Allegations of abuse from pastor TB Joshua have surfaced, but he is not the only preacher to be exposed recently. Maxine Harrison considers why so many fall prey to ’false prophets’.
On Monday, 8th January 2024, the BBC released a three-part documentary as part of their Eye Investigations series titled Disciples: The Cult of TB Joshua. The programme focuses on The Synagogue, Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos, Nigeria and former members’ allegations against its previous leader, TB Joshua.
This documentary comes less than four weeks after BBC’s Panorama’s The Billionaire Bishop and the Global Megachurch documentary which spotlights prosperity gospel and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. On top of this, 2023 also saw re-emerged attention of the controversial church Nxtion Family (formerly SPAC Nation) which is also associated with preaching the prosperity gospel.
It seems there is a theme of exposure to so-called “Christian churches” that, in behaviour, operate more like cults or preach a counterfeit gospel. And with the rise of online christian communities, it’s even more important for us as christians to discern whether a church or christian community is actually from God, or is instead a counterfeit gospel.
“TB told me personally ‘every 2000 years God sends a saviour. Christ’s tenure is over, that he is the next person in line now.”
In Disciples: The Cult of TB Joshua there are a few telling signs shared by former members that indicate cult-like behaviour. For example, Agomoh Paul, who was very close to TB Joshua said “He was a god to me”. Later he continues, “TB told me personally ‘every 2000 years God sends a saviour. Christ’s tenure is over, that he is the next person in line now.”
The theme of TB Joshua having some sort of god-like control over his members is something the other disciples in the documentary resonated with, too. Even when TB Joshua was committing heinous forms of abuse against them, allegedly, they still found it difficult to leave - some stayed for as long as 14 years.
But Christianity is adamantly against idolatry (Exodus 20:3–6) and teaches that there is only one God who is triune in nature (Father, Son and The Holy Spirit) to be worshipped. Anybody who positions themselves on the same level or encourages an environment where they are worshipped should be closely cautioned as this is not what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches.
Some false prophets may teach what sounds like the gospel and may even appear spiritual.
However, discerning cults is not always easy. Some false prophets may teach what sounds like the gospel and may even appear spiritual. Maybe you won’t really know the truth unless you are heavily involved in the community. There are sometimes sneaky tactics by those who claim to be from God (2 Timothy 3:6-7).
Read more on church abuse here
What particularly attracted members of SCOAN both in Nigeria and internationally, is that the church claimed to deliver people from evil spirits. This is another thing that could have served in drawing in people, especially from the West, as deliverance from spirits isn’t as widely spoken about in Western christian spheres, despite Jesus casting out demons and encouraging his disciples to do the same (Matthew 10:1).
However, scripture also advises us that we shouldn’t be too enamoured by spiritual activities. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says that there will be many who drive out demons but on the day of judgement, he will say to them “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”. This is why it’s important to ultimately seek God and research before connecting with a church.
The Bible takes false prophets seriously (Galatians 1:6-9) and warns us about wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-16).
What is particularly sad about the victims of attending churches with counterfeit gospels is that they often have the right desire to know God. But their seeking unfortunately leads them to the wrong place. I pray that these members who are or were under churches that preach counterfeit gospels, would be able to find Jesus and a community of true believers in Christ.