Why Many Nigerian Pastors are False Teachers

By: Deji Yesufu

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest (Micah 3:8-12).

A lot of people underestimate the power of the media. You however get an inkling as to how powerful media, whether it be broadcast, social, or print, is when you remember how the military government utilized them years back in Nigeria. When a military coup occurs, the soldiers go to the media first. They invade a radio station and broadcast their message to the nation: “…we are not only in government, we are now in power…”, they used to say. And I remember those words with some nostalgia, especially as I recall my father huddled around a radio set in far-away Zaria the morning the government of Shehu Shagari was overthrown by soldiers loyal to Major General Muhammadu Buhari in December 1983.

One group of individuals who quickly realized the power of the media and used it to their advantage were Pentecostal Pastors in the 1980s/90s. The likes of Benson Idahosa, Ayo Oritsejafor, Tunde Bakare and others very quickly latched on to the ability of the television to bring their messages to Nigerians and they invested a lot into TV broadcasts of their messages. They reaped a fortune in the process because people could easily watch them from the comfort of their homes; find the churches in the locality; and then go on to become life-long members of these churches. The pastors invested in the media and they earned a fortune from members’ tithes and offerings. That is how church became big business in Nigeria. If you follow this narrative, you then begin to understand why the same pastors became incredibly uncomfortable with the emergence of social media. Social media simply came to compete with their space. I remember when I gave a talk to Television Continental on tithing and the video went viral. One Ibadan pastor told his congregation that I was seeking cheap popularity via social media. The same pastor forgot that many of us know how much his church invested (and is still investing) in the local broadcasts of his messages to Ibadan via the NTA Ibadan – which was the avenue through which I found out about the church in the first place. Media is media – it could either be social, print, or broadcast. All of us are trying to reach men with a message; the sin is not the medium of broadcast but the substance being sent out. This is what brings me to Joshua Selman.

Selman is about five years younger than me but one might consider that we are of the same generation. We even went to the same school – Ahmadu Bello University. We attended the same faculty – engineering. Although he read Chemical and I read Electrical Engineering. I also suspect that I had long graduated from ABU before he came in. I write all these to say that despite whatever we share in common, I did not know who Selman was until some young people working with me at the University of Ibadan began to tell me that if I would succeed at reaching the Christian students on that campus with the gospel, I would have to be able to refute Joshua Selman. Sincerely, I did not know what to refute about him. It was enough to know that he is a false teacher since he regards David Oyedepo and Kenneth Hagin as examples in ministry. He was simply guilty by association. I however took the time to listen to him via YouTube and I came to understand why he is a false teacher. He combines false doctrine with eloquence, suave, and false humility. All of these add up to bring listeners to him. And unlike his predecessors who used the broadcast/terrestrial media to reach their listeners, Selman has taken over the social media space among Nigerian Pentecostals. I still did not have enough in my arsenal to write on Selman, so I asked a young man to write the essay, while I edited and added a few important remarks. That essay has become the most-read article on my blog. And every time I publish it, people come to read it. If I wanted cheap popularity, I could spend all my time refuting these false teachers. But I have come to realize that showing what is false (apologetics) is just as important as teaching what is true. So, I do both. In this article, however, I want to show you why many Nigerian pastors are false teachers.

They teach false doctrine. Christianity stands and falls on doctrine, doctrine, and doctrine. What you teach, not how you look; not what you wear; not how much you own; but your doctrine is everything. It will determine whether you and your listeners will be saved at the end of life (1 Timothy 4:16). Teaching, teaching, and teaching, is all that Christianity is. Many Nigerian pastors are therefore false teachers because they teach a gospel of health and wealth – the prosperity gospel. The trouble with the gospel of prosperity is that it comes in many shades and it requires some discernment to know it. There are those pastors who teach full-blown prosperity – all they talk about is money. They tell you how God has blessed them because they now own houses abroad; they have churches abroad; their children school in foreign countries; etc. At the core of their message is money, money, and money. These are full-blown prosperity gospelers and many Nigerians have become quite discerning of them now and they are beginning to lose market. Others are less subtle. Their own brand of the prosperity gospel comes in the guise of the Word of Faith teaching. They teach healing, prosperity, faith, positive confession, and that suffering is sin. These are the disciples of Kenneth Hagin. They tell you that Hagin wrote “Midas Touch” and condemned the first group, but they do not tell you that Hagin never repented of his own false gospel till he died. A third group are those who have succeeded in taking the Word of Faith doctrine into orthodox churches. So, you see these young men who used to be in Pentecostal churches, but who have now gone to mainstream seminaries. They have imbibed some orthodoxy but at the heart of their teaching is still Hagin. They bring the Pentecostal/Prosperity Gospel messages to the Orthodox churches and because no one can refute them successfully, they are running amok with these messages. It is this latter group that has the like of Joshua Selman as a colleague. In any rate, one thing all these men share is false doctrine. The reason why my article is read by many is because they find it surprising that anyone will call Selman a false teacher. Why? Because they all teach essentially what Selman teaches. Making all of them false teachers.

Their teachings are not reforming society. Societies are ruled by ideas. There is a big difference between the Western world and the Eastern parts of our world because the two parts of the world, despite increasing in modernity at an almost equal rate, have differing ideologies. The West developed on a Judeo-Christian worldview, coupled with a capitalist mentality founded upon biblical principles that the man who does not work, should not eat. Unfortunately, the eastern parts of the world were built on socialism – a Marxist/Lenin worldview that teaches that society can be run with every man on equal footing. Marxism despises religion and the guardrails that the laws of God bring to society are not inherent in a socialist system. The result is what we see in Vladmir Putin today – autocracy. This was the point George Orwell made in his evergreen book “The Animal Farm”. While the West believes in freedom of ideas, the East is run by the idea of the man in power.

Nigeria, on the other hand, claims to have a strong Christian population – with our pastors all over television preaching a gospel. Yet, the one single prevailing ideology in our society is gbajueGbajue is a Yoruba word for deception. It means literally to hit someone in the face, and while he is dazed to take away his possessions. The gbajue culture took root in Nigeria following the affluence that hit the nation after the oil boom of the early 1970s. Nigerians suddenly discovered that with very little effort and by knowing a few people in power, you can get your share of the national cake. Those who could not get rich via these means, sought to take advantage of those who had the money already. And since the rich themselves got money very easily, they did not mind losing the money. A culture of deception was entrenched by the military government and many of those who ruled the country following military rule were themselves military men in civilian garb.

If the gospel that these Pastors preached possessed any power at all, and with the wide influence that these men have over the minds of Nigerian churchgoers, who went to church every Sunday to listen to them, this culture of deception ought to have eased out of the country. Instead, the churches themselves perpetuated gbajue when it was discovered that those who possessed easy money would not mind parting with it through donations in the name of tithes and offerings. The churches have grown rich, the people’s moral outlook remains unchanged, the society is depraved, and the nation is known more for corruption than anything else in the comity of nations. If the gospel these men teach their people is the gospel of Jesus Christ, there should have been a marked difference in the moral temperature of the country. After listening to a gospel of health and wealth for half a century, Nigeria has only been worse off. There is no greater proof that the men who teach these messages are false teachers.

On the 13th of February, 1976, soldiers in civilian garb waylaid the man who was head of the Nigerian state at that time – Major General Muritala Mohammed. Mohammed was quite radical in thinking – he did not believe in much security. He drove in his 504 Peugeot car with his driver and aid-de-camp seated in the front seats. They stopped briefly to observe traffic light when these men who had waylaid him opened fire on his vehicle. They put enough bullets into the car to ensure that all three men were killed. The man who led that violence was Lt. Col. Buka Suwa Dimka. Immediately after they shot Muritala, they moved into the Federal Radio Station which was just some distance away from the place Muritala was felled. They announced the coup by stating that Muritala had been killed – they were not only in government, they were now in power. Olusegun Obasanjo, Muritala’s assistant, went into hiding immediately. The man who saved the day that day was a relatively unknown colonel, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Babangida and many of the men who carried out the coup were course mates and the burden fell on him to go and talk to his colleagues to lay down their arms. The radio station was surrounded by soldiers still loyal to Muritala and there was no point fighting on, increasing the bloodshed. Despite knowing that the coup plotters had earmarked him for death, Babangida walked into the radio station unarmed. He said when he got there, the whole place was reeking with alcohol – the boys were as drunk as a skunk – they knew that the coup had failed and could only numb the pain with booze. Babangida told the boys to lay down their arms and they did. Whatever else Babangida’s name has become in the history of Nigeria, what he did that day to quell bloodshed should never be forgotten.

My point in telling that story is to remind us of the power of the media. The purpose of the media is to inform and educate the populace. It was the media that the new generation churches seized – almost forcefully – and used to propagate their false message. One of the reasons we know that these messages are false today is because they have not changed the moral fabric of Nigeria. Social media is another medium where messages can be used to reach the populace. It is a lot cheaper to use – this is why that man said I was embarking on cheap publicity. I use all the social media handles that my time can afford me to broadcast on. Right now, I need to employ a webmaster – someone who will put my resources on all social media platforms. These things do not come cheap and those who can invest in it will reap the fruit of it in the future. If the gospel I preach is true, God will provide the resources I need to pass my message to my listeners and my testimony thus far is that God has been faithful. I do not need to solicit funds from my readers and listeners. What I need from you is to believe the gospel. To do this, you will first have to “unbelieve” the false gospel messages you have learnt from many of these Pastors – the leading purveyor of this false gospel message being no other person than Apostle Joshua Selman.

Thank you very much for reading.

Deji Yesufu is the Pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church, Ibadan. He is the author of the book HUMANITY.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

One Comment

  1. The delusion that they can wish things into existence, and the baseless belief that they create their desired reality by their words, is the bane of charlatans and religious crackpots in Nigeria.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *