, I cringe when I read this kind of stuff about Scotland or coming out of Scotland. I feel a special affinity to Scotland for various reasons. Let me mention three:
1. The first missionary to bring the gospel to my home country (Malawi) was Scottish. His name was Dr. David Livingstone. Malawi is replete with monuments in honor of Dr. Livingstone and his work there – not the least of which is Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital which was named after Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland where Dr. Livingstone was born. I had the privilege of visiting Blantyre (Scotland) a few years ago and saw the house in which Dr. Livingstone was born and raised. This house is now the home of the David Livingstone Center.
2. As a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian and church minister, I owe a lot of that to what the Lord has done through Scottish men like John Knox, Samuel Rutherford, Robert Murray McCheyne, Professor John Murray, from centuries gone by (just to name a few) – but also from contemporary theologians and preachers like Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Alistair Begg, etc.
3. I am now a gospel minister with a denomination that is rooted in Scotland, the Associated Presbyterians Church (APC) – and I feel for so many of my dear brothers and sisters in Scotland as I consider all the challenges and the spiritual battles that they face in their pursuit of Christ, His will and purposes. I am concerned and this moves me to pray more fervently for the work of the gospel across Scotland and the UK.
Let’s Pray for Scotland, the UK and the World
Prayer is ultimately the answer – and our sure hope. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Please join me in praying that God’s will may triumph over evil and that Scotland may be turned back to the Lord. He has done it before, He can do it again. Even though it seems like a dark cloud is hanging over Scotland and much of the western world, the LORD God can change that. May the Light of Christ once again shine in Scotland even from the “farthest” corners of the world (like Malawi and such places where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is now flourishing). Perhaps it’s time to send missionaries back to Scotland! Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can ever ask or imagine according to His power which is at work in us (see Ephesians 3:20-21).
The Lord in His providence is pleased to send His messengers into the world at various times to accomplish specific tasks which He sovereignly assigns to them for His own purposes and for His glory. Some are sent to break the ground and thus “prepare the way” for the gospel. Some are sent to sow the “Seed” of His Word while others are sent to water the Seed. Some are sent as harvesters to reap what others have sown. The One Common Denominator in all of these various callings is of course, the Lord God. He is the Only One who “gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
It is indisputable that men such as Dr. David Livingstone were called by God to do the hard work of breaking the ground and preparing the hearts of many unconverted Africans for the “Seed” of the gospel. They no doubt did this work by faith trusting that the Lord would one day be pleased to give the increase. There is no proper record of how many people came to saving faith as a direct result of Dr. Livingstone’s ministry. But one thing is sure – millions of African Christians can trace their spiritual birth to this man. For generations now, Africans have been converted to the Christian faith in their masses in an unprecedented fashion. A cursory look at the church in Malawi bears clear testimony to Dr. Livingstone’s words:
“Our work and its fruits are cumulative. We work towards another state of things. Future missionaries will be rewarded by conversions for every sermon. We are their pioneers and helpers. Let them not forget the watchmen of the night, we who worked when all was gloom and no evidence of success in the way of conversion cheered our path. They will doubtless have more light than we, but we served our Master earnestly and proclaimed the same gospel as they will do.” – David Livingstone
There were no indigenous Christians when Livingstone first arrived in Malawi in 1859. Today, Malawi registers 11,925,756 Christians with a 3% annual growth rate. This number indicates that 76% of the population of Malawi is Christian (see Operation World, 7thEdition, p.552). Certainly, this is a remarkable growth and praise be to the Lord for He alone can save sinners!
However, this growth seems devoid of real depth in the lives of many Christians. When asked to describe the church in our day, one of the leading evangelical leaders described it in three words, “growth without depth.” Such is the sad description of the church today. It is something with which every serious Christian must be concerned especially those who have been called to minister the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Looking at the current landscape of the church in Malawi, one hardly sees any depth accompanying this growth. Much of what is seen is evangelism without discipleship. While many of our churches are full on Sundays, it is shocking to note that only a handful of these people have a deep and firm grasp of the Christian faith and doctrine. This problem is compounded by the fact that this is also true among a good number of clergymen not in many of the evangelical churches in Malawi.
There is therefore a great burden laid upon the shoulders of the church and all ministers of the gospel in Malawi and around the world today. First, the church needs to make sure that its ministers are receiving adequate theological education from Christ-centered institutions which take the Word of God seriously. Secondly, for the ministers, they need to strive under God to help their congregations grow not only in numbers but especially in depth. The Lord expects all Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18); and that beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, they might be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This, the Bible says ultimately comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. May all those who have been called to be ministers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, pray and preach for growth with depth to the glory of God!