Thabo The Shembe

The Shembe Church, which has a membership of more than a million, is a blend of Old Testament-based Christianity and African Zulu beliefs. The Shembe Church Observes rituals which include fasting, the washing of feet, keeping of the Sabbath and baptism by immersion. Although it has followers throughout southern Africa, its stronghold is in KwaZulu-Natal and its belief system is steeped in Zulu culture. Basic ethics of the Shembe tend to mirror Zulu social and moral behavior. The Nazareth Baptist Church (Alternatively called “The Nazarite Church” “iBandla lamaNazaretha”) is an African initiated church founded by Isaiah Shembe in 1910. It has approximately 4 million members. It reveres Shembe as a prophet sent by God to restore the teachings of Moses, the prophets, and Jesus. Members are Sabbath-observers and avoid pork, smoking, and premarital sex

It was divided into two groups after the 1976 death of Johannes Galilee Shembe. The larger group was led by Bishop Amos Shembe until his death in 1995, while Rev. Londa Shembe led the smaller group. As of 2009, it was divided into three factions in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng. The religion uses endangered leopard skins as part of their ceremonies, which some activists are trying to stop or replace with synthetic leopard skin.

On 18 October 2016, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban declared Vela Shemba the legitimate leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church after a protracted court battle, which had dragged on since 2011. Despite this, the previous leader’s son Mduduzi Shembe, who lives in the large village of Ebuhleni, remains the defacto head of the church and most church members have ignored the ruling.

Questions You Can Ask

1. What is your Spiritual background?

2. The Shembe Church is one of the biggest Churches in South Africa? Why do you think that is?

3. Who is the leader of the Shembe Church?

4. What are some important beliefs in the Shembe Church?

5. Do you come from a family that goes to the Shembe Church or are you the only member in your family?

6. Explain the meaning of keeping your hair and beard unshaved?

7. Which day of the week do you go to Church?

8. What are some Zulu customs and beliefs in the shembe Church?

9. Do you believe in life after death? If so what do you believe happens to a person after death?

Areas You Can Admire

  • Thabo’s belief that Jesus existed.
  • Thabo’s commitment to fasting and prayer.
  • Thabo’s Old Testament principles.
  • Thabo’s belief in God the Father (Jehovah).

What Thabo Believes

Thabo believes in God the Father (Jehovah) God the Son (Jesus Christ) God the Holy Spirit of Ekuphakameni (Shembe the Holy Spirit-not the person in human flesh), Thabo believes in Zulu customs and traditions like Worship God through ancestors and offering up sacrifices of cows or goats to ancestors who then speak to God on their behalf.

Thabo believes in God the Father (Jehovah) God the Son (Jesus Christ) God the Holy Spirit of Ekuphakameni (Shembe the Holy Spirit-not the person in human flesh).

Thabo believes there is no difference between Shembe and Jesus. He believes that both Jesus and Shembe are the Sons of God and that Shembe is sent to Africa by God, just as Jesus was sent to the Jews by God.

They hold to the Old Testament (Shrines, Holy of Holies, The Ark and other Holy vessels belonging to the prophet, sabbath-keeping).

Shembes believe Shembe shows them the way to heaven or to God. Jesus does not feature in the process, although he may be there for” his own people”, the Jews. Zulu belief takes a more dominant role, its more about continuing of life, immortality and reunion with ones Ancestors.

Shembes believe that Shembe and the Ancestors connect them to God and they pray to them. They believe Shembe is the way that leads to God and that he will guide them to God after death.

What The Bible Teaches

God identified Himself as “I Am” (Exodus 20:2) – meaning He is the self-existent (has no beginning or end) eternal Creator of the universe.

There is one God and yet three Persons (Isaiah 45:5; Deuteronomy 6:4; James 2:19).

Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is not just an enlightened man. He is the God of the universe (John 1:1, 14, 18; 8:58; 10:30. Compare Titus 2:13 and Isaiah 45:21), and He is equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

The Bible alone is the word of God. It is without error. It cannot and should not be added to or subtracted from (2 Timothy 3:16-4:4; Revelation 22:18-20).

Those who trust in Christ alone as their only hope of salvation spend eternity in heaven. Those who reject Christ spend an eternity in hell. (John 5:24-30; Revelation 20:11-15). The Bible denies the concept of reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Salvation is by faith in Christ on the basis of His death on the cross. Good works or self-denial have nothing to do with being saved (John 3:16-17, 36; 6:29,47; Romans 4:1-5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).