On our way from Cape Coast the other week, a colleague made me laugh so hard I nearly fell off my seat. She said there were more prophets in Ghana than in the whole of Israel. And what informed her judgement?
A Tanzanian lady visiting Ghana for the first time and who was with us was remarkably shocked at the number of billboards advertising the leadership of some charismatic churches and other worship centres in Ghana. The seemingly propitious pictures of the men of God, looking so prosperous on giant advertising billboards on roadsides, sometimes with their wives, amazed her. What was even more intriguing to her were the multiples of titles such as Apostle Dr, Prophet, Prophetess, etc. which they carried as if they were in “a battle of the titans”.
Though she admitted they had charismatic churches over in her country, our Tanzanian guest wondered what activity was going on that all these supposed men of God were out there on giant billboards that could be costing so much. It was at this comment that my Ghanaian colleague, poking fun, remarked that there were more prophets in Ghana than in the whole of Israel.
The comment, albeit a funny simile, speaks to a worrying situation. It certainly brought my mind back to something quite obvious but which I never ever stopped to meditate on. Do churches really need these expensive advertising on giant billboards? Yes, the church of today cannot separate itself from the use of the media and the opportunities available to reach those unchurched. However, when such opportunities to evangelise become discreetly inappropriate and more like splashing money around in a competition to draw attention, where does one draw the line?
Some of us grew up and were actually brought up knowing and following four traditional Christian religions – Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian and Anglican. We learnt at school and at home that we could all go to the same God through Jesus Christ, His son. We learnt how to pray and worship Him and were encouraged to go directly to Him with our needs by praying every day.
We knew no apostles or prophets in our churches as a kind of intermediaries, if we wanted to reach the Lord because, after all, we were taught at Sunday School to ask and we shall receive, to knock and the door would be opened and to seek and we would find.
We learnt and rattled the Lord’s prayer at a very young age and recited Psalm 23 which was literally at the back of our palms, sometimes chanting Psalm 139: 23, 24 at morning prayers to build up our faith with the urge to go direct to God.
Sunday School stories about the delivering hand of God as was exhibited in situations faced by Joseph, Job, Daniel, Jonah and how God can empower us as He did with Elijah were all to encourage and build up our faith going to the Lord.
Religion of prosperity
Today, we have been swamped by thousands of apostles, prophets, Odifou, ‘Nyame Nnipa’ and many more who have invaded our public spaces. Perhaps, the worrying bit is that some of them are decoying their followers into believing in a religion of prosperity and wealth, travel opportunities, jobs, marriages, the fruit of the womb and, above all, healing of diseases.
These prophets and other men of God, chasing all the titles in vogue, are selling to the highest bidders with anointing oils, holy water, handkerchiefs, that would supposedly cast out devils or help users attain all those flourishing opportunities that young men and women, the sick and afflicted, the jobless and the homeless would want in order to better their lives.
Suddenly, the prophets who have appeared in our communities are planting make-shift churches and prayer centres built on prosperity. Instant change of lives. In the process, some are displaying their own wealth in front of vulnerable followers Desperate with their situations, these people are coerced into spending on in-house ‘specially anointed’ water, oil and handkerchiefs prepared and prayed over by the prophets. Followers are told to empty their pockets and give to God every single day of the week as they attend teachings, prayer or anointing sessions to free them from evil bondage.
I admit that some people are gifted with powers to teach the Word, heal the sick and free some from bondage. However, the activities of some bad nuts carrying the titles of apostles and prophets are making a mockery of soul-winning for Christ. The expensive advertising on billboards portray unhealthy competition, a battle not to win souls but to show who is who.
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