The Curse of Pentecostal Denominations to Africans: Zambia

Elias Tembo

From time immemorial, religion in Africa has been a multifaceted phenomenon which has had a strong influence on the culture, art and philosophy of its people. By and large, Christianity, followed by Islam and to a lesser extent, traditional African religion, has been widely adhered to and is still being practised by a majority of Africans.  

However, over the last twenty years, Pentecostalism has become one of the most popular forms of Christianity to gain ground in Africa in general and Zambia in particular.  Originally founded in the United States of America around 1900, this religious movement has today become one of the fastest growing denominations. In Zambia alone, more than 1200 branches have been established, in some cases with a single congregation having more than 10,000 members.

Nevertheless, in the recent past, Pentecostalism has come under the spotlight because of its religious practices, which seem to border on manipulation, fake prophecies, performance of false miracles and an obsession with accumulation of wealth without working for it. Its practices are quite different from those of other denominations, such as Roman Catholicism, the Adventist church, the Anglican church and so forth, which seem to focus less on generation of money and wealth. 

Further, some unscrupulous Pentecostal pastors have been using the Bible dishonestly to manipulate their followers for their own monetary gain, by capitalizing on their followers’ vulnerability and poverty. Besides, much of their preaching has been characterized by an emphasis on the contribution of a tithe and many other personal effects by the congregants so as to enable God to secure them a place in Paradise after their demise on Earth.

Foolish as it may sound, many of the congregants have fallen prey to these obnoxious acts of daylight thievery, which have made their pastors extremely rich while they themselves continue to wallow in abject poverty. In most cases, magic and some form of fortune-telling coupled with a few passages from Scripture have been used as a weapon to lure the victims into believing that what their pastors perform are true miracles sent from God through them. Besides, merchandise such as so-called anointed olive oil is sold to very poor congregants with the promise that they will experience God’s miracles in their lives. 

In other words, Pentecostalism has today become synonymous with lucrative business ventures, where the targeted and potential customers are its followers. Within church administrative structures, some branches have even come up with a department entirely dedicated to marketing the church and winning new souls. In addition, congregants have been brainwashed with a pack of lies into thinking that the only way to salvation and a perpetual life of bliss is through their pastors. 

Most importantly, the negative religious practices of the Pentecostal denomination highlighted above have opened up a Pandora’s box of personal and social problems, not only within their congregations but also to a larger extent in the outside community within the country. For instance, more often than not, congregants are advised to put all their problems, of health, of finance or of something else, in the hands of God for His help. This has created a syndrome of dependency and laziness on the part of followers, as they believe that only God can solve their problems. 

In conclusion, if nothing is done to deter some of these practices, Africa – Zambia in particular – is headed for a major catastrophe in terms of the responsibility of its people for solving their own problems.  Further, the governmental ministries responsible for religious matters should take a keen interest in monitoring the activities of these denominations and provide moral guidance and logical support where needed.