For the past two weeks, there has been a serious uproar in the Christian community in Nigeria. It is all about a law recently assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020. It is aimed at regulating churches and other Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria. It is for churches and organisations that are registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
During the registration exercise, the organisation or church will provide trustees in the form of chairman or president, secretary, treasurer, or whatever title they may choose to call their trustees. Thereafter, it will provide objectives of the church or organisation. The objectives are what the organisation or church intends to pursue, the reason for which the registration is being sought. The CAC expects the organisation or church to adhere to the stated objective.
It also needs be stated that there are lines of communication and there are protocols for approvals of funds for whatever purpose. The president or founder of the church has no right to go to the church treasury and take money for his personal use at his own will. He must past through the process and it must be for a genuine cause, not for personal aggrandisement.
Again, it must be stated that the church money belongs to the church to the church and not to the pastor. The pastor has no right to unilaterally decide how the money should be spent. If he does that he is wrong. Some churches have salaries for their pastors. Some only take care of all the needs of their pastors as far as they are doing the work of God. In the case of those receiving payment from church in the form of salaries, at the end of the month, they are paid as it is agreed by the trustees.
Others who do not collect salaries but are taken care of by the church, all their needs are taken care of by the church. This include their feeding, their housing, clothing, transport, children school fees and others. It is is the church trustees that put these things in place. In this wise, the money of the church belongs to nobody. It is the trustees that decide how it should used and what it should be used for. No pastor, whether founder of church or not, has right to dip his hand into the church money for personal use.
But many pastors and church founders have veered off from this principle. They have turned the house of God and the money generated to their personal property. They take unilateral decisions on how the church money should be used. They turn the church to family affairs. They milk members of the church for their own enrichment. They use sugar-coated tongues to hoodwink their members and they empty themselves for the pastors.
Many of such pastors establish churches basically to fend for their families. As the offerings come, they are happy that they have gathered money for themselves. Those who could not secure job in the circular world, they quickly resort to establishing churches and begin milking their church members. They have deviated from the established objectives of the church, which is essentially for evangelism and winning of souls for the kingdom of God.
This is why we now hear things like “richest pastor in the world, richest pastor in Africa, richest pastor in Nigeria.” When I hear this, I begin to wonder, rich in what way? In the kingdom of God or rich in this world? Rich in money or rich in power of God? Is it the pastor that should branded rich the church? Is the money in the church for the pastor or the church? As much as I know the money belongs to the church and not to the pastor. And as such, the pastor as an individual has no right to decide what the money should be used for. It is the trustees that take such decision. Anybody who does otherwise is a thief in the house of God.
For the fact that many pastors have deviated from the original objectives of the church, they are afraid that the CAMA law may catch up with them. This is because when the books are audited, there may be faults that may be incriminating and such could lead to suspension of the trustees as may be deemed necessary by the CAC. But for those who are faithful in their financial management, operating with the principle setting up the church, there is no cause for fear.
It is also a fact that the government cannot change pastors of a church. No government will do that. The government expects the pastors to adhere to the objectives of the church, follow established protocols in utilising church funds and have proper accountability. When there no proper accountability in the church, then there is fear of government interference in the CAMA law. But those pastors who fear God and allow the process to run because the money belongs to God and must not be misappropriated have no cause for fear.
The fact remains that no government can strangulate the church of God. Pastors should avoid materialism and pursue the heavenly reward. Nobody says pastors or Christians should be poor, that is not the will of God. But the wealth must be acquired through legitimate means, even in the church. Pastors that deceive their members to enrich themselves are not doing the will of God.
They should remember that a day is coming they will give account to God on how they spend the resources of the church. The money generated in the church belongs to the church and not the pastor. So, the saying that one pastor is the richest in one nation or the other is an aberration, except the pastor has properties before venturing into the church ministry. But converting church money to his own and going about as the richest or whatever, using church money, tantamount to stealing the money of God.