Stop False Teachings – Professionalising Religious Practice
As we continue our discussion on how to protect the word of God and gullible Christians against the false teachings and unacceptable practices of some modern-day “prophets”, we should always try to refer to the Scriptures for support of the position we are taking in promoting authentic Christianity.
The apostle Peter urges us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. He goes on to add: “But do this with gentleness and respect …” (1 Peter 3:15).
In view of the above, the strategies we adopt to protect the word of God against un-Christian practices should not be such as to show loathing and contempt for the pastors who call themselves prophets, or to induce hatred and antagonism against them in the hearts of the members of our churches.
We should actually pray for them and their followers that they may listen to the authentic word of God and not abuse it.
However, in adopting this attitude we should be clear that we have false prophets among us. Jesus predicted this when he said: “At that time many will turn away from the faith…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24: 10-11).
Unfortunately, establishing churches under the gospel of health and wealth has become a thriving and fast-growing industry.
In the previous column we discussed what we might call “the theoretical underpinnings” of professionalising religious practice. So how do we go about building concrete structures and procedures? Central to the proposal we are making is the idea of creating a body or an agency that is empowered to register and de-register pastors and priests.
The body could be called “The Religious Professions Council” or some such name. The council would have the power to determine minimum requirements for practising as a pastor and a preacher in the Christian Church. This would entail:
- Determining the minimum level of training required for one to practise as a pastor/priest;
- Setting minimum standards of quality;
- Registration of recognised training institutions across all Christian denominations;
- Non-recognition and/or de-registration of institutions that fail to comply with the minimum requirements;
- Registration of all pastors/priests recognised by the council.
There could be one council for all the SADC countries, with chapters/branches in each country. Pastors/priests from outside the region would have to have their qualifications/certificates evaluated before they are allowed to practise in any of the countries of the region.
In addition to the establishment of the council, there would be a need to develop a code of conduct for priests and pastors, and to draw up a list of practices that are not recognised in the Christian Church. The list of bad practices would include such things as pastors selling “anointed condoms”, and pastors telling congregants to drink sewage or engine oil, or to eat snakes and grass.
Over and above these structures and strategies, there would be a need to educate congregants in the mainline and authentic Pentecostal churches about the activities of false prophets in our time, with a view to ensuring that congregants acquire a clear understanding of the true Gospel message of Christ. All this should be done in a true Christian spirit, with both church leaders and congregants praying for the leaders of the dubious churches and their followers to follow the light of Christ.