While businesses are fighting the cause of the people against the pandemic, the church cannot protect their own!
By Uche Chris
It is sad and disheartening that in this period of grave national and global distress and danger to life, the Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ, with all the resources at its disposal, is silent and a spectator; while businesses and so-called unbelievers are taking the initiative and stealing the limelight for their humanitarianism and public-spiritedness. The Church that was established by Jesus based on love and loving your neighbour as yourself, has become uncaring, selfish and greedy, attributes it was set up to curb in man.
As an insider of the Church, I feel thoroughly embarrassed, ashamed and disappointed at this turn of events. The truth is that when all this is over, the Church will be the worse for it; for the impression it has created for its self is one of callousness and exploitation. What is beyond proof in the emerging image of the Church is that of misdirection and misplacement of priority. This is the same Church that brought free education and health care delivery to us; so what has changed.
What changed are us. We are now in charge of the Churches – as government too – and we have polluted it with our mindless pursuit for wealth and self-aggrandizement. Churches are a charitable organization founded not only on love for humanity, in this world but for eternity; the Church is the mother of the humanitarian effort in society, which is the reason it is exempted from paying tax. Unfortunately, Churches, especially Pentecostal church has abandoned this very essence of its existence and relevance to society.
It is sacrilegious and abuse of grace and privilege for corporate bodies to be competing with churches on humanitarianism and philanthropy; not to talk of our present circumstance, where the Church is virtually nonexistent when businesses are falling over themselves to out donating one another. Businesses are profit-making organizations and only involved in philanthropy as corporate social responsibility, CSR, for tax relief; while churches which are charitable agencies, enjoying tax exemption, are indifferent to the suffering and social needs of even their members in these trying times.
Shockingly, some churches are calling on their members to make contributions for it to respond to the needs of its members: in this time and situation when everybody is under pressure and without means of livelihood; that is outrageous and shameful. What have they done with their money or what are they saving the money for when their members are desperate?
Of course, they are reserving the money for frivolous and obscene material acquisitions and ambitious projects that have brought it into reproach and public opprobrium? Why should the members contribute money to help other members in these difficult times? Do the Churches not have their own money? Mind you, they are still collecting tithes and offerings even without church services. Lagos state has a N1 billion fund for the victims of the Abule Ado gas explosion; no church has donated.
Are the business organizations asking their customers and shareholders to contribute money to donate for public welfare? This has exposed the evil of materialism and covetousness now entrenched in the church that deprives them every sense of reason, reality and sensibility to the demands of their existence. More surprising in this development is the fact that most of the leaders of the big churches in this country are over 60 years of age, an age even people in the world retire from active service and pursuit of material gains, and those of means devote their lives to giving back to society.
But not our church leaders, who believe they are the only people God can use and who must change the world in their image. Because they founded the churches they must bequeath it to their generations unborn in total defiance and disobedience to the gospel which they were called to propagate. Jesus’ apt and instructive saying, “That the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of the kingdom”, demonstrate their dilemma. (Luke 16.8).
Again they seem to forget what Cicero, the Roman philosopher and orator once said: “An old man who is greed for wealth is but a fool”. Our Church leaders are by their selfishness making themselves fools before the world, which they should otherwise judge. With which conscience would they stand before their congregations to preach love and giving, when they are the most misers and stingy of all people; what example are they giving to the world when business people whom we accuse of mammon spirit are outdoing them in love and giving?
Most of the richest people in this country today are Church leaders; there are more billionaires in the church than outside and the church economy is the only booming and profitable venture in the country. It is an economy that is always growing, without recession and loss. As long as people go to church the pastors’ net-worth keeps increasing, unlike business people such as Dangote, for instance, who has lost a third of his worth just because of COVID 19. So, why is it that churches do not and will not give?
Seven of the top churches in this town can collectively, without tasking their members, raise N5 billion for the government to fight the pandemic; or even sustain their members to survive the period. But what do we have?
One wants to build an auditorium the size of Ibadan, the largest city in Africa; another is building a 100,000-seater church with a helipad; yet another, which is not even among the top seven, has just completed a N15 billion cathedral; and another is building a fourth university, while one just announced the acquisition of a $7 million private jet.
Materialism, materialism, materialism! Materialism has become the measurement of success in ministry. See what I mean: Ambition, arrogance and materialism is now the god of the church. The church seems to have forgotten that it is not how far or long you run the race, but how well.
Apostle Paul envisaged our situation when he admonished himself, and other preachers after him, that we should run this race to receive the crown or prize; “lest after I have preached to others I should be a castaway”, (2Cor. 9.27). We lose the moral authority to preach Christ to others – which is hardly done again, anyway – when we can’t provide an example that we are better with our Jesus.