Ghana is disturbingly and intriguingly becoming a land of seekers of spontaneous and instantaneous prosperity through miracles and commercialization of the gospel.
The country, more than ever before in the history of human civilization, is experiencing phenomenal commercialization of the ‘gospel’ by fraudsters parading themselves as “men of God”. These latter-day ‘Men of God’ have their own small Churches for Sunday services, but preach, in buses, in hospitals, in the streets, school campuses, at workplaces, in the marketplaces as their modus operandi and cunningly take offertory after their sermons. These “men or women of God” use fraudulent methods to extort money from people. Some of their strategies have become a huge embarrassment to the Orthodox Churches, Christians, the Great Mission, and the general public.
It is refreshing to recall that the Orthodox Churches are noted to have established schools to impart knowledge, provide technical and vocational skills and moral codes for attitudinal change among their members. They have regulatory authorities that control and sanction wrongdoing in the Church. Demonstration farms have been established to transfer skills in agriculture in order to improve the livelihood of their people. Hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities were also provided to improve health delivery services in the communities they operated in. Churches have acquired vast lands for oil palm, teak tree, orange, rubber, and cocoa plantations in order to generate income in support of the Church and the well-fare activities of individual members. Catechists, Pastors and Priests were in some kind of employment to support themselves in their evangelization or mission work. Care for widows and the poor was a cornerstone of their mission work. Pastors and Priests were role models who had moral authority in their communities. Those were the good old days when people received vigorous and profound spiritual and moral training and passed character audits before they were commissioned to preach the gospel.
Unfortunately, things have changed radically and rapidly, partly because of economic hardships resulting in the mushrooming of a multiplicity of Churches in most corners of the country. Indeed, one of the most lucrative businesses in Ghana today is the setting up of a Church. Some of these Churches, which are virtually family and friends Churches, are located in residential areas, with leaders who have very little or no training in pastoral work. They make a lot of noise in their neighborhoods and disturb people with their activities throughout the week. They use Bible verses like Malachi 3:10 to extort money from unsuspecting members, with which they build mansions, buy private jets, land, and make other rewarding investments for themselves and their families. The modern-day Levites who make sanctimonious monthly claims to 10% of every member’s income, pure blackmail, hardly founded on any Bible principle. They sell blessings to the highest bidder and pocket the price. Their activities have increased poverty and misery among their members who they encourage to lay their treasures in heaven. You risk being labeled “Anti-Christ” if you complain about the level of extortion. No care for widows and no concern for the poor.
The worrying increase in the commercialization of the gospel has become one of the greatest challenges to the development of Africans. We have freed ourselves from colonial rule. But we are still in mental bondage and captivity of fear of fraudsters operating in the name of Jesus Christ and extorting money from the poor. These fraudsters and imposters, with no training in ministry work, are holding innocent and ignorant people, hostage, through fear-mongering, misinformation, and misinterpretation of the Bible. They attribute every bad thing that happens to the devil. Some of them indulged in what appears to be soothsaying and call it a prophesy. They sell stickers of their ministers, holy water, anointing oil, holy handkerchief, holy rings, holy this, holy that. Jesus Christ never sold anointing oil, holy water, or holy handkerchief to anybody. They encourage their members to use these items as if they are the repository of the Holy Spirit and cure all ailments. This is clearly and purely idolatry. Some of these Pastors hold their members spellbound and command them to carry out activities that are clearly and certainly abusive of their human rights or their privacy and dignity.
For example; some of these Pastors are on record to have instructed their members to chew grass and they did, lay on the ground and roll about, strip nake in Church, kicking of pregnant members to free them from demons, caning to exorcise demons, anointing of private parts of women in public with oil to make them fertile, carrying of Pastor’s shoulder-high before and after their sermons, giving of fake prophecies, sexual harassment of members and impregnating innocent ladies within their Churches.
Jesus Christ never took money for healing anybody. He never sold holy water. Nobody paid consultation fees before seeing Jesus Christ. Today, some so-called men of God are taking consultation fees, selling anointing oil, stickers, holy water, healing water, holy handkerchiefs etc. Women are the willing and innocent victims of such fraudsters parading themselves as men of God. The Christian Council, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pentecostal and Charismatic Council have a responsibility to regulate the activities of their members. Unfortunately, most of the latter-day men of God are under no regulatory authority. They draw the powers from the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, that grant them freedom of religion. And they are responsible only for themselves. Something must be done to control their activities before a moral tragedy occurs in Ghana.
By Simon Amegashie-Viglo