One of the email newsletters I subscribe to sent me a link the other day to a great (and also disturbing) video about Nigerian millionaire preachers, which are most often viewed by the masses as celebrities. These preachers regularly use their status to manipulate impoverished congregants to give their money in tithes and offerings in exchange for the promise of God’s financial and eternal blessings. Yet while the poor so often remain poor, these rich preachers only get richer and continue to drive around in their fancy, luxury cars and expensive houses. They perform impressive miracles, but sometimes those being healed are actually the preacher’s own staff members and are not sick at all before-hand and even those who are reportedly “healed” refuse to give their testimonies to the media and the ministry will not provide confirmations of those healings even though they claim numerous confirmed reports exist. Even sadder is the fact that it seems just as many leave sick that came to be healed. Sound familiar to anyone?
You’ll see in the video how many of these preachers even have large body guards and security staff, titled “God’s Household Enforcement”, and people have actually been beaten for trying to photograph the ministry’s office buildings or for asking too many questions! In any given city there may be hundreds of “churches” and the prosperity gospel is the most popular doctrine of the day… You’ll see, in the video, how these preachers actually teach their ministry staff that “God is a game, and a very easy game to play…” In the one excerpt the preacher talks about how many people come to church because they want answers for their problems so the ministry needs to give them something to entice them to come in and the end result means lots of money for the ministry.
While Nigeria is obviously an example of the prosperity gospel in full, corrupt spread… I would dare say that most of the exact same mindsets rule much of the leadership of the movement here in America as well, even though American preachers seem to be more clever about hiding their manipulative tactics. In Nigeria they seem proud of the fact that money is the ultimate goal of their ministry and they routinely preach that Jesus was a wealthy man who expects us to be wealthy as well. They make money the central focus of the Gospel (which has nothing to do with the Gospel at all). It’s a total and disgusting sham! The people are led to believe that poverty is always a curse and the only way to break free of it is to show your love and devotion to God by throwing money at the feet of the preacher or visiting prophet.
The reporter in the video is Seyi Rhodes (standing on the left in the picture), who has done a lot of work for BBC. You’ll notice, toward the end of the video, he asks some point blank questions of the millionaire preacher (who is known by the people as Fireman). It seems, though the video is full of reference to Jesus and Christianity – it is only the reporter that comes close to the truth about Jesus. I only wish he had been more knowledgeable to counter the preacher’s arguments more effectively, but it was at least obvious to me that -often times- even people who do not profess to be “religious” know more about the character of Jesus than a lot of religious people do; if nothing more than to recognize that the ridiculous kind of behavior we too often witness in today religious organizations does not gel with most people’s general understand of who Jesus was and how He lived when he came to earth as a man. It’s quite a sad statement that even the world recognizes Him better than many in the church system. Maybe that’s not really a “sad” statement at all… Maybe it’s cause for hope that many are much closer to a readiness to see REAL Christianity displayed, which means to really experience Christ reaching out through His people. And while we who understand this find ourselves more able to develop relationships with people who are often shunned by the church, the church see us getting “closer” to the world and see this as “dangerous” or evidence of some kind of back-slidden or back-sliding condition. In many of their minds, we become “the world” because we no longer live by the rules of the religious machine.
That having been said, I know that there will be people reading this that relate to the same kinds of frustrations about religion that many of us have talked about, yet they still attend mainstream churches for various reasons. Perhaps there are those who wish to be free but have a spouse, close friend or family member that does not yet share the same revelation. This can be difficult; however, we should do our best not to judge each other too harshly, but pray for each other. I remember when I was still caught up in so much of the deception of charismania and the Toronto Blessing silliness. I had friends who thought I was deceived and arrogant… They were right, but I was convinced they were in error and blinded. Still, at the core of my being, my desire was to be free and to know the Lord and thank God He knows the heart. It took time, years even, for God to remove the scales from my eyes and bring revelation to my heart and correction to my path. I now look back and see how gracious and patient He was with me, as well as those good folks He brought into my life to help me see. So how I can I treat others any differently? I know God is able to set the most blind, foolish and deceived person free because He set me free! Love covers a multitude of sins and we should have confidence that our prayers are always heard by the Lord. I believe it is possible to genuinely love someone without being contentious with them. That doesn’t mean it’s easy! But I’ve often discovered that God seems to allow me to stay in an uncomfortable place for a season, not only for the presumed benefit of using me in their life, but often using them in my life to work greater maturity in love, which also causes me to rely upon Him more than ever before.
I think of how Jesus said, “What credit is it to you if you love those who love you; Even the sinners do as much.” It’s much harder to love those that rub us the wrong way, and those that are blind, deceived, arrogant, and who misunderstand us and even rile against us. But we may also be the light God uses to show forth His love and truth to them daily. I believe God can give us wisdom how to respond to others. We will certainly make plenty of mistakes, but that’s common as we take steps to grow spiritually.
When I watch a video like the one below, it does make me ill to this kind of deception going on. Yes, it makes me mad… but moreso these days I’m feeling compassion for those being duped by this nonsense. I’m sure even some of these preachers are doing what they do only because they were taught that this is God’s plan. They need God’s love and delivering power as well. But they also need to be exposed and I’m glad videos like this have surfaced to expose these kinds of frauds. The apostle Paul said that heresies were not altogether un-beneficial among the church… because their presence only gives the opportunity for TRUTH to be highlighted and recognized more clearly. Of course Paul wasn’t condoning heresy. But I believe he was simply acknowledging the reality that Truth shines brightly, just like when a room is dark, even a little candle lights it up bright. May this error continue to be exposed and may God give people eyes to see the Truth!
I know I kind of went on a tangent with this introduction today, but I hope some of you will share some thoughts in response if you desire. How did this video cause you to react? God bless!!!
In His grip,