How ‘Entrepreneurial Pastors’ Create Miracles and Testimonies

Dar es SalaamAmid the questionable gospel that is spreading rapidly in Tanzania, individuals are being employed to fabricate miracles and testimonies, presenting a false image of divine intervention to unsuspecting congregants. The citizen You can report.

These orchestrated miracles involve a group of people, often brought in from abroad to avoid detection, who claim to suffer from serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other conditions that are expensive or difficult to treat.

In a shocking revelation, The Citizen discovered that some members of this group even fake disabilities such as deafness, paralysis, blindness and mental illness.

“Most of us are from outside the area where the service is held, so it is not easy to locate us,” explains Timoth*, a former participant who left the service after realising it was not profitable.

Months after receiving the prayers, these individuals return to testify that they have been miraculously healed by the prayers of the “prophet.” This cycle of deception convinces many followers to place their trust and finances in these supposed “miracle” altars.

“The pastor typically discourages critical thinking and urges his followers to distance themselves from friends and family who express doubts,” Timoth adds.

The investigation revealed that these false testimonies are meticulously planned. People are hired to act as if they have been cured of terminal illnesses.

“We are hired to act like we have serious illnesses and then pretend we are miraculously cured during services,” says Beatrice*. “We also call in on the radio, where the ‘man of God,’ who already knows us and has our numbers, begins to prophesize over us.”

“When preachers like this come on the radio, they already have us ready to call them. As soon as we call them, they receive the calls and start talking about our situations, while unsuspecting listeners are convinced and start following their teachings,” Beatrice adds. The situation in Tanzania is worrying, although it has not reached the extreme levels of Kenya and South Africa.

“I was brought from Kenya to play this role. The Church paid for my travel and my stay, and in return I gave a tearful testimony that convinced many people,” reveals another source working in Tanzania.

Some pastors even use supernatural powers from countries like Nigeria to attract believers.

“These pastors often travel to Nigeria to acquire amulets and other objects that they believe will help them perform ‘miracles.’ They take these to Tanzania and use them to enthrall their congregations.”

The practice of importing fake patients, particularly cancer patients, is a growing concern. “I have seen people brought in from as far away as Uganda and Rwanda, all pretending to be on the verge of death, only to be ‘cured’ by the pastor during a service,” says one church member.

“It’s all a show to attract more followers and their money,” the source added, implying that they (the church employees) were paid little compared to what they earned in a service.

Theological experts warn that the proliferation of these new denominations and pastors must be closely monitored by the authorities.

“The Tanzanian government must intervene to protect vulnerable citizens from exploitation,” said the Rev. Musa Danstan of the Lutheran Church.

The proliferation of these churches not only preys on the desperate, but also diverts much-needed resources from the community.

“It’s not that all churches are bad, but there are some that we have trusted and believed in for a long time because of what they do. However, now it is very difficult to know who is teaching the right things.

“That is why the government, through its intelligence services, must not ignore this issue at all,” says Faustine Chacha, a religious leader in Dar es Salaam.

However, not everyone believes that all these pastors are impostors. Some followers sincerely believe that they have been healed.

“I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, and after attending services and following the pastor’s guidance, my health improved significantly,” says one believer. “I don’t think it’s fair to label all these pastors as fake.”

This research highlights the social dilemma facing true Christianity in Tanzania. While some pastors undoubtedly exploit their congregations for personal gain, others may genuinely help their followers.

The challenge is to discern the authentic from the fraudulent and to ensure that faith remains a source of hope and not exploitation.

Experts suggest there is an urgent need for regulatory frameworks to protect the vulnerable from such exploitation.

“The government should introduce measures to monitor the financial activities of religious institutions. Transparency and accountability are key to ensuring that these institutions serve the public good and not personal interests,” suggests Job Mpalanga, a Lutheran parishioner.

It is critical to train people to discern between genuine spiritual guidance and exploitation. “There is a need to train people to discern between genuine spiritual guidance and exploitation. Traditional religious leaders and community organizations can play a critical role in this effort.”

The consequences of these manipulative sermons are dire: families are torn apart, savings are depleted, and hope is eroded.

Holy books warn against false prophets and those who exploit faith for personal gain. Rev. Danstan recalls Matthew 7:15-16, where Jesus warned: “Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”

Bishop Anthony Njau of the Catholic Church notes: “These modern prophets do not follow the teachings of the Bible. They take advantage of the poor and desperate, promising them what they cannot deliver. This is not the way of Christ.”

Pastor Sarah John of the Assemblies of God in Tanzania adds: “The focus should be on helping the community and helping the poor. These new breeds of herdsmen are doing the opposite. They are exploiting the very people they are supposed to be helping.”

The world was shocked when hundreds of believers in Kenya perished after being convinced to fast without food for many days while praying, believing they would go to heaven.

Pastor Paul Mackenzie of the Good News International Church has been found guilty of causing the deaths of many of his followers. He was found guilty of using unrated films to promote his radical teachings.

“Let’s not wait until we get to that point,” says Dr. Thomas Kileo, a psychologist. “It’s best to leave these matters to leaders so they don’t act as ‘promoters,’ because there’s a lot they don’t know. If something happens, the public won’t understand it.”

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame took a bold step to regulate the proliferation of churches. In 2018, he ordered the closure of more than 700 churches in Kigali alone, citing security concerns and the need for proper regulation.

This measure was intended to curb exploitation and ensure that religious institutions operated within the law and contributed positively to society.

In Tanzania, religious organizations must register with the Registrar of Societies of the Ministry of Home Affairs in mainland Tanzania and with the Principal Registrar of Government in Zanzibar.

They must have at least ten followers to register, provide a written constitution, resumes of their leaders, and a letter of recommendation from their district commissioner.

Between July 2023 and April 2024, 213 communities were registered in Tanzania, compared to 371 registered in 2022/23. Of these, 95 were new religious communities and 118 were non-religious.

Once registered, these religious institutions can only be subject to government interference when they need to renew their registration certificates or when they fail to comply with the terms of their registration.

The Office of the Registrar of Societies conducts verification and renewal of registration certificates, where religious leaders are required to submit financial and performance reports along with a fee of Sh100,000.

Reverend Michael Muga of the Lutheran Church expresses his concern: “The church should be a place of refuge and support, not exploitation. We need to return to the core values ​​of Christianity, which are love, compassion and service to others.”

Bishop Emmanuel Kitulo of the Church of England added: “It is heartbreaking to see how these modern prophets are misleading people. The government must step in and regulate these practices to protect the most vulnerable.”

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