PM News a Nigerian News site reported a couple of days ago that a pastor – Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Christ Embassy Church Nigeria, charged N1000 (7 USD) gate fee to worshippers who attended its New Years’ Eve church services.
Predictably this has come as a shock to some, but should it be? According to the church the gate fee was imposed to limit the huge number of worshippers which it predicted will descend on its 25000 capacity venue. Crowd control and management techniques have no doubt improved significantly – Gone are the days when security simply turned away folks when a venue reaches its capacity. The latest in crowd management technques requres that a prohibitive fee be charged to reduce the size of a crowd. On this ocassion the criteria deemed most appropritae by this church was to eliminate those who perhaps hadn’t prayed hard enough to afford the N1000 needed to go through the gates of “heaven”.
A quick calculation reveals that: 25000 (capacity venue) x N1000 = N25,000000. N25,000000 is what the church must have taken in that night. We do serve a rich God after all.
The figure of N25,000000 above does not include collections, which is a whole different ball game. A BBC Have Your Say contributor Francis Kennedy Ocloo from Ghana has apparently been wondering just as loud about all things church and collections. He thinks that the church is taking too much money from its congregation. “Sometimes it is too embarrassing if you are not able to contribute,” he states.
A couple of responses to Mr Ocloo’s comments even though not surprising indicates the predicament and thoughts of most people about these churches.
A commentator stated “Abhorrent is a more fitting term to describe the way unsuspecting church members are hoodwinked to part with their much needed cash, that would otherwise contribute to alleviate household poverty, been channeled to ‘insatiable- offering plates’, which more often than not go to the pockets of pastors, who live in relative luxury while the rest of their congregation wallow in poverty”.
Another stated “God loves a cheerful giver! to me that implies that one should give without feeling jealous of what he/she has given to God and church as a whole. Church giving can never be compared to extortion or corruption in anyway, first and foremost one carries him/herself to church and offers or gives willingly according to how he/she feels touched by the Holy Spirit, but if one entaertains the spirit of internal guilt of what he/she has given, then that is evil and unacceptable before God and in his church”
African churches operate in an environment where folks need quick answers to their social and economic “situations”. I recall reading an article – The Miracle Loving People of Africa which hinted at some of the sheer desperation that leads people to put all their trust and faith into super star pastors and thier mega churches. The author gave a rather poignant example of an experience he had in a church which illustrates this problem – “During the service, members who wanted breakthroughs in their lives were called by the head pastor to the fore of the congregation to be prayed for, to receive miracles. Among them was a 25 year old lady whom I sympathised with as she needed a miracle to enable eliminate pains in her lower back. This lady was very overweight and looking lethargic. However, instead of the pastor to give her sound practical advise such as loosing weight through exercising and backing it with prayer, he rather asked her to buy a litre of the church’s so called “blessed oil” for £150, and to pour a drop of it on each meal she had in order to receive her breakthrough. And guess what? , all the called up members bought the £150 “blessed oil” in the hope of warding off their various predicaments. I wondered why the congregation could not at worst brainstorm to see through the obvious deception”.
If worshippers are prepared to vote with thier feet and are ok playing blind to paying “gate fees” to attend church, then who are we to criticise Pastor Chris and the Christ Embassy church? Churches are run by pastors and people who are no different from thier flock so it’s entirely possible that the tenets of the religion are not always followed or perhaps conveniently interperated “differently”. It is clear that those who run these tax free Churches are just as affected by their own “economic situation” and are just as keen to escape that state. Perhaps by offering hope to the masses and stepping in where governments have failed they do provide a much needed social service for which they should charge.
What do you think?
Photo Source: BBC HYS