Concern over rise in dubious prophets
By Moses Magadza
WINDHOEK, FEB 20 – Apostle Haruna Goroh, founder and leader of the Katutura-based Greater Love Ministries which is also known as Jesus Centre in Windhoek, is an angry man. Goroh says there has been a mushrooming of fake prophets who are fleecing scores of gullible congregants in the name of God. He wants a spanner to be bunged into the works.
Southern Africa has seen a rise of churches especially those of a Pentecostal nature, and the region is now crawling with people who claim to work miracles and wonders in the name of God. In recent days some of these controversial church leaders have crossed paths with law enforcement agents and nabbed.
Among things promised by these latter-day ‘miracle workers’ are instant weight loss and miracle money. Goroh says some impressionable believers have spent hard-earned money on items that include fetishes, holy water, anointing oil, trinkets and branded merchandise peddled by these “quacks”. In extreme cases, some church leaders have charged a lot of money to sit at the same table with those who seek their anointing.
It is this apparent commercialisation of the Gospel that has frustrated countless churchgoers and drawn the ire of Goroh, a Nigerian who has been ministering in Namibia for more than two decades.
Now, some national governments, under pressure to act and protect their citizens, are tightening screws and making it difficult for foreign-based men and women of the cloth to enter their countries to hold crusades and other related activities.
Goroh concurs that there has been a spike in the number of people claiming to be of God, making it difficult for the average believer to tell the wheat from the tares.
While calling for swift action to “round up all charlatans and throw them in jail,” he warns that a knee-jerk response might result in throwing out of the baby with the bath water, which might disadvantage genuine men and women of God and those they lead.
Goroh argues that not every new church is dubious.
“The main line churches, or old or established churches used to be new. When Martin Luther King rose to take up a stand against what some churches were doing in his day, he was seen as a person protesting against the established church. He felt that the way church was being done was at variance with what Jesus came to establish,” Goroh said in a recent interview.
He said having new things is good, whether in church, business or politics as that enables people to have different perspectives.
“I believe that having new churches has been of help because people bring a new flow to the way things are done and add a different angle to interpreting things. That can reduce crime and a lot of passion killings that we see the government struggling to deal with,” he said.
He gave the example of his own church which, in addition to feeding orphaned and vulnerable children for many years, is noted for turning hard-core criminals from crime to Christianity, a development he said had contributed towards making Namibia safer.
Goroh said there can never be a time when any country feels that it has become self-sufficient in terms of men and women of God, thereby making foreign-based clergy unnecessary.
“Just as no country can shut its boarders against foreign-trade, no country – whether in the area of commerce, industrialisation or spirituality – can exist in isolation. Namibia can only have a clear understanding of spirituality, especially from the church angle when more Namibian men and women of God start to go outside and interact with their contemporaries. It is give and take. There will be a perspective that Namibia has that Zambia, for instance, needs. That’s how nations grow and be healthy spiritually.”
He said slamming the doors in the face of every foreign-based preacher because “there are strange people coming from outside” would not be the way to go.
“We need cross-pollination of ideas in the area of the church. So instead of closing the boarders, countries need to tighten their laws to ensure that those coming in to do the work of God meet set criteria. Not everybody is a crook,” he said.
His view is that the growing perception that every foreign-preacher who comes to Namibia is up to no good is unfortunate and singled himself out as an example of one of the many men and women of cloth who had served Namibia well.
“There are a lot of genuine people. The first time I came into Namibia was 1993 and then I came with my family to settle in 1994. I have never been involved in any crime. I have never been involved in trying to get money out of somebody with the wrong intentions. Instead, we have been empowering people.”
He added: “Where our church is located, we feed the poor, we have raised young people that were into crime; people that were terrorizing this community, and we have helped to bring violence in their lives to an end through teachings.”
He said it was unfair that people would just categorise anyone coming from outside among the “charlatans.”
“The Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran churches all came from outside. So, if we just throw a blanket and say every church is wrong or has a false agenda, then we are shooting our own feet.”
He said a lot of people were facing many challenges related to their families, jobs, health and finances which make them desperate and vulnerable to manipulation.
Be that as it may, Goroh said identifying genuine churches from fake ones is not rocket science.
“If you look at the book of Matthew Chapter 7 from verse 15-20, it talks about being watchful. These things we are seeing are a clear sign of the last days. The Bible says by their fruits you shall know them. So if somebody is preaching for Jesus but money is the focal point, or it is the driving force, they are fake. If I say that anytime you want to see me you must call my secretary, book an appointment, pay a fee before you see me, there is no place like that in the bible.”
Goroh recalled an incident in the Bible in which Jesus intervened when some overzealous apostles tried to prevent children from getting close to Jesus.
“Jesus stopped them and said the kingdom belongs to children. So a true servant of God should be approachable and accessible.”
He said poverty was a big challenge in much of Africa and was making people do strange things.
“People will go to witchdoctors for money and the witchdoctor will promise them wealth, but the house of the witchdoctor is a shack! How can somebody in a shack make you a millionaire?” he wondered.
He said many of the so-called miracles were staged and many crooked so–called prophets were ripping off people through giving them basic personal facts which can be easily gleaned from different sources.
“I am not saying God’s spirit does not reveal things but why should I reveal to you your cell phone number, your grandfather’s village or the colour of somebody’s underwear?”
He said a man or woman that is speaking from the Spirit of God will always speak things to bring people to salvation.
“These so-called prophets don’t talk about salvation. They talk about signs and miracles in order to draw attention to themselves and not to God.”
He warned that miracles can never be a way of life or the norm.
“God created man to work and not to wait for miracles. That is why God placed Adam and Eve in a garden and not a recreational park. We can’t all sit at home and expect manna from heaven. God gave the Israelites manna because they were in transit going somewhere. They couldn’t farm in transit, but when they reached the Promised Land, they planted and harvested.”
Goroh challenged people to shun laziness.
“Some people are too lazy to work. That is why Africa is where it is. Some of us just want to get something for nothing and these false prophets know this and take advantage of the gullible ones among us who are lazy and don’t want to work.”
He also encouraged people to use common sense.
“People should not run after miracles and should stop thinking that just because something appears supernatural, it is of or from God. Even the devil, magicians or witchdoctors do those things.”
He added: “People should just be smart. Eating grass at the behest of a prophet just means your brain is almost dead. Drinking petrol or swallowing live snakes shows that people who do these things lack common sense. Even a child knows that grass is not for eating. Religion indeed can be the opium of the masses.”
He cited the book of Jeremiah chapter 14, which warns of people who will rise claiming to be from or of God. He enjoined believers to beware. – Moses Magadza