As the year 2012 came to a close, everyone was up making their own resolutions for the New Year, the economy is bad and many were bracing for even tougher times but not to Pentecostal churches.
Each year, when the year ends Pentecostal churches spring to action to print new slogans and always promise good things to the masses: “2013, year of plenty, year of harvest…”
This is reflected in the messages preached in these churches where the pastor, reverend or prophet or whatever name they chose for themselves boom and declare that it will not be next year before god blesses the church goers in their finances, business, family relations, employment and many other life’s spheres.
Are Pentecostal leaders unrealistic? Do they tell their followers what they want to hear and not what is de facto? Are the leaders writing verbal cheques that the theology cannot cash?
There are tones, there are there on free to air satellite television channels, they are there on Facebook…and they are immensely popular with the womenfolk who cry even by just holding the television as the man of god prattles his hope giving message, but when the year ends, how many women are richer?
In America in one of Pew Foundations mega-poll, which surveyed nearly 35,000 it actually found that Pentecostal goers had the lowest incomes and have the least education among the rest of the Christian denominations.
The education part is what Roger Olson picked on in his article “Pentecostalism’s dark side” where he alleged that many Pentecostals hate intellectuals and ignore real theology for their wishy washy sensational messages.
Pen Itent a private school teacher also wrote against the Pentecostal pastors who she said are betraying their members in her rant “Pentecostal Corruption: Prosperity Gospel is a Scam”
“When I attend a service at this church, I hear the pastors declare that God will make everybody rich, if only they will throw what little they do have into the offering plate. Loud confident voices echo off the palatial walls of the sanctuary, while weary, struggling believers bristle with the hope of God’s “promises.”
“My impoverished friends dance down the plush expensive carpet to the altar and pull out their dollar bills (not their food stamps and government checks, though they have those also) and cheerfully give. The pastor nods approvingly, his hands folded in prayer (a shiny Rolex on his wrist), his eyes misty,” writes Itent.
In November last year, President Robert Mugabe also added his critical voice to those criticizing Pentecostals saying there are more fake pastors now than those referred to in the Bible. He also wondered how a man and wife can all have powers of prophecies as is the case with some prominent Pentecostal leaders.
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He also blasted Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe saying they were extorting gifts from their followers by making it mandatory for them to “give” to their leaders.
And it is easy to see that it is not in Zimbabwe only that pastors promise good living to masses get their riches and in the end leave the people poorer and themselves tycoons.
David Oyedepo of Nigeria came under attack after it emerged that followers at one of his branches in England donated over 16 million British Pounds to him after he had promised them that God would restore their riches.
Mail Online reported in October that Oyedepo ferries worshippers in buses to church where they are invited to make debit card payments and taught that obeying the churches dogma would make them immune from illness.
“As Pentecostals tend to be the least well-educated group of believers they make a prime target for would-be millionaire pastors. In many ways, I am as green with jealousy as these prosperity preachers are with greed, in that the scammed believers have more faith in their little finger than I will probably ever know in my lifetime.
“They would give the shirt off their backs if they believed God wanted them to, and many of them have. These people have the purest of Christian hearts, trusting the intentions of their Shepherd as they’re led as lambs to the slaughter,” writes Itent.
Prosperity Gospel theology is bankrupt, says Itent. He rues the fact that con artists who rip off people are cornered and made to return the money while pastors never return the money the rob from their followers.
Are Malawian Pentecostal leaders in the same vein? Do they target the intellectually cursed to do away with their money? That is a question for the members themselves.