BasseyUbong

TOWARDS REALISM IN THE EMERGING POST COVID-19 ERA IN CHURCHES.

I discussed with Bishop O. O. Mensah of the African Church, Uyo Diocese this morning. He had read one of my posts including the one that sought to know what churches are doing to assist their not too financially strong members during the lockdown. Dr. Danagogo had earlier indicated that his church, St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Mgbuoba had a food bank. I suggested others should be told.

Certain issues came up during my discussion with Bishop Mensah. First, some churches particularly in the Orthodox group are finding it difficult to pay staff salaries. Of course they will not be given subventions or loans. It is one reason total lockdown is a problem.

Second, many churches have no bank accounts. Such churches therefore have no savings and thus no fall back.

This is the group that should see this pandemic as an eye opener. Many churches operate what can be described as “cat economy.” Every ‘catch’ must be consumed on the spot; the idea of reserves does not arise since new money comes in almost every day. The entrepreneurial concept of diversification for other sources of funds should be for business schools not churches. After each Sunday service the Finance Committee (where there is one) sits back to “run expenditure.” By the time this ritual is over, the Treasurer leaves with a yawning purse. The Financial Secretary may be lucky to go home with some entries with “balance carried forward” in kobos or a few thousand Naira. Going to bank and having savings become unnecessary.

This may sound sarcastic but it would be interesting to be told how many churches, Orthodox or Pentecostal have robust bank accounts that can help the churches tide over lean times. Our churches are like States in Nigeria: only Lagos State can survive for more than one month without Federal allocation. The states along with their Local Government Councils, operate a cat economy. Local Governments in particular see their Chairmen and Councilors the day allocation arrives. After ‘sharing the national cake’ they disappear till next allocation day arrives. What a country?

The new world order (not the one Christians say Bill Gates is working on via vaccines) is going to be different. It has to be a world driven by realism, in the world of philosophy one that is led by the school of empiricism. Scientific approaches must lead the way, not emotions or speculation or ideals or conventional wisdom. Like Jesus, Christians should see the world the way it is while also looking far beyond the present. While the Jews expected a political Messiah to usher in a new world order of political freedom and economic prosperity,  Jesus prepared His followers for a post-life haven but with the wisdom to live in the real world realistically. This was why for instance, He directed  Apostle Peter to go a-fishing,  get cash and pay temple tax which He and the disciples were not supposed to pay because they were indigenes. Hear Him in Matthew 17 verse 27, “Nevertheless so that we do not offend them” which could have have disrupted His ministry, He paid the tax. It was not because Jesus was afraid of the “kings of the earth” (they are very much with us today). He was simply being realistic. That action warded of arguments and court case after all the Jews were looking for any excuse to disrupt His ministry (still a fact of life today, including the lockdown).

Jesus repeatedly warned His followers of the perils to come because the real world is not working on the Eden model or paradigm. God revealed the true template for post-Eden world – hard work, pain, toil, sweat, and tears.

I like to term the current post-pandemic  world the “POST COVID-19 ERA.” Like other epochs, the Information Era has run its course the way jet, technology, and computer eras did. The post COVID-19 era must be a period for realism, for rationalisation, for analytical thinking, and for scientific action. Why should a church with 100 members functioning in  a highly competitive environment embark on a building project that is to cost N1 billion just because across the street there is an even smaller church doing that? How do we know the sources of funds of the other church?

Churches now have to face realities. Running businesses with surplus funds must become desiderata, not pipeline proposals or “worldly activities.” The biggest church organizations in the US and Europe have strong links to in-house businesses that generate funds for internal use and for philanthropy. It would not have been possible to operate the way Creffold Dollar, and Mrs Joyce Meyers and others operate without powerful Foundations behind them. Yes, Banco Ambrosiano of Milan, Italy owned by the Roman Catholic Church goofed and generated scandals; so did the Vatican Bank (Institute for Religious Works) but these were human errors not mistakes in conceptualization. The banks have evolved and moved on. What do we have against the Mormons who thrive on businesses and currently build and run free churches all over the world? And the Aladura sects that run several business enterprises? Bear in mind that the economic system known as capitalism which has wrought great changes in life including christiandom came from the Calvinist Christian philosophy. Is gospel music alone not a delight? It is big business.

Meanwhile many churches today operate like business organizations yet reject basic business principles and best practices in corporate management. Why would the funds of the church be in the account or in a room in the residence of the General Overseer or Superintending Pastor or Chairman of the Church Council or Chairman of the Finance Committee? Why would a church irrespective of size and means shun ledgers and vouchers and bank accounts and auditing? Yet Pastors mount the pulpit and preach against public servants for not being accountable and ‘transparent.’

Our world will never be the same again, for henceforth people will begin to ask questions. For those who are not aware, Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre has for years been running two NGOs to train business persons and pastors on good leadership and professional business practices (Success Power International and Daystar Leadership Academy). The new era will bring this type of farsighted persons to the fore. Only churches that have tasted the bitter fallouts of COVID-19 will wisely subject themselves to the expertise of Pastor Adeyemi and others in this empowerment ministry. What does it take to try a new approach anyway? Just wisdom, good sense of judgement, and suppressing our pride. Every church has professionals including accountants and auditors ready and willing to offer free service to their churches. Pastors and the money managers won’t dare to accept them for reasons they know.

But the new world order is here. The new refrain will be “Change or go under!” This refrain will not listen to the hackneyed phrase, “Not my portion.” It will come to pass for the common good.

Arise and shine for thy light has come; darkness is over and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. Let nations and kings come into your light. Thy sun shall no more go down and your little shall become a thousand!!! Isaiah 60.

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