Tentacles of American Heresy: A View from South Africa
The tentacles of false doctrine are not constrained to North America. South Africa has all too readily accepted doctrines that tickle ears. The word of faith movement, prosperity gospel, charismania, and the growing NAR have flourished in the past thirty years in this country. To give you an example of what sells here, a leading Christian chain of bookstores in SA has amongst its consistent top ten authors:
Joyce Meyers, Joel Osteen, Mark Batterson, Rick Warren, and T D Jakes, to name a few. Other influential teachers are Beth Moore, Christine Caine, John and Lisa Bevere and Bill Hybels. Teachers who have passed through South Africa that I have personally heard speak include: Lonnie Frisbee, Rick Godwin, John Wimber, Jerry Savelle, Bill Hamon, Benny Hinn, Peter Wagner and Kenneth Copeland. Before my American friends apologize for the export of these false teachers to our sunny shores, please accept our apology for sending you Rodney Howard Browne.
Not content with profiting from book sales and online courses, many well-known church brands have planted churches locally. Hillsong has seven churches in South Africa, the largest in Cape Town boasts five daily services to accommodate the thousands who flock to it. It is almost prophetic that it is located between a theme park and one of the largest shopping malls in Southern Africa. The chances of hearing the true gospel will be equal in all three venues – Hillsong Church, the mall, or the theme park. The infamous colour conference is also hosted here in Cape Town, and yet again the venue was telling – the Grand West Casino and Entertainment World. This year speakers will include Bobbie Houston and John Gray from Lakewood church. Not to be outdone, Louie Giglio brought his Passion world tour to South Africa.
A few other ministries to avoid:
South Point church in Cape Town. Not as large or popular as Hillsong, South Point is a Strategic Partner of Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries.
River Ministries in East London led by Dr. André and Jenny Roebert, who also run Faith Broadcast Network, our own version of TBN
Rhema Bible Church North – Johannesburg, pastored by Ray McCauley, another prosperity church.
Christian Revival Church (CRC), led by Pastor At Boshoff, a WOF / prosperity teacher, boasts a church membership of 53,000 across 7 locations. He offers the typical WOF message, summed up in what I like to call “designer Christianity” where your thoughts and words determine your tomorrow. God is relegated to nothing more than a genie in a bottle waiting to fulfill your dream destiny when you get the formula right.
Special mention should be made of unique South African practices, whereby congregants are made to eat grass, drink gasoline or partake in other bizarre rituals. In one such case, Prophet Lethebo Rabalago, pastor of Mount Zion General Assembly in Limpopo province, sprays his congregants with Doom Super Multi-Insect Killer to cure various ailments and drive out demons. (link: http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2016/11/21/prophet-of-doom-pastor-uses-insect-spray-to-drive-out-demons/)
Probably the greatest threat to the church in South Africa is the New Apostolic Reformation.
Self-proclaimed apostles and prophets are on the rise and I attribute this to the influence of the NAR. While some churches prefer to retain their own structure, mission and vision within their church plants, the NAR is like a cancer that spreads unchecked throughout the whole body. The internet has sped up this process. Anyone with access to the internet is able to stream or download the latest “download” from their favorite false teacher. Those who are not content with the sufficiency of scripture can watch Sid Roth’s latest guest explain how to take daily trips into Heaven, read the latest bizarre declaration on the Elijah list, or pay to watch Bethel TV.
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Bethel church in Redding CA, is one of the leading voices of the NAR. Although there is no official church plant in South Africa, one of the ways that Bethel church has made inroads is by means of its SOZO healing schools. There is an official branch of SOZO in South Africa, and according to them: “Many churches have embraced the Core Values of Bethel church, and encouraged the development of Sozo teams in their churches. More than 50 teams already exist, or are in the process of getting established.” (Source – http://sozosouthafrica.co.za/wp/?page_id=67)
Young South Africans eager to be a part of this new anointed breed that will usher in the kingdom of God attend the Bethel School of Supernatural ministry in Redding CA, where Kris Vallotton & co will ensure they receive enough “downloads,” “activations,” “anointings,” and encounters with God in order to raise the dead or, at the very least, grow the limbs of the gullible by a few inches. This “signs and wonders” generation will indeed perform signs that will leave you wondering for all the wrong reasons – their victims leave their encounter with a BSSM student with a mild tingling sensation at the most, none the wiser concerning the message of the gospel. Those deceived by the NAR teachings may seem to have more noble and righteous intentions than those enamoured with the prosperity gospel. After all, this so called new breed of super anointed chosen ones are responsible for ushering in the kingdom of God and making Christ’s miracles seem ordinary. The truth however is it’s still a man-centered gospel.
False teachers exist “because my people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:31) In other words, the problem is the itching ear, not merely the one who tickles it. Let us not for one moment heap all the blame on those who peddle the gospel. The old adage of supply and demand applies. It is the desire of a wicked heart that fuels the flourishing of false teachers, and make no mistake, what they are offering are by and large fables – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” 2Timothy 4:3-4 ESV.
Trips to heaven, angelic visitations, bizarre manifestations resembling those found in pagan religions and witchcraft are considered the norm in churches these days. A smorgasbord of teachings is readily available to suit the palate of the undiscerning. What used to be considered out of bounds for believers, is now available within the visible church. Shawn Bolz, with the aid of his smart phone, has replaced the fortune teller who offers readings from her caravan on the street corner. Your local nightclub or concert is not the only place you will find special effects. Artificial smoke, glitter and the odd feather at Bethel church in Redding are employed to create the atmosphere necessary to fool the gullible. No need to go to your local book store or attend a secular conference on motivation as this topic is the bread and butter of many churches. Far ahead of the pack when it comes to the use of Doom insect spray to heal, South Africa is lagging behind in the special effects department. The odd fall of gold dust and a few outbreaks of well-oiled palms is all we can boast about, but I’m sure we will catch up soon. Our dentists are also still in business with regular fillings, but that might also change.
In conclusion, the state of the visible church in South Africa is in dire straits as expected: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” 1 Timothy 4:1 ESV. The reason these teachers and their false doctrines flourish across continents and cultures is because the heart of man is the same – desperately wicked. People are lovers of self, lovers of pleasure, eager to satisfy the flesh at the expense of starving their spirits. Our duty is to faithfully proclaim the full counsel of God, and our hope is in Jesus Christ who will build his church.
[Guest Post by Rick Becker. Rick has a background in pastoral ministry, serves as a co-host of Famine In The Land, a discernment ministry podcast, and is a resident of Cape Town, South Africa.]