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Opinions of Thursday, 2 December 2010

Columnist: Ali, Salifu

Kennedy Agyapong Was Right On Target

By Salifu Ali

I have followed the political fortunes of Kennedy Agyapong ever since he packed
bag and baggage from New York and came to Ghana to tie his political cord to the
New Patriotic Party (NPP), and I must confess that I have never been a fun of
him. Reason being that this man is known to spew a lot of political
gobbledygook. And the mumbo jumbo that Kennedy Agyapong disgorges on many
occasions’ ticks off a lot of people including me. As a result, any time he is
quoted in the news my take has always been “There he goes again with his
political poppycock”.
But something that Kennedy Agyapong said last week really gave me a wake-up
call. It is something that has been burning in my heart for many years but I
have never gathered the courage to write about it. Therefore, when Kenny
Agyepong said it, my take this time was, “Bingo, he hit the nail right in the
head”. I said loudly after reading the story that Kenny is right this time
around. And that he was right on target. This time, Kenny got it right!
Mr. Agyapong was reported as saying that he supports the taxing of churches and
mosques that are involved in money making ventures. But Mr. Agyapong also stated
that there are some fake pastors especially the young pastors that are
destroying the country with false prophesy and miracles. Another issue that Mr.
Agyapong touched on was the preying on people’s ignorance and naivety by some of
these pastors to become rich. I cannot agree with him more.

It is common to read in the newspaper or hear from the television that there is
a Ghanaian who needs urgent medical attention but that the parents or relatives
do not have the means to foot the medical bill. Most of them that come to mind
are the hole in heart cases which do not even happen very often. When
information about these sick and needy people is advertised these churches keep
mute. I have never seen any reaction/s from these churches. All the churches in
Ghana adopt a wait and see attitude until individuals or companies out of the
blue come forward to foot the medical bills of these needy individuals in our
society. I will have loved that these churches even step forward to pray for
these needy people, but it never happens. Either their leadership are too busy
chasing their members who have not paid their monthly tithes or organizing
breakthrough prayer meetings or assisting their members who are looking for
visas to travel with special prayer sessions.

Sometimes I become very angry. My heart burns. It keeps burning and I need
Christ to cool it down. My big question is “Do these sick people matter to these
churches at all or not”? Are these sick and needy individuals most of them
children not human beings? Are they not part of the reason why Christ came on
earth? Much as we need spiritual health we also need physical health which is
why Christ healed so many people.

The leadership of these churches continues to pile up their treasures on earth
rather than in heaven. I am not even counting their high-priced expensive
vehicles and robes. Not to sound disrespectful somebody should visit the houses
of Pastor Mensa-Otabil or Bishop Dag Heward-Mills or Bishop Duncan-Williams and
see the display of opulence on earth. They have every good thing you can imagine
or think of. In fact if you go to their houses your eyes will twirl around to
the extent that if you do not take care you will collapse under the beauty and
sumptuousness on display at these houses. They are not alone. Almost all the
leadership of these charismatic churches, Pentecostal and traditional is in the
same zone. They are all living very big and fat lives at the expense of mostly
their poor members. Yet it is these same pastors who preach to us that our
treasures should be built up in heaven and not on earth.
And do you know the ‘seed’ they have planted in the minds of their members?
Members of these churches have been polluted that Christians are the heads of
the earth therefore; they are to enjoy the best of everything on earth. With
that in mind, what will you say as a member if you see your pastor having and
enjoying the best of everything you can imagine whilst you waddle in debt and
poverty. Nothing!
It is so amazing that the leadership of these churches have also become
businessmen and women. Gosh, Osofo businessman? The International Central Gospel
Church (ICGC) has a university while Lighthouse Chapel International has a
hospital. The Methodist Church, Catholic Church, Presbyterian and others also
have universities and hospitals. Believe me; a lot of income is generated from
these ventures. But these churches in order to outwit the government by way of
not paying taxes on these huge high-yielding ventures cunningly continue to
state that the profits generated are ploughed back to help the activities of
their churches. I am therefore happy that at long last these churches are going
to be made to pay taxes on these businesses.

The Central University is known to be the highest tuition paying university in
Ghana. Can you imagine Jesus Christ establishing a university in Ghana and
charging far more than other universities in the country? I bet people will have
jumped on Jesus for robbing people, but everybody is silent on Pastor
Mensa-Otabil as he continues to compress money from poor students. And yet these
churches whose sole purpose on earth are to assist the poor and needy both
physically, financially and spiritually are rather chiseling off every bit of
sweat from these same poor and needy people. I have a friend who graduated from
Central University last year. He has been a staunch member of the church for 8
years, yet when he enrolled in the Central University his tuition was the same
as other non-members of the church. I was stunned and asked him, “So what social
help do you get from the Central Church that you are so passionate about”? He
could not name one. And the sad thing is that the leadership of these churches
continues to mount the pulpit and have the audacity to criticize governments of
the day for not delivering on their social responsibilities? They deliberately
forget the specks in their own eyes but see the logs in other individuals and
governments. Even Christ stated that Christians should give to Caesar what
belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Christ was talking about
taxes. So the churches should be made to pay taxes on their businesses. Most of
these pastors get speaking engagements and at the end of the day get big pay
checks but they pocket them without paying taxes on them.

Pastors at Lighthouse Chapel International for instance are known for chasing
their members for their monthly tithes. In fact, if you forget to pay or do not
have the means to pay your tithe, you are told that since you are able to eat
and find your way to the church premises to worship, then you have to find the
same means to pay for your tithe if you indeed want blessings from God. Thus
these poor people continue to be robbed by these churches. And if you are a
member of the church, heaven help you if you fall on hard times.

What are these pastors using all their big fat moneys for? Some of them have so
much money that their bank accounts are bursting their seams. Are they pilling
them up so that when Christ is to return today He will say “Good servants, I
gave you these churches and this is how much you have been able to squeeze from
your church members”? Or are these pastors waiting to take their moneys to
heaven? It is a common knowledge in the Methodist Church that during harvest
thanksgiving, churches in some of their circuits fight very hard to raise more
money so that they can pat themselves at the back that they did better than the
rest. Is that what Christ came to preach on earth?

There are so many individuals in these churches who cannot afford just one
square meal a day. They are so poor that you see it on their faces and in the
way they dress to church. Yet, these pastors always find a way to take the
little away from these poor folks. “To those who have more, more shall be given,
but to those who do not, even the little they have shall be taken away from
them”. And what burns my heart is that pastors in these churches see or know the
financial needs of these members but turn a blind eye to their financial needs
but continue to load them with points on spiritual needs and what they have to
give to sustain the fast and opulence lifestyles of these pastors.

If it is reported in the newspapers of television or other media outlets that an
individual is sick and needs urgent medical attention, can’t any of these
churches immediately step up to help? It will not cost them anything to do that.
At best that is what they should be doing often. The churches can even step up
and immediately ask their members to raise funds to help out. To me this should
be one of the greatest focuses of the churches in Ghana today.

Another thing that I have come to realize about members of these churches is the
fear that has been put into them. Who did that I do not know, but I truly
believe these pastors may have used some biblical quotes to silence the members.
The catchwords are that “You do not speak of evil against your pastor less you
incur the wrath of God”. Therefore, if you an outsider see something wrong and
engage a member of these churches in any conversation, they will defend their
pastors to the hilt. They see no evil, hear no evil or dare not speak of any
evil against their pastors when even what you are driving home to them makes
sense. And this is the danger zone Ghana is heading towards. And this is what
Kennedy Agyapong was drawing attention to. And this is what Ghanaians of all
walks of life have to stand up and speak against.
In Ghana today church activities alone take more than 50 percent of the time of
members. Talk about Sunday church services, organizational meetings, mid-week
breakthrough prayer meetings and Friday All-Night Prayer sessions. Most members
have little time to catch their breath before heading to another church program.
But it is sad to say that these same members do not show the same kind of zeal
when they go to their offices to work. Some report late for work and are the
first to hit the road even before their closing time. Yet these are the same
kind of people who criticize governments of not doing enough for workers.
On Sundays, all the roads in Ghana especially in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, and
Koforidua become choked with vehicular traffic. These vehicles are chocked with
church members who throng the churches to worship God. In fact Sundays in Ghana
will pass like a working day in any country. Yet these people go to the churches
looking for something great but come back home worse off after dancing and

If Christ were to appear from the blue this minute, I bet He will not be sad or
surprised. Do you know why? Because He had seen what is happening in Ghana
before. He saw it during his life on earth. He saw it in the Pharisees,
Sadducees and others. Their attitudes are nothing different from what we are
seeing in Ghana today. Truly there is nothing new under the sun. We are heading
into a danger zone. People are getting little or nothing from these churches. It
is only dancing and singing of praises and worship they are getting because the
messages are becoming hollow. Its money, money, money and appreciate your
pastor, appreciate your pastor, appreciate your pastor. Period!
Where are the days when pastors walk for miles to attend church services to win
souls for Christ? Where are the days when pastors do not care that much about
life apart from their cassocks and their daily bread? Those days are fast gone.
We will never have such moments again. Every pastor in Ghana is chasing for an
SUV. They are either building or grabbing the most beautiful houses at gated and
24-7 secured locations. It seems these pastors are up for competition: Those who
are rich and those who have more members. They are chasing for everything
including the wind. Some do not feel any shame to talk about their riches.
Riches indeed! They openly talk about riches which they got from the sweat of
the members. Surely, they will have ready-made reasons to justify their riches
if you should question them. And their attitudes are making life meaningless to
many folks. And the church premises are gradually becoming social centres where
members go and talk about their up-coming social engagements. God is shrinking.
The banner of Christ continues to be lowered. The word of God is now all about
money. And the raising of money takes 80 to 90 percent of everything in the
church today.
Ghanaians have to step up and talk about the churches and the attitudes of these
pastors. Many of these pastors are making many people disillusioned. They are
sending many people to hell. Many Christians in Ghana today are confused. They
do not know what to believe again. And those who cannot read and analyze the
bible on their own are helpless whilst these pastors feed on the ignorance of
their congregation to continue to have a field day by bamboozling them. But
Christ warned in His days that “Be warned if your attitude sends these little
ones to hell”. A word to a wise……….