Some of our dearly "beloveth" dollar pastors are on the prowl again and this is">
Posted by Tonye David-West, Jr. Ph.D on
I'm once again compelled to write on this subject owing to my recent experience in Nigeria where the term "church planting" has assumed a new meaning.
I'm once again compelled to write on this subject owing to my recent experience in Nigeria where the term "church planting" has assumed a new meaning. Some of our dearly "beloveth" dollar pastors are on the prowl again and this is very troubling. In truth, I should note that there are true men of God in Nigeria who are not submerged in the new craze called business pastor-ing. I know some of them and I can attest, without fear of contradiction from any quarters, that they have remained true to the truths that have endeared many Christians to remain faithful. They are all over the country directing lost souls to our Lord Jesus Christ and truly working in the service of the Lord.
The Holy Bible says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." When you see these pastors, you would know that they are spirit filled, messengers of the Most High, planted on earth with a divine purpose and meaning. Their aura is indelible and utterly unmistakable, their presence sanctified with the anointing of the Holy one. A glance into their eyes, their innermost temple, reveals serenity, a taste of the life after. These pastors know that their reward is not manifested in material acquisitions. They are not interested in fat bank accounts and expensive cars. They have transcended these heights and operate on an ecclesiastical plain. This is not to say that they are unflappable, but they endeavor to please the Lord and do His work with the clearest of intentions.
However, the report card is not a good one when it comes to those who have assumed ulterior motives for commanding the pulpit. There are plenty of them milling around in today's Nigeria, deceiving all and sundry and this is the sad news. These pastors have no intentions or inclination to wait until they arrive in heaven to reap their reward. Some know that they will not make it to heaven; therefore, the reaping must take place on earth and very quickly at that. I was in Kampala, Uganda, earlier this year on a conference when I heard a song with interesting lyrics from the radio of the shuttle that carried us from the airport in Entebbe to Kampala, a song sang by a local musician. I was amused by the words, but on a sober reflection, their meaning couldn't have been any more relevant to the selfish postulations of some of our dollar pastors who have shamelessly hijacked the Christian faith in vain appellation. The song was a funny one, and it went - "In heaven there is no beer (repeat), so we must have it all here on earth, because when we get to heaven all we shall do is to praise the Lord."
Likewise, in heaven there is no reward for these pastors so they must have it all on earth because for some the life after is hell and eternal damnation for using the name of God to pursue personal agenda and self-aggrandizement. Church planting has become a mega-business and many families are now dependant on it for daily survival. The world of corporate churching in Nigeria as scandalized as it is, is gaining more momentum. This trend is a testament to our dwindling moral fortunes as a society, a people and most importantly, as a nation. It's a further testament to the sad fact that the unsavory economic situation has compelled many to venture into areas once considered sacrosanct and inviolable. The pulpit meant for truly anointed men (and women) of God now parades sycophants, hypocrites, Pharisees and wolves in sheep's clothing canvassing to be men of God and at the same time smiling all the way to the bank.
On my most recent trip to Nigeria, I attended what seemed like a Christian church located in the heart of Port-Harcourt. This was not my home church, but on this particular Sunday, I had woken up late and wasn't up to making the long trip clear across town to my home church. The appeal of this church was purely based on its proximity to my home and out of sheer convenience, I attended it. Upon walking in, I was ushered to the front pew where I had a first-class view of the pastor, his charming jewelry-clad wife and some of the elders sitting close to the pulpit. The lesson for the day had just been read, and as it's always my luck, that Sunday happened to be fund-raising day to support the building of a new church and an accompanying parsonage.
After a few songs and announcements, came the moment to conjure the believers into giving generously. Let it be said that there is absolutely nothing wrong in having a fund-raising Sunday or asking believers to give unto the work of the Lord. In fact, as Christians, it is a biblical injunction (not to be ignored) to give one tenth of one's monthly earning to the Lord in addition to supporting the work of the Lord in other ways not exclusive of financial support. My grouse, however, is with the methodology of accomplishing this noble goal. On this occasion, the pastor, decked in a made-in-heaven three-piece suit of an unimaginable styling and cost, rose to his feet and claimed the attention of all. He read from a portion of the Bible that served as a precursor to his charismatic appeal for funds. When it was time for the rubber to meet the road, as they say, the pastor made it clear that those who were holding back risked damnation from God. He stated clearly that even if you do not have, you must give. But how would they give? From what will they give? Can one get water from a rock? There were people in the congregation who were truly poor and destitute and did not even know where their next meal would come from. I know because an appeal was made for donations to fill the pantry for such people in the church. The same Bible states that God accepts gifts from a cheerful unconditional giver and not one that gives to avoid damnation. The act of Christian giving is one based on freewill and choice, not on coercion and duress. If someone is forced to give, that gift is not acceptable unto the Lord. Thus, our pastors must sow the seed of cheerful giving in their members and not engage in terror and scare tactics to extract money. These pastors should allow God to do His work, only He can convince a stingy and an uninspiring given to give cheerfully.
As the pastor continued with his fulmination, I looked around and saw some of the women rushing to the oldest bank in the land, the famous never-closing Bank of the Breast to withdraw what they had deposited. Others reached deeply into their handbags to bring out dirty kobos and nairas. But the shock of the moment came when the pastor said, looking firmly in my direction - "and those of you visiting us from the United States, we know you have dollars in your pockets, we know you have dollars to spare, we know you did not arrive from that great rich country empty handed. Don't spare any, give it all to the Lord and say amen to your promotion, to your success, to your new house, to your new car, to your marriage, to your children and to your new fat bank account." I said amen to the very last one, as I wanted the fat bank account so desperately upon my return. But the question lingered in my mind - how did he know I was visiting from America? I had walked in anonymously or so I thought and it was impossible for the pastor to know that I was visiting from America unless someone who knew me in that church (not sure who) whispered this fact to him. Unfortunately, he was out of luck as I had no dollars on me, but tired nairas and kobos, just like everyone else.
Later, I learned that the pastor was already living in a six-bedroom mansion located in the very expensive new GRA area of town where a mere 50 by 50 plot goes for upwards of N5 million. Amongst his rich neighbors are members of the 2002 World Cup qualifying Super Eagles all of whom were given plots of land in that area by Gov. Odili after the 3-0 defeat of the Ghana Black Stars in Port-Harcourt. The house, I was told, was an architectural wonder built by members of the church only a few years ago. When it was built, I was also told, pastors from other churches came to spy on the floor plan so their own mansions can be modeled after it. How is it then that a house built just a few years ago with millions of naira is no longer desirable and a new one must be built? It also came to my knowledge that the pastor takes frequent and expensive shopping trips overseas (London in particular) and had in his garage a fleet of expensive cars in the form of Mercedes Benz S-class for himself and a Lexus jeep for his wife and a Toyota Landcruiser as spare, all brand new. With all these, it is safe to say that the cost of these cars, the jewelries worn by his wife and his most expensive suit can account for fifty percent of the cost of building the new church.
The subtext is clear and unmistaken as it's stated in the Bible that in the last days, there will be false prophets claiming the name of the Lord. They will pretend to be of the Lord, but in reality, they are not, they are scavengers, barnacles exploiting the word of God to satisfy their avidity and rapacity. In today's Nigeria, signs are rife with these kinds, but the believers must not forget what the Bible says, "By their fruits you shall know them." The proliferation of these kinds of pastors coupled with the latest natural disasters (and wars - Gulf Wars I&II, war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Darfur in the Sudan, etc) such as Tsunami, Katrina, earthquakes in Pakistan (killing thousands) and more, are the surest indications yet that the end is near. Christians must be aware of these signs as they are amply noted and predicted in the Bible. The arrival of the dollar pastors should strengthen the faith of the believer as it is the fullfilment of the word of God. They have arrived in their numbers and have saturated the land. In Lagos, every inch of space is covered with posters and flyers advertising some kind of crusade or church with very interesting names. One of the names I saw was a curious one - "Heavenly Manna (in the form of naira and dollars, I suppose) Christian Church of God." But, perhaps, this one I saw by the road side tipped the scale, "Give Unto The Lord Chapel." It would have been more appropriate for them to say what they really mean and rename the church - "Give Unto The Lord While the Pastor Smiles all the Way to the Bank Chapel."