Prosperity theology is modern theological teaching in a selected number of charismatic churches in Malawi. It started growing in the United States of America during the 1950s under the leadership Pastor Kenneth E. Hagin. Hagin claimed that prosperity theology was handed to him by Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, recent work of research by Daniel MacConnel has demonstrated that Hagin had derived most of his teachings from the writings of Essek W. Kenyon who died in 1948.
MacConnel contends that Hagin plagiarized Kenyon’s work which is based on the philosophy that God wants all His faithful to automatically prosper as a divine right. At times, it is called the gospel of wealth, health and happiness. It also emphasizes that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross guarantees all Christians divine healing for good health and riches of this world if we follow certain methods including a life of happiness.
The prosperity movement attracted vehement debates, resulting in sharp divisions between ardent followers and those who frown upon it. As the title of the movement suggests, it is seen as something new to the church. In the first instance, the word prosperity is new and foreign to African Christianity. Pastor Ray Mac Cauley, a prosperous preacher from South Africa says that it is God’s will to prosper all His children.
However, missionaries taught African converts that poverty was a blessing and somewhat it was more spiritual and humble to be comfortable with next to nothing. The fact was that Pastor MacCauley is disciple of Hagin and former student of the Hagin Bible Training Centre.
When Pator MacCauley returned to South Africa after graduation, he open the Rhema church in Johannesburg starting with 15 members in June in 1990 and six years later growing so fast to 9,000 members. He subsequently constructed $6.0million church building that seat 5,000 members per time.
The church building is already too small, forcing him to decentralize by building over 120 other churches across South Africa. His Bible School turn out 300 graduates every year. These achievements have proved wrong his critics who advised him to compliment his church work with a part-time secular job. At one time MacCouley partnered with Pastor Reinhard Bonnke. Prosperity theology has worked for the rapid growth of Rhema church in South Africa. And the model is being transferred up North of the Limpopo. And indeed prosperity churches have reached Malawi.
The fact is that the prosperity church started in the United States of America by Pastor Hagin in the 1950s. The movement has since spread everywhere in the world. The other people who have helped in the spread of the new theology are Copelands, Fredrick Price, Charlie Capps in the United States of America , Ray and Lynda MacCouley and Reinhard Bonnke in South Africa, Byra Jones in Britain, Stanley Sjoberg and Hans Bratarad in Scandinavia., Orvil Swindol in Argentina and David Yonggi Chao in South Korea
It is not the purpose of this article to name prosperity churches in Malawi. What is important is to realize that the preaching of prosperity in the church is a new thing in Africa. The Rhema churches in South Africa have grown so fast because of this new message. Who really prospers in the end?