There are three churches I so cherished in the country. The first is the Baptist denomination which operates under the Nigerian Baptist Convention. The Baptist mission is one of the oldest churches in the country and few years ago, it celebrated its one hundred years of the convention. The Baptist Mission was founded on the principles of democracy which is still in operational till date. In Baptist, the church, properties, money and other valuables are not the property of the Pastor, rather he is an employee of the church who can resigns at any time but on clocking the maximum age of sixty five or so, he goes on retirement like government workers. This did not affect the pastor alone but other workers in all Baptist offices in the convention, conferences, associations and churches. The hierarchy of the church comprises the executive council which is made up of the heads of all departments such as the Women Missionary Union, Men Missionary Union, Choirs, Youths, Lydia, GAs to mention but a few. There are also different committees in place to assist in ensuring that the church administration is operated successfully.
Another church that deserves attention is the Anglican Communion of Nigeria. Its structures begins from the churches to archdiocesan, diocese, and the national body. The Anglican body can be referred to as practicing autocratic system of government but with a slight difference as operates in the world of politics. On graduation from Seminary a pastor is posted to a church by the Diocese hence a church can have four pastors or more. No individuals or groups have the authority to say no to the accommodation of such pastors posted to them. Unlike the Baptist, they have a Bishop who controls the Diocese and all pastors in the diocese reports directly to him while he is answerable to the national Bishop based in Abuja. In terms of Finance they operates like the Baptist too. The pastor of the church is not the owner of the church fund and properties. One beautiful aspect of the Anglican denomination is that a pastor must not stay more than three years in a church and then transferred without objection.
The third church that deserves attention too is the Catholic denomination. Operating autocratic government like the Anglican Communion, this denomination has come a long way. With it’s headquarter in Rome, Italy, the administration of the church remained the same irrespective of the changing environment. With Rev. Father at the helm of affairs, assisted by Rev. Sisters and others, their postings to churches have the same resemblance with that of the Anglican Communion. The church has many organizations like the two churches mentioned above. The finance, money and other properties of the church belong to the church and not to individuals. When the above named three churches came into the country they saw the need for the people to be educated and attended to health wise hence schools and hospitals were built free for the people to receive knowledge and get healthy. All the money spent in this projects were brought into the country by the missionaries.
The above three churches namely, the Baptist, Anglican and Catholic were churches founded on structures and principles. In these churches there is nothing like General Oversea, Founder, Leader, Papa, Mama or Bishop of the whole world. In the above churches, the Baptist, Anglican and Catholic has succession plans that were existence from time immemorial. In these three churches the title Daddy does not arise. The inheritance of the church properties does not rest on the family lineage that is, on the retirement of the Pastor of the church or death, his wife cannot assume the mantle of leadership of the church. The son and other children of the Pastor cannot equally take over the control of the church activities. In short term, the Baptist, Anglican and Catholic are not family churches or Business as it has come to be known today. In these churches the Pastor does not have the power to single handedly remove a member from his position or suspend him or her. That decision rest on the church in Council. However, their Pastors are well respected and trained from their own seminary.
Around 1980 or so, Late Benson Idahosa of Blessed Memory founded Church of God Mission International Benin City. This was the genesis of the mega churches in Nigeria as others soon follow. In the 21st century, the bread and butter available in the mega churches became so attractive to the extent that founding churches becomes lucrative business in the country generally. In the north to the south, east to the west the churches were all competing for recognition. In several cities in Nigeria, one can count not less than one thousand churches adorning every street and corner. Some of these churches displayed their pictures with their wives wearing oversized hat in the sign board. Today the picture of our savior Jesus Christ has disappeared from most of these mega churches. The position of the founder, Leader, General Oversea, Accountant, Auditor, Treasurer rests with the founder and owner of the church.
In 1996, one of my friend was attending a new generation (mega) church. I told him that the founder was merely deceiving them and he should quit and joined any of the churches discussed above. He was not convinced with my assertion. They contributed much money to acquire a piece of land in the city of Lagos, a bus and other valuable properties. After some years of contributions, I asked him one day if he has ever seen the accounts of the church and he answered in the negative. Some months later, I met him again and I suggested that he and other members should call the founder to give account of the church money and expenses. When the youths met with some elders they agreed to ask for the accounts but before they could discuss it the matter leaked and the founder invited them to a meeting. It was in that meeting that he asked the youths and elders where were they when the Holy Spirit called him? He immediately suspended them from the church. My friend regretted his stupidity. It was later discovered in the church that both the land, bus and other church properties were acquired in the name of the founder and not the church.
For the past one week the sacking of Jim Obazee, the former Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria over his enforcement of the law which led to the retirement of Pastor Adeboye did not come as a surprise to many. The law was signed by President Jonathan but due to lack of political will, he could not summon courage to implement the law. Writing in the Daily Trust of 13/1/2017 on a topic titled ‘’ Obazee and accounting for God’s money on earth’’, Jibrin Ibrahim has this to say, ‘’His rashness aside, Mr. Jim Obazee had raised issues about accountability that should not be disregarded in the review process that is to follow. He had argued that, ‘’In keeping other peoples’ money, you have to prepare accounts’’. The fall of moral decadence in the society also accounted for the quick attack on the law by the mega churches. The law should be obeyed and complied with as Adeboye did. Those who wants others to comply with the laws of the bible should not do otherwise. The era of handing over churches to wives, children, and family members is over and it should be allowed to rest in peace.