Posted by News Express | 8 September 2021 | 483 times
Public outcry trails the sack of a pastor of a prosperity-driven Pentecostal church, which news is still trending on both traditional and social media. The pastor’s sin bothered on “non- performance” as, according to the release by the church in question, the affected pastor failed to measure up with the index established by the church to measure pastor’s performance.
The determining factor for performance is membership expansion to increase the revenue of the church and not winning souls for Christ, thereby populating the coming kingdom of God. The prosperity church has set a target for its pastors, which, failure to meet the target after a review is conducted leads to relieving such pastor or pastors of their employment.
The question on the lips of pundits is: How has the church degenerated to such a deplorable level where performance is now based on the ability of a minister to expand the membership of the church to improve church’s revenue rather than evangelising the world to win more souls for Christ?
Consequently, the church has now degenerated to the level of commercial banks and other merchandising ventures and enterprises that set targets for their marketing officers.
Christ’s commission to the Church right from the early stages is explicit: "Go ye into the world and preach the Gospel, baptising those who believe…." It is shamefully appalling that the Church has derailed from this primary commission, especially in Nigeria and Africa generally, where churches have been converted to personal empires and a money-making venture. That is why the modern church is characterised by protracted strife, mainly over who gets what. The Bible is apt on this by pointing out that the sources of these strifes are members’ inordinate ambition for wealth.
Most times, secular politics is a child’s play to the ugly manipulations, scheming, and manoeuvres that characterise church politics. Also, oftentimes, it is alleged that members go diabolical in attracting one office or the other. What defined elections or selection processes in the early Church was casting of lot. When vacant offices exist in the early Church, Christians gather and pray, and follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit in making a choice or by casting lot.
But, unfortunately today, full-blown elections are held in the Orthodox churches to elect offices whereas Pentecostal churches operate a dictatorship, since it’s a one-man business. As a result, in the older churches, members go out of the way to engage in campaigns and character assassinations to have their way. The Pentecostal church is a family business where either the wife or son succeeds the father who is the founder and Chief Executive Officer, in the event of death.
Unfortunately, these practices negate the socialist spirit of the early Church. From the mountain-top, in Acts of the Apostles, where Christ ascended to heaven and the Upper Room in Jerusalem where they gathered after the ascension until they received the Holy Spirit, the apostles were steadfast, did things in one accord, prayed together and, most important, denied themselves certain comforts, and even abandoned their families.
Today, the reverse is the case. So-called Christians sacrifice the commission by Christ to win souls at the altar of crass materialism.
Recall that when Peter asked Christ what will be their reward after abandoning their families and relations even their means of livelihood to follow him, Christ did not mince words to declare that the Kingdom of God awaits those who have denied themselves comfort, including material wealth to follow Him. The scripture is apt: “What will it benefit a man to forsake the kingdom of God for material wealth?”
Today, the so-called men of God prefer losing the Kingdom of God at the expense of material possession. That is why some of them will own in their fleet private jets, and they live ostentatious lifestyles. The irony of the whole episode is that these so-called ministers of God drive posh cars, wear expensive silk suits and designer shoes at the expense of their impoverished members who pay tithes and other forms of donations. Another dimension of the argument is that secondary schools and universities built with poor members’ contributions are out of their reach, because they cannot afford the exorbitant fees.
Indeed, the early church was a perfect socialist setting. This was strongly exemplified in Acts 4:32-35 thus: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and led them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
No wonder the rush to be “ministers of God.” Every Dick and Tom is now called; negating the call for the five-fold ministry captured in Ephesians. The five-fold ministry is now a refuge for those who have tried their hands in numerous ventures but have been haunted by failure.
There is more emphasis on the prophetic ministry because that is where the action is. These commercial ministers would be quick to condemn “Simon the sorcerer” but their activities are more dangerous than that of Simon.
They have thrown away the biblical injunction that God’s gift is neither bought nor sold. If they doubt this, the following scripture presents a sound warning for them and those who patronise them: “Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed: This man is rightly called the great power of God.”
They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptised. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.
When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (Acts 8: 9-23).
The modern-day churches must refrain from their prosperity mindset and capitalist tendencies and cater to the needs of the vulnerable. Their leaders should sincerely hearken to the admonition in James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Until churches obey this simple biblical injunction, the world will continue to be in disarray.
The church has an onerous responsibility to provide an alternative in a decaying world but, ironically, they honour material wealth more than Christian values.
•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, via email@example.com
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