Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Great Lie America Sent to Tanzania

I'm guessing that if I were to ask most of my readers if they are regular consumers of the preaching of Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar, they would recoil in horror.  We change the station if they happen to appear on our televisions (or maybe watch out of morbid curiosity), but mostly, we do our best to try to distance ourselves from that kind of Christianity.  All that emphasis on wealth and health--they are not us.  

We just not might realize that the Prosperity Gospel is so tightly connected to the American Dream that many of us have no idea that we've accepted parts of it.  Those of us who wouldn't have anything to do with Kenneth Copeland might still be willing to read The Prayer of Jabez or make Jeremiah 29:11 our "life verse."  Even the very popular Hillsong has some veins in the Prosperity movement, as evidenced by its founder's early book entitled, You Need More Money.  Time magazine poll found that two-thirds of American Christians agreed that God wants people to prosper.

We shouldn't be surprised then that Joel Osteen leads the largest church in America.  Or that the majority of mega-churches in America preach Prosperity.  Or that Prosperity preachers dominate the "Christian" airwaves, which means that this is the version of Christianity, more than any other, that gets spread to the rest of the world.

Including Tanzania.

As someone who is in Tanzania with the express purpose of training up church leaders to know, understand, and teach Scripture, it is difficult for me to express the depth of my distress in the Prosperity Gospel.  It is embedded everywhere.  And it came here from America.

Seen on thousands of cars in Tanzania
Of all the ugly things that America has exported, the Prosperity Gospel's perversion of Christianity is one of the worst.  It was born and nurtured in America during a time of economic prosperity, so it was easy for millions of American Christians to swallow it down along with the American Dream.  And's here?  In a country that is one of the poorest in the world, with a life expectancy of 60?  Yet this "gospel" continues to tell people that if they just have enough faith, God will take away their poverty.  And if that doesn't happen, well, then obviously they deserve it.  It's nothing but a cruel joke from a God who obviously loves rich people more than them.

once wrote that we joined Reach Tanzania because of Benny Hinn.  From our very first term in Tanzania in 2001, we realized that American televangelists are the primary source of influence on Tanzanian Christians, including many pastors.  Recently, I read the book Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel by Kate Bowler.   

It helped me understand American Christianity a whole lot better.  It helped me understand Tanzanian Christianity a whole lot better.  And it turned my stomach to realize that so many of the struggles in the Tanzanian church came directly from America.  

On the back of a Tanzanian city bus:  "Jesus is the winner"
Seen in a Tanzanian supermarket:  entire rack of books by Robert Schuller and Napoleon Hills

It's time, Americans.

It's time for this lie to end.  It's time for all of us to remember that God does not owe us the American dream.  It's time for us to apply all of Scripture, including the parts that guarantee persecution and trouble on this side of heaven.  Including the parts where God does not always give us what we ask for.  Including the parts where He is a God who allows (even creates!) prosperity and disaster (Is. 45:7), where both can be a part of His will, and where He intentionally, in wisdom and grace, uses suffering in the lives of His people.  That God can heal, but sometimes He chooses not to.  That God wants us to be holy more than He wants us to be healthy.  That God wants us to love Him more than we love His gifts.  That knowing Him, and being known by Him, is the greatest treasure in the universe.  

For the American church, I am praying that this decent into chaos will knock some sense into its delusions of what God owes them.  For Tanzania, I am praying for an African Martin Luther.  A man (or many of them) of godly strength and humility who has the courage and the position to lead his people away from the lies that America sent them.  May God help us all.

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