Unlike missionaries of the past who were protected from the elements by God and the skins of their teeth, today’s Pentecostal pastors come with heftily build bouncers who double as drivers who also open their doors, carry their bags or Bibles and stand behind them when they are preaching. Some even have people who taste their meals before they partake them.
They reason that they have been “anointed” by the Holy Spirit; therefore, they are the ‘Lord’s anointed.” Therefore the pastors take on the modern-day-equivalent perks of the Davidic monarchy, including the right not to be criticised and having “armour-bearers”–that is, an entourage including bodyguards, food-tasters, someone to carry their briefcase, someone else to carry their Bible and people throwing dollar bills at their feet.
To many people, especially the unchurched, they find it a little strange, although they may agree that there are well-known Pastors with huge followings who might need one. A number of critics have argued that this whole bodyguard craze is more of an ego thing than it is for protection.
An innocent mind can easily be deceived into thinking that temples should be the safest and most secure places one could ever think of. We naively believe that the intention of anyone who goes into the temple is to repair their broken relationship with God. One can, therefore, be excused for assuming that the temple is the safest and most secure place, hence preachers need no bodyguards.
However, the melodrama in most Pentecostal churches and ministries suggest that temples have become very unsafe and insecure that pastors need the protection of bodyguards while preaching. Possibly, their fear emanates from the unpopular sermons they preach and to some extent, the businesses they own.
The recent wave of attacks at pastors, Churches and places of worship around the globe have registered that while these places welcome all people in their spaces with open doors, such a comprehensive approach towards attaining ecumenism/one family of God creates a big window of opportunity that leaves them vulnerable to someone with bad intentions.
Many clerics are asking what steps should be taken to make churches and their stewards safe.
The truth of the matter is that most churches do not have safety plans, much less safety teams, in place. And while it may not seem like a big deal, it usually isn’t until one is needed. That begs the question; at what point does a church or man of God requires security details.
A new piece by a local tabloid claimed that controversial Jesus Revelation Ministries (JRM) leader Apostle Talent Farai Chiwenga has now started doing what he has always been preaching against; hiring bouncers.
In a recent video posted online, the man of God can be seen preaching to his street audience at Mugomba Open Theatre in Harare, while several bouncers with black shades walk around with him, making sure he is safe.
The tabloid goes on to remind readers that Apostle Chiwenga is the same preacher who used to attack his fellow clerics like Prophet Walter Magaya of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries for having bodyguards, saying men of God should never have personal bodyguards since God is the one who protects them.
“In one of his short videos that went viral on social media, he said, “…unoona iye ane mazimonya aanofamba nawo, asi iwe anokupa ndandi kuti ikuchengete…” (You are given a rubber band/ (anointed wrist bands) to protect you but he moves around with Bouncers,” espouses the writer.
At this juncture in his career, it can be argued that the Jesus Revelation Ministries leader has not been quite popular with certain groups of people, if we are to take him for his words.
Numerous media outlets have covered on his “feuds” with fellow Pentecostalists and government officials, among others, due to his often radical approach to the gospel. He has registered himself an adamant and unfazed pastor who speaks on anything that he or his divinity feel needs to be addressed.
From speaking against power and the perennial shortcomings of its incapacity to exposing the hypocrisy and heresy among his confrère clerics, his sermons have singled him out as a white-hot epicentre of not simply derision, but blistering, nonstop criticism.
He has been held on to a first-place ranking among the clerics who issue controversial political sermons, thanks to his incisive commentary on President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration’s ineptitude and alleged human rights violations.
But his high profile, radical approach to Christianity and government criticism has not only created him “enemies” within the church circles. It has also gone to attract too much attention for his own comfort, specifically from people he alleges to be members of state intelligence.
In 2018, Apostle Chiwenga pleaded with his cousin brother Vice President Chiwenga to leave his family out of their dispute in a live video broadcast, after claims that military officers seized him after he ran into the VP’s heavily armed entourage at a relative’s rural homestead. The two kins fell out after the 33-year-old preacher said that the holder of the Second Office was unfit to lead Zimbabwe.
Since that encounter, the cleric has claimed that he is being “followed” by intelligence officers because of his criticism of the sitting government for leading the country into the economic dungeon it is in.
In June, he was involved in a road traffic accident which claimed his wife and two of his church members as he was driving from South Africa to Harare. Speaking out in a video from a hospital bed, he said that the accident was not a normal accident but an assassination attempt to take away his life.
However, opinions were divided over the incident. Some believed that there could have been a third hand, while others claimed that he was not a victim of an assassination attempt, but a product of negligent driving who should face the wrath of the law as he committed culpable homicide.
Elsewhere, Apostle Chiwenga has also accused mega-churches Prophets Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya of sending thugs to interrupt his church services and trying to stop him from speaking against what he terms their heretical and self-seeking doctrines. The controversial preacher further inculpated Prophet Makandiwa of sending hooligans to burn his car and steal his phone.
Time to time in his preaching, he has through scripture and other evidence said to his audience that if you’re a member of a mega-church (especially PHD, UFIC & Jabula), chances are you are a part of something that’s more business than ministry, as the church leaders run their Churches like CEOs.
Ergo, against this background, it does not strike me as a shock that ever since the man of God recuperated from the accident he is now preaching with bouncers in black shades like a celebrity, something he used to speak against. Maybe he now has some food-tasters too!
“Some pastors in these neighbourhoods have even gone on to heaven a little sooner than they anticipated,” he added.
Well, I should be thankful that at least my parish pastor hasn’t felt the need for this pastoral retinue. But even if he doesn’t need a bodyguard, I am learning that he needs something else. He needs people to protect him. With prayer, encouragement, love, and understanding of the incredible time and life commitment he and his family give to us.
Of course, other than prayer, he has not asked for this. And your Pastor probably hasn’t either. If he has been lucky, he has been getting this from his inner circle of friends and close community members. But, I think it should trickle down farther. I think church communities should do a much better job.
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