Pastors Dangle Wealth To Lure Poor to Church
Dele claims his church usually uses part of the seed offerings collected during programs to cater to the needy among the congregation and those outside the congregation.
“People think pastors pocket ‘their’ money. Well, though I can’t answer for every pastor, I know that we usually use part of what we collect to feed the widows in the church. There are also some people who need food and other things. I don’t [abuse] my authority,” he adds.
But is it right to use prosperity as bait to lure people, especially the poor, to the church?
“It is not right, in any way," says Rev Remi Badru. "I want to make it clear that most of the pastors that do this are actually preying on the people's needs and ignorance to exploit them.
“It is true that God wants us to prosper, but then the question is: What is prosperity? Our message is to preach the Gospel of Jesus to the world. Our assignment as pastors is not to make our members millionaires. It is unfortunate that pastors are now merchandising the gospel, preaching money, and not Jesus.
“Poverty is bad and God has often revealed in His word that He as the good Shepherd will always meet our needs, but when we call people to the Lord, we should not call them promising that when they come to Jesus, they will become rich. Jesus never preached that kind of gospel. The apostles never preached that kind of gospel. Where did we get that from?”
Badru, whose church has hundreds of members, admits that some pastors take advantage of people's poverty to lure them to their churches, but he remains critical of them.
“The focus of the shepherd is to feed the sheep, and not to feed from the sheep," Badru argues.
While luring people to God on a false premise could backfire, Joseph, another pastor in Lagos says, “People must first of all be brought to hear the gospel of Christ.’’
“Yes, salvation could bring an end to poverty in the life of a Christian, but it is not a magic wand that ends poverty as it were. The only thing is that when people are saved and they consistently hear the word, it transforms their lives.
"The scriptures make it clear that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is. Working with that understanding, we know that when we show people the way, it changes their mentality and helps them to take better decisions that ultimately shatter poverty in their lives.’’
Another cleric, who does not want to be named, states that Jesus Christ also capitalized on the needs of the people to draw them to God. According to this cleric, scriptures are full of examples of Christ touching people at the point of their needs in order to draw them to salvation.
The Bible does record Jesus Christ meeting the needs of the people. He healed the sick and fed the hungry multitudes, among others. Jesus Christ always delivered a cure for affliction.
But what happens when people are promised riches but stay as penniless as ever?
Timothy is one of those lured to church on the premise that God would make him rich. He shares his experience.
“Sometimes, you feel empty. It's like being up there on the mountain and suddenly finding yourself back in the valley face to face with reality. The [Bible] truly gives you hope, but you soon realize that your pocket is still empty.”