Witchcraft on the pulpit and the rest of us: A fresh perspective
1 Samuel 15:23 Rebellion is as sin
ful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
Nobody wants a witch to stay close. But we eat, sleep and dine with them anyway. Witches are perceived to be demonic beings being used as instruments to cause havoc and retrogression in the society.
In the Africa milieu, our idea of a witch is somebody who flies in the night, who causes pain and sorrow. In the church many have zero tolerance for witches. We have had cases of some folks getting a raw deal in churches because they were perceived to be witches. Usually, the idea many have about witches are haggard looking, emaciated old women with scary eyes.
The term alone evokes some eerie feelings and a foreboding sense of evil lucking around. That is why when a meeting on witchcraft was advertised recently to be held at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, some Christians rose up to stop the meeting. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as a matter of fact issued a statement that the meeting should not be allowed to hold. The social media was agog with divergent views and positions. Some opposed the meeting, some felt the meeting should be allowed. Those who kicked against it were of the view that, the meeting was satanic and could not be of God. Those in support of the conference posit that knowledge is key in evangelism that such meeting would afford Christians the opportunity to know the workings of witches and know how to pray appropriately.
While debate on the matter goes back and forth; it’s time we began to reflect on our callings as believers and look at issues dispassionately. It is expected that we ask questions and make findings before we jump on the bandwagon of those for and those against. From what was advertised, the conference was organised by those in the university community. It’s not a conference of witches. Even if it is a conference of witches there is still need for us to exercise some restraint in our actions, look at the issues and see how we can explore the opportunity of the conference to promote Christ. But then, a lot of people believe there is no meeting point between darkness and light. We can go on and on, taking sides and jumping into conclusions. But we may never reach a compromise on the matter.
Even at that, it’s good to do a little bit of reflection and ask ourselves; what is witchcraft? Who is a witch? It’s interesting to note that the Bible gives us one of the finest descriptions of what witchcraft is. God instructed Saul to destroy the people of Amalek; irrespective of their status including their animals. Saul carried out the assignment but spared Agag the king of Amalek and some good-looking animals. His excuse was that the animals would be used for sacrifice.
When Samuel came and saw that Saul had not obeyed God fully, he was annoyed. It was in the course of the annoyance that he made the historic statement that, disobedience is like the sin of witchcraft” 1 Sam 15v23. That was the end of Saul as king.
The truth however is that Samuel’s simplistic interpretation gives us a clue on who a witch is. We must then understand that witchcraft is also an act of disobedience. But then it also goes beyond disobedience. It’s an art of manipulation. Some describe witchcraft as “wise craft.” On a broader scale witches employ voodoo power and use elemental forces to achieve their aims. There are clear cases of witches in the Bible. We know the witch of Endor. (1Samuel 28v3-25) It’s easier to identify witches who demonstrate their trade for all to see. Those ones can be handled easily.
But the witches that are dangerous and perhaps more insidious in the body of Christ are pulpit witches. These witches wear suits, speak in tongues and know the Bible very well. They sometimes have better understanding so to say. But the long and short of their aim is to manipulate those who hear them and make merchandise of them. They are smooth-talking preachers who look harmless on the face value but have perfected the art of manipulation for selfish end.
The unsuspecting church goer may not know but a pulpit witch, begins with his calling and his relationship with God. It’s true God has called many. But the question is to do what? A pastor that is living in clear disobedience to the instructions of God is a witch. Saul lived in disobedience. Many of us are living in disobedience. There are many on the pulpit who have been called to do specific task for God but who have refused but rather are building their own empire. Such people are pulpit witches. They are the people that should be our concern because they are doing exactly the opposite of what God asked them to do.
Going further, it’s important to note that there are elements of witchcraft in our conducts during church meetings. One of the clear examples of pulpit witchcraft is making the word of God say what it is not intended to say so that we can get some material benefit from the congregation. This happens so much that many preachers deliberately look for scriptures that could be used to wrest money from people.
When seed for instance is interpreted to solely mean money it’s a clear case of manipulation because Jesus while explaining the parable of the sower never interpreted seed to mean money. When Paul talked about those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly he was still not talking about money as what we sow but using the term sow to mean what we invest our energy in. That is why he says further that those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption and those who sow to the spirit will reap life everlasting (Galatian 6v8).
The scripture is about what gets our priority and not about money. It’s a contest between the flesh and the spirit. How do we invest in the spirit? By giving attention to spiritual things that will make us grow our faith. We invest in the spirit by praying, my studying the word, by giving heed to the instructions of God etc. On the other hand we invest in the flesh by indulging in things that will encourage our flesh like pleasure etc. Money is just one item that come in the way as an instrument that we use in achieving what gets our priority but the focus is not the money but that thing that we invest our energy in. But sadly many discussions that have to do with sowing is almost all the time centred on money.
When we fail to present the complete gospel and we stretch one Bible portion to a ridiculous point just because we have an agenda for gain we are clearly being manipulative and are practicing witchcraft.
One other scripture that has been used for selfish end is to keep hammering on: Don’t come to the presence of God empty handed. By the way where is the presence of God? Do we go to meet God or we carry God everywhere we go? If God is with us 24/7 how do we interpret don’t come to His presence empty handed? Does that imply we must give God something 24/7?
By the way the scripture being quoted here is Deuteronomy 16v16. It reads: “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed”
That was a time they went to worship God in a location unlike the post New Testament era where we worship God in truth and spirit. That scripture is even talking about meeting with God three times in a year. There were three distinct meetings: Festival of Unleavened Bread, Festival of weeks and Festival of Tabernacles. How does that correlate with our weekly meetings? When a pastor hammers on this Bible portion just because of the agenda of raising funds he is simply using witchcraft on the people.
The most common use of witchcraft on the pulpit is when we compel people to do things against their will and invoke a scripture to support our demand or we make a prayer. In worst case scenario we ask members to do certain things and put a caveat. It’s common to hear pastors say for instance: If you know you want to see next year stand up? Pray! Who does not want to see next year? What if there is a deformed man in that congregation who cannot stand?
But there are instances where we invoke some things just for the fun of it. For instance we sing: if you’re happy and you know clap your hand. In a relaxed atmosphere where the preacher is trying to make the congregation relax one can understand. But there are clear cases of manipulation where we impose conditions that some would meet reluctantly.
Now that the year is running out, it’s not unlikely that some pastors would ask for offering for those who want to see next year. Why do we turn people to robots because we want to achieve our own selfish agenda? Why don’t we just make out request rather than put a compelling condition?
To stretch it further, what do we make of a pastor whose members can’t do anything without his knowledge? Such members can’t go to toilet without carrying their pastors along. For every step they take the pastor must know even if they are going to sleep with their spouse. Pastors who derive joy in doing this are only being manipulative.
The truth we must grapple with in our daily walk with God is that witchcraft is with us. It is right on our pulpits. It will only take the discerning mind to spot these elements in our churches.
It is true there are confirmed witches who do their trade in the dark and oppress people. But we must not be oblivious of the other versions of witchcraft which take place on our pulpits on a daily basis. The witch on the pulpit is worse because they go right into the souls of the believer. While we kick against witches that fly in the night it’s important we take note of those who operate on our pulpits and avoid them.
By Gbenga Osinaike