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Opinions of Thursday, 2 May 2013

Columnist: Yiadom, Percy Konadu

The recent upsurge in new churches

THE RECENT UPSURGE IN NEW CHURCHES, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND MINISTERIAL EVANGELISM: VERSUS THE HIGH RATE OF SOCIAL VICES, CRIMES AND SOCIAL ATROCITIES.

BY: PERCY KONADU YIADOM (BSW, MSW)

The mystery surrounding the increase in new churches, religious beliefs and ministerial evangelism which contradicts with the alarming rates of crimes, social vices and atrocities still remains unsolved. New churches keep springing up and men keep receiving divine calls to be men of God and become pastors on continuous basis yet the media reports about fornication, adultery, robberies, extortion, fraud, deception, prostitution and many more keep deafening our ears on regular basis. It is believed that the upsurge in religious beliefs was expected to make societies more livable because religion preaches nothing but good morals and social values, however, the increase in religious evangelism has been plagued with crimes and immoral activities. Religion and the belief in God has always been part of the life of the average African from times immemorial, before the introduction of Christianity in Africa, religion already existed, Africans worshipped the God almighty through the West African traditional religion, offerings, thanks-giving and appreciation were offered to God in our traditional ways. During those days societies were said to be more peaceful and livable, and everybody was the brother’s keeper. Social vices and atrocities were to the minimum, marriages were stable, fornication and adultery were taboos and siblings from different wives in polygamous marriages dined together from the same pot and lived together in the same household with love and trust, and spouses never killed each other for life insurance monies. The African traditional support system was woven around a social institution of extended families characterized by strong family ties that provided a kind of insurance and security system for its members. This system dictated its social norms, safeguarded its moral values and conserved its economic base. However, this system became impotent through colonialism and the introduction of Christianity with the hopes and aspirations of much better societies.
Almost every school building in most African countries have been converted into churches, and church services and activities are held in them every evenings and on the weekends, monies are collected on daily basis through collections, tithes, pledges, harvest and many more and yet some of these buildings are in deplorable conditions needing renovations, some of these schools need facilities including libraries and computer laboratories yet monies collected from their own buildings go without traces. Some churches save money to buy luxurious cars and build mansions for their pastors at the expense of the widows and the poor members of the church who could really benefit from these monies, why should just one person and his family benefit at the expense of a whole congregation, people contribute their widow’s mite and struggle to put food on the table for their children, children have dropped out of schools because they cannot afford them, others walk barefoot to school on daily basis whilst some of these pastors swim in opulence because they are men of God, when did we who are not pastors become men of the devil, when will these injustices stop. Families and marriages have fallen apart because a pastor has accused one partner, or an in-law as a witch or a wizard, people have lost their fortunes and treasures to some of these pastors, families treasures including expensive jewelleries have been dubiously confisticated or stolen because they are said to have been bewitched, women have been seduced and sexually abused and molested in attempts to cleanse them from their witchcraft and evil possession. Our mothers and grandmothers have been publicly humiliated and embarrassed to be witches and have been blamed for our challenges and failures in life, innocent women who cannot have children have been publicly ridiculed and disgraced as witches, and our brothers and sisters who suffer all kinds of mental illnesses have been chained to tress in churches and accused to be witches and wizards instead of being treated in mental health hospitals. The traditional way of dining together as siblings and a family has ceased because some of our mothers have been accused of spreading witchcraft through their food, and family remittances in the forms of monies and used clothing are gradually fading out because some pastors have succeeded in brainwashing us that our family members and friends who are the recipients of our used clothes will use them to bewitch us. Witchcraft has been blamed for virtually every accident and catastrophes in Africa.
When are we going to awaken from our long slumber to the realization that men do not live in a perfect world and that those outmoded roads and old vehicles which transport people without any maintenances coupled with impaired driving and poor road signs are bound to cause accidents and kill innocent people, this is purely man-made error but not witchcraft, why are we giving these fake pastors the opportunity to capitalize on our own errors, extort monies and make fortunes at our expense. Have we forgotten that natural catastrophes are part of human lives? Catastrophes like ‘tsunami, Katrina, and many more were never blamed on the devil or witchcraft but treated as a natural disaster and preventive measures were implemented. When are we going to leave our spouses, mothers, grandmothers and siblings alone and desist from blaming and labeling them as witches and wizards responsible for our failures and misfortunes, why don’t we praise and adore them when we are successful but rather attack them when we encounter challenges? It is about time to review and assess ourselves, our lifestyles, behaviors and expenditures and make the necessary changes and leave innocent people alone because we are sometimes the architects of our own misfortunes.
From biblical points of view, believers are not supposed to be afraid of anything or any other force because our God is stronger than any other forces and that no weapon or enemy can defeat us, but why are our men of God running away from witchcrafts instead of standing firm and destroying them. Witchcraft and evil forces have taken control over most churches because of the dubious activities of some of these pastors. Men of God are now comfortable and fearless to lie in the name of God, some pastors are now revealing false prophecies and visions and wrongfully accusing innocent people as witches and wizards so that they can extort fortunes from their congregations. Have we forgotten that whoever falsefully prophesize with the divine name of God is invoking eternal curses upon themselves and the empire that they have built will not stand the storm because they were not built on good soil. Brethren, let’s not forget that our God is a living God and whoever worship him should worship him with good faith and just because one day the master of the vine will emerge and judgments will be passed according to how we deserved it, we should also bear in mind that both the good and bad weeds are allowed to grow together but on the harvest day the good weeds will be separated from the bad ones. Our pastors are supposed to be the heads of our churches adhering to what the congregation proposes, supporting the unfortunate members of the congregation and heal their broken souls, but some of these pastors are no more approachable and hardly can the poor members of the church have consultations and audience with them, some pastors are now men of God and treated otherwise with special respect and reverence instead of being the hope for the hopeless and the husbands for the widows and dine with the commoners as Jesus did. Most of these pastors support their dubious activities with some quotations in the bible; brethren let’s not forget that some quotations in the holy book are parables and euphemisms and therefore should not be interpreted literally. The bible stating that when men give in abundance their rewards will be in abundance should not be used by greedy pastors to extort fortunes from the successful members of their churches, because the wealthy person donating his/her fortunes might not receive in abundance and this might lead to a loss of trust and belief in God. We are supposed not to put our lord God into temptation but why are some pastors putting God into temptations with false and fake prophecies and visions. Congregants are now treated differently according to their financial and social status, with the rich and influential members sitting at the top and controlling the affairs and the management of the churches at the expense of the poor but committed and dedicated members. I think from a biblical point of view, pastors are supposed to be shepherds in charge of flocks so that the devil will not lead these flocks astray, by implication both the shepherd and the flock have a master but the shepherd is not the master himself but rather the gateway to the master, so why are some pastors personifying God and making people to worship them, why should they spit in water for other human beings to drink with the belief that they will be blessed and healed, when will these insanity and cruelty stop? Prayers are supposed to be a way of communicating between men and their God, Hannah, David, Abraham, Sarah, Jarvis to mention but few prayed to God for miracles themselves, why can’t we as Christians pray ourselves or together but now some pastors are the only people who can pray for miracles, healings and deliverance, how can you be saved and healed from your afflictions if the person who you are worshipping is like a dirty cloth before God due to his dubious deeds and actions. What use has salt if it loses its saltiness? Have we forgotten that temptations and challenges are part of our lives as believers, and historically God has always used temptations as means of testing his servants faith, God instructed Abraham and Sarah to slaughter their only son Isaac as a sacrifice to him, Job lost all his wealth and fortunes as a rich man and God asked Joseph to take pregnant Mary as a wife, how challenging were these, but God just wanted to test their faith. Brethren certain things happen to us so that God’s glory will be manifested so please do not allow these young and greedy pastors to capitalize on our temptations, challenges and misfortunes and humiliate innocent family members and extort our hard earn money all in the name of witchcraft.
I will like to conclude by asking a simple question WHY DO NEW CHURCHES KEEP SPRINGING UP CONTINUOUSLY. I think the answers to this question will really vary, however, if the overarching goal and the crux of going to churches is to worship God, ask for forgiveness of our sins, help and console one another and fight for our eternal salvations then we already have enough churches to do these, we already have more churches to be able to accommodate us as believers so that we can all worship together. We have the old roman catholic church, the mother charismatic churches including the Pentecostal church, the Anglican church, the Presbyterian church, the assemblies of God church, the seventh day Adventist church, the Methodist church to mention but few, these and other churches are very well organized, pastors are paid from the church’s coiffeurs so that they can also meet their financial and family obligations as human beings, pastors depend on their wages/salaries, stipends and voluntary donations by church members. These churches are controlled and managed by the church management and board of directors, the church’s finances are controlled by the church treasurer and financial transparency prevails. The pastors from these churches have the honor to live in mission houses owed by the churches not the pastors themselves and they use the church vehicles for church activities and programs only, and like any other person these pastors and their families can owe properties from salaries/wages, stipends, gifts and donations. These churches reflect good examples in the communities by making charitable investments, donations and contributions, including the building of schools, hospitals, libraries; computer laboratories and many more so that the society as a whole can benefit from the monies people have faithfully paid to them. These churches are not family businesses and do not collect monies from people for the benefit of only one person the pastor and his family. These churches bear good fruits and their societies benefit from them. What is the rationale and reason for establishing new churches besides extortion and personal aggrandizement? Men have quit their professions to pursue pastoral careers because it is now considered more lucrative without any strings attached, we have all seen people who starts with prayer groups and later springs into mega churches and amass wealth within a short time and allegedly claims to have received the gift of God. Why don’t these new churches join the old and established churches and why don’t these new supposedly powerful pastors join the already existing ones so that we can all worship God with one voice. I think the biblical warning of being careful in the latter days with false and dubious men of God performing wonders in God’s name is now here.
How long can societies lose its resources including schools and factories buildings to new churches without any benefits from them? The Toronto city council had no option available than to ban the further establishments of more churches on government properties and industrial areas because the society has witnessed so many churches already established, and the messages keep unabated yet the crime rates continue to increase and social vices are on the rise, and worst of all some church leaders and pastors have also been apprehended selling fake documents to congregants and even the general public as charitable receipts to defraud the government. The city was therefore right in its decision because these resources and structures can be converted into employment centers/opportunities and schools for the benefit of the general public instead of just the pastors. Fear have gripped men from voicing out the truth and greedy pastor’s keep threatening vociferous believers and advocates with curses, but let’s not forget that blessed are those who knows the truth and proclaims it. Let’s continue relentlessly to bring the light to shine upon our sisters and brothers who have been blindfolded with lies and fabrications from these pastors so that they cannot continue to prey on them, and that they will one day realize the truth and worship the lord God who is the God of truth and freedom. Religion has been abused, and Christianity has been misconceived to suit the few and to the detriment of many thereby widening the gap between the strongest and the weakest and the prey and the predators, but as believers let’s not forget that all things are vanity and every man will reap only what he had sown. Religion can now be likened to the famous statement from Karl Marx that religion is the opiate of the masses and the opium of the people because many continue to be exploited with the promise and hope of a better life in the aftermath. God should save this perverse generation.