“Your victory as a Christian means that you need to reject all negative realities. Reject them. Refuse to speak about them. What you say is what you get.” These are familiar words, heard from many pulpits, quoted in Stand Up for the Gospel.
If you have spent any amount of time in Churches in Africa, you are bound to come across a specific type of teaching. This teaching focuses on our material prosperity in terms of health and wealth. Reverend Dr Emmanuel Kwasi Amoafo, author of Stand Up for the Gospel, takes time to unpack this prosperity doctrine, which he distinguishes from our usual naming of prosperity gospel. His book is many things. But very simply, it calls the Church back to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This book is many things. But very simply, it calls the Church back to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Kwasi is an ordained minister in the Anglican Church of Kenya and teaches theology in various institutions both locally and abroad. With more than 20 years of ministry experience, his approach to the prosperity doctrine expertly balances theological depth, pastoral care, and wisdom, while rebuking and refreshing in equal measure. While prosperity doctrine has received many critiques, I found Kwasi’s book analysis to be not only clear but objective. Based on numerous visits to various churches throughout Ghana, Kwasi’s engagement is not based on a personal vendetta but on actual observations in the field of ministry.
Furthermore, Kwasi includes real-life stories and helpful case studies, highlighting how the prosperity doctrine negatively impacts Christians across Africa. He introduces us to pastors, church leaders, women, men, and youth who’ve been victims of prosperity teaching—including over-spiritualising medical issues that lead to the death of loved ones; spending one’s entire savings on a powerful man of God’s ministry to the negligence of one’s own family; and pastoral scandals in the area of both financial mismanagement and sexual failures. These are just some of the real dangers of this teaching.
Below are five major components of prosperity doctrine, identified and critiqued by Kwasi in his book. Each serves as a contrast between this erroneous theology and God’s life-giving truth.
Worship the Son of God, Not the ‘Man of God’
Kwasi focuses on understanding the prosperity doctrine as a matter of identity. He writes, “People whose identity is truly being a servant should actually feel uncomfortable when people honour them too much” (p15). Prosperity doctrine makes much of the preacher rather than making much of Christ. Thus it undermines the biblical emphasis on servant leadership in Christian ministry. This is especially true in African cultures that pay homage to leaders, particularly spiritual leaders.
Stand Up For the Gospel: Getting the Church Back on Track
Emmanuel Kwasi Amoafo
Stand Up For the Gospel: Getting the Church Back on Track
Emmanuel Kwasi Amoafo
A poor believer dances to the offering box, sowing her last savings in hopes of reaping a job or a husband. “Surely this time, I have enough faith!” Pastors sell anointing oil and holy water to make your prayers powerful. Governments want to regulate the church’s corruption. It’s enough to make anyone discouraged.
Are you worried about false teachers in the church? Jesus’s brother was too. Jude, written by Jesus’ half-brother, was delivered to God’s people at a time when the early church was struggling with teaching that departs from the gospel. His solution? Defend the gospel at all costs. Jude’s call to uphold the faith is just as powerful today. Connecting scripture with his research on churches, Emmanuel Kwasi Amoafo echoes Jude’s warning against false teaching and reminds us there’s hope if we hold fast to the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Stand up for the Gospel provides answers, equipping you to defend our timeless faith. In the midst of counterfeits, rediscover the refreshing truth of God’s word and the glorious, life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prosperity doctrine makes much of the preacher rather than making much of Christ.
Honouring spiritual leaders is important, but it should not be in the form of honouring them above Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17). In both passages, the honour we give is based on the pastor’s accountability to point people to Christ, and not themselves. While prosperity teachers seek to speak to the pervasive problems of unemployment and poverty, the identity of believers is not in their material wealth but in their relationship with Christ through the gospel (p17).
The calling of Christ is that both believers and pastors are to honour one another above themselves and to exalt Christ.
Put Off Fearful Works and Trust in the Gospel
Kwasi tells the personal story of the passing away of his father. His father was an elder in a church in Ghana. Yet during the burial ceremonies, other relatives emphasised the African practices of pouring libation to the ancestors (p32). Kwasi interprets this as the pressure that we experience from our African traditional cultural and religious heritage (p33). Prosperity teaching often emphasises rituals and doctrines that speak to our African traditional worldview, a worldview that is informed more by fear of the spiritual realm rather than the freedom we have in Christ. Life issues such as poverty, sickness, crop failure, and marital discord are interpreted as arising from “evil powers in the unseen spiritual realm” (p33).
Christ has taken our shame and guilt and defeated the powers of evil and darkness.
In Stand Up for the Gospel, Kwasi helpfully portrays the victorious contrast of Christ with the African traditional religious system. While the African worldview focused on animal sacrifices, these sacrifices could not atone for sin as Christ has done, once and for all. While the African worldview pressurises us to pay homage to our ancestors, “the powerful gospel truth is that Jesus Christ is the Christian’s ultimate ancestor” (p35) Unlike our dead ancestors, Jesus was perfect. He rose from the dead. And he lives to continually intercedes for us (Hebrews 8:6; 9:25-28).
In the gospel, Christ has taken our shame and guilt and defeated the powers of evil and darkness. This good news leads to our true freedom.
Beware Greedy, Materialistic Leaders
Drawing on Jude 4, Kwasi shows how prosperity preachers secretly creep into churches and “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Lord.” The book shows that the prosperity doctrine has roots in 20th century American Christianity, through figures like E. W. Kenyon who drew on the New Thought cultic teachings of Phineas P. Quimby (1802-66). Prosperity doctrine was popularised in the 1940s by Kenneth Hagin and more recently through the teaching of figures such as Oral Roberts, Kenneth Copeland, John Avanzini, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, and T. D. Jakes (p49). African prosperity teachers and pastors have been influenced by or studied under these teachers.
Prosperity doctrine and its heralds promotes greed and sensuality.
I was especially intrigued by Kwasi’s analysis of prosperity doctrine which has led to “a more accommodative theology that [emphasises] affluence and upward mobility” (p50). Such a theology is attractive to middle-class, urban Africans. It silences the doctrines of sin, Christ, and judgment for a more materially oriented teaching that has led to “large numbers of unconverted second-generation churchgoers” (p51). So while Christianity in Africa is seen to be growing, the lack of transformation may point to the reality that the quality of this type of Christianity—largely prosperity oriented—doesn’t produce spiritual fruit. Kwasi warns, “If we are not careful, the Church in Africa can turn our Christianity into a nice, safe middle-class religion that has left Christ and his gospel outside the door” (p53).
Prosperity doctrine and its heralds promote greed and sensuality, rather than holiness and the mortification of sin.
Prepare for Suffering
Prosperity teaching is anchored on a false idea that suffering is a sign of a lack of faith or God’s displeasure. Teachers and preachers of the prosperity gospel disappoint their listeners by promising them wealth and riches. They reduce the work of Christ, stripping its spiritual significance and claiming “suffering, pain, and poverty are not the portion of a true believer because Jesus died to purchase good things for us. They teach that, because God desires prosperity for every one of his children, for a Christian to be in poverty or sick is to lack faith and to be outside God’s intended will” (p117).
The gospel shows us a God who suffers with us has overcome suffering.
Kwasi places suffering in its proper biblical perspective. We live in a fallen world. Thus suffering will always be with us (Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12). This may take the form of temptations, doubts, financial or physical challenges, emotional instability, as well as unique burdens in our family and work life.
The gospel shows us a God who suffers with us and a God, who in the face of Jesus Christ, has overcome suffering (Hebrews 12:1-13). In the biblical worldview, God works through suffering to make us holy and set us apart for his use—even when we may only see dimly, as if in the dark. The Psalter also offers us hope in the practice of lamenting, thereby shepherding our emotions in a realistic and helpful way. Unfortunately, when Christians who have been used to prosperity teaching face suffering, they usually walk away from the Church or their faith is seriously harmed. Contrastingly, the gospel shepherds us safely through suffering.
Desire God’s Truth Over Man’s Inventions
Close to the heart of prosperity doctrine is its mutilation of biblical truth. The strength of Kwasi’s book is how he helps the reader practically work through specific prosperity teachings, showing how they twist the Bible. For example, he notes the popular prosperity interpretation of Mark 10:29-30. Prosperity teachers use it to claim that Christians who give money to their ministries will reap a hundredfold financial return. But Kwasi doesn’t stop there. He goes on to offer the reader sound principles of biblical interpretation. He writes, “If we want to understand his [God’s] word and how to apply it in today’s world [we need to] find out the original meaning of the text as it was intended by the original author, and as it was understood by its original readers” (p63).
Close to the heart of prosperity doctrine is its mutilation of biblical truth.
How does this apply to the above passage? He notes that the verses above Mark 10:29-30 tell of Jesus’ encounter with a rich man who is instructed to sell his possessions and give to the poor if he is to inherit eternal life. The point is not to give to spiritual leaders, but rather, to give to the poor—as a sign that our hearts are not captive to material idolatry but rather to service, as the gospel calls us to. “Misinterpreting these Scriptures has caused our churches to become so busy with what we perceive to be the work of the Lord that we have neglected the Lord of the work” (p69). Ouch! May God help us to handle his word faithfully.
We Need Theologically Informed and Practical Solutions
I was left with an abiding conviction after reading Stand Up for the Gospel. As African Christians we need to better articulate how the gospel addresses the systems that entrench greed and poverty in African societies.
There remains a need to explore the ramifications of the gospel on everyday life callings of Christians in Africa.
The application of the book is instructive for the Christian leader involved in Christian ministry as well as for laymen and women. It’s helpful in noting that issues such as greed and poverty are rooted in the human heart. Going forward there remains a need to explore more carefully the ramifications of the gospel on the everyday life callings of Christians in Africa; how their work in agriculture, business development, security guarding, teaching, or technical expertise, is rooted in the gospel mandate of reconciliation, provision, and dignity, which can help people to move away from the lazy “decreeing” of prosperity doctrine or magical quick riches from ‘sowing seed’ and back to the nobility of Christian vocation and its impact for African communities everywhere.
This may have not been the main focus of the author, but it’s an indispensable consideration for addressing prosperity teaching. That said, I recommend this book for training in faithful Christian ministry and use in book reading clubs and fellowships, particularly through the questions that conclude each chapter.
Here’s a closing word from the author himself, “Even as we contend for the gospel, we must remember that we are not saving the gospel. The gospel is saving us. . . What an exciting hope we have in the gospel. Today, let’s heed Jude’s inspired message. Let’s turn away from false teaching and return to the gospel” (p194-195). And the church said, “Amen!”