We live in a time when the religious market place seems to be offering all sorts of goodies for the careful shopper and the impulse buyer. The rapid explosion of the religious movements, new religious movements and immigration in our country has contributed to the ever increasing plurality of religious thought and practice in Zimbabwe. Sadly, there has been a serious outbreak of religious beliefs and practices that have been syncretized in the Christian community and have left many Christian folks confused as to the real nature of Christianity. This trend is set to produce a dangerous kind of spirituality that is devoid of true Christianity but will seek to mislead innocent and ignorant believers from the true Christ.
For decades now, Zimbabwe has declared itself to be a Christian country. It is interesting to note that the use of the term “Christian” is used loosely to imply that we are a religious nation with many churches and people who are aligned to such churches. In its strictest sense, the word Christian refers to a person who has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, and, has chosen to forego all forms of worldliness and has dedicated himself to the cause of Christ which manifests in his attitudes, character, conduct and conversation through the application of God’s word and principles in his life through the enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is not what we meant when we declared that our country is a Christian country. We could rather rightly call it a religious country where everyone has freedom of expression and worship without and disturbances.
As a result, all forms of religions are tolerated in our country despite the fact that those who profess to be Christians are the majority. However, living in a society that has a plurality of religions, it is not in man who lives to direct his own ways. Therefore, the human mind can conceive of things that are beyond the realms of this world especially anything that is spiritually appealing. We have sadly witnessed and will continue to witness the devastating effects of living in a pluralistic religious world because the days are evil.
Many people have started to frequent our churches and the temptation has been so great among the religious leaders and the church folk to compete for numbers. Spirituality is now measured by numbers in one’s local church as in a business model. The folks that frequent our churches seem to have brought with them their religious practices in the church, being un-reborn and unregenerate. For example, those from African Traditional Religions (ATR) have re-defined Christianity for us. They have brought in new and strange teachings of the ATR religion into the church and most people in the apostolic sects have eagerly embraced their religious philosophies and practices, Christianized them and sought for biblical references to support their errors.
In some apostolic sects, they believe that if a person had a demon before he served God, when that person is saved; God transforms that demon into the Holy Spirit. If one was a sorcerer, then he is changed to a deliverance minister; if one was a witchdoctor, then he is given amazing supernatural powers to heal the sick and exorcise demons. They believe it’s the same evil spirit that has been cleansed to become a good spirit. Strange as it is, this teaching is far removed from the biblical concept of salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit and yet, many Christian folks in the church favor this position.
The reason why we have many false teachers today owes largely to the fact that many believers do not want to read and study the Bible on their own; hence, they have become unsuspecting prey to the wiles of the enemy who tends to question them and seduce them to doubt God’s written word. I was recently surprised by some folks who claimed to be Christian and yet did not subscribe to the basic belief of the Bible as God’s only inerrant word. These folks claimed that God was giving them supernatural revelations that were far superior to the written text claiming that the Bible is full of errors and is just but a fraction of what God has intended for mankind to know. The young believers who listened to these men could not doubt or deny it especially after seeing some miracles that these guys performed. To the mind of a simple believer, the performance of a miracle is a sign that God is confirming His word, and yet, this is not so.
False teachers in our midst are the workers of certain lying wonders and miracles that are meant to deceive and mislead the simple. The Bible clearly says that true prophets are known by their fruits and not their miracles. I understand that since we come from a background of ATR, where we used to witness strange and powerful demonstrations of some supernatural powers, we think that a man of God should be known by some miraculous and amazing powers. In ATR, we sang and danced to see the spirits in manifestation so the same imagery is taken and implied to the biblical text. For example, when Paul writes that the kingdom of God is not a matter of words only but in the demonstration of power, this verse taken out of context with an ATR mind will convey the idea that whenever we mention God’s kingdom, there should be some physical tangible evidence of power demonstration as it was in ATR.
I really understand this phenomena especially that I have a Pentecostal background and as a true African, I have great insight into ATR having witnessed several manifestations of great magnitude in my life. I grew up in an atmosphere where amazing power encounters were frequent; I know about mediums and spiritualists. I have seen it all! What makes me doubt many of the teachers, preachers and prophets in our country today is the fact that they uniquely display the same powers, and methods of the spiritual world of ATR in their ministries and claim it’s from the Spirit of God.
Some of them are soothsayers, who prophesy for money or reward. Others use dark powers, dark magic to get some powers from which they hypnotize entire congregations. Strange as it may seem, most of these things are done in full view of men and still they think it is God who is doing the false miracles. I have been to meetings where some of these false teachers claim to have powers to summon demons, send them to the people, make them harass people, etc. They also claim they have the same ability to summon angels and do the opposite. As if it’s not enough, some claim that their spirits can leave their bodies and go out and perform amazing miracles in the lives of those who believe them.
This past decade, there has been a greater increase in the use of mystical things, holy water, holy oil, holy sand, holy condoms, holy oranges, holy pens and pants, etc. It’s easy to see where people belong to nowadays. Houses are filled with photos of powerful church leaders, stickers on cars, t-shirts, caps, calendars, books, bill boards, etc. There is a belief that by keeping these items, there is a spiritual connection that links you to the men of God, and in some cases, some people have altered their names to include the names of their beloved man of God who is considered as the spiritual key to the healing, success, deliverance or prosperity of the individual. As I write, I understand that there are those who can argue that God cannot be put in a box; therefore, God can do anything with his people. He can even use anything because Jesus said greater works than these shall you do because I go to my Father. I am aware that there is a great disdain of theologians, apologists and polemicists in my country simply because we have developed itching ears and lost a love for truth simply because we want to see certain things that helps us define what we mean as a powerful Christian or powerful church.
In the next few articles, I will continue to discuss these issues and the implications they have to the Zimbabwean church. I am of the opinion that we are living at the crossroads and the Church in Zimbabwe is facing a great crisis that will jeopardize its spiritual landscape. I am not a prophet of doom, but a student of history and the Bible, and I believe the insights I have gotten from the Bible and Church history helps me once again to affirm with King Solomon: There is nothing new under the sun. God bless you!