Growth of unaffiliated churches raises questions about pastor authenticity

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2014 representation of religious demoninations in Uganda

According to the 2014 census, roughly 84 percent of Ugandans are Christian, primarily Roman Catholics and Protestants (Anglicans, Lutherans, etc.). While exact figures are unknown, the number of born-again Christian churches – those without a specific denomination guiding Biblical interpretations and other church functions – is growing. This growth of what some Ugandans call evangelical churches and prosperity gospel prompted the government in 2018 to propose enacting a policy to regulate churches and pastors. This proposed regulation requires all religious institutions to register under one institution to be distinct from other non-government organisations and provides a formal procedure for anybody who wants to start a church.

In light of the born-again movement, two members of the Ugandan New Vision media staff, John Semakula and Maureen Nakatudde, recently posed the question about pastor honesty, sincerity and conduct to a number of Uganda clergy. This slightly edited version of responses is provided with New Vision permission.

How do we know if pastors are genuine?

 Archbishop Emeritus Bishop Henry Luke Orombi
The yardstick for measuring the genuine pastors is simple. A mango tree bears mangoes and not oranges. That’s why Jesus said that you would see them by their fruits and actions. Genuine pastors should walk the talk. If they behave in a mysterious, way then they raise a lot of questions from the public.

Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi (Vice Chancellor, Uganda Christian University)

Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi, Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University

A pastor who is full of himself, boastful and pompous is a contradiction to the Gospel of Christ. Genuine pastors are accountable to a church structure/fellowship.

Paul is an example. The Church at Antioch sent him out, and each time he returned from his mission journeys, he was sure to visit that church and to give accountability. He and Barnabas went to the Jerusalem Church to square with them the Gospel they taught and preached, “lest we had laboured in vain,” he says. A genuine pastor is a shepherd not a wolf. He feeds the sheep rather than himself. Paul, the Pastor, wrote to Timothy, Titus and Philemon Epistles for this reason, and to instruct them on pastoral work. They show his tender care and concern for them though he faced hardships himself. Like Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, he served rather than was served by the sheep.

A genuine pastor lives the Word he preaches. He must be one who has been to the Cross of Jesus for salvation, and understands repentance from sin, so that he can point others to the Cross. If the pastor lives in sin, no amount of preaching can validate his ministry. A genuine pastor exemplifies Gospel transformation in his life before all.  Theological Training is not superfluous to church ministry. In the early church, Aquila and Prisca instructed Apollos in the right way. Paul mentored Timothy and others, and wrote letters as instruction manuals for the Church. The early disciples equipped the future pastor for the work of ministry, for the Holy Spirit instructs His ministers through His people. An untrained pastor is likely to be a danger to his church.

Bishop David Kiganda (Senior Pastor/Founder of Christian Focus Center)
The Bible says that people will be judged by their fruits. The challenge is that many Christians look at the gifts of their pastors and not the fruits. They think that you are a great pastor because of your car and the size of your account. The followers who believe in the gifts are wrong and should never blame Jesus when the judgement time comes.

Jesus left behind a yardstick for us to tell the genuine pastors. Being an orator will attract crowds to your Church but will never take you to haven. It’s character that is your fruit that will take you to heaven. Look at them by their character not fruits. The gift of a woman would be her beauty that draws men towards her but character (good discipline) is what will keep her in marriage.

Msgr. John Wynand Katende (The Fr. of Foyer the Charite, Namugongo)
Genuine pastors are given to us by God and are in Church stories/history. True pastors are like cultural leaders in Buganda and any other well-established cultural institution. You know that after the current king has passed on, his successor is this. Sometimes, they are elected in a genuine way like the Pope. Genuine pastors come from God. Unfortunately today you can see someone telling lies, but the flock sticks to him/her. The pastors who are not genuine are created by the need of the society to get quick answers to problems, yet no cross means total loss.

Pr. Moses Solomon Male (Executive Director of Arising for Christ)
Most of the pastors in Uganda serve according to what they want to achieve. But there are signs to tell who is a genuine pastor and who is not. If a pastor demands for the tithe or offertory in dollars, just know he has turned Christianity and the Church into a lottery. Others who are not genuine put a lot of emphasis on the tithe and argue that it should be charged on the follower’s gross income, which should not be the case. Tithe should be charged from a person’s net income and in the Old Testament, the money that was realised was used by Church leaders to help the poor and the sick, which is not the case today. The tithe collected by the Churches benefit the priests.

When you go to many of the pastors with a problem, they will just offer prayers for you. None of them will give you any form of physical help. Emphasis on the miracles is also an indicator that the pastor is not genuine. Believers should be built to handle their own problems, including being empowered to pray for themselves and not to expect miracles.  A person should not be a follower in a Church for years without achieving spiritual growth. . . Most of these pastors who are not genuine instill fear in the flock while others excite them. Genuine pastors also respect family and that is why Jesus respected for Joseph as his earthly father.

Christianity is not coercive but persuasive. Beware of  a pastor when he puts emphasis on fasting all the time. Endless fasting is like forcing Jesus to do certain thing for you.

Msgr. Gerald Kalumba (Parish Priest Christ the King)
In the Catholic Church, a genuine priest must be sent by a person with authority. As long as the person with authority is genuine, the one who is sent is genuine. The challenge with most of the pastors is that they just wake up and say they are pastors when they are not sent by anyone. The Bishops in the Catholic Church are genuine because they are in the footsteps of the apostles of Jesus Christ.  They also follow a line of Church history that has been around for over 2000 years.

Senior Pastor Simon Lwanga (Gospel Assembly Church, Makerere)
Anyone who wants to be a pastor should have a desire to minister to people. He should be a husband of one wife and should be able to lead his household well. As a father, the pastor should be able to take care of his family members very well. If he cannot take care of his own family, how can he be able to take care of the entire church, which is a bigger institution.  Since the husband is the head of the family, he also represents Christ who is also the head of the church. The pastor becomes automatically a spiritual father to the people in church since he is like God.  A genuine pastor should be with the thorough knowledge of the word of God so that he can be able to feed God’ flock very well. His conduct also in the community should be with no fault so that he can bring many to Christ.

Dr. Richard Bogere (Pastoral Team Leader, Christ Chapel International)
A pastor must have the balance of the content of God’s word, character that conforms to both the Living Word (Jesus Christ) and His written word. Any Christian under the pastoral oversight of a man or woman who may be a good preacher but living an evident sinful life should leave. On the other hand, if your shepherd is ignorant of God’s word and you are not growing spiritually leave. Remember the body of Christ is bigger than that local church. Believers should form a habit of praying to God to lead them to a church whose shepherd preaches the Word and lives the Word (I Timothy 4:16)

Pr. Patrick Kisutu (Mutundwe Christian Fellowship)
A genuine pastor should have a discerning spirit. In the Bible Jesus knew when Peter was canal and had to rebuke him. If a person preaches a one sided gospel, he or she is not genuine. The pastor should be able to preach a balanced message. You can have a prosperity message but in the end go hell. Being wealthy is not the most important thing but the salvation of your soul. You can have all the cars, land and houses, but end up in hell.

Pr. Rose Rutabuzwa (Mount Zion Church International, Kirombe)
The Bible says you will know them by their fruits. If the pastor speaks the words and does the opposite, then they should not be followed.  Whatever the pastor does should be rooted in the word of God. If they are lighting candles, giving water and selling testimonies, then you should find out whether what they’re doing is biblical. If it is not, then they are doing their own things.

Pr.  Milly Kiingi (Fountain of God’s Glory, Kagoma)
He or she should be Christ like. The anointing is not what makes the person but the character. Jesus had compassion for the people. The pastor should be like Jesus who was a good shepherd and laid down his own life for the sheep. The good shepherd tends to the sheep. He is not only interested in their milk and meat but cares for their wellbeing. He checks to see if the animals are not feeling well and administers help instead of stepping on them.


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