THE CHURCH IS A CHARITY NOT A BUSINESS
The news has gone viral about the sack of several pastors of the Living Faith Church (LFC) aka Winners’ Chapel by the Church Hierarchy. The reason for the termination as contained in a letter which is making the rounds on social media is — Church growth index falls below expectations.
My comment on this matter is based solely on the fact that I consider a Church as a CHARITY and not a profit-oriented business. As a Chartered Accountant for 29 years, I have worked for profit-oriented businesses for 25 years out of my 30 years of working life! It was only my first 5 years as a university teacher that I did not work for a profit-oriented business. During my career, the compensation I received was solely based on my performance, if I did well, I earned well, if I did poorly, I earned poorly! I was also in positions of authority where I had to let staff go for the same reasons adduced by LFC. So, I will not criticise LFC if it was a profit-oriented business. If you see LFC as a profit-oriented business, then all I will write below will be disagreeable to you and perhaps we can agree to disagree ab initio!
A Church that has Jesus Christ as the standard is expected to show patience, compassion, forgiveness and love to all. The love of Christ is that which is self-emptying without expecting anything in return. It is on this standard that I find the treatment by LFC of her pastors as falling below expectations.
I am not privy to the terms and conditions in the contract of engagement of the pastors but ‘Church growth index’ adduced as the reason for the sack could only possibly mean one thing — non-growth in membership and hence revenue. This should not ordinarily be a sufficient reason for a Church to terminate her pastors’ contracts of engagements. Because a Church not being a business but a charity, even if it is one soul that is being saved should be enough! The Apostles were in this same shoddy performance index. Jesus Christ had taken 3 good years to coach them, mentor them and prepare them for ministry. But the Apostles did not grow the membership of the Church by even 1 extra member after Jesus was gruesomely executed by haters. Instead, the Apostles abandoned the mission they were commissioned for — fishers of men — and returned to their old professions — fishers of fish! When Jesus found this out, He did not sack them. Instead, He did more work by feeding them with physical food (fish and bread) and spiritual food (prayed peace upon them) and sent them back into field. The Apostles did not return to the field, instead they went into hiding, cowering in one room in fear! Again, when Jesus found this out, He did not sack them! Instead, He sent the Holy Spirit to empower them and this time the Apostles took off and the ministry started to grow. Jesus showed clearly that a Church must be full of patience not only with the congregation but also with the pastors! I found patience lacking in the decision and action of LFC!
But let us concede even as it was not made clear in the sack letter that LFC indeed did all they could to boost the performance of the pastors but there were no improving results. Here the Church needed to understand that Benue is an exceedingly difficult territory to evangelise. The traditional Churches — Catholic, NKST, Methodist etc — are fully embedded with the people and a Pentecostal Church will have a hard time to make significant inroads into the hearts of the people. The situation in the Southwest (SW) where LFC thrives is different because that is a region that has always been attuned to Protestantism/Pentecostalism which Benue people derisively called alleluia and clapping of hands Churches! So, it was much easier for LFC to grow in the SW than it will grow in Benue, and it will be a tragic mistake to use the growth indices of LFC in the SW to measure the performance of pastors in the Benue territory.
If we however concede that all the above was considered and these pastors were still found wanting, then the question will be that why did LFC not transfer these pastors to work under more experienced and growth-oriented senior pastors so that the rookie pastors will keep their jobs, contribute to Church work, and gain more experience and capacity building?
If we concede that the above option was tried or there were no available training places for these non-performing pastors, then the next question will be, why did LFC not post these pastors to other apostolates to work such as schools, hospitals/clinics, water and bread factories, farms etc owned by the Church?
Let us assume that the above opportunities were either non-existent or limited and could not take all the pastors, the question then will be, what then happens to the call these pastors had or theirs was not a call but a job? There is a difference between a profession (work for money) and a vocation (work for love). Pastoring is expected to be a vocation as the person called gives his entire life to ministry and has no appetite for any other work! So, by LFC simply throwing her pastors under the bus, what happens to their call?
If we concede that to LFC, pastors are not called to a vocation but theirs is a profession and a sack was the last resort, the question will be that why not treat the pastors with humane disposition? No notice was given to enable the pastors source for alternative means of livelihood as the letter said they were sacked with immediate effect! There is also nothing in the sack letter that mentions severance benefits or any parting gift at all or pay in lieu of notice. Instead, the pastors are ordered to vacate their accommodation with immediate effect! Haba! What of pastors with families and mouths to feed! Just thrown out into the cold harmattan wind by a Church? Not even a profit-oriented business will be justified if they treat their workers this harshly and shabbily! LFC has acted without compassion and love towards these pastors who must have laboured for the Church under exceedingly difficult conditions and in challenging environments. I pray that the Holy Spirit touches someone in LFC to think again about the plight of these pastors. If they must go, let them be given a more befitting farewell and provided soft-landing pads to re-integrate more seamlessly into society together with their families. It is very saddening that a Church will throw-out her pastors and their families to destitution and hunger!
A Church is the conscience of society. If a Church treats her workers this badly, this Church cannot be justified to speak truth to temporal powers wielded so heavily against the people by politicians. A Church that is no better than the pharisees, scribes, elders and chief priests is no Church at all and Jesus Christ will be appalled by this conduct!
Let me conclude by offering a word of advice to LFC. Even if you bring magicians to become pastors in the Benue territory, they will be unable to perform any magic to grow the Church except you do what the traditional Churches have done and still doing to warm themselves into the hearts of the people. You don’t just arrive Benue and plant Churches all over the place with the sole aim of growing membership and hence income. LFC was basically emasculating the people financially and taking the money to their HQ without giving anything back! It will simply not work! To succeed in Benue territory, LFC must begin to plant not only Churches but hospitals/clinics, schools, boreholes, skills acquisition centres, farms, industrial businesses such as fruit juice factories, agro mills, bakeries, water plants etc. This is what the traditional Churches did to successfully warm themselves into the hearts of the people even if it required drawing money from their Churches elsewhere in the world to build these intervention projects!
Jesus Christ by His example did not only preach spirituality to the people, but He also tended to their every day needs by feeding, healing, consoling, visiting them etc. He was also the voice for the voiceless and attacked the authorities of the day on behalf of the people! A Church that carries only the Bible in hand will not do well!!!