The appetite for Bushiri’s stunts has been created over time through a relentless use of media technology, regularly posting video clips of himself doing something spectacular on his social media platforms and television channel, thus drawing in more crowds eager to attend his shows to see it for themselves.
Why Bushiri Thrives Among Us
Malawi is hours away from an ominous visit from Shepherd Bushiri, a self-proclaimed and self-aggrandizing prophet who lures thousands of unsuspecting people into his meetings and feeds them Christianized spiritual garbage for profit. The recipe of his deceptive brand is an ingenious and cunning mixture of elements that have found fertile ground in the superstitious and pseudo-christian soils of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Bushiri brand is an intoxicating concoction of his self-glorification, which preys on Malawians’ cultural desperation for patriarchal strong men who appear infallible (his followers call him Papa); plus his wanton promises of miraculous health and wealth on demand, which preys on Malawians’ economic desperation for answers to the entrenched and unresolved problems they face everyday; plus his authoritarian demeanor in ordering people to do mindless rituals and say mindless chants to get divine favor, which preys on Malawians’ spiritual desperation for a connection with the spiritual realm on the basis of superstition rather than truth, or thought, or faith, or work, or willing obedience; plus his acts of generosity, which prey on Malawians’ moral tendency to conclude that giving handouts is the primary proof that a person is good and worthy of our unwavering loyalty; plus his vagueness about his past, which preys on Malawians’ historical weakness for flamboyant individuals who intrigue the masses by appearing mysterious and seemingly out of nowhere without a clear and verifiable history; plus his multiple associations with people in positions of power, which preys on Malawians’ social habit of measuring one’s value by how well connected they are.
In short, Bushirism is a heresy of our own making, the sum of our collective failure as a church to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ beyond church attendance so that its power has a bearing both on the priorities for which we live our daily lives and on the underlying pagan world views on which we still base our personal and collective choices.
How Bushiri Entices His Followers
However, what makes the Bushiri cake most appealing is the icing around it. The empire he has built and his meetings are a masterful display of how effectively one can hold people captive with a carefully produced presentation in form, even if the substance beneath it is spiritually poisonous. Bushiri accomplishes this by being the quintessential showman in his appearance, his speech, and his lifestyle, as well as designing his meetings as a stage for a performance before which his audience gathers for the primary purpose of watching him do stunts they can marvel at. The stunts don’t have to meet anybody’s spiritual or physical need, nor do they have to be real, but they do have to be spectacular in increasing measure to meet the crowds’ insatiable calls for more. The appetite for Bushiri’s stunts has been created over time through a relentless use of media technology, regularly posting video clips of himself doing something spectacular on his social media platforms and television channel, thus drawing in more crowds eager to attend his shows to see it for themselves. The effect of all of this is that you are lured into the Bushiri circus by a strong first impression of how impressive the man himself appears to be, and there is plenty to be impressed by, which stirs up people’s desire to know what he does to acquire the shiny things he has, perhaps in the hopes that if they learn the hidden secret, they too will have the Bushiri life of lavishness. In this regard, Bushiri himself is half the bait to lure you in.
The other half of the bait involves invoking the name of Jesus in the course of doing his stunts. This bait is designed to effectively tap into the Christianized yet unrepentant psyche of urban societies across Sub-Saharan Africa. While it is imperative that the stunts be presented in the name of Jesus, it is not necessary (or desirable) to do them for Christ’s glory and his glory alone, nor to do them with a Christ-like attitude, because after all, this is not Christ’s show exactly. In this cult, Bushiri is the center not only of everyone’s undivided attention, but is critically also the center of everyone’s unquestioning affection.
To maintain this posture of an increasing Bushiri profile and a decreasing Jesus profile has meant consistently preaching a Christianized but Christless gospel, one with no cross on which to surrender our sins and pride, nor a cross by which to die to ourselves, nor a cross to bear through our costly service, obedience, and suffering for Christ, nor a cross from which to rise anew as transformed creatures who desire better riches than the riches of the world. In this strange gospel, the power of God is to be experienced by quoting Scripture, not by obeying it; the favor of God is to be received through wealth as a reward for giving money to the man of God, not through repentance and salvation from sin as a gift for believing in the Son of God; and the presence of God is a place for honoring the man-god they came to be rescued by from their suffering, not the God-Man who came to rescue them from their sins.
How Bushiri Eviscerates Prophecy
Perhaps Bushiri’s most telling attempt to Christianize his heresies is his adoption of the title “Major Prophet” or “Major 1”. Bushiri has capitalized on the ignorance of many people who don’t know that the term “Major Prophet” is a human invention, not a divine designation. There is in fact no single prophet throughout the Bible that the Bible itself calls “major” or “minor”. The terms do not come from the Bible, but from human scholars.
In biblical scholarship, the words “major prophet” and “minor prophet”are used to describe the LENGTH OF BOOKS different prophets wrote as part of Scripture, not to describe the STRENGTH OF MINISTRY different prophets had as Bushiri would like people to believe. There are four kinds of prophets as far as the biblical record is concerned, none of whom are ever described by God as major or minor prophets. The first kind are prophets who served as messengers from God but who did not inscribe their prophesies into books to form part of Scripture, such as Abraham, Elijah, Elishah, and Nathan in the Old Testament and Agabus and the four daughters of Philip in the New Testament.
In fact, God promised that in these last days we live in, many ordinary young men and women will be filled with the Spirit of God to prophesy for the benefit of their local churches, and 1st Corinthians 14 was written to give directions on how God wants the Spirit-led prophetic ministry to be conducted in the local church. However, though this kind of prophesy does not involve being Spirit-inspired to write Scripture for the whole Church in every age, Paul says ALL believers should desire and pray earnestly to have this kind of prophetic gift. ALL believers are also commanded to test the spirits by which such prophets speak, to weigh the doctrines such prophets teach, to guard the order in which and the purpose for which the prophesy is delivered, and to watch the attitude by which such prophets relate to their hearers.
The second category of prophets are those who served as messengers from God and were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write books of Scripture that are not primarily made up of their prophetic messages. Examples would be King David and the Prophet Samuel in the Old Testament, who were both prophets in their day, but who wrote books of songs and history respectively. Similarly, in the New Testament, we have the likes of Paul and Peter, who both had the ability to prophesy when speaking, but in writing were inspired by the Holy Spirit to primarily write books of pastoral instruction and doctrine. The third category of prophets in the Bible are those sixteen individuals who also served as messengers from God and were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down their prophetic messages as books of Scripture for all believers throughout the ages.
12 of them wrote their prophetic messages down in short books of Scripture, and scholars call these short books “the minor prophets”, while 4 others wrote their prophetic messages down in long books of Scripture which scholars call “the major prophets”. There is no short or long prophetic book in the Bible written by Bushiri, so he’s disqualified from being either a major or minor prophet. But even if there was a book in the Bible written by him, it would be presumptuous for him to go around saying that God has called him to be a Major Prophet like those in the Bible, since the term “Major Prophet” comes from men, not God, and the term has nothing to do with the importance of the prophet, or the significance of their calling, or the impact of their prophetic ministries. God is not in the business of building ministries for the inflation of the egos of fallen men, but building a kingdom for the exaltation of the name of his risen Son.
Bushiri is misguided and is in grave error because he does not know the Scriptures and perverts the power of God. That’s why in his scandalous and bogus iPad prophesy to the man in the footage that exposed him as a charlatan, Bushiri claims the man has a child who needs to be prayed for, but then proceeds to ask the man IF he has any children; then Bushiri claims to be photographing the man’s child from the spirit realm, only to be caught pulling the photograph from the iPad’s gallery of pre-stored pictures; then Bushiri claims the picture is a photographic revelation of the man’s child, but the man has since said the picture is actually of his niece; then Bushiri claims to have another photographic revelation of the man’s wife, only to be told that the picture is actually of the man’s fiancée; then Bushiri claims to have a revelation of the child’s name which he further claims is a difficult name for him to pronounce, only to be told by the man that the child’s name is simply Siphiwe.
In spite of this grand comedy of errors, Bushiri still had the gall to claim not only that he had just performed a miracle and made an accurate prophecy, but that the miracle was done by divine powers unavailable to anyone else in the whole world. As a result of his utter disregard of the authority of Scripture, his utter contempt for the glory of Christ, his utter refusal to repent of his heresies, fabrications, and clear attempts to trick God’s children, Bushiri has shown himself to belong to the fourth category of prophets described in the Bible: The False Prophets. So on this last day before he arrives in Malawi, and at the risk of being subjected to further public ridicule, perverse slander, and private threats for doing this sacred duty as a shepherd in warning the Malawian flock about a wolf that is surely coming for them, I say to you for the last time: Stay away from Bushiri and say a prayer for him, and make your prayer a major one, because God loves him, and so must we, and we know that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”. Grace and Peace.