I remember back in school how much we tried to fight off the concept ‘Third World’ as an imperialist terminology that ought not to be used in describing the developing world.
Few years after leaving school, now faced with the harsh reality of my country, Nigeria and indeed Africa, viz-a-viz our socio-economic and political reality, I cannot but agree that we are truly a Third World society. The concept of Third World Christianity you may find novel. Yes! It is novel; it is not an imperialist creation, and it also perfectly describes the kind of ‘Christianity’ that is becoming increasingly popular in Nigeria today.
Let’s attempt an explanation of the term, Third World Christianity. It describes a situation where the life of a professing Christian as popularized by the leadership (pastors) takes the shape and form of the socio-economic and political reality of the social formation of the people. In other words, it is a practice that is basically reactionary to the socio-economic situation of the society.
I make bold to say that this is not the Christ-centered life we were meant to live and represent. The Christ-centred life is not a reactionary life. It is a life that is not susceptible and should not be subjected to external influence and events. In other words, our external reality ought not to define our internal state, but rather our internal state ought to define and shape our external reality. The true believer lives inside-OUT and not outside-IN. It is not the external that should shape the internal, but the other way around.
The connecting dot here is that the popular Christianity, even in the Pentecostal paradigm is need-based. The emphasis is all about meeting the socio-economic needs and aspirations of people as a reaction to the debilitating socio-economic reality of the society, without recourse to what is the will of God and how He wants it accomplished. Trust me I am not in any way saying that God is not interested in our well-being. He is interested than we can ever imagine. Matt 6:30-33:
“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need”. (Emphases mine)(NLT)
I believe that God is much more interested in our welfare than we ourselves. But that must not be the basis on which we serve Him. As a reaction to the many challenges confronting the people, the pastors have found it easy and effective to dangle miracles, prosperity and breakthroughs as carrots to get to the people, with little or no emphasis on living the Christ-centered life. In the process, majority of the people have become preys, particularly in the hands of the new wave of ‘pastor-prophets’ that are emerging across our major cities, promising miracles and all manner of breakthroughs to deceive people, defraud them, leave them broken and make them twice the children of hell. Matt 23:15: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (NLT).
The best Third World Christianity would do for you is meet your needs in the immediate, puts you in a false reality at best, and that is if you are not one of those who would lose everything to the fraudsters who go by the title ‘Man of God’. Jesus Christ himself warned that we should “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matt 7:15). These vicious wolves are everywhere now. It is rife to hear of how people are falling prey to their antics just because of some correct predictions they are capable of making. Gullible people easily fall prey to this.
In a general sense, the emphasis on miracles, signs and wonders have not been able to produce a people of strong character and conviction. Millions of people are recorded in annual spiritual gathering all over the country. These same people are in the civil service, the police force, in politics and government etc. The latter are given prominence and recognition in our gatherings and meetings, because of their wealth. They are the same people stealing our common wealth, thereby subjecting the people to poverty and plunging the entire country into crisis. (This is what I call double exploitation, which will be dealt with another time).
We have looked at the Menace of Third World Christianity in a general sense; do take note of the two paradigms through which this sort of Christianity thrives. One is the mainstream Pentecostal paradigm where miracles, prosperity and all sorts of breakthroughs are being peddled with little or no emphasis on living the Christ-centered life. Even where it is emphasized, there is no fruit to show. (Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions”- Matt 7:20).
The other is the new wave of young ‘pastor-prophets’ who are all out to defraud gullible people of their resources with promises of a better life and meeting their specific needs. The main targets of these so called ‘Men of God’ are middle income earners and rich folks who believe they have certain spiritual problems that these magicians could solve.
Be smart. Open your eyes, follow God and not the carrots. If you truly love and desire God, He will lead you to the right company, where you can grow and impact your world positively. In the midst of this great deception and diversion from the path of righteousness, there’s a remnant, as there will always be, who are on a journey with God. As for those exploiting God’s people, here’s what God says… (Read up Ezekiel 34:1-16).
Frederick Adetiba, a sociologist, is Human Resource Manager at the Premium Times Publishing Service. He tweets @fredor4c