Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
I am in a matatu headed to town. My mind is full of the day’s events and hustled already with the bustles of the city. Mid-way through the short journey, a preacher man comes in and starts preaching. He opens the Bible alright, but the things he says are somewhat not aligning. I am in town, and a loud noise hits my ears (a keyboard that is pounding), and I cannot help but realize a preacher man is reading from the Bible yet his interpretation is a whole different story.
Sometime back, there were reports of a pastor who told his congregants that for them to experience the sweetness of life, they need him to anoint them with soda! Yes indeed. How? That is a point of amusement and amazement to me as well. Not to forget the one who asked the members to eat grass! Time does not allow me to consider the one who asked women to spend a whole night out in cold because he, as he said, is the apostle of marriage. One of them even told the members to dig soil where the Chinese were doing some road constructions to receive a land plot in that area.
Unless we are all very naive and blinded, we know that this has nothing to do with Biblical teachings. These things have most hit young people who have just started earning their small incomes. There are stories of adults who have given money to their ‘spiritual parents’ or done other unthinkable things in the name of faith and commitment. The question we must answer is, “What does it mean to be a faithful or a faith fool in the arena of Christendom?”
Faith and Its Object
To begin our conversation, we must establish a few truths:
Everyone has faith in this life. Most of what we do is in faith. We sit on these seats by faith, not testing if they can sustain our weights. We enter into matatus trusting that the driver will not plunge us into the ditches or lead us captive into some bush! Think about anything you want, and you will realize there is an aspect of faith.
The object of faith matters. The thing we must establish where our faith is based. There are many gods in the world. Different people place their faith in different gods, though that is not our focus today. For the believer, faith in Jesus is most important. We believe in Jesus because he has proven to be true over the centuries. Of him, scriptures say he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He calls us to believe in him (John 3:16) if we want to have eternal life.
With the above definitions, we understand clearly that the point of confusion comes in when the object of faith is replaced. In many fellowships, the Pastor or leader becomes the object of faith. That is why it becomes about the man of God than the God of the man. You have heard people say things like ‘our dad’ or ‘dad pastor’ or ‘mom’ and other titles.
Fellowships where the preacher is ‘god’! Say, for example, the Pastor has a birthday. Because he has managed to convince the congregation that his word is final, he dupes them into believing that it is his right and their responsibility to get him a gift. It is worse when the Pastor has an idea of what he wants for a gift. Depending on the level of control the Pastor has on the people, it might be a car or a plane. Or something crazier in some cases.
Now, at this point, we need to say we have ventured into the ‘fool’ part of this conversation. It is a foolish path when we consider our leader to be a god. When a mortal like you, who has challenges like you and worse, is taking advantage and becomes your god, there is a problem.
Faith and Human Intellect
Have you ever read or heard of the heinous madness of a pastor who once asked his female congregants to see him in private if they had barrenness problems? That he, being their priest, had the power to unlock their barrenness by sleeping with them? Sounds gross, huh? But it is true! The other one is the Pastor, usually carried on four men’s shoulders because his feet are too holy to step where other ordinary men are stepping. Haha! Madness right? There is still a crazier one; the Pastor who asked his members to eat grass, or drink anointing oil for a miracle and breakthrough? The list is endless! What could be making men and women who have gone through some learning and education level agree to be part of such scams?
Karl Marx said that ‘Religion is the opium to the masses’ to downplay the importance people place on it. He probably observed the manipulation that many men of the cloth wielded over their congregants. Of course, he had not received the light of the gospel, and he never experienced the relationship Christ offers visa vis what religion gives. But let us consider this claim a little. Opium is a drug that gives the user a high and throws them into an imaginary, ‘life is good’ world of their own, away from the realities of life. That is what a relationship with God IS NOT!
When God created us, he gave us intellect; capacity to deduce matters rationally and judge whether or not our actions are proper or improper. When the above examples thrive, it points to a problem- we have stopped taking our intellect into the house of worship. So how do we engage our intellect for the sake of remaining faithful to our master, Christ?
Head and Emotions Attached
A car cannot run on a railway by design. It has tires and therefore best used on tarmac. A train has a connection to a railway, by design; therefore, it is only proper to put it on one. A man/ woman was designed to function with both head and emotions to function correctly. When we refuse to use the two abilities concurrently, we open ourselves to deep error. It is like running a train on tarmac or murram road without railways.
When you enter into any fellowship, right at the doorstep, do not leave any of these faculties outside. Get in with your head and emotions attached. Think about what you are listening to and weigh it with your mind to practicalize it. Feelings have a way of throwing us off balance, and many pastors use that to their advantage and their members’ deception. It is okay to have an emotional experience in a fellowship. We are emotional creatures. However, we are also rational creatures. We can think and deduce! When the Pastor or preacher says to you, for example, “Plant to my ministry and the Lord will bless your work. How many here want blessings? Plant a seed of X amount.” It sounds appealing to the emotions as it seems to speak to some particular needs men have.
Well, the question we need to allow our head to ask is, “Is that the Bible way of being blessed? By giving to a pastor for their growth and gain?” After asking that, consider asking, “Pastor, do you want to be blessed by the Lord? Would you consider planting in my family/ business etc. as well?” If the minister gets roughed up and agitated, you know he is not up to any good with any of the members. If it works with him on you, then it should work with you on him! Have your head and emotions attached. Do not just get carried away only to regret later.
A story is told of a man who went for a prayer service. The minister twisted and turned their emotions around to give so that the minister could buy a car. He said the Lord had asked him to tell the members. Out of emotions, the guy took an offering from his pocket and gave. However, the preacher also added that God said that whoever gave all they had that evening would experience a miracle they have never seen before. At this, the man, out of emotion, took out a 200 shilling note (back in the day), which was his transport cash, and dropped it in the bag. Immediately that happened, he came back to his senses and realized he had no fare! Talk about head and emotions detached! Be very careful not to leave your head behind when you enter any fellowship.
Heart and Scripture Attached
Ultimately, we must learn how to have our hearts and scripture attached. Drench your heart with the truth (Psalm 119:11). Study scripture deeply and keenly (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16) so that you can discern truth and error when it is presented. Check out what the teacher/ preacher says against the scriptures like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
When a teacher/ preacher refuses to be questioned, it should sound an alarm for you, for no man is infallible and beyond question! We need to be faithful in our knowledge of the truth because the failure of having truth leads us to destruction (Hosea 4:6). This knowledge is not just about head knowledge or financial knowledge. It is a lack of knowledge of God! If you know your Pastor/ preacher or teacher more than you know your scriptures, there is a problem! No wonder we sang back in the day and said, “Read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow!” It was never, ‘Know your pastor, pray every day…” We are to read the Bible to know how faithful by the book and not faith fools!
Many people have become sceptics against the gospel so much in our day, not because it is useless but because we have made ourselves foolish even to the reprobate and unregenerated mind. Are you a faithful or a faith fool? Is there true harmony between your head and emotions as designed by God? Does your heart have the depth of scriptural knowledge that ought to be there for any saint? It is your responsibility to be a faithful or a faith fool. Choose today!