By NNOROM AZUONYE
I watched this documentary presented by Seyi Rhodes on Nigeria’s growing epidemic of millionaire money-grabbing pastors, and like I said in my comment on a Facebook thread, I was not shocked by the documentary at all. The reason I was not shocked is that this documentary does not tell us anything new about the ways many Nigerian pastors live and make money, or how they live in great luxury while members of their congregations live in penury whilst funding the lifestyles of their religious leaders through tithes and offerings. It succeeded however in making me know about this Dr Sign Fireman, who clearly portrayed himself as an astute businessman in it for the money.
As a young boy growing up at Isuikwuato, Nigeria, there was a song we usually sand at Methodist Sunday School during offerings:
Ihe m nwere ka m ga enye, ma mu enweghi ego, mu enye obi m. (What I have is what I will give, if I don’t have money, I will give my heart)
Simply giving one’s heart has no place in today’s Pentecostal church where God and His blessings are unashamedly on sale.
As a practising Christian, I would not ask anyone not to pay tithes or give offerings in church. Personally I give offerings that I can afford, and any Sunday I cannot afford an offering I go to church empty-handed and worship God with my voice and my love. I give my heart. I no longer as a rule pay tithes in the way these churches demand them – 10% of all my earnings. There was a time I did that and I got seriously into debt, so I obey the word of God in the Bible not to give grudgingly or out of obligation, but according to what I can afford. (2 Corinthians 7).
I also work with covenants. God is a God of covenants, and He is always faithful. Sometimes I undertake certain projects built on a platform of uncertainties and I say to God, ‘Give me victory in this project and if it succeeds financially, I will give you 10% of all my profits.’ My experience is that God has a habit of making most of these projects succeed and I meet my end of the bargain.
The truth of the matter is that anyone who watches the documentary on this Dr Fireman and still goes to his church, the person is either completely mad under the influence of something. The church scenes look like scenes from the Teco Benson film ‘The Fake Prophet’ and the man’s lifestyle, and comportment smells like what one would find in the like of a gangster.
It is not my place however to tell anyone where or how to worship God or what person of God to follow. The reason members of the Pentecostal churches are always moving from church to church is because they are seeking results. Very few of the people who attend these churches actually seek to love God or to find his righteousness, it is either they want a husband or wife, they cannot have children and desperately want some, they want money, or they want healing. So there is a tendency to migrate to the church where the resident pastor appears to be the trending person of God who gets results. This in itself is not bad. I have personally received divine healing and am not ashamed to declare it. What is disgraceful is when these pastors posit that for one to receive these free gifts from God, there has to be an investment, a sowing – in other words; the giving of money to the church or pastor. That’s what is disgraceful. God does not need your money, he just wants to be worshipped and praised.
Having said that, Christians must bear in mind that the word of God costs money to spread, and may support ministries in any way they can.
Finally, there is something worthy of bearing in mind. These gansterlike pastors, or the prosperity preachers and healers may actually be achieving healing and casting out demons if (a) they strongly believe they can heal through or in the name of Jesus and or (b) if the sick or afflicted person has the faith that deliverance will happen. (Mark 16: 17-18). Such results will swell their churches and generate more cash for their hot lifestyles and private jets, but that does not mean they are people of God. They will be rejected in the end by Jesus the Christ, See Matthew 7:21-23:
7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
I will therefore say to my Christian brother, be careful to put your faith in God and not on your pastor. The pastors are there to guide you spiritually, but you must know when their teachings are wrong or the ways of their lives become questionable. NOA