“Where two or three are gathered, an offering must be collected”.
To be a successful pastor, you have to learn the tricks of the trade. This has nothing to do with preaching insightful and inspiring messages. Neither does it have to do with ministering to the spiritual needs of the members of the church.
The pastor succeeds or fails according to his ability to pull a crowd and extort as much money as possible from his congregation. If he fails in these vital areas, he is not likely to survive for long as a pastor.
The technique is simple. You tell your congregants to give and give to the church until it hurts. Even those in debt are encouraged to get out of debt by giving out of their indebtedness.
These are the voices of strangers who make merchandise of men by peddling the word of God. Peter says: “These teachers in their greed will tell you anything to get hold of your money.” (2 Peter 2:3).
Some pastors tell Christians that money operates like a “gel activator.” The promises of God proclaimed in their messages are sealed until a “seed offering” is given to activate it.
Therefore, you are likely to see different members of their congregation suddenly get up in the middle of their sermons to throw money at their feet. One pastor puts this succinctly, saying: “Anointing without money is equal to annoyance.”
The offering time has become the focal point of church services. Several offerings are collected under different guises. Sometimes, one is collected for “the Father;” another for “the Son;” and yet another for “the Holy Spirit.”
Shaming the poor
Even though Jesus says when we give, our right hand should not know what our left hand is doing (Matthew 6:3); some insist offerings must be held up for all to see, in an attempt to embarrass those not inclined to give, or those inclined to offer notes in the smaller currency denominations.
One convention requires everybody to march forward and drop their offerings on a tray placed strategically in front of the pastor so he can observe exactly how much they are giving and intimidate them into giving more than they would like to. It also serves to embarrass those who cannot give and stay behind.
At other times, pastors constrain their members to make public vows and pledges. One of my former pastors used to say: “Pledge more than you have; stretch your faith.” When the time comes to redeem the pledge, they will hit you with Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 which says if you make a vow and do not redeem it God will destroy the work of your hands.
One technique is to take the offering early to ensure people do not leave before the money can be taken from them. But sometimes this strategy backfires. In one of the services I attended, the pastor noticed that some of the wealthier church members came in after the offering had been collected. So, he insisted it should be collected again.
The reason he gave was a classic. He said: “I do not want anybody here to be denied the blessings of the day.” Of course, God only blesses during offering times.
Yetunde Olanrewaju came up with what I presume is a parable. She said one day, a swarm of bees descended on a church while a service was in session. The people panicked and started running out of the building. But the pastor was up in arms. “Wait, wait, please wait,” he pleaded to no avail. “We haven’t yet collected the offering.”
God forbid that where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, an offering should not be collected.
When a villain has ill-gotten gains, he sometimes needs to have the money “laundered.” This is the process whereby stolen money is made respectable by moving it through many legal channels designed to camouflage its original illicit source.
Sometimes, the stolen money is smuggled out of the country and then brought back in through regular channels, to make it seem like it originated from foreign shores whose records are inaccessible domestically.
Another version of this money-laundering process is duplicated in the churches with pastors as the lynchpin. You steal the money; you kill for the money; it makes no difference. Just bring the money; pastors will receive it gladly from you with no questions asked. When you bring the money, they will bless you and pray for you. They will also pray that the source from which you got it will not run dry, so you can go and bring some more.
This goes a long way to assuage the conscience of the wicked. They are encouraged that as long as they give a significant fraction of their stolen money to the church, the theft is sanctified. In effect, the offering is used by the pastor to make atonement for the sin of theft, thereby releasing the crooked donor from guilt. So, pastors receive and launder stolen money on God’s behalf.
Jesus shows nothing but contempt for this kind of thinking. He said to the Pharisees: “Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?” (Matthew 23:19).
Thieves and robbers are Satan’s gifts to the churches. Visit the mega-churches in Nigeria and you will discover the people seating in the front row are the big-time thieves who have robbed the country blind. Everybody knows they are crooks; nevertheless, they have pride of place in the churches. Their seats are reserved. The messages preached are carefully crafted so they are not offended and remain comfortable in their thievery.
Mega-pastors would hardly operate in the tradition of John the Baptist, calling the Herod’s of the country to repentance. On the contrary, when Herod comes to church, they lavish encomiums on him. They give him the microphone to address the congregation.
I was given a fascinating report about a well-known Lagos prosperity pastor. He suddenly saw the light one Sunday and decided to preach the true gospel for a change. He warned his parishioners that: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34). He told them if they did not repent, they would miss the kingdom of God.
No sooner had he finished his message than uproar arose. The major financiers of the church were livid, and they asked for an emergency meeting with him. They did not mince words. They told him in no uncertain terms that that kind of message was unacceptable.
It was very easy for him as a pastor to grandstand with lofty religious sentiments, while living on the money he collects from them. But how did he think they were getting the money they gave him? Let him leave the pulpit and come into the real world so he can see whether it is possible to become a “slum-dog billionaire” through the righteousness that exalts a nation.
The pastor’s ears were opened. He quickly went back to his old time-worn prosperity and motivational messages, and everyone was happy again. “Preach it, pastor; preach it,” they cheer him on, while an attendant dutifully comes forward to wipe his face with a towel.