The human lust for power is a weakness one finds all too frequently among leaders, whether in politics, business, media, church or any organisation. History is full of examples of leaders whose ambition for power was unbridled, and who abused it to the detriment of their followers.
It is in the nature of power that unless it is handled with utmost care, and primarily as a tool to serve the wellbeing and dignity of others, it very quickly turns to become an instrument of oppression.
Religious power is by far the most dangerous of all power. This is because it can hide behind God, and masquerade as an instrument in his hand. The victims of such power, in their desire to please God, will do anything they are asked to do, because after all, they are in the presence of God, and it is presumably God who is in control of the situation.
The antics of the pastor who led his congregation to eat grass and drink petrol should be seen in this light. He led his followers to a place of unquestioning submission to his teachings. This is always dangerous, and goes against the teaching of the bible, which is unequivocal:
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world”.: 1 John 4:1.
Clearly, the pastor is thrilled by the uncritical submission of his congregants to his every word. He will do nothing to stop it.
It started with grass, and now petrol. One can only imagine what is next, and what else he has asked of his congregants and got away with.
Pastor Lesego Daniel is not alone
Unfortunately the Pretoria pastor is not alone. There are hundreds of pastors who are always on the lookout for places to purchase power even if it means selling their souls to the devil. Many pastors regularly travel to Nigeria and other far away countries to find a secret formula for power to work miracles, garner more followers, and change their personal economic fortunes. Their desperation for power and more power is such that they do not discriminate whether such power is of God or satan, whether it short-changes the poor or serve their best interests, as long as the surface appearance is “churchy” and they personally become the “man of God” with frightening power over the critical faculties of followers.
Similarly, as with TB Joshua who has been in the news recently regarding the unfortunate collapse of his guesthouse, it is noteworthy that the Christian community in Nigeria has distanced itself from him. Coming from the Pentecostal Association of Nigeria, to which TB Joshua would naturally belong as a fellow charismatic, this is significant. In their view, TB Joshua is lacking in Christian integrity and authenticity. They have further cautioned others about it, and are surprised that South Africans are falling for him.
As sister movements of our Nigerian brothers and sisters, the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa believe it is unwise to dismiss the witness of Christian sisters and brothers from Nigeria, and we call upon all South Africans to heed the warnings of seasoned and respectable Pentecostal leaders in Nigeria.
Why are the people so vulnerable to abuse by charismatic pastors?
Some in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement developed tendencies toward the health and wealth gospel, which initially had widespread uptake among the poor who felt inclined to embrace a gospel that promised to deliver health and wealth. Anything that promises hope out of an undesirable state is surely welcome. It is this that is fertile ground for false prophets of all sorts, both political opportunists as well as their religious counterparts.
Fortunately, as the charismatic and Pentecostal movement has matured, there are promising signs that the health and wealth gospel is increasingly being discredited.