THE proliferation of a crop of young “prophets” leading Pentecostal churches has seen the emergence of “spiritual fathers” who are often treated as demi-gods.
When the spiritual fathers walk into auditoriums, congregants sheepishly kneel with arms stretched as if in worship of these men.
This has sharply divided the Christian community, with traditional churches criticising the concept of spiritual fathers.
Recently, there were dramatic scenes at Andy Millar Hall in Harare where 30 ministry leaders from all over Zimbabwe knelt before Father Lawrence Michael Hood of the Blood of the Lamb Christian Community to ask for forgiveness for leaving his church, and to express gratitude for his guidance.
This led to questions as to why Christians felt comfortable kneeling before another human being.
Some Christians and even non-believers ask if the concept of spiritual fatherhood had biblical bases.
Prominent church leaders Prophets Walter Magaya and Emmanuel Makandiwa have spiritual fathers, Nigerian televangelist TB Joshua and Ghanaian Victor Kusi Boateng respectively.
Spirit Embassy founder Prophet Ubert Angel considers himself a son of Prophet Boateng. In turn, Prophet Angel is spiritual father to Prophet Shephered Bushiri of Malawi.
In some cases, one hears church members describing the spiritual father of their pastor or prophet as grandpa.
Last year, New Life Covenant church leader Bishop Tudor Bismark torched a storm when he issued a statement disowning Prophet Passion Java as his spiritual son. Prophet Java had allegedly claimed to be Bishop Bismark’s spiritual son.
Pastor Paul Sanyangore also made headlines last year when he knelt before his spiritual father Apostle Tavonga Vutabwashe.
Methodist Church in Zimbabwe Reverend Tawanda Sungai dismissed the concept of spiritual fathers as a deliberate misinterpretation of the Bible.
“The term ‘spiritual father’ is not found anywhere in the New Testament. Just like other extra-biblical teachings, the proponents of ‘spiritual fatherhood’ often take one or two scriptures in the New Testament out of context and then build on that with heavy out of context reliance on the Old Testament as their back-up. Why should I have a spiritual father when I have direct contact with God,” questioned Rev Sungai?
“Yes, the New Testament speaks about leaders in the church. Paul the Apostle appointed various leaders in the churches he opened. However, never did he refer to them as ‘spiritual fathers’. Never did Paul state that blessings and success come from ‘spiritual fathers’.
He argued that the concept of spiritual fathers was used by some to control and manipulate for monetary gain.
“The more people who call some individual a spiritual father, the more that ‘spiritual father’ can gain in terms of influence.”
Rev Sungai asserted that when it came to “receiving the anointing”, there was no Biblical basis for such teachings and Christians did not need a spiritual father to be anointed.
Salvation Army public relations secretary Captain Victor Mafukidze quoted Matthew 23:8-10 which says: “But you do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, He who is in heaven.”
He said Jesus Christ was clear that people only had one Father in Heaven.
“The New Testament uses Father in reference to God in Heaven and He is the only one who has authorised blessing for us believers through Jesus Christ, by grace and not works.
“No ‘spiritual father’ on Earth can grant one any blessing, none. As a matter of fact, John the Apostle tells us that we are all anointed by the Holy Spirit as Christians after we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
“1 John 2:26 says ‘These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him’.”
He added that the anointing one received from the Holy Spirit was able to teach a Christian all things.
“The Holy Spirit should guide a Christian through God’s Word and one’s mentor should be Jesus Christ and not a man who will fail you the next day.
“The teaching of “spiritual fathers” is placing a level of trust in a human which is disastrous to one’s spiritual faith as one will discover that humans fail and therefore one true mentor should be Jesus Christ and what He taught and said,” explained Capt Mafukidze. In an interview last week, Pr Sanyangore said Apostle Vutabwashe helped him start his own church.
“Every pastor needs a pastor that is why I went there. He is my spiritual father and for me to be where I am today it is through him,” he said.
“I am a leader but I also need a leader, a mentor and guardian. My ministry has grown but I need guidance to lead the ministry. I am human, I can have problems with my wife and I need someone who can counsel me.”
Faith in Christ Ministries International leader Prophet Daniel Mlauzi said spiritual guidance was vital.
“So as we consider Elijah and his miraculous ministry let us also consider this powerful prophet’s role in shaping the life and ministry of young Elisha, who went on to do far greater things than his spiritual mentor.
“We are seeing the manifestation of the Malachi mandate that proclaims: ‘He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…’ (Malachi 4:6)” Paul the Apostle was a spiritual father according 1 Corinthians 4:14-21, claimed a Harare-based prophet who declined to be named.
United Family International Church spokesperson Pastor Prime Kufa said spiritual fathers dated back to the days of Elijah, Moses, Joshua and Jethro in the Old Testament.
He said, “I am wondering why people are now criticising this phenomenon. Catholics have fathers but are those fathers biological? No. They are spiritual.
“It is God’s idea to raise fathers who help their children in faith and everyone should have a spiritual father. Paul refers Timothy as his son because Paul led Timothy to saving faith in Christ. In doing this, Paul became like a ‘spiritual father’ to Timothy.
“Timothy was, in essence, like Paul’s son and Paul felt responsible for him and taught him. This is often the case when someone leads another person to the Lord.
“In addition, Timothy is not the only one Paul calls his ‘son’. He also calls Onesimus his ‘son’ in (Philippians 1:10): ‘I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds’.
“This seems to make it much more clear that Paul called Onesimus his ‘son’ because he had lead him to the Lord while ‘in bonds’ (in prison). Paul also calls Titus his ‘son’ in Titus 1:4.”