Need for accountability and modesty in churches

Alexander Bamgbola

The missionaries that brought Christianity to Africa were very modest in their lifestyle and bearing. Living in humble abodes and with Spartan taste, they were the epitome of humility and service. But the same cannot be said of many Nigerian men of God, whose stock in trade is to flaunt flashy and expensive dresses and vehicles, even amidst the grinding poverty in the land. As more churches spring up in every nook and cranny, so do their flamboyant lifestyles. But is this right? How do they sustain this grandeur? Are they accountable to anyone? OMIKO AWA and ISAAC TAIWO report.

‘Whether Orthodox Or Pentecostal, Church Leaders Should Be Accountable And Their Lifestyles Checked’
(Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Branch)
Every institution should be accountable to the head; this is also applicable to the Church. However, churches have different structures, when it comes to this issue, although there are still many that don’t have laid down structures to hold their leaders accountable for their actions and inactions. In those churches that operate like one-man business, the congregation does not ask questions about church finances or their leaders’ flamboyant lifestyle. Rather, they rest their case on God, believing it is only He that can query their leaders or correct him/her. One thing is sure though, whether the pastors or ministers-in-charge like it or not, one day, they will render account of their stewardship to God. The Bible says that we should be accountable to God. So, whether orthodox or Pentecostal, church leaders should be made to give account of how they spend church money and their lifestyles checked.

In New York, America, no matter how big a minister or head of a church may be, if he/she defrauds, he/she will be sent to jail. One can remember the case of Jiminy Swaggart in the 90s. However, God demands financial prudence from man and the same thing is being practised by successful organisations. What happens in Nigeria is that in some cases, the founder or the General Overseer is invariably the ‘alpha and omega.’ He/she dictates the tune of spending in the church and as such could live the way he/she likes. Where then do we find the place of financial prudence? It is what he defines as financial prudence that holds. If he/she decides to use tithes, offerings and other monies to build his/her personal house(s) or buy expensive cars or jets that is his/her definition of financial prudence and no one can take him/her to court.

Where there is a structure and a reporting system, where there is accountability and presentation is made to Board of Trustees (BoT), may be annually, if a person in charge of accounts defrauds, of course, he will be charged to court. He would be replaced. However, I have not heard of a situation in this country, where the head of a church is handed over to the police or removed.

‘Church Leaders Should Be Concerned With Spiritual Matters And Not Finance’
(Pastor David Ayanfeoluwa, Radiant Life Assembly Faith House, Iju Ishaga, Lagos)
My answers to checkmating ministers who are signatories to church accounts and are perceived to be living above their incomes are: Firstly, they should be placed on specific amount of money on monthly basis. Secondly, such ministers should not be able to withdraw from the church account without the consent of at least one member of the church’s BoT. There should be more than two or three persons that are signatories to the same account. Lastly, a church account should not be at the beck and call of its minister or head.

I want to use myself as a case study. As the pastor of a church, l do not keep church money. I don’t take a dime from Church account as salary. Some two years ago, I was placed on N8, 000 monthly allowance. There are two signatories to the Church account. I do not partake in this. This may not work for other churches because we understand the Word of God from different perspectives. The scriptures made me to understand that money was not in the Apostles’ custody. So, church leaders should be concerned with spiritual matters and not finances. The church should nominate seven honest men to handle money and other financial matters. Where this pattern cannot be strictly followed, I am of the opinion that two different persons should be signatories to the church account. This will make it impossible for the leader to deep his hand into church purse. They should also not keep the money with the leader. If they do, they would not help him keep his integrity because financial pressure may push him/her to take out of the money.

In case a church leader defrauds the church or is found living on church money, the best thing is for the BoT members to warn him/her and create stringent measures that would check him/her. But if any member of the BoT does this he/she has to be removed from the board. I do not believe in handing over church leaders to the police.

Alfred Femi Ajifowowe

‘A Minister Enriching Himself With Church Money Has Deviated And Is No Longer Preaching Christ’
(Dr. Alfred Ajifowowe, General Overseer, Evangelical Christ Apostolic Church, Okota)
In the case of ministers in charge of church account perceived to be living above their income, every church leader must be trained because accountability is a subject to be taught. If people are not properly taught of a thing, they will be ignorant of it. We should dissuade church leaders from believing that they know all things. Since God is not a waster, we should inculcate the same attitude into our ministers. We must also warn ministers against covetousness, flamboyance, the care of this world and the need to live within their calling, so that they don’t incur the wrath of God. It is wrong for a church to have just one signatory to its account.

Again, our background matters a lot in the ministry. If someone that is not capable of disciplining himself financially is made to handle church account he/she will misbehave, when placed in authority to do so.

When a minister is perceived to be living above his means, that is, enriching him/herself with church money, then he has deviated and is no longer preaching Christ. He/she should be questioned as to how he acquired those things he now has. A minister in charge of money must have somebody who must be able to checkmate his activities; make him/her maintain financial prudence.

In the case of a minister defrauding the Church, living a flamboyant lifestyle, the matter should be referred to the Church committee and if such is above them, I think the option is to hand such a minister or church leader to the police.

Joel Olasunkanmi Iyiola

‘To Ensure Financial Prudence, Churches Should Set Up Financial Committees’
(Apostle Joel Olasunkanmi Iyiola), Retired General Overseer, (Apostolic Father), The Bible Based Church, Ibadan)
The only way to prevent ministers or pastors from being caught in the web of living above their income is for them to steer clear of the church money. One of the things that relegate today’s ministers is dipping their hands into the church money. Any minister that is caught in this act has relegated himself. I was the head of a church for 52 years and I thank God that I was never indicted for stealing church money. Wherever I worked as the head of the church, I do not get involved in the keeping of account of church money. Today, there are many churches, where the General Overseers are the ‘owners.’ Such churches are run like personal estates and treated as such. The church is handled as a family business and anytime money is collected, it would be taken to the G.O’s office to be counted by members of his family. In such churches, there is no accountability, as the General Overseer is the ‘alpha and omega’ of the church.

However, where a minister is perceived to be living above his income, one should not immediately judge him. It could be that he is having some financial backers. So, as long as the church’s money is not tampered with, one should not indict him for any misappropriation. When it is, however, discovered that the church account is affected, the auditors should be invited to audit the account and dig out where the problem emanated from.

To ensure financial prudence, there should be a church committee that should sit every month to inspect the church’s income and expenditure. This would ensure checks and balances.

In an organised church, such committee would be able to know what comes in and what goes out, while the financial secretary reports to the committee every month. This would ensure financial prudence in the church. The committee should be able to know how much comes in and goes out every month. But in case a minister defrauds the Church, ideally, if the committee is active, the committee should be able to detect the culprit. The church would then decide whether to remove him or mandate him to pay back the money he/she has stolen in installments. However, if there were adequate arrangement to make the treasurer and financial secretary to be aware of all monies that come in, as well as all the withdrawals, defrauding the church would be difficult.

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