Recently, I have been caught-up with a great spiritual crisis. I refer to it as a spiritual crisis because it concerns the community of faith, the church in Zimbabwe and its current leadership. In recent weeks, there has been a storm that has been blowing hardly against one of the prophets in the country. Several issues have been raised against the self-claimed prophet who has emerged in recent times and taken the Southern African continent by storm, in a magnitude that has left many people in the established and free churches fearing a mass exodus from their ministries to follow the prophet.
In the past, the prophet has been accused of several issues form theft by conversion, extortion, adultery, rape and murder charges and has been cleared with charges being dropped as false allegations. This has sufficed his numerous followers who follow the prophet and looks to him as the prophet of the season who has been divinely vindicated by God. To his followers, he is one of the great heroes of faith who is just suffering and being persecuted for his spiritual gifts and people wants to extort money from him. Several preachers have been implicated as plotting the downfall of the man of God and the prophet has gone at great lengths to exonerate himself amidst several testimonies of witnesses that claim to have first hand evidence of the prophet’s gross sins.
Social media has carried on outrageous stories that are malicious and detrimental to the person and character of the prophet. Several apologists and activists from his church have arose who feel it’s their mission to defend the man of God and have also taken to the social media platforms to try to give their side of the story. Some have argued that the issues raised are political, some religious, etc. But whatever the case may be, the Christian church in Zimbabwe has developed unhealthy habits of dealing with fellow ministers who are accused of sin and crime in their lives. While I am not a fan of the prophet, I am concerned with our attitudes as the church in how we handle fallen brothers or those who are in persecution and tribulations. I would like therefore in this article to share some thoughts on helping the church cope in such times when its ministers and leaders are accused for sin and wrong doing.
It is not proper for Christian leaders to be silent when a fellow brother is living a life that is not worthy of the manner of the Gospel. If as the church we feel a certain influential leader has missed the mark, we who are spiritual should not commit another sin of being silent, but rather we should speak up for our brothers and sisters, and try to help them. Having an attitude that lacks compassion for the sinful brother is not Christian. We should not rejoice over the falling of a brother and neither should we use that as an occasion of attacking the personality of the person. At times it is advisable to “judge nothing before the time” since most of the allegations against church leaders should only be accepted at the mouth of two or three faithful witnesses and not hearsay.
It is wrong to think that God is already judging the erring leaders in public because of hearsay. We know that some church leaders in the past have been charged of wrong doing and crimes that have not been committed by them, so unless the courts prove otherwise, we should stand with our leaders, giving them spiritual and emotional support. We should pray for them so that God can restore them and help them move in the right path. It is wrong to join the accuser of the brethren in accusing fellow brethren. The unity of the body of Christ is tested in such trying times.
Is it not surprising that Jesus himself said such times come when brother will deliver brother to death? In the history of the church, many believers were martyred because fellow believers, trying to safeguard their territories and positions, betrayed others and were killed. In Smyrna, the majority of believers were betrayed by church folk, likewise in Northern Africa. We have heard of similar stories in Nigeria. But, my point is, helping the world to crucify our fellow brethren is no sign of love.
We should not be like the Pharisees who condemn others for the very same crimes that they do. Our attitude should be like that of Christ, who, when asked to condemn the woman caught in adultery, showed her mercy and gave her a second chance and calling to his accusers, “He who has no sin should be the first to cast the stone!” I have often discovered that as ministers of the Gospel, we are quick to judge and condemn and have forgotten righteousness, mercy, truth and justice.
If a person is living a life of sin, he should be warned and we should seek every possible way to help restore that person in the paths of righteousness. But sadly, we do not confront our brothers, we simply conclude that they are sinners and do not need help. This is a serious problem that we often see develop day by day. It is true that some people refuse to be confronted and repent, and yet, if they are church leaders, we should strive by all means to bring them back to their place. Pride goes before a fall and leaders should be humble and willing to receive instruction, correction and discipline.
Sadly, many of the leaders that have risen in our country are lone rangers. They just evolved and became leaders. They have no backgrounds; they won’t tell you where they came from and can hardly be understood as to where they once worshipped or served as churches. We have failed as the Zimbabwean church in many cases by putting into leadership positions people that have not been tried and tested, and hence, we see their fruits after time proving that they do not belong to leadership positions in the church.
Sometimes, if you ask believers from a certain church about the background of their leader, they quickly brush you aside and say, “I don’t care about his reputation or where he came from, and all I care about is that I was blind but now I see!” Such an attitude has contributed to the astounding rate of false prophets and leaders who have risen in our time. I am not sure how the people are connected, but for someone to claim that he has no local advisors or counselors but rather spiritual fathers in the Diaspora who speak only to him and that he hears them only and no one else doesn’t sound right to me. I am of the opinion that local church recommendation is still important and valid today as it was in the early church because of the ever increasing number of freelance ministers and false apostles, teachers and prophets that are everywhere in our land.
There are things that we leave to God but this does not mean that we should be irresponsible. God wants us to be our brother’s keepers and not to have the spirit of Cain who is uncaring and unconcerned. We have a responsibility and duty before God to help our brothers in the Church because we are a family. Denominations are man-made, they will perish with us! Only Christ’s body will remain, so we should endeavor to promote the unity of the body, howbeit, in truth and holiness.
For the pastors and church leaders, holiness adorns the house of God. The apostle Paul wrote that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord must depart from evil. We should fear God, love God, shun evil and pursue after faith, love, holiness and fear the Lord. Our characters and not our gifts are what are important in the Christian way of life. Our conduct and conversation should be Christ-like. Backbiting, malice and gossips does not make us spiritual but rather, are pure manifestations that we are carnal and have not yet attained to perfection in Christ. It is of utmost importance that we avoid wrong ways of dealing with a fallen brother, so that we ourselves will not fall in the same condemnation.
We should take cognizance of the fact that humans are not gods walking on planet earth, but are prone to temptation and subject to falling. There is no man on earth who can stand and claim boldly that he cannot sin. For all of us are sinners, first and foremost. It is only through God’s grace and his gift of salvation that we are able to stand before God in the righteousness of Christ, forgiven and justified. We cannot manufacture any righteousness or holiness in us; it is given us, it is imputed on us.
Understanding the above point helps you to have right attitudes when others are tempted and fal because of sin. However, I am not advocating to a life of continued willful sinning wherein we want to take advantage of God’s grace. No, on the contrary, the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men and it teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness. As Christians, we should understand that anyone can fall, the clergy or the laity, the mature or new believer. Hence, the Bible gives us ample exhortations to watch, stay on guard, to be vigilant, to be sober and to flee temptation. Sadly, many in the Christian camp usually fall prey to the enemy’s schemes and trickery, but, God still loves us. God has made provision for us to be restored after we sin. We can still repent and forsake our sins, or as R. B. Thieme used to say, “Rebound and keep moving”.
Surprisingly, God forgives our sins and forgets them, or what one of my friends calls it, “Forgive and delete”. He is the God of the universe and He does what pleases him. However, many people n the church have not learned the art and discipline of forgiving others. Instead of forgiving, we judge and condemn. Jesus said to the woman in John 8, “neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more!” This should be our attitude if our brothers are proven guilty of their wrongs and crimes, but when they come to us, repent and lament over their sins, we should accept them not as sinners but as fellow saints because God has forgiven them.
It is wrong to assassinate other people’s characters by calling them bad names. If God has forgiven them, so should we! We should then take some measures to help our restored brothers learn to grow in the areas that often make them fall prey to the enemy’s deceitful schemes. For most Christian leaders in Zimbabwe, our greatest temptations revolve around the love of money, power, sex and pride. Mature Christian leaders should be willing to help young ministers cope and thrive as God’s servants. Young ministers should be willing to undergo mentorship programs that help them grow under supervised ministry so that they can be effective leaders.
The Church should pray for its leaders because they are on the forefront of the spiritual battles. “I will smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” is the devil’s strategy. He wants to divide and conquer the church. He knows a church that has leaders who are prone to sin and rooted in materialism is a dead church devoid of the Holy Ghost unction, so he won’t bother with it. Hence, he tries by all means to weaken the church structure by enticing its leaders to sin and when their sins become evident, being preached from the roof tops of social media, then he has won the fight. The sheep will be scattered.
It was for this reason that the early church leaders would call for prayer reinforcements. The Bible urges us to pray for each other because the days are evil and the Lord does not want anyone to perish but to be saved. Let’s be united in praying for the leaders in the Church and the churches so that the church in Zimbabwe can be spared in these trying times. We should encourage prayers for the Church in the churches and on pulpits. We should encourage a kingdom worldview that transcends our denominational hedges.
We should not rejoice when fellow ministers sin ad fall. In the Old Testament, certain nations rejoice to see the fall of Jerusalem and instead of pitying it, they celebrated its calamity and later you find God judging them. Even David, when he knew that Saul had been rejected by God, he did not take advantage of trying to glory over him or kill him. Rather, he remained by his side and kept calling him the Lord’s anointed even when the anointing had gone from him. He rebuked and put to death those who sought the bad will of Saul. This is a good example of how the church should react to the falling of fellow brothers. We should pray for them, talk to them and help them come back to the Lord, not to forsake them. They want us to stand by them and give them our support so that they can experience God’s love and touch. As Richard Roberts puts it, “He is the God of a second chance!”
In conclusion, the apostle Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. So that let him that thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (Galatians 6:1-3; 1 Corinthians 10:12)