Dr. Francis Bola Akin-John, the founder of Church Growth International Ministries, in an interview granted Church Times Nigeria which was published August 2nd, he faulted the Nigerian church system, highlighted abuses and blame the government for its inadvertent omission to the activities of churches.
In his words, “Many churches are being run the way Nigeria is run. Everything about Nigeria is centralized. The Nigeria government has not allowed the component units to develop at their own pace. Rather, every state goes to the centre to collect funds. That is why we are not making progress. When a church is overly being controlled by the centre, such a church will not grow the way it should.”
He explained that many local churches in Nigeria are being controlled by the headquarter churches. They control their income. They are mandated to remit 80 per cent of their income to the headquarters.
The laws for setting up churches in the US and UK are the similar to that of Nigeria. But here in Nigeria, the laws are not being applied by the government.
The law gives the local church autonomy. But the indigenous Nigerian churches find a way around the law. They use the laws of the church to set aside the government law.
If the Nigerian government wakes up today, most church founders will go to jail. Many of them have ulterior motives in setting up the church. They set up branches of their churches and before long they are asking those branches to send as much as 80 per cent of their income to the centre.
In the US and UK, the pastors in charge of every local church reports to the Internal Revenue Services of those countries and they submit their statements of account to the government all the time for scrutiny. Church members in the US for instance don’t give money the way Nigerians do. When they give offering they indicate their names, passport number and all their details on the envelope they use to give the money. It is mandatory for them to do that so that the church can keep a record of their income for accounting sake.
They also keep such record so that the government can exempt them from paying tax. It is believed that if you give money to the church you are indirectly supporting the government to help the poor because the Church is seen as a charity. The interesting thing about the church in those countries is that churches are mandated to keep a record of their income for five years at least. Once it can be proved that members of a church pay tithe and offering regularly, they will exempt such members from being taxed. The government also uses the record to track the occupation of the giver. They want to be sure that the person who gave money to the church is not a fraudulent person. That is why they ask for all the details of the person.
Also, there is a limit to which money can be given to a guest pastor in the US. A church is not allowed to give more than $750 at most for any guest pastor from the church purse. If a church gives more than that, it would mean that church members contributed the money not from the church purse because the church has to account for every kobo that is spent in the church.
If you look at the Bible, Paul made us realize that the apostles had nothing to do with money from church branches that they started. He said only the Church in Philippians voluntarily responded to his needs.
Presently, here in Nigeria, members of churches, including those in the branches, are always taxed and told to commit financially to the birthday and other personal projects of the general overseer. The local church is milked and drained until the branch pastor gets tired and decides to go start his own church.
According to Dr. Francis, there are instances where the headquarter church of some denomination looks out for wealthy members in the branches and direct their attention away from those branches. In his words, “There are some churches that send secret intelligence to the branches to find out what they do and monitor their activities with an ulterior motive.”
Obviously, in Nigeria, church proliferation is all about money-making. The unfortunate fact is that the government who has the oversight function to regulate the activities of churches does not know its duty.