Of false prophets and profits: Meet the Pentecostal preacher taking on the prosperity gospel
Born-again churches in Africa are becoming ever more popular, politically powerful, and lucrative. But criticism may also be growing.
On a bright Sunday morning, the roads on the slopes of Makerere are still muddy from yesterday’s heavy downpours. But these adverse conditions are little discouragement to the throngs of worshippers making their way to the House of Prayer Ministries International in Uganda’s capital of Kampala. Thousands disembark from cars and boda-boda or walk on foot to the church premises where they pass through security checks and take their seats under huge tents.
The person they are here to see first and foremost is the Pentecostal pastor Aloysius Bugingo. The father of four used to be part of the Victory Christian Centre led by the prominent preacher Joseph Sserwadda, but after the two men fell out a few years ago, Bugingo set up his own church. Since then, the charismatic performer has drawn huge crowds, preaching a provocative message that has proven as popular as it is controversial.
“You see all these people,” he says to African Arguments, pointing to the multitudes of churchgoers watching as the choir opens proceedings. “Many have been robbed of their properties and money, been raped, promised instant miracles and many other things you can’t mention by our own pastors”.
He explains that under the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’, many Pentecostal preachers tell worshippers that in return for donating huge sums of money, they will be cured of diseases or be rewarded in material wealth several times over. But Bugingo condemns these teachings.
“This business of pastors sending invitation letters to flocks with instructions on how much money they should give in church is real robbery,” he says. “If you tell people to sow in order to prosper, are you a magician to ensure overnight riches?”
This message has resonated with many churchgoers and Bugingo’s sermons are now reportedly attended by around 20,000 worshippers each Sunday.
“I was attracted by his wonderful truthful preaching aimed at putting God’s people on the right track of seeking his faith but not stealing from them”, says John Wamboga, who explains that he turned to Bugingo’s church after hearing several stories about fraud being committed by other pastors.
The rise of Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism has a long history in Uganda and Africa more broadly, but it was in the 1980s and 1990s that the religion started to grow particularly rapidly, often pushed by churches in the US. Preaching a strongly evangelical version of Protestantism that emphasises personal contact with God and the power of divine healing, Pentecostal churches popped up all across sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the World Christian Database, nearly half of all Nigerian and South African Christians were Pentecostal by 2010, while the movement accounted for the majority of Christians in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Estimations are difficult to make, but the organisation claims that there are now a colossal 400 million born-again Christians in Africa.
Many individual pastors have even become superstars. Some have started up television and radio stations that broadcast to large populations, and on the back of donations, have become enormously wealthy. Pastor David Oyedepo, for instance, is reportedly worth $150 million; Chris Oyakhilome is believed to be worth up to $50 million; and TB Joshua’s wealth is estimated at around $15 million.
However, while Pentecostalism has deepened, criticisms have also grown along with accusations that pastors have deceived churchgoers to get rich.
“It is nothing new that some preachers in Africa are using the Bible through its scriptures to coerce their audiences to pay lots of money, saying whatever they give, will be given back to them,” says Margaret G. Gecaga, a Professor in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Kenyatta University. “For some preachers, the more money you sow in church, the more blessings you get, but this is done because many innocent church followers think God speaks through these pastors and they have to obey God’s voice.”
Fatuma Nassoziwho is one such churchgoer who put her faith in a preacher only to lose many of her belongings. “About ten members in our church sold cattle, shops, plots of land and other house items like fridges, TVs and sofa sets on the advice of our pastor, claiming we will be able to replace them in a matter of a few months…but he disappeared,” she says.
Rivals hit back
It is allegations of dishonesty such as these that Bugingo’s sermons are tapping in. However, while he has grown his congregation, his sermons have angered several other pastors who have allegedly joined forces against him.
Bugingo claims a group of preachers petitioned the city authorities to evict his church from its previous location in the centre of Kampala. And last year, over 50 of them called on the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to cancel the broadcasting license for Bugingo’s media platforms Salt TV and Salt Radio.
“I was concerned as a Christian about the abusive language pastor Bugingo was using to attack fellow pastors calling them thieves and wild cats”, says lead petitioner Kivumbi Earnest Benjamin. “What I did was to reach out to the leading pastors in the country [as well as] the president to stop him, but I was surprised to see…the materials I submitted were not fit for cancelling licenses for his media.”
Several preachers also accuse Bugingo of being hypocritical for criticising other pastors whilst still asking for money from his own congregation. This was especially the case recently when he needed to raise the $2.5 million necessary to buy the church’s new huge plot of land.
“In the beginning , he preached against the envelope culture of collecting money in church, but when the time came for him to collect money for buying land, he became wild and asked folks to even bring it US dollars,” says Pastor Boni who heads a small church in one of the Kampala’s slums.
But Bugingo rejects these accusations, insisting that he asked for these donations in a transparent and open way rather than by tricking his followers under false pretences.
“My preaching is affecting so many false pastors because the truth is bitter,” he says. “Many are now sending me death threats.”
Many worshippers across the continent have lost large sums of money to Pentecostal churches, and many citizens blame governments for failing to better protect churchgoers against exploitation. However, it should be noted that another aspect of the rise of Pentecostalism has been the growing political power of these churches, which have used their popularity, wealth, and sometimes support from US churches to exert influence.
Ahead of Uganda’s elections this year, for example, many of the country’s pastors – under the umbrella body National Fellowship of Born-Again Churches – held massive prayer conferences and rallies in which they endorsed President Yoweri Museveni, calling him “God’s gift to Uganda”.
Furthermore, Pentecostal churches in Uganda have become powerful political actors in shaping debate and driving policy, with influential figures such as a First Lady Janet Museveni and Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga known to be close to leading churches. The passing of Uganda’s notorious anti-gay bill, for example, was widely seen as a “gift” to the churches.
Anyone who is critical of Pentecostal pastors is therefore likely to come up against strong resistance, though opposition against certain practices may be rising amongst worshippers, other Christian leaders, and – in the case of Bugingo – fellow preachers.
Powerful pastors have strongly criticised Bugingo, but with accusations of deceit increasing and his sermons attracting such huge crowds, there is the possibility that others could be persuaded to follow his lead – including fellow preachers such as David Bweyinda of Masajja Redeemed Church in Kampala, who confesses: “Some pastors have hated me for not entering into this battle, but I can’t fight a fellow Christian who is telling the truth.”
Nangayi Guyson is a freelance journalist based in Uganda. You can follow him on Twitter at @nguyson or read his blog.
The religious charlatans (Christians) target and exploit the feebleminded and the superstitious because they are easy targets.
“Woe unto them that lead my children astray,” and “Beware false prophets!”
All religious leaders lead a good life of prosperity, the poor disciples of Christ no longer exist. Take a look at all these churches and they are all worth billions of dollars. Big business!
religion was born of man to serve man.. and it serves him well.. from what i see.. you deserve each other
Pastor Aloysius Bugingo is leading the flock correctly. There are MANY false prophets for profit. Beware, do not be deceived. Study his word and know the truth and be set free. Those of us who know the truth must declare it. They are liars and deceivers.
i dont understand Africans, they were colonized by various countries, forced the religions of christianity and Islam, that was taken from likely black Egyptians, stolen for many years by Greeks, Romans etc. The bible states his hair like wool skin like bronze and even the earliest pictures depicted jesus non white not with good hair. yet his image was changed by the same people that colonized and ravaged and destroyed black/African people history and identity. just like the movie moses when the pharaoh finds out moses was a jew he said erase all writings of him from history. so blacks follow a white jesus while everyone else follow images in their likeliness. to add more insult, they used ceasar a cousin or criminal to represent jesus. so why could they not draw jesus because no one want a black or near black man to praise. god is god, religion is man made. so to this day Africa/Blacks remain economically poor only as much economic power that is allowed by those who control their white jesus.
I addressed part of this story in my book – REFLECTING ON AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT: An African Perspective of Global Events Critical to the Overall Black History. Chapter 22 of the book even more so “Living with a Corrupted Christianity – Elusive Road to Success”
The PROSPERITY GOSPEL Revealed
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.
The PROSPERITY GOSPEL Revealed
Poverty in Africa, bad government and ignorance has contributed to the surge for miracles in churches and while this is going on, the general situation of the people is growing worst. They need to get up as a body to fight political, social and economic deprivations and the miracle of God in the abundant natural and mineral resources Africa is blessed with could the enjoyed by the people. They can now pray better and worship God with sincerity. Until then, it is insincere worship which end up in pseudo-sprituality.
Do you think this is a good analysis. Why do you want to link with anti-gay?and only with Christianity?How do pastors serve the people of God with out financial support. I don’t mean that followers should give money beyond their capacity or by force. The bible instructs to give or support churches. In some religion one person gives in millions so what is special with Christians. Please be positive and better not to disturb the innocent people. I know there are false prophets whom we do expose to the public.
Sir, nice write up about our Pentecostal pastors and their wealth. But the issue am critical of is the fact that when you wanted to use examples, you mentioned 3 pastors in Nigeria only. No mention of any other pastor anywhere else. Why?
Why don’t talk about False Doctrine of Islam- 77 Virgins after Death,False Religion. Religion of Hate,not Peace.
Thank you so much for this passage especially about the True gospel of Jesus Christ being preached by Pastor Aloysius.
The phrase ‘false prophet’ is absurd. Here are some parallel constructions. ‘Fake psychic’ ‘murderous killer’ ‘handy handyman’
Unfortunately, no one will use pastors, prophets and Bishops as excuse on that day.
The Bible say we are inexcusable.
It started right even before the time of Christ ministry on earth , hence the reason He drove them out from the temple if God, the same reason also they conspired and have Him killed.
Christ with His blood has delivered us not only from sin and Satan but also from the hands of this evil merchandise of the gospel.
We have the word and the word is with us.
Our problem is that we don’t read our Bible, and we don’ t pray for the holy spirit to give us understanding of the word.
And finally we have allowed certain people to take over the duties/functions of the holy spirit in our life.
From the book of Ezekiel 34:8-14
“As I live, saith the LORD GOD, surely because MY flock became a prey, and MY flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did MY shepherd search for MY flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not MY flock. Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require MY flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves anymore; for I will deliver MY flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the LORD GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search MY sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out MY sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scatered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains if Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. ”
All Shepherds, listen to the words of our LORD. If you seek to make a fortune from HIS people, then you are in trouble with HIM, for you are to give them HIS Words to live by only.
Nowadays, so called servants of God preach what Jesus did, does and will do. This is called
The ” Prosperity gospel “. But they fail to teach and preach who Jesus Christ is and his image (Charater).
The whole of new testament tells us the real purpose that Jesus Christ came to this world and thereafter the real reason of the Holy Spirit given to mankind ( dwell in them in order to change their lives into the image of the Jesus Christ ).
Jesus said “ What you sew , you will reap ”. “ you all seek me to get bread and not to seek the eternal life through me ”.
who is the pastor that can preach us the way to understand Satan so as to avoid him because they all are his agent and not meant to reveal him to any one or the ways his agents function and archive evils in pretence they are doing good
This is what one of America’s leading pastors has to say about the prosperity Gospel in Africa. It is worth the 2.5 minutes it takes to watch.
The worst place you can find such churches is in Nigeria, they robbed the followers to the extent that some have to trek miles after services to get home. The so called PENTECOSTAL churches are the modern day evil. In the past the Anglican, Catholic, Baptist & all other orthodox churches came to Africa established schools, hospitals & even medical centres in rural areas for the poor to attend, but nowadays the pentecostal churches established all this for there rich clientele to the extent that there poor followers can send there wards or even themselves to there schools or hospitals. In Nigeria it`s a fashioned statement that the husband & wife are the head of the churches, they live in big mansion with fleet of cars & body guards & travel abroad at will.
Which prophet is the REAL prophet anyway…the bible has always been used to manipulate weak minded people.Africans are lost…first they used the bible to colonize them and now the Africans themselves are using the bible to exploit their own people.Who knew?
LIFE IS NOT A RACE…https://youtu.be/gHU-Z7wPsyA
“Every corner of the world
We create our own beliefs
Our own Gods
To give us Spiritual relief
We make our own culture
Our own fate,
Our own spirit,
To make us feel great
But the universe has its own laws
Its own plans,
Its own fate,
That supersedes that of man
And so, when we meet
Tolerance takes the back seat
Peace develops wings…”
I‘ve never heard of a people creating their own God
And saying those people with no hair are the CHOSEN
We create our own God with our wishes, likes & dislikes…nature.
And people who steal other people’s god put their likeness on the stolen god…ask prophet muhadmed & joseph smith.
And WHY is our religion so POPULAR?
SIMPLE…It was SPREAD by FORCE, killing or what-have-you.
MILLIONS died to deliver that religion to U.
And then U condemn them to some eternal torture without even KNOWING THEM…hmm.
I am a born again Christian. One reason why these false preachers have risen on such a massive scale is that majority of Christians leave their brains in their cars or at home before going to church. If like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 we all searched the scriptures, these false prosperity preachers will be on their own, they will have no followers.
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