Churches take to the web

HARARE - Porn may rule the Web, but religion is leading a quiet online revolution in Zimbabwe as people are turning to the Internet in large numbers to enrich their spiritual lives.

A recent study by the American based Pew Research Centre revealed that more than two million people go online each day looking for spiritual and religious information.

The group’s Pew Internet Project found that 21 percent of Internet users — about 20 million people — have gone to the Internet looking for faith-related sites.

That is more than the number of people who utilise online banking.

Zimbabwean churches, hardly known for the speed with which they adopt modern technology, the congregations are surely, but slowly, joining the masses on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Lunch time prayer meetings and crusades that used to be the order of the day for most churches have now been temporarily abandoned as the leading Men-of-Cloth take to the Internet to “win” more souls.

Even the traditionally-reserved and technologically-shy Vapostori have also taken to the web in an effort to lure more people to Christ — but more importantly to their churches.

A Facebook profile of Masowe eChishanu UK that has 10 219 likes, gives people intimate details of the Vapostori’s meaning of their regalia, praying traits and religion.

Not to be outdone, charismatic and self-proclaimed prophet Uebert Angel of Spirit Embassy leads the pack of Zimbabwean churches that are offering people hope through social network.

Angel, who constantly updates motivational messages on his profile has over 80 000 followers from across the world while self-proclaimed prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa distantly follows with 33 483 followers.

Angel, the youthful and charismatic preacher, has taken the Zimbabwean religious circle by storm with his money and weight-loss “miracles” that have become a subject of much debate in the country.

In one of his posts Angel declares: “As a prophet of God I rise up like a mighty warrior dressed for battle. I destroy every enemy, I destroy every poverty, I destroy every curse, I destroy every demonic influence by the power of the almighty. You are free in the mighty name of Jesus!”

South African-based pastor Abel Mugwagwa of Word of Victory Ministries said there was nothing wrong with churches using the available technology to spread the word of God.

“As technology and the world is advancing, and so are peoples’ lifestyle, tastes and appeals are ever changing. Therefore, it is extremely important for the church to keep abreast with those changes as long as the church’s principles remain in the Word of God,” he said.

Mugwagwa noted that the church need to understand the changes of times and culture for it to remain relevant to the people it’s mandated to minister to.

“Paul says ‘to every man I became like them for the gospel’s sake though not as one without the law of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 9 v 20-23). So it is important for the church to understand that our roots must always remain in the principles of the Word and at the same time use every available channel to preach the gospel extensively in this generation and any other generation. Relevance is the key to survival and expansion of the church of God,” said Mugwagwa.

Mugwagwa argues that social media has given him a chance to minister to people across geographical and even cultural backgrounds and boundaries.

“I have managed to connect with people from far and wide as well as reconnect with others from my past. The greatest advantage of this is that the church transcends beyond just the four walls around you on a Sunday morning service. Church becomes every day and everywhere,” he said.

Pastor Tendai Chirayiro of Adonai International Ministries concurred with Mugwagwa and said with the advent of smart phones and tablets, it means people can now be “in church” while in the taxi, bus or just at home.

“There are people who have managed to give their lives to Christ and even through our church because they first connected with me on social networks. So there is a percentage of our members and visitors who have become regulars, who first connected with me on social networks,” he said.
Chirayiro said social networks have also removed some walls, whereby it was difficult for other people to just come to church but once people begin to follow and connect with preachers on these networks they understand churches and ministries and then feel like part of the church.

“However, pastors should not only concentrate on preaching prosperity gospel on the Internet. Our mandate is to preach the good news of salvation and then everything else will be added,” he said.

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