‘Prophets’ and the monetisation of faith

‘Prophets’ and the monetisation of faith

ONE of my pastors recently told a congregation that in the past being an Evangelist was much more fashionable than all the other gifts that Jesus Christ gave to the Church (being an Apostle, Prophet, Teacher and Pastor) in the work of the ministry of the gospel of God.
He said however today it seems more fashionable to be a prophet.

The sermon was on The Church, its Leadership and its Administration. The pastor warned the congregation about false prophets and the values they stand for or lack of and he advised the congregation to be very vigilant regarding these prophets.
The sentiments were echoed by yet another cleric who reiterated that church leaders who teach the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins before anything else are walking on the path of righteousness.

The Bible itself contains a myriad of verses about false prophets, warning Christians to be wary of “those who by smooth words and flattery . . . deceive the hearts of the simple”. I would like to be persuaded to believe that since there are those prophets who are said to be fake, logically it therefore means there are genuine prophets out there, after all prophets have been given as a gift to the church.

When I was growing up, most people were members of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Lesotho Evangelical Church and little was known about the more dynamic Charismatic Churches. Recent times though have seen the mushrooming of these Charismatic Churches and their membership increasing exponentially. Genuine or not, most if not all come with the promise of a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Many come with the promise of positive life-changing miracles.

The pertinent question is whether this increase in membership is due to people seeking to be ‘saved’ as a result of their new found faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of their lives or there are other things that go on in some of these churches which act as a magnet for these people.
I surely can never comment with any level of certainty on the legitimacy or how genuine people are in and when seeking salvation because it calls for me to be a cognitive psychologist and an expert in the operations of the mind at the least, but I absolutely can say something regarding what may be attracting some people to some of these churches (especially those that are allegedly led by ‘prophets’), and it certainly is miracles!.

People believe more in tangible objects and in verifiable results. People can pay huge amounts of money for a ‘prophet’ to lay his hands on them, even the fake ones.  At this point, one is reminded of Basotho people who are generally said to be poor, yet a promise of instant riches and a turnaround in fortunes lures even those who are poor to gamble with their hard earned monies to ‘invest’ in scams, corn artists and ponzi schemes.
It is the same with false prophets. We can never be in denial about the fact that monetisation of faith is in full swing and it may as well be responsible for the ever increasing number of fake churches out there. It is said in the Bible that “you shall know them by their fruits”.

I came home after church one Sunday and as I turned on my TV, there was this South African ‘prophet’. He was literally lying down on his back with stacks of what looked like one hundred South African Rand bills in his hands, making it rain money on top of him. The whole time he was repeating the same words over and over, “If you want your money to grow, bring it to me!!”

Now, there are two groups of people whose desperation to have their lives changed increases their exposure to possible exploitation by these fake prophets. In the walk of life, one is certainly bound to encounter trials and afflictions in different forms, different magnitudes at widely varying frequencies.

These periods always test one’s ability to endure these challenges and they always test one’s faith in whatever one may believe in.
The Bible is clear about what needs to be done when one ‘walks through the valley of the shadow of death’, but people become vulnerable during the times of hardship, and it is easy for many to fall victim to fake and fraudulent false prophets who more often than not are out to swindle people of their hard earned monies.

So, the first group is that of down and out people with challenges such as unemployment, illness, poverty etc., which they believe that through these prophets, these challenges would be reversed so they lead better lives.
On the other hand, we also have a group of people who have not necessarily hit rock bottom and still lead reasonably good lives but are eager and therefore desperate to add more to what they already have. This group would include the greedy in it. Both groups are equally vulnerable.

There is a story of one con artist who pretended to be a prophet and therefore claimed to be able to heal people by the power of God. During Sunday services, there would be in church a number of seemingly disabled and ill individuals who unbeknownst to other members of the congregation were actually complicit in this deplorable act of his.

He would call them over to the pulpit and while laying his hands on them, he would ‘pray’ supposedly to God for them to be healed. Right at that moment, these people would spring to life and run around the church as testimony to their deliverance while they praise and give thanks for their healing. People were moved by this and many thought they felt the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through this ‘healing’ process. The impact of these actions was an increase in the number of people who signed up for membership of this church.

The Bible says that, “…and the truth of the Lord endures forever”, and true to that verse, this shameful and devilish act of tricking people into believing in this prophet was uncovered and he was exposed for what he truly was when his erstwhile partners in crime revealed how the whole scam was woven and executed after a disagreement involving the sharing of the proceeds from this fraudulent act ensued.

Many denounced this prophet and his actions but amazingly, some people stood by him during a resulting persecution.
There also exists a group of prophets who may or may not have received this important anointing from God, yet their actions make it easy for people to cast aspersions on them and what they stand for by simply deviating from the Bible.  In the morning of one of these good days there was this ‘prophet’ on a radio programme who upon listening to him, sounded genuine until the moment he began talking about his anointing oil.

He claimed that this oil was capable of bringing miracles upon the lives of all those who buy and make use of it. He called it “Oli ea likhohlo” (literally translated into “the oil of gorges/canyons”. A strange name for something that is associated with God don’t you think?
Now, the use of oil has been permitted and encouraged throughout the Bible. However, it is impossible to find in the Bible a verse which allows for these oils to be sold. In fact one verse in the Bible says “…cast out demons.

Freely you have received, freely give”. I have learned that one can only do oneself credit by never taking a single verse from the Bible in isolation nor should one read and interpret any Bible verse out of context. Notwithstanding, from the quoted verse above, it is clear that these things should not be sold. It sounds like oli ea likhohlo is being sold despite this.

We are advised that the best and the only way in which we can protect ourselves from these false prophets “…who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” is by reading, studying and meditating only on the true gospel since this is the word of God Himself.
In this way, only the truth we will know and therefore cannot be deceived. We would detect falsehood easily. Nowadays, still teaching and prophesying about the word of God, false teachers’ ministries are predominantly about money more than the other aspects of the gospel itself.

Lest I be interpreted as criticising teachings about money, there are a lot of scriptures about money but Proverbs 13:11 tells us that “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow”. Reading the scriptures and knowing what the truth is, will make discerning of false teaching easy.

By: Mosito Ntema

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