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By David Stedman (CEO)

To a European like myself, the deep spiritual and religious culture in Africa often seems complex and confusing. I have met Muslims who tell me their favourite music is by Hillsong. There are Christian sects that practise polygamy as a prerequisite for leadership. I know well-educated urban ‘millennials’ who believe all pastors are corrupt and use the church to exploit the vulnerable for spurious moneymaking schemes.

There are many self-professed prophets, apostles and bishops flogging everything from increased sexual potency to ‘holy’ rice. If you Google ‘African pastors’ one of the top auto-completes is ‘African pastors with private jets’. Many of these charismatic, media-savvy celebrities offer a pluralistic mix of gospel language and traditional spirituality.

During a recent visit to Kenya, I heard that Prophet David Owuor was in Nairobi. David is founder of the ‘Repentance and Holiness Movement’ which has grown exponentially since the early 2000s. He was holding a mass crusade in Uhuru Park and people were flocking from all over the city.

David can be found on YouTube where his video ‘Top 10 Miracles Worldwide’ has tens of thousands of views. He is undeniably charismatic and persuasive; he gets red carpet treatment and wears designer suits. David is also just one example of an explosive but unregulated and unaccountable phenomenon which is influencing a generation. It is shaping ideological belief, Christian hope and material expectation amongst millions of Africans.

Moses Owojaiye, CEO of the Centre for Biblical Christianity in Africa, views the rise of self-proclaimed prophets as perverting what African Christians believe about genuinely biblical prophetic ministry. “While this phenomenon is not peculiar to Africa, this kind of public abuse of the pastoral and prophetic ministry seems to be more obvious here than elsewhere,” he writes. “I do not know of any other ministry that has damaged the image of the church in the African public square today more.”

While the rise of celebrity Christianity is a major challenge to orthodox and established African churches, dangerous claims are forcing governments to closely monitor religious activities. Allegations of sexual abuse and swindling people out of money and property often leak out into social media. When self-professed prophets announce they have found cures for HIV/AIDS and prevent patients from seeking medical help, or spray insecticide on congregants to exercise deliverance from evil, it is no wonder that the Rwandan government has issued strict demands on accredited theological education for leaders and health and safety regulations for churches. As other African governments follow suit, the regulatory burden falls on all churches, not just a few dodgy pastors.

As APF partners complain that they are losing members, especially young adults, to this kind of teaching, it is clear that investment in contextualised biblical training and theology in Africa is urgent. Our dedicated partners know the opportunity to tackle the influence of self-professed prophets is now and the future direction of Christian faith on the continent is at stake. That is why they are so desperate to promote the kind of biblical literacy and discipleship that will address the contemporary problems that lead people to false prophets in the first place.

Thank you for standing with our African partners as they equip the church and address the rise of false prophets. As we begin 2020, wouldn’t it be great for APF to have a treasure chest of funds for growing our partners’ leadership, training and pastoral formation ministries? If you are able, please send a one-off gift or setup a regular donation to support in-service pastor training and academic scholarships.

Please pray for:

  • An increase of in-service training and scholarships.
  • eVitabu users to engage with resources for personal growth and as
    a leadership training tool.
  • Growth of eVitabu across Africa and the delivery of certified training courses using the platform.
  • Trainers of trainers like Daniel Gwara (Kenya), Emmanueal Gatera (Rwanda), Heavenlight Luoga (Tanzania) and Francis Esomu (Uganda).