I am a Christian and a tongues-speaking pentecostal of the charismatic hue. With an umbilical cord cut in a Catholic Church in Sekondi, I have over the past 40-something years fallen helplessly in love with the Methodists for the divinely inspired lyrics and tuneful melodies in those soulful hymns. I have also grown to like the Presby; they insisting on respect (not fear) for old age.
Many Ghanaians will crucify me for what I am about to say, but I believe that in this country, we have the charismatic churches to thank for the sustained interest of the youth in the things of God.
Back in the late 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s, the old men and women in the so-termed “Orthodox” (Catholic, Methodist, Presby and Anglican) churches read the writing on the wall. Their youth were pouring out in droves, attracted by the new liturgy and pulsating throb of contemporary music from the new churches, powered by electric guitars, grinding keyboards, shining horns and trap drumsets, complete with hi-hats et al. Even some middle-aged men and women, apparently bored to tears by the old liturgy, followed the youth.
The effect was like the Day of Pentecost when God used a new method — “tongues” — to spread His good news to the whole world. Jesus Christ had just risen from the dead and God wanted the rest of the world to hear of it. From north, south, east and west, visitors had gone to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. To this large congregation, the 12 Apostles, most of them uneducated, announced the good news in the diverse languages the visitors understood. It was God’s new method, and it worked: the visitors sent the good news to their respective countries.
That is what happened in Ghana. The “now-sound”, plus what I term the “democratisation” of spiritual gifts in the new churches, shook some foundations. The orthodox churches responded quickly and wisely: they unchained their youth. Equipped with all the modern gear and empowered to operate their spiritual gifts, their youth started ministering in danceable choruses while respecting the “stiff” hymns. They spoke with new tongues and went from house- to - house on soul-winning sprees.
So the emergence of the charismatic churches has had its positives — too numerous to number. However, the new wine that came with the new wave has been too intoxicating for many charismatic church leaders.
The result? In Ghana, and the Ghanaian diaspora (London, Amsterdam, Toronto, Den Haag etc), ‘charismatism’ is leading Christianity off course and making God unattractive. Too many pastors, prophets and apostles, responding to the call of God on their lives are either refusing to train, or too greedy for personal gain, or too drunk on the new wine or are suffering from sheer infantilism. Perhaps, all of the above can be cured or managed.
What Ghana has not been able to cure or manage is the inability of some of these pastors/prophets to handle success.
Why are limousines of some “men of God” now being led by siren-blaring police outriders? Late for functions? Certainly, that cannot be true since the request for the outriders and sirens could only have been made, at least, 24 hours ahead of the day.
Why should a pastor or prophet or apostle need an armed bodyguard? Fear of personal attack? By whom? Why? And how come only charismatic pastors are targeted— if, indeed, that claim is true? Who have they offended? Perhaps they are envied for their wealth.
At the Cocoa Clinic the other day, a prophet was on admission for an ailment of sorts. Standing close by him 24 hours of the day was an armed body guard, his pocket bulging with the shape of a revolver. It took a no-nonsense Matron (herself a Christian) to order out the bodyguard.
If any men of God should fear for their lives, the Catholic Archbishops, Methodist Presiding Bishops and Presbyterian moderators should. It was a Catholic Archbishop that offered refuge to the late Justice Abban, who in his capacity as Electoral Commissioner, was fleeing from soldiers of the almighty General Kutu Acheampong for refusing to announce the result of the Union Government referendum in 1978.
Fast forward to the Rawlings era. It was the Catholic/ Methodist/ Presbyterian priests who defiantly refused to register their churches when the order went out in the dreaded repressive regime. Remember, this was the regime under which judges had been murdered. Who, in recent times, has more reason to fear for his life than the present Presbyterian moderator?
Yet, he and all orthodox church priests before him have gone (and still go) without a bodyguard, depending only on the angels of God to protect them.
I was behind the platform at a crusade ground and was privileged to witness the arrival of “God’s Generals”. As one sleek limousine after another slowed down the slope of the Kaneshie Sports Complex, bodyguards popped out one after another and trotted along, ready to open the door for their general overseers when the car came to a final stop!
What are our men of God looking for? I can’t be bothered about the size of their mansions. It’s not about what car they drive. I am worried to death by the size of their hearts. If you are worried that God is losing admirers, look no further than the egos of his men. It’s an ego problem.
I don’t like to be poor, but more than poverty, I hate opulence. It is costing God too many souls.