Letters to the Editor
Monday, August 09, 2004
Chapel of Scandals
These, indeed, are trying times for pentecostal churches in Nigeria. It's like they have suddenly found themselves in the very cesspool they used to criticise the orthodox churches of. I am very sure that soon, servants in the vineyard of the God will realise that money making and winning souls for Christ are two different enterprises and that like water and oil, they can't mix. While on His earthly mission, our Lord Jesus Christ emphasised this point when he sacked the temple in order to stop religious zealots from turning His father's house into robbers' den.
It is like the reasons He gave then for chasing away money changers in the temple are even more compelling in Christian churches today. Money is the root of all evil. It is referred to in numerous biblical portions as mammon. It is responsible for the culture of dissensions, rebellion and rivalry that have afflicted our churches today. Those who have one eye on money and the other eye on the Bible should realise that Ananias and Saphira could have been avoided but for the corruptive influence of money.
The mind-boggling scandal in Living Faith Church is a manifestation of the error of prosperity and materialism gospel associated with modern day pentecostal churches. Thus wealth, miracle, power and position from the bedrock of modern churches as opposed to holiness, godliness, contentment and self-examination encapsulated in the beatitudes.
The Living Faith Church scandal is interesting in that it is a sort of flashback to what transpired in the book of Nehemiah in which pride, insubordination, gossip, discrimination, partiality, dissension and scramble for position should not be found among Christians. Besides, the closure of supposedly unprofitable worship centres in terms of revenue generation has taken the wind out of the members' collective sail and equally created a shameful reference material for cynics and atheists alike to ridicule Christianity. It seeks to portray the proliferation of churches in our cities as mere business ventures under the guise of evangelisation. Perhaps the cassock is being mistaken for the priest.
Journalist should avoid commenting on God's established institutions. Jesus Christ is the head and judge of the church.
The pastor David Oyedepo I knew since 1977 is an instrument of faith. And for faith to be made alive, there must be storm to calm, mountain to move, valley to fill, and even desert to turn into sea.
These are what you saw and you called scandals. May God forgive you.
The ideological impasse between the Winners Chapel headed by Bishop David Oyedepo and George Owusu Adjeman, overseer of Ghana branch is not scandalous as adjudged, but a mere misunderstanding which is normal in any given setting, be it temporal or spiritual. Adjeman must be fully conversant and appreciative of the vision and workings of Winners Chapel in his capacity as one of the founding members. I humbly wish to counsel Adjeman to go back to the basis and revisit the take-off vision of the commission. He should rescind his earlier decision to back-out and maintain his focus on Christ, who is the master builder, the author and finisher of our faith and in the due course God, in his infinite mercy, will perfect and reward his labour in the vineyard.
On the issue of pastor's wives being relieved of their appointments and the closing of non-viable centres, I implore that the remittances being received from viable centres be channelled towards the upkeep of the pastors wives and equally maintain the non-viable centres as mission fields instead of closing them at the expense of soul winning.
Problems among church leaders which most of the time rock the bottom of the boat and engender break-aways from the main body dates back to the time of Henry VIII of England 1509-1547. Martin Luther ostensibly used Tetzel's sale of indulgence to challenge the Catholic Church which eventually led to his leaving Catholic Church to found Lutheran Church, a church he named after himself.
The scandal that rocks Winners Chapel is caused by individualistic ambition to have a good chunk of the church resources and an overbearing leadership. Today, blessing so to say, is put in the show glass for those who have the cash "to cash and carry." It is the aim to prove spiritual prowess that most founders of the new generation churches contract diabolical forces to their side for aid. And because God is not the central issue but an aside matter, they end up in chaos.
What message do the leaders of Winners Chapel send to their followers through their action? Is it do what I say and not what I do? If the main objective of the leaders is winning souls for Christ who is the pillar of any true church, then they have to convince their followers and indeed the world by words and deeds in order to earn a good name.
Stephen Asuquo Udoh,
It is my belief that he who establishes a church has chosen a good way. All founders of churches claim to have gotten a divine call to do so. As soon as they can back up such calls with the power to perform miracles, membership of their churches will start growing in geometrical progression. Before one will say "Alleluia" the church's founder will transform into the general overseer and will begin to run the church as his personal business forgetting the divine origin of the church which he claimed. Added to this, is the quest for money which will automatically start coming in and unfortunately this instant wealth is seen as the evidence of God's support for his effort.
The current scandal rocking Winners Chapel is a phenomenon that cuts across almost all the churches especially the Pentecostal ones. It goes to show to what extent the real word of God has been sacrificed at the alter of wealth in our today's churches. Winners Chapel is rated as one of the fastest growing churches in Nigeria. Our writers use the churches population, material wealth of the founder as well as other mundane things as yardstick to measure the growth of a church.
Biblically, where lieth growth in a church where money is the determining factor, while spiritual growth of its members is not a priority? Whenever such a situation arises in a church, such a church is on its way to self destruction as it has happened in Winners Chapel. In the Bible, we are told that Jesus entered the synagogue and chased away those who turned the place into a banking hall. The simple message from that action is that money should not take the front seat in the church.
Akwa Ibom State.
Your story on Winners chapel was not thoroughly done and did not deserve to be the cover story. A superficial story of six out of fifty two pages did not deserve to be headline.
Emmanuel E. Ekpenyong,
As the establishment of churches by our new generation pastors and bishops is being used as money-spinning machines to oil their other business like school, and hospitals. It is no surprise that Bishop Oyedepo, the founder of Living Faith Church, sacked George Owusu Adjeman, the head of the Accra Branch of the church, because he stopped remitting the sum of $50,000 monthly to the headquarters of the church in Nigeria, as the bug of insatiable acquisition of material wealth, has equally bitten our new generation pastors and bishops.
It is very regrettable that Bishop Oyedepo closed the branches of the church that were not yielding enough money to pay the salaries of those manning those branches and for remittance to the mother church. It is sad that his pastors are grumbling, because they are not being adequately remunerated from the money being raked into the coffers of the church from the business ventures established by their Bishop and from the different branches of their church.
I want to ask these new generation pastors and bishops, what it will profit them, if they gain the whole world and lose their lives, or if they end up in hell fire, instead of making it to heaven for failing to follow the foot steps of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Return of Otokoto
The return of Otokoto is a mixed bag. It is good. It is bad. It is criminal and nonsense that drops a useful message for anyone who is Mr. Somebody to learn. Even someone who is Mr. Nobody is not sure he would not fall a victim. It is a mystery that should awaken the ingenuity of the authority in the system of crime prevention and control. I call it a mystery because as at the time of the report the security operatives have not known how they have been beaten.
Apart from the unfortunate couple who had patience with God for 13 years whose blessing is turned into mourning resulting in returning to square one, the syndicate struck at the right target. People who have enough and to spare. People who are in a position to better the state of things in the nation through patriotic contributions but chose to be self-oriented with scorn to the larger society.
But, why do criminals equip themselves better than the police? They have efficient communication and other technological devices that serve them well. The police should wake up from slumber and fish out the criminals operating in Imo State. The police can only succeed if they stop running with the hare and shouting the haunt to catch it.
Stephen Asuquo Udoh.