Harvesting money in church, not souls?
What are some of the things that the churches in Ghana today need to repent from this Lent Season and beyond, so that the church in Ghana can better experience renewal and the power of God in order to impact the church and society with godliness, integrity and progress for the common good?
Kwabena Owusu Tagoe had returned from Graduate Studies in Cambridge, Britain. He visited a number of churches in Accra, Sunday after Sunday, in search of a church home. He was frustrated and looked for counsel. He landed in my office and told me his story.Subscribe
The churches he visited mostly preached motivational sermons, and usually ended on how “sowing seed” (giving good money) into the life of “the man of God” and in the church placed a person on the path to progress and material wealth in his chosen field, business or career.
Kwabena was disappointed with the sermons he was hearing and the Sunday worship service liturgy. His Graduate Studies in Cambridge was in Development Economics. The content he was hearing in the pastors’ motivational sermons on money, wealth and progress was not only inaccurate but very flawed in Development Economics. He quipped: “I went to Church to hear expository preaching and teaching of the Bible to build up my Christian faith. But what I was fed on were inaccurate and pretty shallow motivational sermons.”
Kwabena wanted a church to join, where Christ was central in Sunday worship service and church life. His search could not land him in a biblically healthy preaching congregation until he appeared in my office for counsel.
Has “harvesting money, and not souls,” become the main focus of so many pastors and church leaders in church ministry today? Today, in many congregations across the country and beyond, the climax of the Sunday church worship service is not the clear and faithful preaching of the Bible text, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is “the money giving time” – the regular offertory, the collection of tithes, “covenant offering,” “Altar offering”, and Thanksgiving offering; and in a number of cases, special offering times. These money collection times are often preceded with a shout: “Giving time, blessing time.”
In a Sunday congregation church service, we saw some members give about five times in just one church service (regular Sunday offertory, tithes, altar offering, special offering for the seminary or Evangelism Sunday; and perhaps Thanksgiving offering or offering for the needy while taking communion!!). In fact, so many and too many “offerings” in just one service!
In one congregation, we observed the Pastor, a very senior clergyman, set up an “Altar” for offerings as a regular feature; and not the kind of spontaneous offering in response to a worship song or great point of a sermon. That regular “Altar”, up front, is like a “religious god” in the chapel. What some cultures in Ghana would call “Town idol” or “Town god.” And it gives members the impression that once your money goes on that altar, heaven will notice your situation —need of marital spouse, or baby in marriage, or employment door opened, or recurring sickness healed. We even heard a leader say, “your giving in the church is buying materials for your mansion in heaven.” Isn’t that a fallacy and false teaching?
In fact, some pastors proclaim to congregation members: “because you have “sown a seed” (giving good money) in the life of “a man of God”, or to the church, you will be head and never tail. And many pastors and leaders say this regardless of what lifestyle the person is leading. But the Bible teaches against such a “belief and practice” in the church. For example, we read this: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise me,
“The LORD says: You will have peace. And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’” (Jeremiah 23:16&17 NIV). Some sermons on giving and seed-sowing and their proposed rewards can only be classified as absolute false teaching and abuse of the Bible text being used. Sadly, it itches the ears and feeds well the carnal desires of the listeners!
It is instructive to note that the monetisation of the Gospel, seed sowing or giving money to gain breakthroughs in church practices in Ghana today is church history gone round to come and hit us.
Martin Luther’s reformation was a strong response to church traditions and practices that were not biblical and misleading people into thinking that they have good standing with God, when in reality their religious practices cannot have approval from God! At the time of the beginning of Luther’s reformation, there was decline in nearly every sphere of the church. Jesus
Christ was no longer central to church life and work. There was decline in church impact. There was decline in sound Bible preaching and teaching; spiritual decline; and “outright departure from the supreme authority of the Bible!”
The church teachings of the day had minimised sin. For example, sins committed through life could be dealt with through “the buying of indulgences.” And it was the abuse of indulgences that finally made Luther to stand up in protest. Luther’s Reformation was a recovery of the authority of the Bible. That what the Bible says, God says. And that the Bible alone is the final authority on “what we believe and how we behave” in life and church ministry. Martin Luther recovered for the Church the heart of the gospel: That salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus-His finished work on the cross and resurrection alone. And that the total Christian salvation and the fully functional Christian life is to be lived for the glory of God alone! This was critical for the Christian church then and it is critical for the Christian church today.
We, too, in the church in Ghana must recover the true biblical gospel of salvation and the centrality of Christ in church life and worship. We must not minimise sin in our preaching and church practices. We must repent from the monetisation of the Gospel. Are some teachings on “sowing of seed” and Altar offering equivalent to “the sale of indulgences.” We must have the preaching of Christ and His word as the climax of church worship services.
The Bible certainly encourages giving money for Gospel ministry. The Apostle Paul mobilised money for mission work. He teaches that some believers even have been given the gift of giving money (See Romans 12:8). Indeed, all believers are to tithe and give towards Gospel ministry in the church or fellowship. And certainly, God rewards those who give generously and sacrificially towards the mission of God, and the needy. But they must first and foremost give themselves to God. They must seek first to experience new birth in Christ. (see 2 Corinthians 8:5).
The Lord Jesus Christ gives us a timeless principle and counsel on money and our day-to-day living: “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?
So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6 25-33 NLT).
Does our belief and behaviour matches what the Lord Jesus says here? We must listen to Jesus and practice what He says. The church in Ghana needs to repent from the monetisation of the Gospel and church life this Lent Season.
(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)