Nigerian church leaders are concerned about the infiltration of what they call heretical teachings by some pastors and have formed a Concerned Ministers Forum to deal with the problem.

The leaders say contributing factors include ministers who are eager for materialism, overemphasize the "prosperity gospel," are ignorant of Scripture, "merchandise" the gospel, steal in the name of the Lord, and introduce occultism into churches.

"A significant segment of the Christian church in this country is gradually but steadily departing from the basic goals of Christianity," says Peter Ozodo, chair of the Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association. "The entire church is in danger of losing its basic direction."

Pastors preoccupied with material gains are hindering the church's discipleship task, according to Ozodo. "The ministers involved in this distractive act claim that focusing the church's message on the things of this world is the way to be relevant to the listeners' needs," he says. "Focusing on materialism causes Christian leaders themselves to become worldly."

Raphael Okafor, secretary-general of Scripture Union in Nigeria and a pastor of the Chapel of Redemption at the University of Nigeria in Enuga, says some ministers are most concerned about their own financial desires. "Quite often there is an unnecessary spirit of competition and rivalry in the preaching of the gospel," Okafor says. "They seek to be popular and cannot seriously call people to repent from sin, lest such people turn away."

Several church leaders say ignorance of Scripture and lack of theological training have contributed to errant teachings.

Dennis Nweke, general superintendent of Living Word Gospel Ministries, says financial abuse has resulted. "Before our very ...

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