Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Man of God in Uganda

I'm trying to think through all of the things I've learned about Africa whilst being here that have come on slowly so I've never thought to write about them. One of these would definitely be the awareness people have of the spiritual world here - Satan masquerades as many different types of spirits, including ancestors, fairies, good and evil spirits and, the thing that scares me most, the Holy Spirit. In the western world, the spirit world is hiding from sight, to fool us into thinking there's no danger. Here, there is plenty of danger, but people can become completely enslaved either trying to please the spiritual world or seek fulfilment in it.

This kind of worldview permeates the Church entirely. There is a huge emphasis on the Holy Spirit in many churches, so much so that Jesus is overlooked if not forgotten. One of the members of our team has been 'scouting out' the pentecostal conferences that go on, and has experienced the power of Satan masquerading as the Holy Spirit, causing people to vomit and fit among other things. These spirits are often summoned by 'Men of God' who behave like Old Testament prophets, promising blessings if people give them money or act a certain way. I'm pretty sure they think they're 'summoning' the Holy Spirit, but when they don't invoke Him in the name of Jesus, it is Satan who comes to fool them instead. These preachers call on the HS in their own name, asking Him to place into their hands all of the blessings He has for the people, so that people have to come to him to receive from God. I wonder if they realise they're removing the need for a Messiah, because with a Man of God who can access the blessings of God and give them to any he chooses, why would we need Jesus?

A lot of this is based in the power traditional religion and culture have over Christianity here - just like culture has in the West, but in far different ways. For example, if you need a miracle, you could either go to a witch doctor, who would give you an item to wear that was enchanted and would cause your miracle to happen, or you could go to the Man of God, who would bless an item (in the most recent case it was hankies) which you would then wear and God would bless you with your miracle. Who needs Jesus, when you can have a Saviour Handkerchief?

I'm joking around, but it does make me so sad to see people hungry for God being fooled and scammed by charismatic men who enjoy having power over people and reaping monetary rewards. There's a scam used by church leaders called 'sowing blessings', where people are expected to give what they have in order for God to bless them hundredfold afterwards. Nobody is telling them that with Jesus, those blessings are free! God has made available membership of the Kingdom of Heaven, a whole new life, and everything we could possibly need, to anyone who will come to Him, but these 'Men of God' stand in front of Jesus, hiding Him from sight yet using His name, and hold out their hands and charge people money for empty promises.

I'll explain some of the ways words are used in these kinds of churches, to give you a better idea of how these kinds of things go on:

  • Teaching: This is when someone opens the Bible and explains its words and meaning. 
  • Preaching/Man of God (these things go hand in hand): In the kinds of churches I'm talking about, preaching happens 90% more than teaching, and is very distinct from it. A blessed man, often called an Apostle or Bishop though always called a 'Man of God' takes words from the Bible and prophesies from them. This man is required in order for people to receive blessings, it's almost as if he has to 'activate' the words of the Bible for them to come true. There is much emphasis on the Old Testament, in fact he is very similar in role to the OT prophet. An example would be a preacher reading from an OT prophet about how God will bless Israel with riches/rich harvest/various other blessings and He will then 'activate' them by giving a certain time span (either the end of the evening, week, month or year usually) by which point people will have received their (generally non-specific) miracle. You would think they would be put to rout immediately when these things don't happen, however they tell people that their receipt of the miracle depends on the amount of faith they have, so the preacher escapes blame if nothing happens.
    • These false prophets are essentially the High Priests of old - God must speak through them as the normal people are too unclean for Him to communicate with them. In this way, the death of Jesus loses its meaning - He died to bring us back into relationship with God, but this relationship is nonexistent and unnecessary when the Man of God is around.
  • Holy Spirit: By far the most emphasised member of the Trinity. He conveys blessings from Jesus to earth, and the Man of God is in constant communion with Him. If He wants to say anything, He tells the Man of God who will communicate it to the crowd. He makes His presence felt physically, often through people shaking, vomiting or falling over, and He causes people to speak in tongues. This is the best way to pray, as God does not pay as much attention to normal speech.
    • It is often taught that it is via communion with the Holy Spirit that our sins are forgiven i.e. without Jesus. The most recent Man of God told the people they were all sinful and going to Hell, but they would be absolutely fine if they could just learn to speak in tongues.

We need to blanket the Church in Uganda with prayer. Pray that it will seek Him for Himself and not for earthly blessings, that Biblically trained church leaders will rise up and guide these sheep that have gone astray, and that people will read their Bibles in order to find Jesus and nothing else. People need to experience the REAL Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who will rout out these false preachers and point people back to Jesus. Please join me in praying for the church in this nation, so that His Name will be made known again!

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