Beware of Motivational Preachers, By Femi Aribisala
Motivational preachers say look at me. They don’t say look at Jesus. They say look at this strategy; look at this technique.
In much of the contemporary church, faith is an instrument by which we get something from God. In the hand of motivational preachers, it is a device by which we gain the world. Motivational preachers offer quick and easy solutions to life’s problems. They reduce the believer’s relationship with God to formulas. They imply that God can be programmed like a computer.
Jesus warns us to avoid such people. He says: “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programmes and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Nowhere in the scriptures does it say our faith in God will enable us to gain the world. On the contrary, it says our faith will enable us to overcome the world. This means our faith will ensure we will not be disheartened even if we get nothing from the world. Faith in God enables the barren to sing, even though she bears no children.
Does your faith give you the power to get wealth? Or does it enable you to trust in God and surrender to his will? Do you believe in you, or do you believe in God? Motivational pastors teach men to believe in themselves. Do you believe you are able to do all things or do you believe God is able to do all things? Motivational preachers teach men to believe they can do all things.
Contemporary Christian teaching is beginning to take Christ out of the spiritual equation. People are taught to believe in themselves and not in God. Jesus says: “Have faith in God?” (Mark 11:22). But word-of-faith preachers like Kenneth Copeland have converted this to: “have the God kind of faith.”
You cannot have faith in God without God. But you can have the so-called “God kind of faith” without God. If a man has the God kind of faith, he might no longer need God. Once he has the God kind of faith, he himself becomes his own God. All he has to do is to believe in himself. He no longer needs to believe in God.
God took Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones then asked him: “Can these bones live?” If the question were addressed to a motivational preacher, he would reel off a number of formulas and strategies by which the bones will live: “The bones will live provided they come to church regularly and fast twice a week.” “They will live if, on the stroke of midnight every night, they are made to pray in tongues for one hour.”
However, Ezekiel does not commit such blunder. He tells God: “They can live if you want them to live; and they cannot live if you don’t want them to live. It all depends on you.”
Beware of men who establish a formula; and squeeze the Almighty into it. In actual fact, formulas don’t work with God. “It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:16). This means God does not respond to us because we used this strategy or employed that method. He responds because he loves us and would like to have a relationship with us.
Jesus warns: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with sure-fire, easy-going formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.” (Matthew 7:13).
Word of faith school
In the Word of Faith School, the believer is told to use God as a means to an end, whereas in the scriptures it is exact opposite: God uses the believer. Word of Faith apostles see the Holy Spirit as a power to put to use for whatever the believer desires. But the scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is a person who enables us to do the will of God.
Motivational preaching implies God is unable to work until we release him to do so. It makes faith in God a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws presumed to govern the universe. As the name implies, word of faith teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts.
A favourite term in this school of thought is “positive confession.” This says words have creative power. What you say, they claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions, especially the favours you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer. Thus, God’s ability to bless us supposedly depends on the commands of our faith.
These motivational preachers preach Christianity without Christ. Outside of a few decorative scriptural citations, motivational preaching is no different from lectures given by gurus, atheists, or humanistic psychologists. Motivational preachers simply give common-sense advice about how to become a better person or a more resourceful person rather than how to be like Christ.
However, the scriptures say about the disciples: “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:42). Watch out for those men who preach anything but Christ. They will give Christians seven keys to succeeding in business. Or they will tell you about five strategies for being victorious in life. Such motivational speakers are not ministers of the gospel. Beware of them.
Motivational preachers say look at me. They don’t say look at Jesus. They say look at this strategy; look at this technique. But the true gospel preacher says look at Jesus. He does not preach righteousness: he preaches Jesus Christ. He does not preach wisdom: he preaches Jesus Christ. He does not preach success: he preaches Jesus Christ. Righteousness is not righteous unless it is Christ’s righteousness. Wisdom is foolishness unless it is the wisdom of Christ.
Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, except by me.” (John 14:6). This means Jesus himself is our technique. We must search the scriptures, not looking for righteousness, or sanctification or redemption, or even eternal life. We must search the scriptures looking for Jesus Christ.
That means the story of Joseph is not about Joseph, but about Christ. The story of David is not about David but about Christ. The scriptures of the Old Testament all do one thing: they point to Christ and testify of him. (John 5:39-40). The Law of Moses was designed to lead men to Christ. Jesus says: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17).
Since Jesus Christ himself is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets, then the law and the prophets must be all about him. Therefore we preach Christ and not strategies and techniques. We must look for Christ in everything; for Christ is all in all.