I am a pastor in a small village about 500 kilometers west of Nairobi—in Kenya’s sugar belt region. For the better part of my adult life, I was a Pentecostal/charismatic/Word of Faith preacher. But the day came when my faith made no sense at all.
I first heard the gospel as a young man, though the message contained false advertising about a Jesus who would meet all my needs and fulfill all my dreams. Remaining unsaved would lead to a life of misery, sickness, and poverty, I was told. It appeared logical, then, to embrace Christ and step into a world of limitless blessing.
I wanted all God had for me, and I zealously rose to become a herald of the message I had received—which I later learned is Word of Faith teaching some call the “prosperity gospel.” I knew of no other gospel. I believed God was good, and this meant nothing uncomfortable came from him.
I learned to deal with Satan for causing anything negative in my life. Spiritual warfare was ingrained in me. As part of the “God class,” as Word of Faith teachers say, I had absolute authority to create my own world through positive thinking and faith-based confessions.
I believed I had absolute authority to create my own world through positive thinking and faith-based confessions.
I believed God’s will included health and wealth, which I could call into existence by faith. Anything less should be repudiated. If all else failed, I could engage the heavenly language of angels—praying in tongues—to bypass Satan and the hosts of darkness.
Deluded by False Assurance
In 2003 my wife and I lost our first child, Whitney. I believed the “spirit of death” had prevailed over me. Turmoil ensued for me and my equally Word of Faith-filled wife. How could God let the Devil overrun us like this?
Well-meaning church people suggested our calamity could be due to sin in our lives, or to a curse, or, as I firmly believed, to a lack of faith. My grieving wife and I spent months repenting of possible hidden sin. We also sought answers from our families in case of a generational curse—a dominant teaching in the Word of Faith movement.
During this time of inner turmoil, my wife became pregnant again. And on the sunny afternoon we took home our newborn son, Robin, we were jubilant in the triumph of a healthy baby. But the next 24 hours became the darkest time of our lives.
When Robin developed complications, we went into frenzied spiritual warfare along with a wide net of friends who interceded to God on our behalf. This time we would not be caught off guard. Our faith assured us the Devil would not take Robin. We called on those who gave us “prophetic” assurances: only life was permitted; death was not our portion. But the night grew more intense.
We called on those who gave us ‘prophetic’ assurances: only life was permitted; death was not our portion.
At the time, my wife believed she had a prophetic gift. Her visions that night included Robin playing happily in the mud, and a grown-up Robin addressing thousands as an international preacher. In tears she shared these images with me in the presence of prayer warriors gathered in our small house.
After midnight, when Robin’s condition grew worse, a new prophetic word explained the Word of Faith error by indicating his healing had now been placed in the hands of a doctor. I left home clutching my baby and seeking the hospital. At 3 a.m., the doctor looked into my determined eyes to declare the worst news I could hear. Robin was dead.
I carried my son’s dead body back home to my wife. Though exhausted, she looked up and called me “Daddy,” an endearment she’d never used. “He is all right now,” she continued. “Bring him to me; I want to feed him.”
I screamed from the deepest recesses of my being that dark morning as my wife and I fought over Robin’s body. We had believed in our power over death itself. Prayer for our son’s resurrection from the dead became a circus that only served to fortify our pain.
As my world collapsed, chaotic feelings assailed me. At one point I screamed at God in disappointment that he’d failed me again. I had exercised tremendous faith; how could he let this happen?
I had exercised tremendous faith; how could God let this happen?
Next came a series of early miscarriages. Without answers, we were dismayed with God, whose ways no longer made sense to us. Though faith became a mirage, we kept up appearances, trying to pretend we didn’t despair. Yet inwardly we felt doubtful, hopeless, even cursed.
How could we reconcile these bad things with a good God? Our Word of Faith teaching instructed us to dismiss Job’s suffering as a consequence of his negative confession: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1:21). But how could we make sense of Paul himself falling sick (Gal. 4:13) and yet rejoicing in his afflictions (2 Cor. 12:10)? How could we continue to reconcile this portrait with modern “super-apostles” who market health and wealth in their books, DVDs, and mega-meetings?
In my faith crisis and anger at God, I vowed to quit the ministry. I felt like a fraud for preaching a “gospel” that did not work. God had become an enigma, and faith a labyrinth. Yet the passage of time and the routine activities of Churchianity soothed our restless minds—for a while.
In 2006, my church sent me from the large coastal city of Mombasa to the city of Mumias to engage in pastoral work. Bullish in my Word of Faith error, I continued propagating a failed system of belief that had become for me the means of earning a living. I still hoped to become rich through believing, confessing, and visualizing it—but in the meantime, faking it until I made it.
The Lord knocked me off my horse in August 2008. After 17 years in the darkness of a vain and false religious system of works, greed, and no creed at all, I came to understand the saving grace of Jesus Christ that laid all my pretentions to waste.
The hour of truth came when an Australian couple visited a pastor friend. Papa Billy and Mama Tessa would be God’s messengers to pluck me from the flames of hell.
Papa Billy and Mama Tessa would be God’s messengers to pluck me from the flames of hell.
My friend asked me to translate in Swahili as Billy delivered a message in English. The topic, “justification by faith alone through the imputed righteousness of Christ,” sounded ridiculous to me. Onstage for one awkward hour, I forced myself to deliver words I believed were unbiblical and heretical. But the sovereign Lord worked in my heart, calling forth reason through an inner witness to the truths proclaimed. The Holy Spirit planted sufficient doubt about the system I’d defended.
Over the next three weeks I felt tortured by God for my errors, which became apparent with every Bible text I once thought supported my beliefs. The same verses now looked different, affirming Billy’s message.
As a crusade preacher, I had impressed on people both the immense value of their contribution to their salvation and their ongoing effort to keep their salvation. I insisted that right living, right believing, and right confessing would obligate God to do as we desired. This sandy edifice now crumbled in light of Scripture: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
New Desires, New Eyes
In the months following my confrontation with the biblical gospel, I engaged Billy and Tessa through constant email. God used them to answer my questions and to send me material that helped nurture my new faith in Christ. The kingdom of God unfolded in my heart as I put my faith in the finished work of the Savior, who became lovelier and more valuable to me than anything on earth. My desire for health and wealth lost its sway. I desired Jesus.
My desire for health and wealth lost its sway. I desired Jesus.
Though I didn’t understand the fine points of theology, my conversion was decisive. Enthralled by Christ, who bids his own to “take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), I now felt that “the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
My new birth gave me new eyes to view Scripture. Careful study cleared the poison of Word of Faith from my life. I saw suffering as God’s gift to train our eyes on the infinite treasure we have in Christ.
In 2010, the Lord opened a door for me to attend a Bible college in the Reformed tradition in Nairobi, where I was tutored for three years. God’s Word became rich and fresh and gripping. Afterward the Lord sent me back to Mumias and Mombasa to preach the genuine gospel and counter the Word of Faith epidemic.
My new ministry has included holding Reformed conferences and founding the Wisdom Training Center (a bootcamp Bible college in its fourth year) to bring biblical truth to largely Pentecostal, charismatic, and Word of Faith leaders. The Lord has blessed this outreach with healthy church plants. This is the mission of my life and to my people.
May God be pleased to save many and send them to confront the dominant error in our land.