President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor recently bared his mind concerning the controversies surrounding churches and their flamboyant pastors.
When asked to explain why churches milk the poor, the CAN president and Senior pastor of Word of Life Bible Church, said “it is cheap to criticise; even to criticise what you don’t understand. Let me put it this way, in every good people, you would always find some bad people. The church is the greatest institution that has made the country today. If you look back, you would find out that the church brought education to Nigeria.”
Speaking further to Punch, he said “The church brought hospital to Nigeria. I think the church should be given credit for that. People don’t understand what they say about the church milking the poor. Can a poor man have money to pay tithe? A man who has no job, can he pay tithe? No, he won’t be able to pay. So how do you milk a man who has no milk? In a church, you have both the poor and the rich. It is generally not the poor that finance the church. It is those with the means. A man, for example, who earns N10,000, how much is his tithe? His tithe is N1,000. A man who earns N500,000, how much is his tithe? His tithe is 10 per cent which is N50,000. How much would you milk from a man who pays a tithe of N1000?
“We won’t say things like this usually because the church is a level-playing ground. Whether you are poor or you are rich, God sees everybody as equal. It is because of a question like this that sometimes, we have to take time to analyse things. I even hear people say that the poor give money to start schools, but their children cannot go to the schools. How will they give this money when they are poor? The truth is that, the people who actually give this money are those who have the means to do so. Those people make it possible for churches to start schools. Now again, why do churches charge high fees in school? You didn’t ask me that, but I’m just throwing that in free. People must understand that there is a standard.
“The church wants to maintain the standard. In those days, some people will say that when missionaries started school, it was free. Don’t forget that those missionaries were being financed from different places. Who is financing us today? We are financing ourselves. If I got free financing, why won’t we make education free? You must also understand that at the time, the cost of living was not the way it is today. The educational system of Nigeria is in serious trouble, so we need to up the standards. And to do that, you should be able to hire the best hands. If you hire the best, how do you pay them? Where do you get the money to pay them? How do you put the right infrastructure in place? How do you do many of the things that need to be done? How do you run the generators?”
On why there are so many poor people in churches yet rich pastors, Oritsejafor who recently completed an ultra modern 40,000 capacity church auditorium in Warri, Delta State, explained, “Remember that the pastors are pasturing both the poor and the rich. They are all in the same assembly. Both the poor and the rich, those who have the means in the church take time to be kind to their pastors. That is something most people don’t realise. They give their pastors money, food and different things. For example, a member of the church goes to his pastor and says, ‘I feel led to give you a car. Take this car.’ Now the pastor has a car. Did he steal it? As I sit here talking to you now, I can tell you that I am training almost 100 people in institutions of higher learning. Nobody is going to broadcast that. On every 26th of December, I organise what I call poverty alleviation. I have been doing it now for about eight years.”
Defending his aircraft and rift with Mallam Nasir el-Rufai “I am glad that there are people who challenged him. I would only be dignifying him if a person at my level starts exchanging words with a small person like el-Rufai. He is too small. I will not dignify him with a response. People responded. They told him that since he knew who gave the gift, he should provide the proof, which he hasn’t done till today. Obviously, he didn’t have any proof. That is the problem with Nigeria. We continue to celebrate people like el-Rufai. He is too small for me. I won’t waste my time on him”