African Charismatic Christianity: A Mighty Outpouring, or a Dangerous Counterfeit?

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Dr. Brown responds to an article by African pastor Conrad Mbewe, one of the speakers at Pastor John MacArthur’s upcoming Strange Fire conference, in which it is claimed that the African charismatic movement, which is filling churches across the continent, “is not Christianity.” Listen live here 2-4 pm EST, and call into the show at (866) 348 7884 with your questions and comments.


Hour 1:



Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: Let us be very careful to revere and honor what the Holy Spirit is doing. We will and must correct abuses but we must not reject the Spirit in the process.

Hour 2:



Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: While we recognize abuse and error taking place all around us, let us focus on Jesus. Let us say, “Lord, give me everything you have so that I can serve you more fully in this world.”


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Other Resources:

Interview with Reinhard Bonnke, and Where is the Power of the Gospel?

Jesus Is Saving Muslims in West Africa (an Interview with Bert Farias)

Dr. Brown Interviews David Aikman on America’s Spiritual Condition

  1. Where in the bible does it say that demons are more active in parts of the world where people believe in them more?

    I have found this to be a widely-held belief among conservative Christians.

    Is there a biblical basis for this?

    As an aside, this is also a personal question for me. For many years I lived-in and visited tribal settings where demons and spirits were a reality.

    I just didn’t see them. And I believed in them! It was not a matter of my personal disbelief.

    I never saw anything like the demons in the Gospels or Acts. Not even close.

    For example, I have not once cast demons into pigs. Nor have I ever seen it done or even attempted.

    Maybe a little spit but no foaming at the mouth. I encountered no deaf-mute children who could hear and speak after being exorcised. I saw no paralytics get out of their carts and walk, after being exorcised. I certainly never heard one speak English to me.

    These are things you either see or don’t see. I didn’t see them despite the fact that these areas were reputed to be widely flooded with demons. Despite the fact that numerous Christians, both local and missionaries, were battling them.

    But, as an Evangelical Christian I could not just dismiss the demonic as primitive fantasy. Jesus dealt with them far-too-often for me to do that.

    So, I went at it with Bible in hand and a willingness to ask my demonic-battling co-missionaries some hard questions.

    The books that helped me the most to understand demons were “the Powers” trilogy by Walter Wink.

    I was raised in world where we very much believed in demons. We were trained and had “hands on” experience with demons. But, in retrospect, I’m not sure how biblical it was.

    To me, now, that experience seems far more like “the Exorcist” than “The Bible”

    So, back to my original question — where in the bible does it say that demons only manifest themselves to people who believe in them?

  2. Greg Allen–“So, back to my original question — where in the bible does it say that demons only manifest themselves to people who believe in them?”


  3. Sehila,

    I can’t say I’ve done an exhaustive bible study on it — but I can’t think of any passage where the bible says it.

    By the way, I brought this up in response to Dr. Brown’s answer to a question about demonic activity in Africa.

    For, me, I think American Christians tend to use this belief to explain why we don’t see demons more starkly in America — especially in the way that Jesus encountered them.

    If we just believed more in demons, we’d see them!

    Ironically, perhaps, I actually agree with this but not a way that conservative Christians are usually happy with.

  4. Reading African Presbyterian scholar, Dr. Jason Kelvin Phiri’s whole dissertation on African Pentecostalism is vitally important. Here are the links:

    His remarks in Chapter 6 are instructive.

    “The discovery of a Pentecostal expression of faith was not a resurrection of traditional religion; and not a bridge to syncretism. It was the discovery of an expression of Christianity which spoke to the needs of the African in his/her cultural context, and provided Christian means to deal with the spirit-world. The discovery of the supernatural or miracles has become an impetus for the African Pentecostal churches.”

  5. Where were the same people to speak out about the prosperity Gospel? Now that’s “a different Gospel.” Can you imagine trying to export “that” to the continent of Africa?!

  6. I want to add something else. I don’t see how anyone can determine if someone else’s encounter with the Living God is genuine or not. If the simplicity (is how I see it) of the enthusiastic, Charismatic Christians message is winning souls for Christ I don’t see how it can be classified as “not” being Christianity. I suppose they’ll define exactly “what” Christianity is from their point of view, (cessationists) in their conference but how can they be comfortable in making such a wide, sweeping claim that Charismatics are not Christians? That’s essentially what they’re saying. If it’s not Christianity then the ones practicing it are not Christians. If it’s not a move of the Spirit in individuals lives then are they going so far as to say it’s demonic? Maybe we’ll have to wait and see what their final assessment is but that seems the natural outgrowth of their statements so far. That frightens me.

    The greater majority of us accept the Gospel while being still ignorant of the Scriptures. That’s what I mean by the initial message being simplistic. It’s that message that is resonating with the people on the continent of Africa, it’s not an intellectual message as Mr. MacArthur’s is, as I heard Dr. Brown say too, which would be useless to bringing in babes in Christ. Granted, some of those in the masses of Africa hearing the Gospel from Charismatics will fall away but that’s true of all denominations, regardless, who preach the Gospel. I really can’t imagine a pastor being faced with 2 million people getting up on the platform and speaking in subdued voice. That wouldn’t stir anyone! That’s what Charismatics do, they stir up the hearts of the people helping them become more receptive to the Gospel which immediately brings conviction by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any other Christian group could pull it off in front of 2 million people like they have!

    I think the Church in general could use a big dose of Charisma!

  7. I would indeed be careful in labelling charasmatic expressions as heretical…but much of the prosperity gospel that has gained a foothold throughout the continent of Africa is indeed heretical….but too often the same ones who call out the heresy of prosperity gospel hold to the forced, convoluted eschatological view of amillennialism…I guess they can’t see the spec in their own eye.

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