by Bob Ekblad, originally published on his blog.
For the past two weeks Gracie and I have ministered alongside our African partners to run four-day trainings for pastors and leaders in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. We have been delighted to see widespread negative images of God dramatically give way to our teachings and group Bible studies on God’s love and grace, exciting us to further equip people to proclaim good news.
Negative images of God are common in places of poverty and hardship. Christians, Muslims and adherents of traditional African religions are all inclined towards legalism and performance. Known “sinners” usually do not feel welcomed in church services, until they first make required changes. Once inside the church they will often hear messages of condemnation, and promises that a life of purity and sacrifice will lead to financial and personal success. Continue reading Challenging Prosperity Theology and Legalism in Africa
This Good Friday, millions of Christians over the world contemplate about the sufferings of Christ as he died for our sins. In my experience, it is not so common among Pentecostals and Charismatics to talk about suffering as something achievable. Rather, our emphasis on healing has often made us think that pain is always evil. And while I am convinced that we should always pray and work to alleviate involuntarily suffering, we should also be ready to suffer for Christ’s sake – and even count it as a joy! (Mt 5:11-12)
After all, we follow a crucified God who told us to take up our crosses and follow Him (Lk 14:27). He told us that we should expect persecution and turn the other cheek when attacked (Mt 5:39). We are also told in the Scriptures that we will experience spiritual trials and hardships (Jam 1:2ff.).
This may seem hard to sync with the Kingdom message of fighting suffering through healing, deliverance, poverty reduction and peacemaking. But it is one of the Kingdom paradoxes – while we should alleviate suffering, we should be ready to suffer. We should not seek suffering or be happy when others suffer, but when we are affected by suffering, which undoubtedly will happen from time to time, we should not interpret it as being abandoned by God but see it as a humiliating experience for us to identify ourselves with Christ. Continue reading The Role of Suffering in the Charismatic Movement