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Pastors Dangle Wealth To Lure Poor to Church

NIGERIA

By Olabisi Deji-Folutile
Guest Contributor & 2016 Leadership Fellow

The billboards come in different shapes and the messages are captivating. The words are carefully crafted and the message clear: Jesus is able to make you rich. Come to Jesus and end your days of poverty. Are you tired of lack and want? Jesus is the answer.

These are some of the ways the Christian message is marketed in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. And it works.

A majority of the country's 182 million people live on less than one dollar per day, making poverty Nigeria's greatest challenge, according to the Director General of the National Population Commission Ghaji Bello.

The economic situation could get worse. The International Monetary Fund predicts that GNP will shrink by 1.7 per cent this year, which would be the first full-year contraction in over 20 years.

So anyone offering a solution to hunger and want is sure to get attention. People are hungry, and a message of salvation becomes more attractive when packaged with a promise of a full stomach.

Little wonder then that some pastors capitalize on the problem of financial stress in the lives of non-Christians to woo them to their churches. 

A pastor identified only as Dele, based in Warri, Delta State, one of the 36 states in Nigeria, explains why he and other pastors organize programs promising to liberate people from poverty. 

“That’s how programs sell,” Dele says.

"The type of messages and programs a pastor preaches or organizes depend on the needs of the people. If the people are poor, definitely, anything that anchors to how they can achieve financial prosperity will appeal to them.

“If a person is sick and you organize a program on salvation, they will not come," Dele says. "You have to tell them that there is going to be healing and working of miracles. Likewise, if the people are looking for money, which is usually the case among many Nigerians, you have to organize a program that is anchored in getting rich. If you tell them there is an anointing to get rich, they will buy it. People don’t attend programs because they want salvation. It’s the truth, and it’s unfortunate.

“I used to shy away from using this tactic to entice people to programs before, but I discovered from my pastor friends that it’s working for them. You have to tell people what they want to hear so they will attend your program. If they don't hear what they want to hear, they won’t come, and you’ll be frustrated.”

New converts soon realize that they can’t get something for nothing. After the initial response, the pastors begin to teach their converts the importance of sowing financial seeds in order to get financial rewards.

Referring to the planting of "seeds," Dele says, “I do that because it is biblical.’’

“That’s not a gimmick. If you sow, you’ll reap. If people sow in faith, they will be blessed. I sow, too, and I encourage people to sow anytime I organize a program. You can’t be blessed if you can’t give. Personally, I don't force or persuade people. If they feel like doing it, fine. If they don’t want to, it’s also fine,” he says. “No matter how many church programs you attend, if you can’t obey certain natural laws, you can’t be blessed.”

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