Health and Wealth Teaching Is Being Spread at an Alarming Rate Across Africa

Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images Followers of the prosperity gospel movement at a service in Nigeria earlier this year.
Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images
Followers of the prosperity gospel movement at a service in Nigeria earlier this year.

While the prosperity gospel traces its theological, philosophical, and sociological roots to the United States, its most prominent teachers (e.g., Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and the aptly-named Creflo Dollar) have made it a leading American export across the globe. Today, health and wealth teaching is proliferating at an alarming rate in Latin America and in many countries across the African continent.

Jeff Atherstone has witnessed the spread of prosperity theology in Africa over the past decade. Atherstone serves as president of Africa Renewal University (ARU) in Uganda. He’s served in that Sub-Saharan country as a missionary since 2006 and was among the founders of ARU. Before moving to Uganda, Atherstone served as a church planter on staff at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California.

TGC spoke with Atherstone about the challenges he faces in seeking to proclaim an orthodox gospel in a region overrun with false teaching.

Is prosperity gospel teaching widespread in Uganda?

The prosperity gospel runs rampant through Sub-Saharan Africa, and Uganda is no exception. Churches don’t call themselves prosperity churches and even churches claiming to oppose the prosperity gospel have

it proclaimed from their pulpits. The prosperity gospel has attached itself to the theological framework that runs through this region. It has spread primarily through television. Preachers such as Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Myles Munroe, and Joel Osteen can be seen on TV around the clock in Christian homes throughout Uganda. Their books are found lining the shelves of Christian bookshops. These preachers have also done a great job of personally visiting this region.

In what places have you seen the prosperity gospel at work? How difficult is it for orthodox theology to gain a hearing where health and wealth teaching is so prevalent?

Sub-Saharan Africa is a patriarchal society with a great amount of respect for their leaders. The prosperity gospel has moved strongly because the movement’s leaders have paid to have their shows televised here. They have visited this region and their books are in this region. The leaders of orthodox theology haven’t paid to bring their TV shows to the airwaves, they haven’t hosted stadium-filled gatherings, and their books can’t be found. Orthodox theology needs to present their leaders to this region to gain the respect (and ears) of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Is there some biblical truth being intermixed by the prosperity teachers in these countries, taught along with the prosperity gospel?

Yes, all the time. Sermons and service times in Sub-Saharan Africa are much longer than in the West, running more than two or three hours each Sunday (not to mention multiple mid-week services and overnight prayer meetings). The sermons are filled with long stories and anecdotes, so you can often hear truth and false teaching weaved together.

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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Jeff Robinson