Saturday, March 03, 2007

I saw a link on Mona's to a story about Matthew Ashimolowo, the 'Nigerian-Born' pastor of KICC, a church in England. Ashy as I'll call him here, is under investigation for receiving 250,000 pounds as his annual salary last year. That's about 60 million naira. The British consider church work a charity thing and not a business as Nigerians tend to see it.

According to the story, he was also given 120,000 pounds to celebrate his birthday by the church. I saw photos of that birthday celebration in some 5-star hotel in a magazine and had been taken aback then by its unbridled gaudy opulence (all this grammar...)
A church worker was quoted as saying he deserved more than that salary.

Here's laspapi's view point-

There are some churches that are worthy of being called that name.

There are other Nigerians who take advantage of 'the laws of God' to ask for "first-fruits, tithes and offerings" etc so as to spend on themselves. Church money is for the church, not for the private consumption of its leaders. The orthodox churches here have the advantage of keeping records of sums that come into their coffers and how these monies are disbursed.

I wrote and staged a play, "Rage of the Pentecost" at the Muson Centre in 2002 in which I lampooned "Men of God" who are in it mainly for material gain. Pastors came (that of my church inclusive), Imams too as well as many others. On Funmi Iyanda's live TV show then, where I was a guest, some church-goers (of suspicious churches) called the telephone lines to "attack" me for daring to question the "Men of God". The level of brainwashing that forbids you from opening your eyes worries me.
A friend told me, "laspapi, we know these things happen, but should we make it public? Unbelievers will say this is what we have always thought of them".
I replied him, "the work of God doesn't need anyone's help to stand. It can do so on it's own".
Then the classic statement they all make, "Judge not...". Yeah, right. I can "judge" politicians, governments, the military and society itself, in my plays, but not these self-appointed thieving church leaders?

Foggerrit. I have just started. I've been "arrested" outside Joshua's "Synagogue" by mobile policemen with guns and "church" workers (was on the way to a rehearsal at Taiwo Ajai-Lycett's in December of 2003 when I saw the building and tried to record its exterior on film), and been called names by other adherents of fraudulent churches.

Note that if someone had, had the sense to query the lunatic called Reverend King, he wouldn't have had the opportunity of pouring petrol on his church workers and setting them alight. Or the incestous Jesu Oyingbo. Or Jim Jones before the Guyana Tragedy. Or the Waco Cult.

Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye said at OBJ's swearing-in for a 2nd term- "I admit we have charlatans in our midst". He was speaking of Church Leadership in Nigeria. Thank you for that boldness, Sir. The business men who pose as M.O.G.s would die rather than say that.

So I have no problem with Ashimolowo, his bejewelled fingers and his out-of-date haircut but I thank the British for having the sense to check activities deemed suspicious. We should have an E.F.C.C. for churches here.

I have since renamed my play, "The Return of Sogidi" so as to get more people seated the next time I stage it.

ps. I'm a Christian. Don't judge me.


Waffarian said...

No mind them! If person talk now, na wahala! I don't understand why Naija people get so "sensitive" about churches, money, hypocrisy, etc. The moment one brings up these issues, "its because you are a doubting thomas", "have faith" "it is in the Bible" etc.

One can never get an answer to why people, educated people for that matter, attend these churches when they know that all the opulence and money is not what the average honest man in Nigeria is about.

(Now, I am "excluding" all the rich buisness tycoons, legitimate and illegitimate, 419s, market women, armed robbers, etc)

If you are taking trips abroad regularly,cough, your children are being educated abroad, cough, you are building houses, one in the village as well, let me break it down to all of you,no HONEST civil servant in Naija, working for the government(with government salary) can afford that shit.So if una like, make una attend all those churches from morning to night, and even self, dey donate "tithe", dey throw birthday party for una pastor, all of una dey go hell!
Na so the Bible talk! Nonsense!

Waffarian said...

Sorry for the long post, I just get so mad with all this church propaganda!

laspapi said...

waffarian, I feel you. In matters like this one, there's no such thing as a long post.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your echoes what I have been thinking and saying for quite a while. A number of people have been funding excesses of pastors for so long it is bordering on the ridiculous. I was at a church the other day and the guest pastor preached a very powerful and relevant sermon which was a call to order about people changing their attitudes to be more Christ-like and embracing the tenets of Christianity - humility, patience, generosity, etc. and how these virtues are tied to the outcome of situations in your life. I must admit that I was impressed until that point. To end his sermon, the guest pastor, told the congregation that in order to see the manifestation of Christ in their lives they needed to make a pastor's offering to him...I was so sure that I was hearing things until I heard him say - I am looking one person who is ready to make an offering of $1000 and that person should step forward and make their offering...a number of people rose to their feet and went forward...from that point he went lower and called people to make their offerings (like a reverse auction - $500, $200, etc) until he finally said that he knows all fingers are not equal and that he wants the blessings of his sermon to touch everyone in the congregation and that if you have $5 and below please come forward. At this point, you could count the number of people (myself included) in the congregation who were still seated in their seats and as I said a prayer to myself, I was disgusted not at the pastor but that there were people who succumbed to things like that all in the name of faith. It said a lot to me and it puts into perspective men of God like Ashy have been financed for so many years. When I mentioned the guest pastor's 'demand' for money to another Christian - whom I thought was 'like-minded', I was given a 'talk' about how pastors don't have basic salary and how they depend on the donations of church members to sustain themselves. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with 'supporting a pastor' to the extent that it is reasonable and if you feel you can afford it, but to believe that it will be tied to future blessings especially when it comes to embracing the simple things in life which ultimately come from you and changing your attitude...that I have a problem with. So you give the pastor $1000 and you think you will automatically be patient and humble...think again!

I am sorry for the long comment which now reads like a mini-blog entry, but it irks me anytime I see people who should know better acting like zombies at church on Sunday.

I am a Christian too!

Jennifer A. said...

I'm a Christian. The bible says "by their fruits ye shall know them," the bible also says, "expose evil,"...

So I state that I have no problem with the exposure of evil.

The bible also says, "touch not my anointed, and do my anointed no harm." So be careful not to talk about people who are truly set apart to spread the gospel of peace...(actually studying the WORD has shown me several consequences of doing just that)...

omohemi Benson said...

Don't worry Laspapi I won't judge you,am a christain too!

1st,there was an article once in Farafina a Nigerian magazine that last year titled "Men of God as Superstars" by Yemisi Ogbe.
If haven't, you should read it.

I have talked and thought about this issue,over and over,I am tired.

To all these superstar men of God,I am not surprised,this what the bible says will happen in the end time.

It thrives in this environment becuase of our "poverty" mentality.
Many of these church memebers are just carried away by the charsima,style and grammar,none of them really sit ,read and understand their bible beyond the point their pastor explains.
I hardly go to church,I found one that I like but it so far from my place,hope to find one I won't fall"sick in".
Maybe I'll go to orthodox jeje.

Ooops! Gone beyond comment limit,forgive me.

When will your play be showing?

Ms zee said...

Speak the truth man, speak the truth......

I am sick and tired of politics and churchianity!!!!

laspapi said...

@ jola- The practice you stated of tying the fortunes/future of the congregation to the amount giving in a "pastor's offering" is standard practice amongst the wolves. Guest and incumbent preachers alike tell you your succcess is tied to your generosity and you're hooked. "What if I don't give enough?" It's a con, I believe. I did not add that before I was "released" at Joshua's "church", they made me talk to him on a cell-phone. "Good afternoon", I said to him. A deranged female follower of his whispered, "say Sir, say Sir". I ignored her. He said slowly in a provincial tone, "you know this is private property?". I replied him, "I don't know what that means. This is a church. I took the pictures of the exterior of a church". I think he must have tried to picture if the prelate of Holy Cross Cathedral at CMS would have sent guns after me for daring to take pictures of that church. He paused then said, "I've instructed them to release your camera" and then some talk about how they were being careful because they'd received bad press. When he got off the phone, his people became as nice as could be. Ushered us (my cast too who'd been yelling outside the church and threatening fire and brimstone on the church workers if I wasn't released alive. hehe. As if.) into a shop in the church and loaded us with canned drinks and biscuits. I regained my camcorder and off we went. Memories of a mad day. When Joshua commenced "churching", Bishop Okonkwo of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria labelled him a fraud as Okotie fought Joshua tooth and nail. Now the fellowship is silent as his acceptance becomes mainstream. I think we are betrayed. No blog entry can be too long, jola. Thanks for coming in.

@ jaycee- Juvenal asked, "Who shall guard the guards?". I believe many join the ranks of the church leaders because of the very fact it is considered a sin/crime to look too closely at their activities. The threat is the thinking man is "no longer under their cover". The majority of those who said they had the calling at Ife where I schooled had academic problems. I don't think it should be an all-comers affair. As long as it remains the only vocation in the world where you need absolutely no proof of training except your own say-so that you're "called" , some of us will be "touching" these anointed ones when they stray.

@ omohemi- I had a church move in next door to my former home. I had no idea I had new neighbours so imagine my fearful surprise when I was woken by some people shrieking "praise songs" over loudspeakers at 12 midnight. If I hadn't been strong that night, I would have had heart failure.
I came out of my apartment, looked over the wall. There were about 5 people in all doing a vigil in the middle of the night in a residential area and they were using mega speakers. To top insult upon injury, their voices were bad.I told them I'd toss a grenade in their midst if they continued. The next day, my landlord, a Four-Square Church preacher himself went to the church to tell them what he thought of their madness in no uncertain terms.
I had dinner once with a top-top preacher who was visiting Abuja same as I was. He listened to me speak. "You know you should be in the ministry"- All this over the persuasive way he believed I talked. The screening process is clear.

@ ms zee- I will tell the truth. I promise.

Nilla said...

LOL @ "ps. I'm a Christian. Don't judge me.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Laspapi...I'm applauding loudly. Standing ovation sef!!!!I'm a Nigerian Christian who lived in Nigeria for many yeasr before relocating to the West. I'm appalled at what Christianity has become in Nigeria.Anytime I complain about it to fellow Nigerians they warn me not to judge men of God or some evil like barrenness aor death will befall me. Imagine the utter NONSENSE!.It's amazing the hold this celebrity men of God have on their followers.

Anonymous said...

True talk Laspapi.It's really embarassing because a lot of times what people are already saying gets confirmed. 250,000pounds all the way! Why did they arrest you now, shebi it was just the building you were tryna capture, and not the raising of the dead--you should watch that on youtube, lolol.

So i heard about your upcoming play, i'm sure it'll be fantastic. I'm gonna harass everyone i know in Lagos to go, it's me and them, even my parents will be there, lol. All the best with that...keep doing your thing!!!

DiAmOnD hawk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noni Moss said...

I love this post. I have my issues with religion particularly in Nigeria but it offends me to read articles like that about the KICC man. Someone dragged me to the church once on some pretext and I was appalled.

I find stories like these sickening and think it's disgusting how they brainwash people. You would think Nigerians for all their "common sense" and "street smarts" would know better. When that poor man who is working two jobs to feed his family struggles to find change to get on the bus and go to church, puts £5 towards his offering every week and then opens up ovation to see his Pastor flaunting his excesses in some "lavish" party - he's supposed to think, "yes - my money is being put to good use to serve the lord"??

Unknown said...

Your experience at the Joshua church was pretty bizzare...don't even know what to make of it...but at least it ended well. I find it in completely bad taste when other pastors preach against their 'peers' like you describe the other two pastors doing.
What is worse though, is when pastors preach against other religions as if they have a right to. I was visiting a church years ago and the pastor's sermon centered around denigrating another religion (Islam) good manners prevented me from walking out ... half of my family is Muslim and that day I had my cousin with me who had accompanied me to the church and who is a practicing Muslim. I was more offended than she was...she found it amusing as the pastor went on to describe some of the rituals that Muslims perform and how they bordered on idol worshipping. I thought it was wrong because - it had nothing to do with him AT ALL. Later my cousin told me that it was a pity that the man did not know what he was saying bcos it was obvious that he had no knowledge of the religion which was not only wrong but it meant that he was misleading 'his flock'.
It was Gadaffi that said - 'I like your Christ, but not your Christians because they are nothing like your Christ'...too often that is the case.
Someone sent this to me a while ago, I think it relates perfectly to the issues in your original post -

I'd rather see a Christian than hear one any day
I'd rather see a sermon, than hear one any day;
I'd rather one would walk with me,
Than merely point the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing but example's always clear.
And the best of all the preachers are those who live their creeds;
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs!
I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done;
I can see your hands in action but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very fine and true;
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do!
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give;
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live!

Unknown said...

oops...I just re-read my comment, that should read Ghandi not Gaddafi, I don't know where my head was when I wrote that.

laspapi said...

@ nilla- where've you been, love?

@ anonymous- thank you for the standing ovation. I'm public enemy number 1 in a few places because I can't "see" and keep quiet.

@ omosewa- Child of beauty, I don't know why Joshua tried to detain me o. He must have read my play or something. Thank you for promoting my play. If the clan comes, tell them to find me and say "we're from omosewa". You're special.

@ noni- Ms. Moss, that's telling it exactly like it is. I think pastors as a whole should be sober people.

@ Jola- Ghandi and Ghadaffi...Was that a Freudian slip, Jola? ;D
I really like your comments.

Hallo Diamond Hawk. I like that name.

Mak said...

ah well. What can we say... or where do we start?

I'm the kind that respects others' beliefs no matter how stupid. If it works for them, ha!, which one be my own? i've seen M.O.G and I've seen armed robbers, and I've seen the most sly orators-- I watched the Hitler documentary. Belief will always work hand in hand with blindness, and despite the obvious delusion, men will still kill for it.

I laugh hard at ridiculous people (christians and child-molesters alike), I dont judge them tho', they're already down-- why kick 'em?

laspapi said...

@ mack- "Belief will always work hand in hand with blindness, and despite the obvious delusion, men will still kill for it"

Those words say it all, mack.

Kiibaati said...

How come everytime I read the phrase "I am a Christian too!", someone sounds like s/he's apologising?

laspapi said...

not sure the exact context of your words

Anonymous said...

I used to be a member for KICC for over 7 years, I started off as a new Christian, became accustomed to the teachings, held the leaders, pastors, laity with such high esteem, until I was broken for want of a better word. The truth is that I left that church more broken than when I arrived, I have never been betrayed more than I have by people of leadership at KICC and have learnt a great lesson from it and from them. I no longer attend that church but realise that we are all responsible for our relationship with Christ. I got my foundation in Christ at KICC, I can not begin to tell you how valuable that it, it is something that I will take with me for ever, but once you grow in Christ, you yourself will be able to discern what is right and what is wrong and no church is perfect.

Do I think Pastor Matthew has brain washed his congregation. No, I believe that he is preaches the gospel and is also an astute business man. It is the overlap of these two facets that I believe is a shady area for us. Perhaps a clear separation of the two is needed but that is for Pastor to determine with Christ since at the end of the day each and everyone of us will account for our own.

With regards to the birthday bash et all, it does not appear to be the right thing to do with the churches expenses but again we are looking at this on the surface until we have a deeper understanding of why and how it is, I dare to say, an issue that is to be resolve between Pastor, those involved and Christ. If one begins to discern that something is not quite right about what is happening then it is left to the individual to guard himself from being taken advantage of if ths is what he/she believes is happening. Do I think the church is being brainwashed, far from it, I was there for over 7 years, I think individuals do not spend enough time seeking God for themselve in the bible so they can make their own decisions that is the issue. No church is perfect, no individual is perfect, we have and will always continue to make mistakes, this is the world that we live in, its unfortunate. Classing Pastor Matthew as A or B is not our issue, its the individual not taking or living up to his responsibility of seeking God for himself. Pastor can only teach, we have to play our own part, if we did, things may be different. I cannot put a value on what the teachings of Pastor Matthew has done for me in my life, he has done alot, and he does deserve so much due to the minstrations he has given and the amount of people he has helped to set free. Does that mean KICC is perfect, NO, like I said, I left there more broken than when I arrived, the people in position and so called leadership has shown me that it is in God alone you put your trust and a name or a label can easily deceive you. Take the label pastor away from Pastor Matthew, what do you have a human being subject to flaws like the rest of us. Because he professes the bible does not mean he is a superstar, we, the congregation have place a level of respect upon him and given him that image. And there is nothing wrong with respecting him to the highest level. Yes, he has done well for himself, but no one can question him on his preaching of the bible. If he is out of line with Christ, be sure that God will take care of that for God is not mocked. But I think that our perception of what is happening and what should be is out of line, we only see these things on the surface, read about things in the papers and conclude and determine what should be and what is not.
My view on all of this is know God for yourself, and follow the leading of the holy spirit. I believe I have a better standing in Christ now because of the deceitful encounters I have had with individuals at KICC, but its not the church, its individuals who still have a work to be done in them, and have their ways made straight.