South-South pastors disagree over ‘Covid-19 money’
• Those collecting tithe online are not true men of God – Clerics
• ‘Church leaders not collecting should be investigated’
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Ike Uche, Chioma Onuegbu, Davies Iheamnachor, Emem Idio, Perez Brisibe, Ochuko Akuokpha, Sunday Chancel and Paul Olayemi
SOME clerics in the South-South have come hard on their fellow ministers who created online platforms to collect tithe and offering from members, especially during COVID-19 pandemic lock-down, describing it as ridiculous.
Some of the pro-tithe/offering pastors, however, defended their position, saying it was proper to do so, but those against asked if the Lord Jesus Christ would take or give to the people at a time like this.
The pastors, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, also sang discordant tunes on whether Covid-19 is a sign of end times.
While some said there was nothing to worry about if a cleric did not heal Covid-19 patients as expected because pastors do not have the power to heal, but God uses them, some argued that Covid-19 has exposed fake pastors.
Online apps for tithe/offering during pandemic are inappropriate – Bishop Okokpooro
General Overseer of Promise Kingdom Ministry Inc Worldwide in Sapele, Delta State, Bishop Godday Okokporo, is one of the clerics who pooh-poohed the ministers who arranged online apps for payment of tithe and offering during the pandemic, saying they are not true men of God.
Okokporo said: “Rather than helping their members at this time of pandemic which has shut the world down, they are demanding for tithe and offering.
“This is not biblical, times are hard and the only thing we should be doing now is to give back to the people and not continue to take from them.
“That is why I am condemning it totally, it is not proper for a man of God to keep demanding without giving back.”
The cleric, fondly called Bishop Overflow, also said why pastors were unable to heal Covid-19 victims was not because their faith and power failed them, “but because the Church was beginning to lose faith in its own ability, in God’s power.”
He added: “It is totally wrong to say the Church was unable to heal Covid-19 persons and why the deaths were more abroad than in Nigeria was because we are all praying and God has been merciful.”
Asked if Covid-19 is part of the signs of the end of age, the bishop replied: “No, I do not think so. I think God will still give us more time to repent, but I think the pandemic has taught the Church that we need to know that we should be prepared. God has been kind to us but we should be prepared for the worst.”
Pastors who refuse to collect tithe/offering should be investigated – Bishop Isong
National Publicity Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Bishop Emma Isong, disagreed with him, saying: “People who are saying that churches are not helping people are the same people shouting that churches should not collect tithe and offering at this time, which money are they going to use now? How will they get funds to sponsor humanitarian services?
“They should not pay tithe or offering to churches, so which magical money will the church be using now?
“It is right for churches to create applications for tithe and offering during Covid-19, do people not pay transport fare? People who buy food stuff in the market, is it free? So which service, spiritual or professional, that should be free during Covid-19?
“To give offering and tithe is part of your responsibility as a Christian.
“Churches are run with money like other organizations, money is a liquid substance that runs organizations, the church is not exempted.
“Even Ogboni, Freemason, Pyrates, KKK, market women association still collect dues from members; even witches and wizards are still contributing blood at this time.
“Anyone with a different view should challenge me. I do not know about any organization that will function without its members contributing money.
“There is no taboo in churches collecting tithe and offering. Any pastor not collecting tithe and offering should be investigated, he may be getting money from an enemy nation or terrorist organization to carry out a nefarious activity.
“We encourage our members to pay tithe and offering to our account at GTB, and we are able to use this money to carry our humanitarian services.
“We have gone online to broadcast our services and God has made us to reach even more souls across the globe”.
‘I healed 2 persons’
Commenting on the allegation that people were disappointed that pastors could not heal Covid-19 victims, the PFN leader fired back: “You cannot heal people in a vacuum, you do not heal people in the entire atmosphere; you heal those who come to you, so is there any Covid-19 patient, who has gone to a true man of God and has not received healing?
“You cannot sit down and want me to heal all the COVID-19 patients in the world. I am not a magician, you must desire healing first.
“The two that I healed called me on phone and I prayed for them and healed them in the name of Jesus Christ.
‘So anyone saying this is just blackmailing men of God and it is cheap blackmail. The last patients you heard about in Akwa Ibom, I was the one that prayed for them and they got healed.
“Churches are on lock-down and people say we should not meet, so how do we heal the Covid-19 patients? “Is it not a contradiction? Churches have been on lock-down, so how will they heal Covid-19, it is an error”.
Online tithe apps irrational – Pastor Ekiye
On his part, popular gospel musician, Pastor Ekiye Asu, expressed disappointment about churches creating online apps for tithe and offering among other collections instead of sending relief materials to members.
“Honestly I am highly disappointed when I read this online. I do not know if this was substantiated, but if this was the case, it would be most insensitive and highly unreasonable for tithe and offering to be a priority for any pastor in the face of this pandemic”, Asu said.
“However, you must also acknowledge that in the past couple of weeks, most of the mega churches, and even the small ones, have extended hand of fellowship not only to their poor members but also to government.
“The pandemic has actually taught us that God is not a respecter of Church or persons.
“His Word is paramount above all things because He operates by His principles and when His principles are ignored, defaulters become victims.
“Most of the signs of the last days as foretold in the scripture are being fulfilled daily”.
‘Churches have healed many COVID-19 patients’
Asu debunked the claim that pastors have not been able to heal victims, saying: “There is no basis to verify that pastors have not been able to heal Covid-19 victims.
“I am not aware that any journalist took a census of claims of those who have been genuinely healed supernaturally as a result of the activities of any pastors.
“At least we have claims by countless pastors that they have healed scores of patients.
“However, your conclusion can only be substantiated if you have any empirical fact to that.
“I consider it a fallacy of hasty generalization to conclude that many Nigerians are disappointed in men of God or are you disproving the several claims that we have been healing Covid-19?
“If so, that could be a product of bias resulting in lack of belief in their capacities and you have to undertake an empirical study to disprove this.
“More so, I think such disappointments are pathologically misplaced and miserably misdirected. Are churches controlling the tax payer’s money?
“Are pastors the people we voted for to represent us? Such disappointments should be directed properly and not to churches”.
Speaking on the granting of permission to pastors to heal Covid-19 patients as requested by a pastor, he said: “Men of God do not need permission to pray since they do this regularly in their synagogues and houses of prayers, but even you will not believe that it was as a result of their prayers if there are no verifiable mediums of establishing that what they claim as answer to prayers is derived from their effort.
“However, isolation centres cannot be accessed without due permission or consent by the authority, so I consider that statement a very strategic and well thought out outburst. You sure need permission in this particular context”.
Tithe/offering apps saved many Christians from robbery- Baptist pastor
Defending online tithe preachers, a pastor in Baptist Church, who preferred anonymity, stated that collection of tithe and offering is scriptural.
“It is important to note that some of such apps had been in existence, but were not publicized before now”, he said.
“I see this as a way of helping members from robbing God as failure to pay tithe and offering had made such an individual a robber.
“Many churches have given relief materials and tithe and offering were also used in sending those materials to them. “Also the Church as an institution has supported government in this season.”
Speaking on why many pastors, who boasted of healing powers, could not heal Covid-19 victims, he said: “No man has power to heal; it is God’s power that has been made available that brings about healing.
“Anyone who claims without having this power cannot do anything. Only those who have healing powers can actually heal persons with this disease.
“Man will fail but God will not fail. That is why the scripture says woe to him that puts his trust in man. It is out of place for Nigerians to put their trust in men.
“What ought to be done is to put one’s trust in God, who works through men. This is the more reason that Nigerians should trust more in God than man”.
‘We’re in last days’
He added: “Reading through Matthew 24 where Christ talked about the signs of the end time, I can confidently say we are in the last days of the end time.
“Though we do not know the exact time, but from the study of God’s word, one can say this pandemic is a sign of the end time.”
It is evil – Pastor Odudu
Also contributing, Senior Pastor, Glorious Bible Mission International, Sapele, Pastor Elijah Odudu, lambasted pastors who have designed applications for tithe and offering online.
“I totally condemn pastors who created online apps for members to give offering and tithe.
If I may ask, what are they going to do with the money?, Odudu said.
“What about the previous ones they have collected? A verse in the Bible says seek ye the kingdom of God and His righteousness and every other thing shall be added unto you.
“Most of us have left our first love seeking for material things; most of us, clerics, we are like Dead Sea, we only collect, we do not give back.
“And that is why government does not have trust in us, people are passing through pains, no food, no work and the little ones they saved, you are asking them to send it online, that is wickedness, there is no God in such thing.
“Even our Lord Jesus Christ after preaching in the wilderness had compassion on the people and he fed them.
“So where do clerics get their doctrine from if our Lord Jesus is compassionate to feed thousands?
“When I read it online, I felt totally ashamed of myself…when some of my church members gathered in my house for fellowship, I did not collect offering even though they were prepared to give”.
Online apps not new to the Church– Pastor Nwabuikwu
Presiding Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church (EBC), Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Rev Emmanuel Nwabuikwu, shared his own perspective when he said God’s healing power is real and the gifts of healing and working of miracles is operational in the lives of many pastors.
“Covid-19 victims are being healed as God is healing other diseases”, Nwabuikwu said.
“True testimonies of healing of Covid-19 will come in time with proof just as it happened with HIV-AIDS.
“However, the operation of the gifts is according to God’s direction, not men. If God does not direct, the gift will not operate, whatever the ailment.”
On the demand by some pastors asking government to allow them place healing hands on persons affected by the pandemic, he said, “Honestly, I do not know details of what one of such pastors said, but I know he holds such imprimatur to operate the gift of God. Maybe he was misunderstood.”
On reliance on e-platforms for collection of tithe and offering by religious bodies, the cleric said, “Churches, like businesses, have been making use of electronic banking long before Covid-19.
“Fulfilling financial obligations to God as tithe, offering, etc. through online banking is not new. Many churches are also giving welfare to members in this time of need.”
No to tithe/offering during pandemic – Rev Okene
General overseer of Divine Touch International Ministries, Warri, Delta State, Rev. John Okene, similarly, submitted: “Most of these online apps were already in use in some churches before the outbreak of the pandemic.
“Even in my church, we have a mobile app where you can watch sermons, share your testimonies, give your offering, etc. It was developed two years ago by our IT department.”
“All the same, I am not in support of demanding for tithe and offering online during this period of lock-down.
“However, for those who are blessed and are led to give, there is nothing wrong in them giving, seeing that this same money can be used by the church to support the vulnerable and less privileged”.
Pastor Olumide Adeyemo, General Overseer of the Redeemed Apostolic Ministry Church of God, told Sunday Vanguard that sins of the Church allowed this pandemic because she failed to pray and preach the gospel of truth to the poor and to our rulers.
“The Church has failed to preach deliverance from sins, sickness and oppression. The Church has failed to pray for one another and for others. The Church has also failed to raise elders who can pray for the sick.”
Rev Essien defends online apps by churches
Pastor of the African Church and lecturer, Department of Physics, University of Uyo, Reverend Kufreabasi Essien, also speaking on the issue, said, “You cannot really be sure that they have not sent relief materials to their members.
“And the pastor that knows his onions will know that healing power comes from God.
“Our duty as pastors is to pray, lay hands, minister, preach and anoint.
“But it is God’s duty to bring healing. We (pastors) should be humble enough to know that a servant does not give out what his master has not given”
He, however, admitted that God gave pastors different gifts, citing the case of Biblical Elisha who God used to make pronouncements and they came to pass.
According to him, the fact that pastors are unable to heal Covid-19 victims “shows that the virus is beyond them”.
On whether Covid-19 is part of signs of the end times, he said: “The Bible is a book that science is trying to understand. Education will enable you understand the Bible better.
“Paul succeeded in ministering because he had training, not just as a lawyer, but also a writer.
“The Bible talked about the darkening of the moon and what the Bible talked about the sun is not yet there. For now the sun has not turned red yet, it is still yellowish”.
‘What pandemic has taught churches’
On lessons the pandemic has taught the Church about God, he said: “One is that God is no respecter of persons. Number two, God does not reside in big cathedrals. “Thirdly, God is telling the Church that we should return to the original structure that he had set, that is the New Testament Church”
He stressed that the duty of elders and evangelists was to assist the priest in his ecclesiastical duties, adding that during this time of Covid-19, we should assemble 2, 3, 4 people and have fellowship in order not to violate government instructions.
According to him, it is, however, wrong for pastors to misinform church members by telling them that government tries to stop people from worshiping God, noting, “I minister to people online, we pray online. Also I send audio messages to them. God is not limited by space”.
Will infected persons pay tithe/offering online? – Father Opelema
Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Bomadi and Vice Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Bayelsa State Chapter, Father Joseph Opelema, said: “Catholic Church is popular for carrying out works of charity especially during challenging times such as the one we are experiencing.
“We are taught that the Corporal Works of Mercy are to: 1.Feed the hungry 2.Give drink to the thirsty 3.Clothe the naked 4. Shelter the homeless 5. Comfort the imprisoned 6. Visit the sick and 7. Bury the dead.
“A time like this is a time to carry out these tasks. If that didn’t happen, then it is sad. Is it the infected persons or those that are dying that will pay tithe and offering online?”
On the seeming helplessness of pastors, who claim to have power of healing and yet could not heal Covid-19 victims, Opelema, known for his simplicity and generosity, especially to the vulnerable in society, said: “The power to heal is from God. He is the ultimate healer. He can give this power as a gift to any of His children. No one can claim this power upon himself. No sickness, not even novel Covid-19, is greater than the power of God.”
Disappointment in men of God
“The term man of God has been bastardized in Nigeria. In John 10:7-18, Our Lord Jesus Christ makes the distinction between the Good Shepherd and the hireling.
“The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hireling sees a wolf coming and he leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them (John 10:12).
“Men of God so to speak are Good Shepherds. They do not fail their sheep in their time of need. We have many of them. “Those that leave the sheep in their time of need are hirelings. They are not men of God. Unfortunately, we also have many of them.
On whether pastors need permission to intervene
‘If a pastor requests for permission to heal the sick, he should have his reasons and should give the explanation himself.
“I have explained earlier that God is the One that heals and He does not need permission from man to perform His healing.
“Our Church is orderly and well organized. Governor Douye Diri commended the Catholic Church in Bayelsa State for their compliance during the lockdown when restrictions were given to places of worship.
“We are doing our best to adapt to the new way of life: washing or sanitizing of hands, wearing of face mask, social distancing and not holding masses on Sundays or holding it with a limited number of congregants. It is not easy. We are praying God to come to our aid and end Covid-19.
Signs of the end of age?
“There are insinuations about Covid-19 being one of the signs of the end time. But our Lord Jesus Christ says such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end (Luke 21:9).
“What we must learn from this is that God is God and He is in charge. Man should be humble before God and be submissive to Him who reminds us of our equality once again”.
Some pastors collect tithe from ritualists, robbers- Pastor Embiowei
Pastor Bannerman Embiowei, Lead Pastor of Glorious House of Praise, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, told Sunday Vanguard: “Most pastors seek for populations not to get them saved and make them look like Christ, but for the tithe and the offering of the people.
“Some pastors do not see anything wrong in collecting money from ritualists, robbers, money launderers, etc.
“So you begin to ask whom are they collecting the money for? Are they collecting the blood stained money for the Holy God who rejects sacrifices with spots and blemishes?”
Embiowei, the first gospel musician in Ijaw land, noted: “So many pastors are really disappointing the people, they are not preaching and practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the gospel of Christ takes care of the body, soul the spirit of man.
“Acts 10:38 says Jesus was going about doing well. He was busy feeding the people with Word and bread because man is supposed to live by bread and the Word.
“The tithe and offering that Christians are commanded to give are to be brought into the store house of God and not into the house of the pastor, so that there will be meat for the body.
“But some pastors behave as if they own the store house when, in actual fact, they will give account of all that have been brought into the store house of God.
“Pastors even use members to build schools and claim the schools as theirs when, in actual fact or biblical fact, every member is supposed to be a co-owner.
“In this pandemic period, pastors were supposed to open the store house where the tithe and offering are kept and give out the meat to the people”
Regarding the end time, he stated: “The Bible says at the end time, strange diseases like Covid-19 will come upon the earth, so Covid -19 is a sign of the end of age.
“You can see people in both the developed world and the underdeveloped world being killed by this pandemic.
“It is like what happened during the flood in the time of Noah, this is an end time sign. Money is failing, science has no answer, and everybody is confused.
“ The lesson is that the Church, I mean people, should go back to God, for the people left God long time ago, and were now worshiping man and money and seeking for power at the wrong places. “There is only one name given among men through whereby we might be saved. We are in the end time, this present earth is mapped out for destruction, so everybody should run to Jesus Christ.
“My advice also is that pastors should stop acquiring properties like private jets and luxurious cars and big mansions, pastors should invest in the Kingdom of God.
“How many of us flew or is flying our private jets now? They are all vanity upon vanity. We can only stay safe inside Christ. In Christ we are more than conquerors”.
Prince Mike Tayese, resident Pastor of Liberty Gospel Church, Kpansia branch, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, in a chat with our reporter, said: “Serving God requires everything around you, your time, your money, your strength and what have you. “Nothing we want to give to God that He has not given to us, including His only begotten Son (Jesus Christ).
“So giving of tithe and offering, whether online or direct, God says do not come to my house empty.
“Tithe and offering are used for the advancement of the Kingdom work and one of the Kingdom works is giving to the poor, especially at a difficult time like this.
“I am very sure any church that has the fear of God does not need to wait for crisis to happen before you extend hands of fellowship to people.
“Jesus fed five thousand and four thousand people at different occasions in the wilderness. Those things were provided by someone else and no man gives to God and ever regrets it.
“I know we have those that have turned church into family business, but then we still have some who still consider the poor in their congregations.
“Even in the wilderness, God demanded of the children of Israel an offering of gold and other expensive materials for the building of the tabernacle.
“So giving should be part of a believer’s life, but then must be used for God’s glory”.
On pastors, who claim to have power of healing but could not heal Covid-19 victims, he stated: “If the truth must be told, pastors can’t claim what they do not have and that is healing power because God does the healing through the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus and use pastors as a vessel to carry it out.
“Look at the response of Peter when a lame man was healed. (Acts 4v12): “And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, ‘Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?’
“We have too many noise makers in the vineyard of God in Nigeria, but that does not mean we do not have genuine ones, we have. So, it is God that heals, if He (God) uses you as instrument of healing, does not mean you the healer?”
On a pastor’s assertion that pastors need permission from government to heal Covid-19 victims, he retorted: “One of our major problems today as pastors is that we like tempting God and some assume the position of God.
“But then healing people is not a new thing because God has empowered us do to so. “Sometime men of God ask for permission even from individuals whether they will allow to be prayed for or not.
“So if pastors ask for permission to carry out God divine mandate, it is not a sin because you do not know the mind of those in charge, that is, government representatives.”
Online tithe/offering not Jesus model – Apostle Diamond
Apostle Wesley Diamond, Royal Champion Embassy, Sapele, Delta State, said: “About paying of tithe and offering online, a lot of persons are not following the footsteps of Jesus.
“What will Jesus do in times like this? If Jesus is the pastor of a church, will he be asking for online tithe and offering? It is a let down to the Christian community.”
On the controversy over healing of Covid-19 persons, he said: “I will not say that pastors do not have the anointing to heal Covid-19.
“Overtime, we have discovered that there are so much games in religion, a lot of people have been stage-managing miracles for the purpose of growing their denomination, but Covid- 19 has come to expose those playing games.
“But that does not mean there is no anointing to heal. God is still healing people.”
Diamond noted that people need not be disappointed with their pastors, saying, “I told some of our leaders that immediately after Covid-19, some people will stop going to church because they will realize that many people have been deceived, because many pastors have failed to show up.
“Some of them want to see Covid-19 patients before they pray, you can pray in your houses.
“What a pastor said is not out of place, but to me pastors do not need to seek permission before healing Covid-19 patients, if they know where they are, they can reach them and pray for them.”
Online payment of tithe during lock-down ungodly- Prophet Sunny Peace
General Overseer of Ark of Jesus Miracle Ministry Inc., Oboro, Burutu local government area, Delta State, Prophet Sunny Peace, said: “Men of God tasking members to pay tithe and offering online during lockdown are materialists and it is not godly”.
On healing of Covid-19 patients, he said: “The truth is that prophets and pastors called by God into the prophetic and healing ministry are not afraid of the Covid-19 pandemic or unable to heal pandemic victims. Take note that not all men of God are in the healing ministry.
“One glaring fact is that the whole world locked down churches with restrictions by the authorities not to move.
“Patients are isolated and government asked the Church to pray from their homes.
“Church leaders obeyed the earthly authorities as stipulated in the Bible and prayed from their homes, and I assure you it is because of the supplications and prayers that saved the world from the grand plan of the wicked.
“If Covid-19 patients were free to move about like other patients, you would have confessed to the healing power of God demonstrated by true prophets and pastors by now. The progress now is as a result of prayers from closets.
“In my ministry, we heal all manners of sicknesses, be it HIV/AID, Ebola and even Covid-19 because that is our calling.
“If government permits men of God to go to isolation centres to heal victims, I will do so to prove to doubting Thomases that healing is bread of the children.
“Has government responded to the pastor’s plea to allow men of God perform healing at isolation centres?
Not end time plague
“Covid-19 is not end time sign but just an ailment that will go, which has already packed its loads and going. Certainly Covid-19 is gone and Nigerians should not panic”.