Less than a week ago, the world was stunned by images of a South African pastor spraying harmful insecticide in to the faces of his congregants to supposedly cure them of various ailments.
What was even more shocking was the fact that one of the congregants was quoted as saying that they had gone to the church with a back pain and stomach ache — and after the pastor sprayed them with the insect killer, which is called “Doom Super Multi-Insect Killer” — they were healed.
Another believer claimed that his nose was blocked for one week, but after he was sprayed with the chemicals, he felt relieved.
Unfortunately, acts like these are not new in Africa: A lot of people have died in the hands of pastors and self-proclaimed prophets who claim to heal all kinds of diseases through miracles.
In Kenya, for instance, many patients leave hospitals to attend the much-publicized miracle rallies held by renowned priests and prophets.
After attending these prayer rallies, most patients flout doctor’s prescriptions and wind up in the grave.
Some families even fetch their sick relatives from hospitals to take them to these priests in pursuit of miracles. Others have been duped in to giving all their wealth and property to their pastors in order to please them.
Faith or Naivety?
Many critics, especially the media, have often questioned the legitimacy of the faith healing churches in Africa, characterizing them as exploiters of the poor.
This argument is based on the fact that the majority of these prophets are selling their “miracles” for profit.
In Kenya, popular Pastor Victor Kanyari was exposed in an investigative piece by Kenya Television Network (KTN) extorting money from his followers through fake miracles:
The young pastor, who has built an empire with church money, was caught training a group of his co-conspirators on how to carry out his fake healing miracles in front of his congregation with the aim of tricking desperate church members into paying for miracles.
He also ran a radio show, where people could call in and ask for his prayers. But in order for Pastor Kinyari to pray for them, each caller had to send him 310 Kenyan shillings via the mobile money transfer service.
There have also been reports of some Kenyan pastors who have been having sex with their female congregants in the name of curing their infertility or helping them find husbands.
In 2014, a Kenyan lawyer, Paul Magu, allegedly murdered his wife and two sons before throwing himself in front of a speeding bus and died.
Preliminary reports revealed that the well-educated lawyer had been brainwashed by his female pastor, to whom he had transferred a huge chunk of his wealth.
Feeding Off the Flock
While it is God’s wish through the Bible for believers to give offerings unto Him, many unscrupulous priests have devised ways of using the word of God to build business empires.
Many appear to carefully choose Bible verses that talk about giving tithes and sowing seeds because they suit their materialistic endeavors.
Asked by a local TV reporter why he was asking for 310 shillings from his congregants for prayers, Pastor Kanyari replied, “It is in the Bible. Malachi 3:10, which says ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty,” and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
One reason why these predators have continued to thrive in African society is because there are no clear rules governing the religious sector. Many churches, especially in Kenya, continue to vehemently oppose any efforts by the government to regulate them.
And indeed, this failure to regulate them often spoils the image of all churches and pastors who are actually in the business of selling the word of God and genuinely want to convert souls and spread the gospel.
In the end, the most telling warnings about these types of “prophets” comes from the Bible itself with Peter 2:1-3:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
And Matthew 24:24:
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.