Theological trends in America almost always end up reverberating around the world. And sometimes the ripple effect becomes a full-blown tsunami by the time it reaches distant shores.
Unfortunately, churchgoers in the United States are frequently insulated from comprehending those theological repercussions—especially in impoverished nations where media coverage is minimal. Today’s featured sermon offers us a rare glimpse into the actual effects charismatic theology has had on the African continent.
It has been three years since the Strange Fire conference captured the attention of the evangelical community, exposing the errors and excesses of the charismatic movement. And without a doubt, one of the most fascinating keynote speakers at the conference was Conrad Mbewe from the sub-Saharan nation of Zambia.
Pastor Mbewe is in a theological minority on the African continent. His expository preaching and Reformed theology make him a rarity in a culture overrun with charismatic extremism. And in the first of his two messages at Strange Fire—“The African Import of Charismatic Chaos”—he delivered a shocking first-hand account of the charismatic movement in Africa. Even the worst extremes we witness in America pale in comparison.
At the core of Mbewe’s argument is the stark contrast between the sanctifying work of Scripture (John 17:17) and the rampant carnality of charismatic leaders and laymen.
Any true move of God will produce people who are sanctified by God’s Word. Unsurprisingly charismatic theology—which Mbewe has battled on a daily basis for more than thirty years—has produced vastly different fruit. He points out that the charismatic emphasis on the supernatural—at the expense of Scripture—has seamlessly meshed with the pagan superstitions of Africa.
The resultant hybrid religion has been nothing short of horrific. It is characterized by:
- A distant god encumbered with layers of separation that we need to clear—often at a price. - Leaders who wield their “anointing” like channels of God’s power. - Christianized magic potions that promise to heal, deliver, and enrich. - Pastors who would sooner spiritualize their immorality than conceal it.
And all of these things done on a level of transparency and shamelessness that makes America televangelists seem reserved and austere.
I was shocked by the nature and scale of the abuses in Africa. But I was even more stunned by the implications for us in America. Not only did the charismatic movement originate in the United States, but its theological errors continue to be exported from our shores. We have a duty to oppose its aberrant teaching and warn others about it. We must protect the world from its blasphemous lies.
Moreover, Conrad points out that those who consider themselves “open but cautious” to the continuation of charismatic gifts have actually become enablers for the rest of the movement. Their reluctance to criticize has only served to embolden the worst charlatans and heretics in the charismatic movement.
This sermon is a wake-up call, and we all need to pay attention.