In the 60s, at least when I was growing up, pastors only preached the gospel and did nothing else. In fact they were not even called pastors in those days.
We called them Reverend Ministers. Then the late 70s and 80s came with a capitalist brand of American charismatic Pentecostalism— the born again
movement---and then suddenly, we saw a band of ordinary men who now marketed and branded themselves as “men of God”-- appointed and anointed,
many of them without any theological training and with little secular education too. With the Holy Ghost heavily upon them, they claimed access to spirit and spoke strange tongues and announced to the whole world that the prophecy of Joel 2:28 has been fulfilled in them. They claimed that theirs was the generation that heralded the official end time preceding God’s judgement of the world. Indeed, we all needed to repent, for Jesus was coming soon! These young men and women claimed to have direct lines to the Oga at the heavenly headquarters. In fact so intimate was their relationship that sometimes during their usual breakfast with God, he would give messages to deliver to us poor earthlings! It was not surprising that these so called “men of God” suddenly grew older and wiser than their own parents and elders in society. Sometimes when you heard some of them speak, you got the impression that God was their younger brother! They knew everything! In fact, there were even reports that it was upon the advice of one of them that the Lord above created the sun. But for him, God’s creation would have lain in perpetual darkness!
These “men of God” became the new apostles of the end times, chosen to save a sinful world from imminent collapse and the wrath of a vengeful God! The first stronghold they pulled down was the traditional orthodox churches which had baptized and nurtured them. These orthodox churches, together with their trained ministers were considered and referred to as “Ichabod Churches” - i.e., churches and ministers from whom the glory of God had long departed. They referenced the narrative in the First book of Samuel chapter 4.
Additionally, they imitated American ways of speaking and preaching. This mesmerized the little minds among us. Through the stylistic and linguistic influences of American televangelists like Oral Roberts, T. L. Osborn, Billy Graham, Morris Cerrullo, Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin among others, God became “Gad” and Lord became “LoRRd” and noise and hysteria became a standard form of Christian worship! Linguistic effusions of ancient Aramaic with inflections of Dagbani and code switches of Yoruba and Yiddish ushered in the age of sonorant glossolalia in the kingdom of God, Ghana branch. Church services were both noisy and sometimes, admittedly exciting for both the youth and the elderly. Pastors preached and danced in skillful frenzy as if they were a cross between the Holy Ghost and Michael Jackson. Music flourished and almost every sister become a songstress while many brothers became leaders and pastors. These leaders and pastors went forth in the land and mounted their own pulpits any and everywhere--from school classrooms to buses and open air markets. They taught we the people, the ignorant masses everything from sex to science, health and healing, marriage and relationships, business and money matters as well as politics and economics all the way to the eschatology of the end times! I remember in one of several prophecies, the year 1992 was given as the deadline for the lifeline of this wonderful world. God had had enough of our sins. Students and the youth trooped like lemmings to their fellowships and churches and listened to them more than their parents. Many wives admired, honored, revered and listened to their pastors more than the counsel of their own husbands or family elders.
Additionally, the “men of God” taught culture. They even said that our Ga Homowo festival was fetish and called on their Ga followers not to partake! Libation, which is our African way of praying was demonized! They got God as their buddy and he was always on their side and in their churches ranting specific prophetic directions on how to live holy lives. These pastors told us our ancestors were ignorant and worshiped idols. The congregation even sang songs to these tunes and lyrics! Many people were also made to believe their ancestors had placed curses on them and their future generations! They did not realize that this was a religious product being packaged and marketed, and for which the cure was often extended all night deliverance sessions accompanied by the laying on of hands and or pushing and the sale of anointing oil. To fall and roll was testimony of the power of the “man of God”.
The “men of God” also became adept fundraisers for poor God. Many times, when we the people questioned –“Who is this God you talk about, who created heaven and earth and all therein and is all powerful and can do all things and all miracles including raising the dead and dividing the Red Sea and walking on water and giving everlasting life to people and supplying all their needs but always in need of our money to run his kingdom?” ---, they told us that giving to God was an honor and a test of our love and stewardship and the only way God could bless us with breakthroughs and prosperity.
Through these religious spectacles, the pastors literally held society emotionally and psychologically hostage just to make themselves relevant. The very air we breathed was contaminated with demons. Christians prayed and sanctified the chair they sat on in their offices, just in case their unbeliever colleagues would not jinx them with demonic power. Poor grandmothers became witches and disagreeable aunties were considered agents of the devil. Only the anointing upon the anointed man of God could break the yoke. With such paranoid narratives, the men of God wedged themselves into the crevices of our hearts and took hold of our minds and wworldview. We deferred to them on every matter. Individuals called them their “spiritual father”. Politicians sought their blessings before and after elections. So when couples had new babies, they brought in the pastor to officiate the naming and outdooring ceremony, when in the past it was the duty of the family elders to do this! When Ghana Airways was in full flight towards a financial nosedive, the man of God was brought in to pray for it not to die! In fact, Christians prayed without ceasing for Ghana out of the conviction that it only needed a Christian leader to be a prosperous country! All this while, unbeliever nations like China, Japan and our old 1950s Third World classmates like Korea and Malaysia were pursuing science and technology to develop.
The pastor, having successfully branded himself as an all-knowing man who heard God’s voice, used his goodwill to become the jack of all trade in the lives of the people! The most beautiful sisters in the fellowship and churches preferred them as good marriage material. At least they did not drink alcohol or got shamefully drunk. They did not chase other women or smoked weed. Neither are they corrupt like those unbelievers in the world. They are good stewards and feared God, kept their marital vows and are honest. They had the Midas touch and were welcomed with great honor and respect to every sphere of life.
This goodwill explains why a pastor can easily and conveniently transition back and forth between the pulpit and the financial boardroom and make social capital out of both- a skill the Christ thought was impossible and incompatible in the service of God when he said “no man can serve God and money”.
So this is where we are now----from the 1960s through the late 70s and early 80s to the 90s to date----a chronicle of frightening faith transitions and traditions and the social creation of semi bishops and demigods out of mere men who now sit upon our brains and determine which way and how we must think about our world and our God and country.
The church tradition of having people go and listen to what the “man of God” says every day without questioning him has led to a generation of sheeple who get hysterical and offended when pastors are questioned! Like lemmings, they descend on you using the blood of Jesus as weaponized invectives to expel the devil in you. Christians became both intolerant and suspicious of “men who used their minds to think”. To such men, they sermonized, the things of God are foolishness. No wonder entire congregations will stand by their pastor even when everyone sees how ethically unfit and immoral that is! Christianity indeed set out, albeit nobly, to save what it believed was a sinful world. Now the world is scared of a sinful Christianity, one that so badly needs its own gospel to save itself and restore its social legitimacy.
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