Ecclesiastical Corruption: The Harm Of Commercialising The Gospel

Greg Anakor (not his real name) has heard about the exploits of Evangelist Sola Elisha, a new minister in town, and decided to put a call across to him in order to get him minister at his Church’s annual city crusade.  After the warm introduction and passing the invitation with expectation to hear “I will pray about it” or “I will check my itinerary”, Anakor was shocked when he heard, “what is in for the honorarium? He wondered how some ministers make mockery of the gospel by commercialising it.

This above short story x-rays the subject which is fast becoming a norm in some quarters as ministers ask for gratifications and charge outrageous amounts of money for ministrations, using as defense the parlance, ‘where you work is where you eat from’. Some also say, “If I don’t charge for ministrations, how can I meet up with my bills?

It has also been said that some ministers crave for exalted positions so as to receive fatter honorariums.

However, some who frown at this trend believe that in line with the scriptures, the gospel is received freely from God therefore should be given freely.

At a town hall meeting recently, several religious leaders were in attendance to discuss the way forward with emphasis on ridding the Church of corruption. One of the speakers, Rev. Israel Oyetunji, Coordinator of the Ikeja, Lagos Chapter  of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in his paper, ‘Strengthening the Moral Institution in Building a Corrupt Free Society’, said discussion on corruption would not be balanced if they refused to talk about the corruption going on among some supposed ministers and leaders.

He decried the ecclesiastical corruption whereby some ministers engage in false doctrines to deceive, dispossess and even defraud members.

“Commercialisation of religious charlatanism is a growing trend in our nation; there are reported cases of embezzlement among church members and even ministers. Some ministers now ask for gratification and charge outrageous amounts for ministrations.

“Ecclesiastical corruption compounds the corruption in the nation, weakens the church and compromises her moral right to speak against corruption in the nation,” he said.

Monsignor John Aniagwu, Vicar General, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos Episcopal Vicar, Ikeja Region and Parish Priest of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos, in a chat with Sunday Independent, said ministers, who are in the habit of comemrcialising the gospel are doing so to their peril.

“Obviously, Jesus says in Matthew 10 verses 5 to 8, ‘…Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of Heaven has come near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.’

“We are supposed to render our service with due diligence; then if people decide of their own free will to appreciate, then it is fine. We don’t ask for payment.  In my Church, we call it Simony. Simony is a sin of selling sacred things and we don’t do that; I believe that those pastors who do that are hungry and they certainly did not understand the Word of God that they are claiming to preach,” he stated.

Pastor Moses Lucky Ogadi, Senior Pastor of Christ Elect Pentecostal Assembly, condemned the comemercialisation of water and items such as handkerchiefs, anointing oils  and honey as prevalent in some Nigerian churches.

Ogadi, in an interview with the media, opined that Churches who are into such act are making merchandise of gullible persons and at the same time contradicting what Jesus Christ stood for during his earthly ministry.

The cleric, however, urged individuals to activate their faith in God through their personal encounter with God as no man saves except God.

“Pastors who sell blessed water, honey, anointed handkerchiefs are involved in some kind of trading in the Church. Jesus told us that His house is a house of prayer not for buying and selling. In His earthly ministry, the Bible tells us of how He got angry with people who were buying and selling in the synagogue.

“People should not deceive themselves searching for miracles from wrong places of worship. You don’t need a special pastor to obtain mercy or miracle from God. Simply go to God in prayer with your faith intact and you will see the wonders of God,” Ogadi pointed out.

Also Very Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, while speaking with Sunday Independent, said, “It is totally condemnable. Majority are not into religion for worshipping God but want ‘sharp sharp’ money.”

Prophetess Lola Akinjobi of The Light House Of GodChristian fellowship Centre in her comment, said premium should be placed on preachers making impacts and not being caught in the race for materialism.

“God is not a respecter of persons as He would judge everyone according to the work He has asked us to do here on earth. If a pastor, for example, leaves his or her calling and craves another office, it means the work is no longer done in spirit but in flesh, as some do because they want to be given fat honorarium when they go out for ministration.

“It is not about the office one occupies but about the impact one is making in the office God has called us to occupy,” she noted.

Similarly Rev (Dr.) John Kome, Senior Pastor of God’s Kingdom Christian Centre International (GKCC), warned ministers to be cautious of how they go about the gospel work as they would render account of stewardship.

Kome said, “My advice to such Christians is that God is waiting for them; every day is for them but one day is for the owner. The owner of the gospel they are making merchandise of and making mess of would hold them accountable one day. My advice to them is that they retrace their steps.”

Apostle Nkechi Iloputaife of Victory Christian Church viewed it as one of the end-time signs.

“We are in the last days and this is troubling. Jesus said the last days will come where some will claim to be Christians but they are not. There will be scriptural malpractices.

“In 1st timothy 4 verse 1, we are warned to be careful so it shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. One of the things that happened to the church more is a shift that was caused by our misplaced priorities; we have costumed our agenda, we have neglected the ordinate and then we have become slaves of the imminent.

“For the church, it is not about who have had an encounter with Christ, it is highly commercialised. And Paul said in 2nd Corinthian verses 17, ‘we are not many of us who don’t merchandise the gospel’, which means back in the days, they were also false prophets but that doesn’t mean they were not true ones.

“The problem with these things is that they are trying to distract people from what is real because it will make the people feel like every church and every pastor is corrupt but these things are there and that’s because we shifted our focus from God’s agenda and our agenda becomes about making money,” she stated.

Continuing she said, “Our agenda is more on commercial, our agenda is highly commercialise and so it moves us and devil moved in; ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’ according to 1st timothy 6 verse 10. Once the love of money overshadows your love for God, devil will moved in. He will move in with everything he has so there is so much going on; there are so much spiritual malpractices.

“There’s a lot going on that you will begin to wonder ‘is heaven really real to a lot of us? This is shocking but what I can say from the book of Revelation 30 ‘you that follow righteousness continue to follow it, you also that do wickedness continue because you have chosen that path.’ People will make their choice; is either you choose God or you choose the devil.

“At a time, I was asking God where are you? Can’t you see the devil has corrupted many people. He said ‘child they made their choices’. He said ‘I gave man the will to choose who he will serve; people have made their choices and that’s because the love of money has overshadowed their love for God.”

Jacqueline Ogoh, a worker in a Pentecostal church, quoting Matthew 10 verse 8, said, “’freely you have received, freely give’.

She said, “Whatever grace or anointing we have or carry was imparted upon us by the working of God’s grace. He gave gifts unto men. The grace upon us is not for sale or merchandise. People are not supposed to pay for it except of course if such grace is appreciated without any demand made for the appreciation.

“It becomes wrong when demand for payment is made before or after such grace or anointing is imparted through whatever means. The woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus freely even though she feared when she was discovered. It was her faith that made her whole.

“When grace is paid for or asked to be paid for, then the potency of such is in doubt; then it is no more of faith but of work. This portends grave danger to the church and the faith of the people.”

Rev. Elisha Ogundiya, former CAN chairman, Osun State, stressed that some preachers are led by greed paving way for them to live short of the gospel of truth.

“I make bold to say that most of the ministers in Nigeria are actually not called. Greed and inordinate ambition to acquire wealth overnight called them into ministry; hence we have this tragedy on our hands today. It is not hyperbolical to say that the body of Christ as we have in the country today is not what the Lord Jesus Christ died for. I

“In my own opinion, the church is supposed to be a body of transformed Christians. But the question is: how many Christians in Nigerian churches today are transformed? Is the lifestyle of some self-acclaimed ministers exemplary? Today, we have more crooks in the Church than elsewhere. Why? This is because many ministers have failed in their divinely ordained responsibility to preach the truth to members,” Ogundiya expressed.

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