DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Authenticitc Christianity

Written by: on February 27, 2015

The impact of western secularism has great implications for Christianity and social change in Ethiopia. The reality of globalization and the ever-growing cultural exchange between Western and developing countries, like Ethiopia, makes the impact of modernity inevitable. Unarguably, there are benefits of being connected with everyone and everything but we need to pay attention to our social imageries. In this age, I think no one can possibly be immune to the ramifications of modernity. Secularity is unstoppable; a considerable imagination is required to engage with modernity in our own specific context. The gradual process of cultural changes taking place in Ethiopia helps us realize that we can no longer insulate ourselves from the emergent influence of Western Christianity on our country.

One example of this influence is the growing number of Christian TV programs broadcasting in Ethiopia. Some self-appointed ministers who like to call themselves pastors or prophets or apostles host many of these programs. Most of these TV program are sensational and superficial. They deceive many well-meaning Christians robbing their resources and convincing them to be in their network. They have now become alternatives places where believers can sit in the comfort of their home and watch the programs. Several Ethiopia Christians are already expressed their concerns that these so called healing ministries are promoting unbiblical approaches copied from American TV-evangelists. These are more entertainment than genuine ministry. They do not teach to obey the Gospel or about discipleship, but simply preach their own version of good news that disregards the importance of enduring suffering. It is about how to “choose” to live a “victorious life,” as some of them claim. Due to this, a majority of Christians are sensing the new consumeristic kind of Christianity that is pushed on us from outside. For instance, televangelists leave their contact information on TV screen for direct contact instead of encouraging believers to reach out to their own local church pastors that creates a clear problem for the ministry of the church.

For these reasons, I relate to some of Taylor’s examination on causes for the unbelief in Western societies: “affluence and the continued extension of consumer life styles; and geographic mobility; outsourcing and downsizing by corporations; new family patterns, particularly the growth of the two-income household, with the resulting overwork and burnout; suburban spread, whereby people often live, work, and shop in three separate areas; the rise of television, and others” (pg. 472).

It is unfortunate that Christina Tv programs’ approach has been adapted by many local churches. Recently, I sang at a conference organized by one of a Pentecostal church. The aim of the conference was to raise money to finish the construction of their new church. The church invited a guest speaker who preached and also prayed for healing. During one of his preaching a minister brought a word of prophecy that still trouble me when I think about it. First, he said, God told him that there are 20 people right in this conference God is calling them to give 1000 birr so that he would bless them. Amazingly to me that 20 people came forward and promised to give the amount as soon as they can. After that, the preacher again said, there are 10 people in this congregation that God is asking them to give him 2,000 birr. It was not easy to find who could donate this much money since the majority of members are youth under age of thirty. What is troubling to me was seeing the church elders stand in front of the congregation and squeeze these poor believes to come up with these money. To my surprise I saw a similar incident in my current church here in Portland where a preacher asked us to give money to support a ministry going on a mission, so that we would experience God’s blessing in our lives. Trust me, I am all about giving back to church and supporting missionaries, but I do not believe we should play the God’s blessing card. It saddens me when I see spiritual gifts used, in Taylor’s words, as “commodities” to assert ones authority or even as “self-definition” of one’s identity. The challenge is our believers often do not know how to challenge false prophets. One of the reasons is most of them view one’s healing ministry and spiritual gifts as proof that he/she is a prophet, however, as we know this is not the Biblical test.

In short, churches have become a place of spiritual consumption; where people go to hear feel good sermons. The mission of the church seems to me simply to fulfill the spiritual thirst of their members by inviting prophets and teachers who can deliver individualized messages, but hardly challenge them to go and make disciples. As Taylor says, we are truly in an “age of authenticity” where sin is tolerated and truth is compromised. In my opinion, we are in a such challenging time where everything we do is about “me” not “thy Kingdom.”I am grateful that Taylor is helping me see things from my cultural context.

I am grateful that Taylor is helping me see things from my cultural context.

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

6 responses to “Authenticitc Christianity”

  1. Telile…
    How “blessed” I am (and we are) to have your insights and perspectives. Taylor exposes how we are impacted and the pathways that are initiated amid reformation. You have pointed out such subtlety in your post. Is the pastor/prophet calling out for the 10 or 20 to give any different that the pastor that asks us to give for a mission trip with the inference (or understanding) that we will receive a blessing. Exposed (in a good and humbling way).
    In a sense in this age of authenticity we are dismantling, questioning and perhaps re-visioning the Christian purpose. One of the lingering questions for me is how I “see” sin and understand it? What happens when what I was taught was a “sin” is no longer viewed as such. On to next week we go…. Thank you Telile for your good work.

  2. Telile,

    Wow! Another great post. Thank you for sharing. You say, “Secularity is unstoppable; a considerable imagination is required to engage with modernity in our own specific context.” This is so true. It is indeed a sad reality.

    I am sorry about the preachers your country is experiencing. They have taken a bad model and made it bad for your people. This is a tragedy. It is no wonder to me why people are leaving the faith. With examples like this, it is no wonder that people lose heart and lose faith. I have seen these things too; they are completely fake and have nothing to do with God. This is heartbreaking.

    So now what? This is my big question? I have not seen a real move of God in sometime. Is that because He is so frustrated that He is turning His back on the church? I know that is not true, but it is frustrating to not see much happening. Perhaps we are the ones called to do something real for God in these days. I have begun a small prayer group on Tuesday mornings that is real. It is the highlight of my week now. Oh that more organic and simple ministries would be lifted up again, particularly for prayer. I know God is glorified in these kinds of ministries.

  3. Michael Badriaki says:

    Telile, great reflection here. You are right, Taylor’s work is relevant for also non western contexts. As globalization continues it reach, the more cultures are going to meet and you have ably noted the implications. Your statement, “Unarguably, there are benefits of being connected with everyone and everything but we need to pay attention to our social imageries.” I actually wrote my post with a focus on social imageries and how missionaries can fall prey to the wave and urge to provide “new options” that are not helpful.

    May God keep us rooted in the gospel.

    Thank you

  4. Russ Pierson says:

    Telile, this is such a thoughtful, reflective post!

    First of all, while I was jealous of your cohort’s adventures in South Africa, I would never trade my experiences with LPG1 and 2 in Kenya and–especially–Ethiopia. It is such a remarkable, beautiful country in so many ways. It is a place I hope to visit again, and it saddens me to think that our “televangelical” ways are taking root there.

    Reading your post, I wondered if the current “clash of civilizations”, often framed as being between East and West or–even less helpfully–as between Islam and Christianity–isn’t really more about a predominantly immanent culture and a predominantly transcendent culture? If that might be so, I harbor some hope that post-modernism in the west might offer a way forward; many in the west are re-embracing transcendence, beaten down by disenchantment. Perhaps we may yet find a common language that will some day, some way bridge the conflict.

    It occurs to me that I’m drinking Ethiopian coffee as I write this (an awful/wonderful possibility in our globalized age), but I don’t think it’s the caffeine that has my brain working overtime; it’s your post. Thank you!

    Russ

  5. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Telile
    It’s so sad to hear how these pastors are milking the people for money in these churches. Very sad indeed. While God does still heal today, it’s no excuse to use God’s gifts for their own financial gain. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had to witness such events.
    May God give us wisdom and a pure heart to discern truth from error.

  6. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Telile! Wow! You preached the Truth in this post! I love your ability to relate the books we read to Ethiopia and your personal context. It saddens me so much to hear about the TV Evangelists in your country. I pray that God will convict them and turn their words and popularity to point toward Him. … So when will you return to Ethiopia next? I can sense that God is planning to use you for great things in spreading the Word and His Truth. Has He revealed His next step for your life?

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