The people of Northern Uganda are an amazing joy to be around. They are a caring, compassionate, hard working people. One of the things I love most about them is that they display a genuine hunger for God’s word. They want to know the truth about God and they long for people to help teach them about the Bible. Julie has begun a women’s discipleship group at Abaana’s Hope and generous people have given us enough bibles to provide each lady with her own copy of God’s word. I cannot possibly explain how excited these women are. Some of them cannot read and so we have equipped them with audio bibles. They have been overjoyed to the point of tears by the fact that they can access God’s truth for the first time!
Like I said, they are genuinely hungry for the Word of God, which is why my heart is so burdened by the fact that so few “ministries” here in Gulu seem interested in actually teaching the Bible!
Every few months a new religious circus comes through town in the form of a religious crusade advertising healing, signs, wonders, miracles, and spiritual breakthroughs. People show up to these events hoping to receive something from God, hoping that God will bless them, or hoping that God will heal their hurts. These false prophets prey on the dire needs of the people, appealing strictly to their self-centered desires. People are taught to buy into Jesus as a form of an investment scheme rather than surrendering to Him as their sovereign Savior and Lord. These “Prophets of God” are little more than warmed over witchdoctors and the Acholi people are falling prey to them in droves.
After only eight months here on the ground I am certainly not an expert in Ugandan culture but it is pretty easy to see why the Acholi people are wooed so easily by these false prophets. They find it very easy to make the jump from their traditional tribal religion to the prosperity gospel because frankly there is not much difference between the two. The traditional religion of Northern Uganda is animism. Animism is a belief in a spirit world that organizes and animates the physical world. Witchdoctors act as conduits between the people and the spirits. Acholi people often visit the witchdoctor in order to communicate with and please the spirits. Often these witchdoctors attempt to display their power by performing signs and wonders. Through traditional song and dance they can manipulate the minds of the people, whipping them up into a spiritual frenzy not at all unlike the charismatic “church” in America has been doing for many years. They advertise the ability to communicate with and convince the spirit realm to work for the people. For instance a witchdoctor may tell a person that a lack of economic prosperity is the fault of a dead relative who is hindering an economic “breakthrough.” As a result the witchdoctor might prescribe (after being paid a small fortune) a spiritual ritual for the family to perform in order to convince the dead relative to drop the economic curse on the family. The goal of religion then is to manipulate the spirit world to work on their behalf. Through incantations and rituals people work hard to convince the spirits to move in their favor.
There is very little difference between this form of animism and the false prosperity gospel. Instead of seeking help from the witchdoctor many are seeking out the assistance of “pastors” and “prophets”, self-proclaimed men of god, to learn how to create a spiritual “breakthrough” and earn the “favor” of god. Many people in Northern Uganda have traded in their visits with the witchdoctor in favor of visits to Sunday morning prayer at the local “church” where they sow their seeds of faith in order to prosper in the name of god. This is a false gospel and those of us who know the true Jesus must speak out against these deceptions which lead people AWAY from Christ..
HOW TO RESPOND
First let’s talk about what the Acholi people do not need. They do not need more “spiritual gurus.” They do not need more religious platitudes or techniques. They do not need to be taught how to “listen to God” for a spiritual breakthrough. The last thing they need is to be distracted by false signs and wonders that mislead and manipulate their minds. They do not need more rituals in the form of meditation in order to “breakthrough” or “hear from God.”
So what do they need? They need to know that God has already spoken. He has spoken to us clearly through His Word. They need to know how to read and study God’s word. They need true knowledge of God. 2 Timothy 4: 2 tells us to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” So how do we encourage, correct, and rebuke? We preach the Word of God!
Also we need to be active in calling out those who twist and manipulate the Word for their own selfish gain. One verse later Paul warns of these false teachers when he says “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” This is clearly happening in America. Some of our largest churches are led by men who preach that God exists only to give them their best life now. Others are preaching distracting signs and wonders. Stories of gold and feathers falling from the sky are making a mockery of God’s glory. Rooms full of uncontrollable laughter and people being slain in the spirit are not true representations of the work of the Holy Spirit. Men of God need to speak out with clarity and conviction. Too many American pastors (I include myself in this number) have turned a blind eye to these lies for far too long. While we sat silent the false prophets have exported their perverted version of “Christianity” to the African continent and our silence is partly to blame.
PROMISES FAR TO LITTLE
As many honest theologians have pointed out in the past, the problem with the signs, wanders, and prosperity gospel is not that it promises too much but that it promises far too little. Why would we settle for a temporary healing when Christ offers us an eternal one? Why would we believe stories of golden glory clouds and falling feathers when the Word paints an exponentially more powerful picture of the glory of God? Why would we settle for material wealth when Christ offers us the gift of Himself. Christ is our reward and to settle for anything less than Him is an eternal mistake.
Four Corners is dedicated to teaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is communicated clearly in the Word of God. We are burdened for the state of the Church here in Northern Uganda and we believe that God has called us here to help correct it. Please pray for us as we continue this marathon of a battle against these false ideas. We have our second pastor/leader conference in September where our topic is simply “The Gospel.” It is our goal to teach clearly and effectively the essentials of the true Gospel. We hope to have many more conferences in the future. Please feel free to contact me if you or your church would like more information about how to participate in training, equipping, teaching, and leading these pastors to the Truth.
For His Glory,