I’ll probably get roasted for this but what needs to be said, need to be said.
We get carried away by so many things in the 21st century Pentecostal Christian community and the earlier we realize how much we’re hurting ourselves the better.
The subject of money and giving has been a controversial issue within the church.
Perhaps it’s because church members feel ripped off when they see their leaders driving the latest cars, living in mansions, vacationing in choice countries and their kids getting educated in expensive schools. Church members wonder why they have to pay for their pastor’s expensive lifestyle while they struggle to make ends meet.
Of course the go-to argument or rationale here is that the more you give to your pastor, the more ‘blessings’ come your way. And there is actually a precedent set in the bible!
Check this out:
Galatians 6: 6 (NLT)
“Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.”
1 Timothy 5:17-25 (NLT)
“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well,[a]especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”
You see, when we read the words of Apostle Paul to the early church, we must read with an understanding of the background and the times when those letters were written. The early churches were under immense persecution and there was no church administration like we have now. But they had a fluid structure that worked.
Church elders/deacons were appointed by the apostles (See Acts 6:2-5), and teachers were often times apostles or elders who traveled from location to location (a lot of times, across continents) preaching and meeting with the community of Christians along the way. As a result, most of them have to be accommodated, fed and provided for by their host Christian community. (See Acts 11:19 -23).
In Philippians chapter 2 (from verse 25) Paul wrote a glowing recommendation of a man called Epaphroditus who traveled and preached so much he got sick and almost died. Paul actually said he risked his life! Such men were provided for on their journeys.
How does this relate to us 21st century church? Of course our needs have changed. Quite a number of pastors have secular jobs and businesses and they do not go on missionary journeys. (When was the last time your church commissioned missionaries to countries and rural communities to start churches?)
One more important thing to note in the early church is that, the leaders were sensitive to the needs of the people and they did all they could not to overburden them financially. Check this:
2 Thessalonians 3: 7-9 (NLT)
“For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. 8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.”
I’m laying all these foundation because over the years, I have seen Christians get swindled out of their hard-earned money to cater to the whims of men who use the bible as a tool for bullying.
If your pastor has no other job but administering the affairs of the church, caring for the members, preaching and teaching, it’s certainly biblical to make sure his needs are met.
While I was growing up, my grandmother was the matron at the village ECWA church. (ECWA means Evangelical Church Of West Africa). The church board of elders determined the pastor’s salary and provided housing and other allowances as needed. Offerings and tithes records were kept and those in charge were held accountable.
In fact, quarterly reports were made available and I remember the church treasurer regularly came up to read out to the members exactly how much had been raised, how much had been spent and for what purpose. There was accountability! Members knew what their money was being used for and the pastors did not live above their means.
These days, a few ‘privileged insiders’ know exactly what is going on and you can see them. They are the senior pastors who live as lavishly as the G.O or Founder or Reverend or Bishop or whatever title the Senior Boss has been given.
These days, our pastors are surrounded by PA, Special Assistants, Special Ushers, Body guards and even police escorts. Members brag about how ‘blessed’ and rich their pastors are, while living from hand to mouth.
Along came the Partner’s Principle. The church creating a special set of people committed to sponsoring church projects and inevitably, Pastor’s enjoyment of life. In some churches, these partners are treated to special conferences (I attended several actually) where awards are given to the highest donors and more
sermons donation inspiring motivational speeches are given.
These ‘partners’ are told they are more blessed than the regular members and guess what? To even attend the conference, you must have given up to a certain amount. The weeks leading up to the partner’s conference, regular members are bombarded with not so subtle messages to contribute more money so they can gain access and join this ‘elite group’. How sad.
Oh along came the Birthday principle. Why should church members be put under pressure to donate for their Pastor’s birthday? I totally understand the desire to honor and celebrate someone who has blessed you but these days, church members are put under undue pressure. Church volunteer groups (Ushers, Choir, Bible study groups, e.t.c) are given financial targets to donate. Why?
When I was in the University and involved in the campus fellowship system, I witnessed brainwashed young people giving their school fees to the campus pastor in the name of ‘sowing dangerous seed’. I also saw those same students running helter-skelter when registrations are about to close and they haven’t gotten the ‘miraculous blessing’ they were promised.
Did Christians give away their money and sell their possessions in the bible? Yes! Why? Check this:
Acts 4:32-35 (NLT)
“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.”
Check out verse 34 – THERE WERE NO NEEDY PEOPLE AMONG THEM. Why? Because the Apostles shared everything equally!
Why didn’t the apostles have the best share and claim that ‘since they were the leaders, they have to show by example of how lavishly they live, how rich and prosperous God is?’ Since that is what our 21st century pastors are preaching!
Take a look at your pastor. Where does his personal business end and the church business start? What business or businesses does he own? If he is the CEO of the church’s business enterprises – schools, publishing, hospitals, Media organisations, restaurants, hotels, event centres (Oh yes! Some churches do have them) How much does he earn as salary? Who audits these accounts? Do these secular businesses pay taxes?
The church-funded NGOs and other non-profit humanitarian projects, who audits their accounts? Since these projects are largely funded by donations from church members, are the members given information about how their money is being spent? Who and who sits on the board of these NGOs?
How many staff members are employed by the church admin? What is their salary structure?
I once spoke to a couple of staff members of a mega-church and guess what? Their salary had not been paid for over 6 months!
Dear Christians, it’s time to stop being so gullible. Seek answers. Unlike what your pastor has told you, you have the right to ask questions. Take time to study OUTSIDE OF WHAT YOU ARE BEING FED EVERY SUNDAY. Most importantly, seek God PERSONALLY. He will open your heart and teach you himself. I can say this because I have been there. I have been in the system and God helped me to see clearly. He can help you too. (If you are willing to seek out the truth)
I am not against giving. After all, it’s a godly character and principle. But i am against deliberate misinformation from people who have been charged with the responsibility of taking care of God’s people. Your giving should not be by compulsion. You should not have to be manipulated to give.
I leave you with the words of Apostle Paul
1 Timothy 6: 2-10 (MSG)
2-5 These are the things I want you to teach and preach. If you have leaders there who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumors. Eventually there’s an epidemic of backstabbing, and truth is but a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck.
6-8 A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.
9-10 But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.