Bishop Caleb Mutingwende, the leader of the Zion Church of God has dismissed the newly emerging churches as fly-by social groups that will not survive beyond the present generation.
Mutingwende said the sprouting Pentecostal churches thriving on preaching the gospel of prosperity in times of economic hardships were set to falter in stable economies. “Economies are not performing well the world over. Europe is reeling under a serious recession and [Africa] ravaged by wars is in abject poverty despite the fact that it teems with abundant natural resources. Europe and America have cut their aid to Africa because they are also struggling to keep their economies afloat. The new crop of emerging prophets is capitalising on the people’s desperate situation through promising them instant riches if they become their members and performing miracles like healing. The whole concept of the new prophecy has seen the church leaders becoming millionaires over night because multitudes of people flock to their congregations in the hope of having their lives changed for the better. However the numbers will dwindle as soon as the promises do not materialise and for sure such churches will not last long,” Mutingwende said.
He said his church was started in 1922 in Bikita District (80 km east of Masvingo) by Bishop David Masuka who learnt of Christianity during his stay in South Africa where he worked in the mines. It was known as the Zion Apostolic Church then. The founder performed many miracles like praying for the rain to come, casting out demons as well as healing the sick.
The name of the church was changed to Zion Church of God in 1959 when Bishop Zebedee Mutingwende and Amos Mufundirwa revived the Church from a lot of internal misunderstandings.
The colonial settler regime then was preaching the Gospel through missionaries and was against any teachings that deviated from their objective of civilising Africans so that they would be subject to their will and command. Bishop Masuka together with his contemporaries like Zebedee Mutingwende, his most loyal convert who later became Bishop after his death in 1951 were continuously arrested by the colonial regime. But that did not stop them from helping the people and performing miracles.
“Our elders were never motivated by the desire to make profit for themselves through demanding tithes and offerings from their members as is the norm nowadays. They performed better miracles than the ones performed by the traditional healers free of charge. The people repented through seeing the good works like the healings that our church leaders did to people with various ailments.
At one time my father’s homestead had more people than those at the local clinics and hospitals combined because their miracles were genuine and they did not derive any material benefits from their miracle performances and teachings,” Mutingwende added.
Zebedee Mutingwende died in 1976 leaving the leadership in the hands of Amos Mufundirwa who was advanced in years. He died five years later and left the leadership in the hands of Ananias Rambanepasi who also was called to heaven in 2003. Since then Caleb has been the leader and the church has now reached countries like Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.
“We must ensure continuity in the church even after the death of the leader as mentioned above. Now prophets of nowadays concentrate on building their own personality cults. There seems to be no future of the church after the death of “The Man of God” since these so-called prophets concentrate all the power in themselves,” Mutingwende said.
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