Opinion

Open Letter to Chris Oyhakilome by Etcetera

Dear Pastor Chris Oyakhilome

Greetings in the name of the lord. I hope this letter finds you in the best of spirit and health. I write to you, in the same form that Paul wrote to the Ephesians expressing his advice and counsel to the followers of Jesus Christ. If I had 1,000 tongues, I could not thank God enough for your role in winning souls for the kingdom. I bless God for revealing through you the divine plans of Jesus Christ for us. Through you, a lot of people have experienced Jesus in person.

I write to you as a Christian who is saddened by the series of troubling news emanating from your church, Christ Embassy. I am worried that the seeds you have planted in us through your teachings may no longer germinate as a result of the numerous scandals coming out of the church.

The roots of your messages, spiritual guidance and leadership that once brought deeper understanding of the workings of God needs a little more reassuring with the church toeing this ungodly path of collecting a thousand naira gate-fee from believers coming to hear you teach God's word every New Year's Eve. Your church has opened a new chapter in what we all know today in Nigeria as church business. Over the years, this must have turned out to be a very profitable innovation. I have to admit that the economic implications of this ingenuity are mouth-watering. If some of the Christian outreaches on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway adopt this modus-operandi, they can make hundreds of millions of naira in just one night of devotion to God.

This is surely the smartest innovation so far in the history of church business in Nigeria. Are we allowed to peddle the Word of God for profit? No pastor. We are not. The scriptures forbid charging for ministry (worship, preaching and teaching of God's Word, evangelism, fellowship of the church, psalms/hymns or spiritual songs, discipleship) in any circumstance or situation. It is stated clearly in black and white.

Matthew 10:8-9, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts."

2 Corinthians 2:15-17, "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To one, a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ."

It is true that God's people through faithful giving are to supply the financial support for the ministry. But issuing a mandate for people to pay to have access to God's word is ungodly. A genuine ministry for the Lord cannot have an advanced price tag to pay before the ministry is given. Why? Because then it is no longer ministry, but commerce, employ, trade or entertainment. You are in the ministry of rendering services to God; and with Christ as example, you are to give all that you are for all that He is. It is even wrong to charge honorariums and tickets to religious concerts. The Lord deeply warned us through his Word that there is no justification for every charging for the work of the gospel.

Think of what you are doing: charging people to pay a ticket to come to a church or civic venue to hear that which is eternal, is wrong. After all you take offerings from the same congregation.
Matthew 21:12 "Jesus entered into the temple of God, and drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers' tables and the seats of those who sold the doves. 21:13 He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers!"

The greatest proof-text your followers will misuse out of the Bible to try to "justify" charging for the ministry of the Lord is this familiar phrase: "the workman is worthy of his hire." Yes, I fully agree with that phrase for it is God's Word; but they are wrongly applied when trying to condone treating ministry like a business, trade, or entertainment. It doesn't mean we have the right to charge for "hire." More appropriately, it means those "who proclaim the gospel should receive their living by the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:14b) and do so in a manner commensurate with the gospel. Aren't you glad that the Lord didn't charge you to hear about the good news of the gospel unto salvation? Aren't you glad that the Holy Spirit doesn't charge any of us for the spiritual gifts He gives to the church? Money, beloved, should not be a prerequisite for ministry.

My Christian brothers and sisters, let us continue to pray for our pastors, gospel artists, authors, speakers, and evangelical leaders who are still trapped by the allure of a market-driven ministry; parroting worldly techniques rather than emulating the humility and servant-hood of Christ. This principle should even affect Christian retail bookstore outlets and how they "sell" their items; but that debate is for another time. Amen.

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