“I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied” (Jer. 23:21)

The body of Christ is in crisis today with the rise of the so-called prophets and many are there to deceive many. I am sitting at Rainbow Hotel in Bulawayo with a friend and am telling him that I am running late for my Bible lessons. An elderly woman, visibly distressed, excuses herself for having eavesdropped on our conversation, “My son, I am tired of these prophets who tell people wrong things.”

I was stunned by these sentiments at first because I took it as an attack on me, since I am a Christian, but I got her observation. There are dubious prophets out there who rape women on the pretext of healing them, with many females falling for this overused trick.

Examples abound of women falling into the same trap, as it seems prophets are using this method to solicit for sex from desperate women.

With social problems mounting over the past decade, many people have taken to religion as an escape route out of their troubles. And the unfortunate have fallen victim to the ‘wolves in sheep skin’ who take advantage of the situation.

A wave of prophets has hit Zimbabwe. The gospel of prosperity is also gaining ground, as people are promised 24-hour miracles on the condition they give certain amounts of money — as if the gift of God is bought.

Conference after conference is being organized and speaker after speaker has come and gone but people’s lives are not transformed, due to the fact that Jesus is not central in any of their messages.

I have seen people kneel in front of these prophets as if they are gods. Prophets like Emmanuel Makandiwa and Uebert Angel have given prophesies that expose extra-marital affairs in shocking descriptions that leave one wondering.

Then one begins to be convinced that if someone claims to be a prophet or teacher from God that does not mean that he is. Jesus in Matthew 24:11 warned us that “many false prophets will arise, and mislead many”. We have a great responsibility, therefore, to be alert for false leaders.

False leaders have distorted teachings of Christ; true leaders keep their focus on Christ. I have a problem with a pastor who teaches prosperity week in and week out subjugating Christ. Apostle Peter warns that there will “be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them…” (2 Pet. 2:1). I laughed one day when I met one Christian friend of mine who was excited that his pastor is releasing the anointing that day.

The most infamous prophet, who reportedly took advantage of women’s desperation, should be Godfrey Nzira who was convicted of raping seven women, taking advantage of his lofty position in an Apostolic Church. Nzira was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2003 but was released seven years later on a presidential pardon.

In one bizarre case, a prophet is reportedly said to have led to the separation of a family that was seeking help because they faced marital problems. Prophet Emmanuel Musonza allegedly invited the couple to his home for counselling, where he told them that the spirits were against their marriage and they should separate – and said this despite the word of God forbidding divorce. Unknown to the couple, the healer’s main target was to sleep with the wife, and now Musonza faces rape charges.

A leader of a Bulawayo-based Church, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described pastors who took advantage of their flock as fake and said it was difficult to control the number of prophets or register them, as new sects mushroom daily.

However, when one digs in the word of God, she realizes that as Apostle John advises us to “not believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God…”  (1 John 4:1-3).

Likewise, Apostle Paul exhorts us “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:8-9).

In light of the centrality of Christ, it is not surprising that false prophets, false teachers and false religious groups distort the view of Christ. The spirit of the antichrist is very much at work in the world (1 John 4:3), and that spirit is opposed to all that God wants to accomplish through Christ. Beware of any person or group that in any way diminishes the work of Christ, including His miraculous birth, His divinity, and His death on the Cross, His resurrection or His Second Coming.

On the other hand, true leaders keep the focus on Christ, exalting Him above everyone and everything else. Their preaching and teaching is centered in Christ (1 Cor. 1:23; Col. 1:28), and their theology about Christ is in harmony with the emphasis of the New Testament and long-standing Church tradition.