Skip to content

Book Review: The Abandoned Gospel

Introduction and Background

Philip W. Barnes. The Abandoned Gospel: Confronting the Neo-Pentecostalism and the prosperity Gospel in sub-Saharan Africa. Lusaka, Zambia: Maiden Publishing House, 2021 pp 308.Pentecostalism and the prosperity Gospel in sub-Saharan Africa. Lusaka, Zambia: Maiden Publishing House, 2021 pp 308.

by Martin Mwamba

This article reviews a book authored by several authors addressing the need to recover the lost gospel. This evaluation traces the historical biblical events that have shown the gospel under attack. The review further highlights the roots of the prosperity gospel and its ramifications. 

The Gospel is about the person and work of Christ on the cross to redeem sinners, it is the basis of true Christianity. We understand that the glorious message of Gospel is that Jesus Christ died for sin, was buried and resurrected (1Corinthians 15:1-5). By that token, the Gospel is the foundation of Christianity. However, this message has always come under internal and external attacks or compromised by imposters. The counterfeit gospels are troubling because they obscure the True Gospel that is valuable, being the power God unto salvation (Romans 1:14). From the apostolic era onwards, the Gospel has been under constant attack and abandoned by some professing believers that should have known better. This scenario prompted the Apostle Paul to pen a letter to the church at Galatia to defend and to clarify the Gospel message against individuals that were deserting the Gospel to follow the teachings of Judaism. These Judaizers were also suggesting insufficiency of the Gospel to which they felt they needed to add something; the gospel plus the law.

The act of abandoning the Gospel prompted the Apostle Paul to warn against perverters of the Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). Historically, The Galatians were probably known nationally as an impulsive, changeable, and inconsistent lot. This could be evidenced in their paradoxical desire to worship Paul at one moment and to stone him in the next (Acts 14:11-19). An additional element could be seen in their quickness to receive the Gospel and then abandon it (1:6). 

Paul then marvelled at their spiritual gullibility in that they were so easily influenced by the Judaizers (1:6). These mortals troubled and confused the young converts with their impressive teaching of the law, and perverted the real Gospel in the process. They actually preached another gospel (IICorinthians 11:4). They preached another (i.e. different kind) gospel which was not really another (another of the same kind). The difference between the message of Paul and that of the Judaizers was not in the presentation or emphasis, but in its essence. The false teaching that both faith and works are necessary to gain justification actually redefines the concept of faith as used by Paul. Paul then pronounced an anathema (a curse) upon any who would preach another gospel than that which was preached by Paul and received originally by the Galatians. Similarly, just as is the case of the Galatians, the church today is confronted with the problem of abandoning the Gospel. In fact, most of the churches are either abandoning the true Gospel to embracing the prosperity gospel or standing to proclaim and defend it. Therefore, this book ‘The Abandoned Gospel’- Confronting the Neo-Pentecostalism and the prosperity Gospel in sub-Saharan Africa compiled by Philip W. Barnes is cardinal and timely. The prosperity Gospel and Neo Pentecostalism is the cancer or virus like Covid-19 that is spreading fast and demanding churches. The contributors to this book were on the firm ground to sound a rallying call to defend the authentic evangel and reclaim the abandoned gospel. In the words of Chuck Lawless in the foreword about this, he captures the main thrust that The Abandoned Gospel “is about preventing another kind of virus, a theological virus, that is spreading around the world. The growth of Neo-Pentecostalism and the prosperity gospel has influenced much of the world” (ix). This book is reminding churches and church leaders to cling to the true Gospel. The aim is for a clear Gospel focus that prevents the spread of the false teachings. At length is the summary of the content of the book.

The Content of the Book

This book has several contributors, and what is of interest is that every contributor calls Africa his or her home. Majority of them are native-born Africans while others are missionaries that have made Africa their home or have resided in Africa for many years. They all share a passion for Africa and wish to contribute to the advance of the authentic gospel. The Abandoned Gospel book is divided into three sections. Each section has a different set of authors handling a specific topic in relation to the broader theme. The reader will find that in the first section, the emphasis is placed on understanding and dealing with the history and development of Neo-Pentecostalism and the prosperity gospel. I will give more details of this section later. Further, in the second section the authors seek to give biblical responses to various Neo-Pentecostal and prosperity gospel practices. This section in my view, has a lot of important issues and problems to prove that the Gospel is under attack and the ramification of abandoning the gospel. Then, the last section gives the recommendations of the foundation of church planting and church development. In these three sections, lies a call for the evangelical church in Africa to return to the gospel for it to be a “useful tool in her Master’s hands. By so doing they contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all”

In part one of the book, while dealing with history and development, Matthew A. OJo from Nigeria gives the historical movement of Christianity into Africa in the third century from Palestine and Asia Minor. He shows later that due to Muslim Arabs military conquest in the seventh century, Christian faith was also wiped out with only the Coptic church in Egypt remaining as minority religion. However, later between fifteenth and eighteenth centuries was the coming of evangelical missionary activities that resulted in the planting of Christianity in Africa. In view of this, Matthew gives an overview of the history of Neo- Pentecostalism in Africa by showing that from early 1970s, a new form of Christianity emerged with the rise of Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. A Charismatic renewal swept among the churches and has seen the growth of this movement with its features.

Matthew further shows how the prosperity gospel among Neo-Pentecostal affected the church. He demonstrates that by 1980s, the prosperity gospel had become one of the major doctrinal emphases of contemporary Christianity in Africa. It is evident that this brand of Christianity was copied from the American Word of Faith movement and Pentecostal televangelists. Pentecostalism has responded to the popular demands of Christianity for economic relevance in the African Society by advancing the ‘prosperity gospel’. The continuing of the popularity of the prosperity gospel among Neo-Pentecostals and African Christians arose from new interpretations of Biblical metaphors in rapidly changing socio-economic situations. 

The first part of this volume ends with chapter 3 in which Rev. Mamitiana Nirintsoa from Madagascar shows the challenges of Neo-Pentecostalism in Africa, which are the abuse and misuse of scriptures and the missing of pure gospel. He claims and asserts that what is lost in the Neo-Pentecostalism is the gospel. For they have replaced the message of the gospel with a different message. The message is solely about deliverance from pain and suffering which is unbiblical. Therefore, there is call to come back to the supremacy of scriptures. He says that “how the Bible is viewed in some parts of Africa is wrong. Promises are taken out of the context of the Bible in order to match the African context.... This is warning for all African churches. Instead of preaching the gospel and driving out the darkness, this Neo-Pentecostal movement has opened a significant door at the back of the church and has let in the African traditional religions”12. In addition, he argues that Neo-Pentecostal movement is a form of African Traditional Religion (ATR). This entire section traces the history and develop of this problem to its current state.

The second part highlights responses to the problem of Neo-Pentecostalism and charismatic movement and its effect on Gospel. Scott Macdonald from Zambia, opens chapter 4 and deals with “Spiritual Powers” by giving his experience in a church where the worshippers were shouting declarations and exorcising demons. As worshippers prayed, Scott observed that no one was praying for the lost. No one was praying for the salvation of the nations, the exposition of scriptures, or the perseverance to endure under trial. It was all about casting out the demon of poverty and binding the spirit of sickness and even the choice of music was fitting as they sung about Satan where the name of Satan was evidently prominent in the majority of the songs. Scott narrates that in music and in prayer, the theme was set: “Christians are at constant war with spiritual forces, and our tumultuous services revolve around the conflict through declarations and exorcisms.

As Scott narrates his experience, he opines that at this rate, it would not be surprising if this commotion described a typical Pentecostal church in Africa, but surprising thing is that it was actually a Baptist church in Lusaka, Zambia, where Baptists are proud to be known as ‘People of the Book.’ Scott questioned the above incidence whether ‘this was the worship by the Book? Or was this demonology by the book? Do Christian Christians meet together to repel evil spirits with declarations and exorcisms each week?’ Of course, Scott is using his Western evangelical lenses that may be influenced by his default culture but that is what he saw and interpreted. Additionally, Scott shows that the confusion is evident throughout Africa and it is fueled by African Neo-Pentecostalism and its animistic beliefs about spiritual powers. Therefore, he goes on to show African neo-Pentecostalism beliefs about the demonic as the hostile forces that bear the primary blame for human suffering, poverty, and problem. Therefore, victory over demons is secured primarily through regular spiritual declarations to bind and cast them out. Spiritual warfare is a real spiritual declaration to bind and cast them out. Hence the continuous weekly church services and deliverance by prophets and “men of God” or visiting of an ATR practitioner) until deliverance is achieved. Finally, Scott provides scriptural position on the demons and how one ought to engage against demons the biblical way.

In chapter Five, Rev. Mischeck Zulu from Zambia also deals with the subject of dreams and visions, by first defining and demonstrating their (dreams and visions) place in the Bible. He further explains the role of dreams and visions in churches of Africa and the influence of Neo-Pentecostalism and it abuse of the dreams and visions. Zulu concludes with the call for the Christian to get guidance through from the truth of the Bible which is an objective truth than the subjective experience of men through visions and dreams.

In chapter six, Conrad Mbewe deals with illnesses, curses, and afflictions. Mbewe claims that in the African mind, curses are the main causes of illnesses and afflictions from human mystical powers from spiritual underworld casting spells and other issues. Mbewe then proceeds to show God’s curse as the cause of illness and afflictions resulting from the fall, showing why it is extremely important to believe in God’s curse. His emphasis is that Biblical counselling and correct teaching must be prioritized rather than rushing to the now popular ‘prayers of deliverance’. In chapter Seven, Rev. Basil Bhasera from Zimbabwe tackles the subject of speaking in tongues, showing how the Neo-Pentecostals handle the gift of tongues and how the gift of tongues was understood in the New Testament church and then concludes with Baptism of the spirit in relations with what the Bible really teaches. Basil argues that Neo-Pentecostals have largely abandoned the clear biblical teachings of tongues in the Bible, and therefore warns us to be careful in discerning today’s tongues being spoken by these groups in their churches.

In Chapter Eight, Julius D. Twongyeirwe from Uganda deals with Prophecy where he shows the differences between prophecy in the Bible and the modern day self-proclaimed prophets. The author argues that the church’s capacity for spiritual examination of false teachers is a needed protection against deviations from spiritual health, as believers test before they trust. The call is to go back to the Scriptures, as such the church must turn away from false prophecy by embracing expository preaching.

The second part concludes with chapter nine, where Ken Mbugua from Kenya hits a nail’s head on the subject of miracles, healing and deliverance. Mbugua shows that there is a need for a theologically mature and strong church to withstand the pressure. The Church needs not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and the hope is that the church in Africa will be equipped with God’s truth as it resists the strong gales of false doctrine. Mbugua argues that the teaching of healing and deliverance in the Neo-Pentecostal movement have syncretic shadows of both truth and error corrupted by unbiblical views. Before addressing Neo-Pentecostal distortions, Mbugua examines the role of miracles of healing and deliverance play in the narrative of Scriptures. He looks at the biblical theology of the goodness of God’s physical creation, then the fall and miracles of healing and deliverance in scriptures. This is seen with the entrance of death and the curse of death which reminds us that all things are broken in this world. He shows the development of miracles as the hope of deliverance, then miracles and Neo-Pentecostalism by stating that the cry for miracles and deliverance is genuine in the broken world, but the solution that Neo-Pentecostalism offers to those who are hurting is an unbiblical one. For the miracles we see in Scriptures were only meant to point us to the Messiah who will usher in the new creation. Therefore, there is need for counselling, discipling and shepherding that provides hope to the hurting. However, he presses a reminder that churches are not called to peddle deliverance services, but they are called to proclaim the deliverer’s sacrifice.

In the third part, comprised of fourteen chapters, primarily focuses on church planting and church development. Various authors contribute several thoughts in relation to the planting of healthy churches and admits Neo-Pentecostalism challenges. So the reader will find discussions around Holistic Gospel ministry as a way of presenting the message of cosmic redemption as a response to the prosperity Gospel, spirit -power people, biblical responses to Neo-Pentecostal prayer practices. In addition to the above, there is a discussion on critical contextualization and the abandoned Gospel, and the call to establish scripture as the final authority, to insist on viable Hermeneutics which is a call to return to Christocentric interpretation in Africa and the emphasis on the Christ of Scripture. The discussion goes on to deal with the nature of sin and the need to present salvation as reconciliation. In order to explain more about church planting and its development, other contributors have explained the need to instill the victory of the cross, instill an Evangelical DNA in the church through developing balanced church leaders, creating a vibrant church body, constructing an appropriate church polity and lastly sensitizing the church to Neo- Pentecostalism and its negative impact on the Gospel. The book concludes with the call to turn to the gospel. The call to proclaiming the Gospel faithfully and living the gospel life is the urgent need of the hour in Africa. 

Critical Evaluation and Conclusion

In the Abandoned Gospel, we observe that various contributors come together to call and urge the evangelical church in Africa to rise up and reject faiths and false churches that threaten the true meaning of Christianity and attack the Gospel message. This being critical means that it is relevant to our churches in Zambia. We have witnessed the dangers in churches of moving away from the spiritual foundation of the churches by embracing new doctrines and teachings. Some Baptist churches becoming ‘Bapticostal’ (A Baptist church that adopts Pentecost tenets) by embracing Neo-Pentecostal theology and proclaiming prosperity gospel which is not the true Gospel at all. This book is a demand against numerous counterfeit movements and groups under the umbrella of Prosperity “Gospel” and Neo-Pentecostalism which represents religions as argued by Philip W. Barnes that “has abandoned the gospel and is now preaching a gospel that is not gospel at all. This message has been stripped of its power to save, its power to transform, and its power to reconcile. Only by returning to the gospel can the church in Africa be a useful tool in her Master’s hands”13. Therefore, it’s my conviction that the preoccupation of the church must be the proper understanding and the proclamation of the revealed truth of the Gospel in scriptures. The church in Africa should proclaim the revealed truth of the Gospel with conviction, courage and confidence because it is the truth from God, and it is worth it. The church in Africa needs to show commitment to the theological truth with depth, faithfulness in proclaiming the gospel, and living a life worthy of the gospel. For the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:14-16), to abandon the Gospel for the prosperity “gospel” is risking the life and eternal destiny of many Africans. Hence, my contention is that the Gospel is the message we have been called to believe, obey, proclaim, defend, and it is worth dying for. We are to reclaim the abandoned Gospel for the glory of God and the good of the healthy evangelical church in Africa and beyond. Not only should we reclaim this Gospel, but also advance it by sending and supporting missionaries to plant healthy, Christ-centred and Gospel-centred local churches until Christ returns or calls us home!

Martin Mwamba holds an MA in Christian studies (Piedmont University), a graduate of CABU (Bachelors in Bible) and is currently Radio Station Manager at CABU’s Faith Radio. A thought leader, Martin attends Nkana East Chapel and enjoys theological discourses.


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options