A few years ago, I read an advert of a preacher coming to town. It promised an experience beyond all human imagination for those who would attend. The ‘man of God’ coming, and this is usually accentuated with an American slant, sounded like Jesus reincarnated.
Another one came to Namboole stadium in more recent time with outlandish promises. Today, we have local versions of these ‘men of God’.
I recently watched daily television adverts calling for a gathering to celebrate the prophetic achievements of Elvis Mbonye. Although he is supposed to speak for Christ, there was no mention whatsoever or glory being given to Jesus Christ. I found that curious.
What is more, we are told that this man has made so many predictions that have come true. The last time I checked, I found that our local diviners do the same.
So what is different or Christian about this? Our prevalent animist world view identifies itself easily with a Christianity of predictions.
His followers have kissed his shoes, and they say it has biblical precedent. Quite right! However, if everything that has ever been done in the Bible is permissible Christian practice, then the door is open to error.
My professor of Hermeneutics (the science of interpreting texts) at theological school told us of a man in Chicago City, who slept with his two daughters, citing Lot’s act as a precedent! While the literal meaning of Scripture is valid, literalism is not. Lot slept with his daughters, but this is not commended to us as an example. Abraham lied because of his beautiful wife to keep his life. So should we lie to save life?
Christians today have put off their discernment cap. They enter the Church to hear what the Pastor will predict or his promise as he waves his ‘magic wand’ of oratory over them! Their hunger is satisfied by regular doses of pastoral assurances. Don’t mind that such promises are not rooted in the Bible that Christians carry, but never read!
God is a divine mystery, and Christianity argues that He is unknown UNLESS He reveals Himself, which He has done fullest in His Son, Jesus Christ. Anyone who claims to understand His ways exhaustively or to meet with him at will is a liar and has abandoned the Christian faith.
God does not work by predictions. To Him, the same situation may not have the same answer! He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
My second objection is the widespread spirit of exhibitionism; let us call it pride. Pride is no longer a sin in contemporary preaching since the modern pastor is a show-off anyway. Pastors compete for the biggest and that is adjudged most spiritual. They claim miracles are so normal that to call them miracles is a misnomer.
To our pastors, it is Christian virtue to boast of great works, to be flamboyant and to call people to come for the pastor’s experience.
A little fiction book called In His Steps based on 1 Peter 2.21, revolutionised my thinking about my day-to-day living as a Christian. It proposes that Christians ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” in their day-to-day choices and decisions.
I cannot see Him advertising Himself dressed in the latest fashion designer suits. He who is the centre of the Gospel did not call people to come and see what He was doing or what He looked like. It is another Gospel without Jesus. He is our Message, and He alone. Amen.
Rev Canon Dr John Senyonyi is the Vice Chancellor, Uganda Christian University