Church members ceding their lives to their pastors is becoming more common than it used to be years ago. And the consequences are much wider than the abuses listed in the first part of this article.
For instance, a neighbor who was having financial challenges once told me that he gifted his wife’s only car to their pastor. When I asked him why, he said it was to sow a seed. Meanwhile, the car was what the wife used to run around for her small business. Tragically, a few months later, the only car the family had was stolen somewhere in Abuja and the man’s condition became worse than it was before he “sowed a seed” with his wife’s car.
Some of you may recall the cases of two members of a prominent church who stole millions of naira from their employers and used same to sow seeds in the church.
Sowing of seeds from legitimately earned or stolen money is a form of ceding and it is in vogue.
Some whose lives are already miserable (at least they openly acknowledge that in private conversations) believe that tithing brings instant rewards. Whether or not tithing is required from Christians under the covenant brokered by Jesus (subject of recent controversy between a musician and some pastors) is not even worth discussing here. A more interesting piece of meat to chew is where the money donated in churches ends up.
A 2011 report by US based Forbes magazine (reputed for tracking wealth around the world) revealed the following estimated net worth of five Nigerian pastors based on verifiable assets.
1: Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, aka Winners Chapel. ($150 million).
2: Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy ($30 million – $50 million)
3: Temitope Joshua of Synagogue Church of All Nations ($10 million – $15 million)
4: Matthew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Centre ($6 million – $10 million).
5: Chris Okotie of Household of God Church ($3 million -$10 million)
According to a 2012 Reuters’ investigation of Nigerian mega churches, one church that was making $5 million a week from contributions at home and abroad approached an investment banker with UBA to arrange a loan based on their weekly takings to enable them make very big investments in properties and shares (a form of money laundry often used by people in government). The bank cognizant of the possible fall out of such a scheme declined the proposal.
In another case that year, according to Reuters, a pastor bought shares worth $18 million in the defunct Finbank (later merged with FCMB) and used a nominee trust account to keep his name off the books.
I don’t really care about those who have so much and can afford to indulge themselves in large donations to massage their egos. These are the ones who cede themselves to their pastors and get instant rewards. They are given prominent places in church services. Their birthdays, marriage anniversaries, and election into political offices are celebrated in the church under the glare of television cameras. These are the ones who are on “one on one” with the super pastors. They are the ones who get called by the pastors and who call the pastors when mega business deals, the kind of deals that truly volt people from rag to riches are on the table. They are the true sowers of seeds who know how to take care of themselves.
Those that should be pitied are the weather-beaten ones. Those who get “bussed or trucked” to services to give away the meagre income they could better use to take care of their traumatized selves or families. The ones outside the “garden of Eden” who however shout and dance the most to “scatter ground” when the biggies give testimonies of how their sowing of seeds have yielded multiple rewards to their already fabulous wealth and fortune.
These are the ones that have been skinned and need refreshment but are refreshing those that are already well refreshed. These are the ones who revere their pastors so much that they keep their pictures in their homes in “shanty town.” Pictures that are considered a form of amulet which offers “spiritual protection” and assist them to claim billions in their dreams while their pastors claim theirs in cash. These are the biggest consumers of the snake oil promises of “my miracle is on the way.”
This is the bait that makes such ones to cede their lives to their pastors. You come to me not to hear what I say but to eat bread, Jesus once said to some people. In contrast here is what a leading Nigerian pastor told his followers,
“To become a billionaire, Christians must simply imagine it, ask and realize that money, blessing and favour are already in them. All they need is to ‘work out’ what ‘God has already worked in. Some of you do not see that you are already billionaires but there is a difference between to create and to unveil. God will simply unveil your billions to you as he did to me.”
That pastor knows what keeps worshippers coming and he keeps the path primed with the right oil, the right message to keep them happy hostages.
I know some of us have allegiances to some of these pastors. But, think honestly for a moment. If Jesus, Paul and Peter, all super preachers were alive today, would you really hear them make the kind of statement above or put up all these “mega attitudes” that we see in today’s pastors. Attitudes that charm others and make them less introspective to the extent of ceding themselves and acting like zombies. How else would describe a man who lives in poverty but steals millions of naira from his employer to fill the cash till of a church?
Unfortunately, there is nothing you will tell these ones that will make them “stop and think” as they confess wealth but live in absolute or at the corridors of absolute poverty. Yet they will persist in blessing the “man of God.”
So, how much of your life will you cede to your pastor? The choice is yours. But remember that your pastor is not the owner of your life, neither is he your savior. At best, he is just your fellow worker in the vineyard. Whatever that vineyard is another matter altogether.