Surprise: The African Church Is Not Very Charismatic
Even many charismatic and Pentecostal leaders are concerned that the prosperity gospel has crept into renewalist churches. But scholars like Darko, Asamoah-Gyadu, and Ayodeji Adewuya, professor of New Testament studies at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, said it would be a mistake to equate the charismatic movement with the prosperity gospel.
"Those who, like Mbewe, combat the evil within the charismatic movement do well, but they must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater," said Wilfred Fon, president of Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary. "A good number of miracles in the charismatic movements may be fake, but there are genuine ones too."
Both charismatics and non-charismatics are seeking to correct some of the extremes and abuses they see in the wider charismatic movement in Africa.
"The African church will need to become theologically sound and in depth but that cannot happen overnight," said Fon. "We need scholars and theologians committed to the work to help the African church. Unfortunately, many Africans who should be lending a helping hand are living in diaspora, and the church continues to have poorly trained leadership or leadership trained outside of her context."
Some "diaspora" Africans, like Gordon College's Darko, do regularly travel back to Africa to train church leaders. Though his efforts are focused primarily on equipping pastors of fast-growing churches, Darko also works with other Christian leaders in Ghana to curb what he considers extremes.
"But we don't correct extremes with top leaders in public," he said. "I discuss some of the areas needing moderation with leaders at the personal level."
Rather than extinguishing the African charismatic "fire," Asamoah-Gyadu said, Christians need discernment to see how much of it is God's. "I know people who were living with all kinds of health situations, who have been prayed for and healed," he said. "I don't accept every 'miracle worker,' but I know that in the midst of the negative reports surrounding some of them there are those who are genuine."
Africa has many problems, he said. They'd be much worse without these churches and without people placing their trust in God. "I can point to people I knew," he said, "whose lives were going nowhere, whose lives were transformed."