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Keyhole in effective church ministry today

Keyhole in effective church ministry today

There have been conversations about Christians living as salt and light at home, in the Church and in the community, and we want to experience, in a more powerful way, the relevance and impact of the Church today. 


What will make the Church more relevant and impact society better is the Gospel it proclaims or teaches and lives out.

Rev. Dr Femi Adeleye of the Akrofi Christaller Institute of Theology Mission and Culture, Akropong - Akuapem has been working on a new book titled "Does God Promise Me Health, Wealth and Happiness?" Rev. Dr Femi Adeleye writes, "One of the most challenging but popular teachings in the Church in our context today, and amidst all the cultural wars, is the "Materialism Gospel" commonly known as the ‘Prosperity Gospel’". His new book is an important contribution to relevant research and discussions on the matter.

Dr Femi Adeleye quips, "God's desire for our prosperity is not primarily about us getting material things. Instead, it is about our relationship with Him. Within the boundaries of this relationship lies the assurance that God generously provides all our needs (including what we drink and what we wear), as well as giving us the ability to make our own wealth to meet our needs.

However, there is the unhealthy pressure, together with the not-at-all-Biblically-sound ‘teaching that views prosperity mainly in material terms and emphasises money, wealth, good health and so-called 'good things of life’”!! And this is a huge challenge in the Church life today.

The narratives in the New Testament Gospels and writings in the Epistles have numerous statements to show the Biblical truth that suffering and difficulties are an integral part of the true believer’s life and service. So Christians are urged to "take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3 ).

No honest and clear-thinking person can read through the New Testament Gospels and Epistles and fail to notice this truth. In fact, to read through the New Testament carefully and refuse to accept this truth may be intellectual dishonesty.

Yet the "Materialism Gospel" or "Prosperity Gospel” teachings and teachers do not think that suffering or difficulties should be part of a godly believer's life. What makes a person acceptable before God?

And what makes him gain breakthroughs in life? Answers to these questions in the Prosperity Gospel preachers' presentations are often linked to "giving money towards God's work" and "sowing seeds" or giving money to men of God. 

There is consequently the "monetisation of the Gospel", and a financial relationship with God is transactional in its teaching and practice (Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down and shaken together), even though Bible Scholars say the original Bible text of this verse does not actually relate to giving money to God and receiving back money from God.

These kinds of teachings suggest that we can become acceptable to God and experience His salvation largely through giving to Church work and sowing seeds of money into the lives of the men of God no matter what type of moral or ethical life we live.

Roughly put, your money and seed sowing into the lives of men of God can "buy you" salvation and gain you breakthroughs. We want to remark here that the Bible encourages generous giving to Church work and helping the poor but the New Testament emphasis has been "we give our lives and our hearts first to Christ for our getting into the right relationship with God".

It is only after this that our giving is a sweet offering to God. (See Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:27; Isaiah 1:11-13,15-17). It looks like Church beliefs and practices that triggered Martin Luther's reformation are back in the Church today.

One such trigger was that "the sins committed through life could be dealt with by buying indulgences... It was precisely the abuse of indulgences in the early 1500s that led Martin Luther to pick up his mallet in protest."

Dr Femi Adeleye points to the core of the challenge: "There is a problem with 'Materialism Gospel or Prosperity Gospel Teaching'. At the heart of this wrong teaching is a wrong understanding of the Christian Gospel".

What is the Gospel? Rev. Dr John Stott raises and answers the question, "Is there a New Testament Gospel?" He notes that in a theological analysis of the sermons of the Apostles, "despite all the rich diversity of theological formulations we see in the New Testament, there was only one basic apostolic tradition of the gospel.

In a single word, God’s good news is Jesus. Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of the gospel. "How did the Apostles present Jesus?" John Stott notes: "Their good news contained at least five elements". And so for the Apostle Paul, any message in which Jesus Christ is not the soul and the heart of "is no Gospel" (see Galatians 1:4-9). 

So, what Gospel does the Bible urge us believers to guard? What Gospel -"the faith"- are we to earnestly contend for? (See Jude 3). That is a critical matter. "Materialism Gospel or Prosperity Gospel" (which is no Gospel) thrives in a culture of Biblical illiteracy. We need to properly teach adults, young people and children what the true and sound Biblical Gospel is.

The Bible says as a man thinks, so he is. That is, "what we believe determines how we behave" - the kind of lifestyle we lead. The true and sound New Testament Biblical Gospel guides us to seek salvation by grace alone, through faith alone and repentance, according to the Scriptures, and in Christ alone (see Ephesians 2: 8 & 9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25).

 And to live worthy of our salvation as we pursue a lifestyle that reflects God’s Kingdom values. The call for followers of Christ to grow into Christ-like nature and be led by the ethical and moral compass or guidelines of sound Biblical doctrine is dangerously missing in the teachings of the "Materialism Gospel or Prosperity Gospel" (which is no Gospel).


Sadly, self-centred, non-sacrificial lifestyles marked with greed, moral compromise, corruption and nominal Christian lifestyle abound. And, indeed, in some Churches, there is the scare that sound Biblical teachings on, say, Practical Holy Living, may lead to losing some Church members and their tithes and offerings to another Church.

When they lose some church members, they lose their tithes and offerings. Therefore, to get their money, they only preach what will make them feel comfortable, even in their sin.
And so, Christians fail to live as the salt and the light that Christ intends His followers to be. There must be a Biblical correction to this.

Finally, the Church, today, very much needs to recover and practice the sound New Testament Biblical Gospel and the teachings of Christ on living God's Kingdom lifestyle, to the glory of God alone!

(The author is a Consultant in Authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)


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