Feature Article of Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Columnist: Saka, Honourable
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome; Ayo Oritsejafor; Enoch Adeboye; David Oyedepo and Mike Okonkwo
By Honourable Saka
It is an established fact that Jesus did not own any material thing throughout the years he spent on earth. It was said that even the donkey he rode to Jerusalem was for somebody. Men of God must learn to live like Christ; not to compete with ordinary mortals for the riches of the earth. Today, wealthy Nigerian pastors spend over $225million on private jets. Over 130 new private jets have been acquired since 2007 at an average cost of $60milion per private jet. Many young ones are therefore seeing the pastors calling to be a very lucrative business. Perhaps, this explains the reason why there are currently so many false prophets around.
In the Holy Bible (Matthew 6:19-20, Luke 12:33), Jesus said: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Is this not what the Bible teaches? Do our modern men of God really remember this biblical advice?
I feel so ashamed to see pastors riding in limousines, range rovers, owning a fleet of flashy cars and private jets while the congregants always stand in the scorching sun waiting for the government to provide them with bus. I feel worried to see pastors spending as much as $200 million on private jets that flies only once in a year on a holiday trip, while majority of their congregants who cannot even afford a one-square-meal a day, continue to pray day and night for a miracle, so that they will be able to send their children to school.
According to Mathew 19:21, Jesus said: If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Therefore why don't Christians, especially the men of God, sell their possessions and give the money to the poor like Jesus said? Why are they rather buying private jets, mansions and living all sort of flamboyant lifestyle?
With the current “men of God's” attitude of spending over $85million per private jet (year after year), while they live in African communities where the vast majority of the youths survive on less than $1 a day, it leaves one to wonder whether the modern African churches have the welfare of society at heart.
Can anybody imagine how many lives in Nigeria a whopping $85 million can transform overnight? Imagine how many hospitals or clinics this amount can build. Imagine how many academic scholarships, this amount can provide to the many of the youth who have been praying for years, all because they want opportunity to go to school? Are these men of God truly following the teachings of the Holy Bible? Why are we not seeing them do exactly what Lord expects of His preachers?
In many communities across the African continent, majority of our people continue to live in total darkness (without electricity), we are still grappling with poor healthcare infrastructure, dangerous road networks, lack of educational infrastructure, among others. Most of all, the vast majority of the youth are still grappling with mass unemployment. Of course one would say that it isn’t the duty of the church to be creating jobs. But instead of acquiring these luxurious lifestyles and the countless number of private jets, would it be a bad idea if the church were to invest these amounts of money in the lives of ordinary people, especially the poor?
I know many preachers in Ghana who would never have been where they are today if not for the fact that there were many orthodox churches which built more schools that gave them quality education. Above all, these churches had scholarship packages in place whereby many brilliant but needy students were often sponsored to study both home and abroad.
If you were to ask majority of the young ones who are often spotted at the various prayer camps what their problems were, many would tell you they’re praying for jobs, praying for a miracle (financial sponsorship) to further their education. Many others continue to count on God to heal them of various diseases because they do not have money to foot their medical bills if they were to go to the hospitals.
Yet, in spite of all these, our men of God and our religious leaders who have the power of spiritual discernments, and who can envision the nature of our woes, pretend they have no clue whatsoever as to how best the church can contribute to relieve the youth of their burden. The churches continually pay a blind eye to the needs of the poor within the church itself. It is usually the rich men who seem to receive the attention of the church. In fact, many rich men are usually given some positions in the church all because of the financial contributions they can make at any given time.
But it is easy to understand because the Holy Bible says in Proverbs 14:20 that “The poor are disliked even by their neighbours, but the rich have many friends”.
For the past few years, I have been wondering and wondering: Wasn’t it the missionary and the orthodox churches that built many universities, training colleges, secondary schools and basic schools, community libraries etc, across Africa that gave quality education to many of today's pastors?
In Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa among others, one can list a countless number of schools: basic schools, secondary schools, training colleges, and even universities all of which were built by the orthodox churches such as the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, just to mention a few.
Typical examples in Ghana are: Presbyterian University College, Catholic University College, Ghana Baptist University College, Methodist University, Pentecost University, Christ Apostolic University College and many more.
These universities have been offering quality education and all the support to the poor and the needy in Ghana.
At the same time, some of the best secondary schools in Ghana have usually been the ones built by the orthodox churches in the likes of Pope John’s Secondary School (Roman Catholic), Saint Rose’s Secondary School (Roman Catholic), Presbyterian Boys Secondary School (Presby), Saint Peter’s Secondary School (Roman Catholic), just to mention a few.
Thanks to the orthodox churches. Today, Ghana can boast of many best schools that have contributed to producing quality engineers, medical doctors, architects, lawyers, professors and all sorts of wonderful professionals most of whom received their education in one or two of the schools build by the orthodox churches without paying a penny.
But now, it hurts me so much to ask: What happened to the modern charismatic churches and their pastors? Why are many of them only interested in acquiring mansions abroad, buying a fleet of luxurious cars, throwing up expensive parties, and most recently competing among themselves to own the latest fleet of cars or which one has the most sophisticated number of private jets.
Why must the media bother us with questions such as: “who is the richest pastor”, “which pastor has the highest number of private jets”, “how many pastors are richer than the politicians” and so on?
Instead of competing among themselves with feeding the poor and the hungry, providing their communities with basic infrastructure, creating institutions that will empower the youth in areas of science and technology, building libraries with ICT facilities that will serve to cater for the dearth of knowledge in society; rather, it saddens my heart to see today’s men of God competing to live an affluent life style while majority of the young ones continue to pray for angels to and save them.
Recently, it is becoming increasingly clear that the ‘modern’ African churches have lost focus. This is because, thought they know exactly what the Bible teaches, many of the leadership are rather interested in enjoying the worldly pleasures. Our modern religion is becoming the most profitable industries/businesses. The modern church business is a multi-million dollar businesses which rival that of oil tycoons.
Mfonobong Nsehe, a Nigerian blogger who blogs for Forbes business magazine, says pastors own businesses oversees from hotels to fast-food chains.
“Preaching is big business. It’s almost as profitable as the oil business,” he said. >The joint wealth of five pastors was at least $300m (£200m). These pastors are flamboyant. You see them with private jets and expensive cars” > > Consequently, many of the youth are forcing themselves into becoming men of God at all cost. They see the church business to be lucrative. Thus, they establish churches not as instruments for the transformation of lives in society but as a means to acquire wealth and luxury without any hard work. No wonder about 90% of today’s sermons are all about prosperity and the quest to become rich. Nobody preaches salvation any longer and there is no more love - a clear indication that the end time is here.
Honourable Saka is the project coordinator for the Project Pan-Africa, available at: www.projectpanafrica.org. He can be reached on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is grateful to Itech Plus and all the media partners which support his vision for the African people.