Should Churches Collect ‘Gate Fees’ From Worshippers?

Pastor-Peter-Odogwu-1

Is the end-time prophecy coming to pass? Truly, strange things are already happening in Christendom and the world generally, which seem to buttress what Jesus Christ said that “…when these signs (strange things) become evident then know that the end is at hand…” Or how else does one explain the scenario whereby a Church reportedly collected a gate fee of N1, 000 each from worshippers that attended the crossover service of December 31, 2014/January 1, 2015? Is this some form of tollgate and should it be allowed, seeing that worshippers had come to seek the Lord? Won’t such acts discourage people from going to the House of the Lord? Some clerics ventilate on the issue, as reported by CHRIS IREKAMBA. 

‘The Church In Nigeria Is Not Supporting That’

(Bishop Abraham Olaleye, Coordinator, Apostles & Prophets Global Mission, Lagos)

WE also got the information, but we were not there. However, let’s assume such a thing happened. We tried to investigate and what we heard from the church was that they were trying to do a sort of crowd control, which is not all that acceptable in the kingdom. If you know that you are going to have more than enough people, why didn’t you make provision for satellite broadcasting or provide enough space, where people can sit instead of collecting money from them? 

  So, the Church in Nigeria is not supporting that and it is not Biblical for people to come to the house of God and then begin to pay a toll or certain amount of money before they can worship Him. I think the church, where this thing happened, will be in a better position to explain why they did that. But this is not the first time this is happening. They have been doing it over the years. Only that people are just hearing about it. It has become a usual feature during every crossover programme. 

  Jesus didn’t collect tolls from people and from Genesis to Revelation, nobody collected anything from the people. If worshippers come to the house of God and in obeying the injunction of the Lord that says we should not appear before Him empty-handed, they decide to give offering of their free will, then they shouldn’t be compelled to give or bring certain mount of money. 

  But what we have seen over the years is that a lot of churches are coming up. And because there is nothing to checkmate or what I would refer to as quality control, because Nigeria is a secular state, whereby individuals have right of association, anybody can start this or that, all sorts of practices are also going on. Though we have the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), but there is a limit to the level of control they can exert over each denomination. However, people are allowed to give an offering in church. It is between the individual and the Creator based on what the former believes He has done for him/her. People are not supposed to be forced to do those things. 

  The Bible says ‘let each man give as he purposed in his heart.’ So, when the issue of collecting toll comes up, I think it is a very wrong precedence being set in the church. But as you people write about it in the papers, a lot of people will know that it is not right. A lot of upcoming pastors will also know that it is not the Lord’s desire. It is wrong scripturally and God is not in support of it. 

‘That Pastor Took Advantage Of The Multitude’

(Pastor Peter Odogwu is Senior Pastor of Destiny Centre, Unveiling Chapel, Abuja)

THAT practice is not of God. It is demonic, a selfish practice that is condemnable. That pastor is not of God at all; no matter his name and how big that church is. 

  It is against the word of God and he is making merchandise of the people. That is not the teaching of Jesus Christ. It is a selfish and greedy act and not Biblical doctrine at all. 

  He took advantage of the people, and he is a greedy pastor, but I tell you that God did not ask him to do so. How can you do that in the house of God? It is very bad. The house of God is not where you collect money, as it is a house of prayer. No matter what, tolls or gate pass shouldn’t be collected from people that want to worship God and at a crossover night for that matter. 

‘This Is One Of The Strange Things Jesus Prophesied About’

(Bishop Michael O. Amamieye, Aggressive Faith Ministries, Port Harcourt, Rivers State)

FIRST of all, I find it all very appalling. I have never heard about that. I have never seen it happen. So for me, this is strange news despite having been a Christian for many years now. 

  It is not surprising, as Jesus said that towards the close of the age, strange things will be happening and one of them is the manifestation of prophets and false teachers. So, I would consider it, as one of the strange things that Jesus prophesied would happen in the end-time. I do not know whom the pastor of that church is to enable me find out from him why he did it. I would have loved to know exactly his motive for doing that. But in order not to be judgmental, because I don’t know the details of the story, I would just say it’s strange. We should, therefore, look upon it, as one of the strange things Jesus said would happen towards close of the age. The world is coming to an end pretty soon and all kinds of things are happening already. 

  There is nowhere in the Bible, where the Lord demands that worshippers pay for anything. In fact, when Jesus walked into the temple and saw people trading there, He took a cane and whipped all the traders and turned their tables upside down. From that account, we know God’s position. And He declared right there and then that ‘my Father’s house is a house of prayer but you people have turned it into a den of thieves.’ So, we can see that the people doing such things are not representing Him. They are thieves and this is not acceptable. It is not to be encouraged at all. Interestingly, the people perpetrating such things may be professing to be Christians, but we know them by their fruits because the fruits will always indicate the nature of the tree. These people are not representing Christ.

‘Aberration Is Possible, Where Money Is Overemphasised’

(Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN)

WHAT you are saying is strange, but these are some of the aberrations that can be found in some worshipping communities, especially where money is over-emphasised. It’s also good for journalists to investigate why the church did so and what purpose the money was meant? If there was an agreement, then at least there is something a bit understandable about it. 

   It is a very uncommon way of doing things. That is an adequate evaluation of it. May be they wanted to use the funds to build a church or some such thing. This may not be the right way, but at least in such light, the act would be better appreciated. 

  I think there is no justification for that type of attitude except perhaps for reasons I mentioned earlier. In some churches, people might want to raise money to do certain things because it was a new year. There are so many names they give to some of those things, which somehow give them credibility.   

  But to lock somebody out of a worshipping place for not paying the toll fee is a serious aberration. However, people sometimes come late, thereby disrupting proceedings. So, to curb such and ensure that people come in promptly, they may lock them out and then allow them to come in afterwards. But if it happens the way you portrayed it, then it is an innovation that is highly unacceptable. It is unfortunate that that could be the standard for accepting prayer and all that. These are some of the aberrations that are being frowned at.

‘We Are Not Respecting The Vow We’ve Taken As Ministers’

(Pastor (Dr.) Oyeleke Owolabi, President, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nigeria/Western Union)

IT is very unbiblical for any spiritual leader to set financial condition for worshippers. From Genesis to Revelation, there is nowhere in the Bible, where conditions are attached before people can worship God. It is never done anywhere in the Scriptures. And for somebody to say that as a worshipper is crossing over, he/she has to pay N1, 000 is just taking advantage of church members, which is not fair. The question that comes to mind is: What if a worshipper has no money? Does that mean he/she wouldn’t be allowed to worship God? But nobody should deprive another the God-given privilege of worshipping Him. We are not worshipping a human being, but the Lord, Who does not demand any money from us before we are allowed to worship Him. 

  So, it is Biblically and ethically wrong. You know we have to be very careful because every profession has its own ethics. There is what is called ministerial ethics and in that light, such act is wrong. It’s like we are not respecting the vow we’ve taken as ministers. You know our job is to liberate souls from poverty, oppression and demonic forces, as well as from sicknesses and diseases. And we should do that freely, as the Bible says ‘freely have I given unto you, and freely you must give.’ So, the Lord has entrusted into our hands this very noble profession, which is the ministry and we should conduct ourselves decently. 

  In our ethical practice, it is not acceptable to attach money to any miracle, or worship or anything whatsoever because it is ‘freely given’ and we must give out freely as well. And when looked at from the moral angle, it is also not morally sound. 

  As spiritual leaders, we are to build the morale of people. For instance, we rebuke policemen on the roads for collecting bribes from motorists and okada riders. Now, this is more or less like somebody is also collecting bribe, though in a different way. So, it is not morally sound and we should be able to demonstrate high level of morality. 

  We need to respect the ethical conduct of our profession and we should be able to uphold the Biblical principles. So, considering such act from these perspectives, I personally think it is not acceptable anywhere in the world. If the pastor says God instructed him to do so, I would question the kind of spirit that is working in such an individual. 

‘I Wonder What People Are Doing In That Kind Of Church’

(Pastor Emeka Chiemenem, Wholesome Family Ministries Int’l, Aba, Abia State)

This is terrible. It is not Christ-like. Of all the people that followed Jesus, He came to take them over from where they are to the other side. And that pastor is to pray for his people to crossover into the New Year. Jesus even fed the people that followed him and He never charged them any fee. So, I don’t think that that pastor is representing the only true God. This is a merchant and not a minister of God and I wonder what people are doing in that kind of church. It is occultic and not Christian-like and even in occultic settings, people are not charged before they come into the temple for goodness sake. So, any minister that is charging his members N1, 000 before they are permitted into the auditorium to pray for the crossover night has shown the congregation where he is crossing them over to. He is definitely not crossing them over into the presence of the living God, Who says, “freely you have received and freely shall you give.” I think the best thing the people should have done was to turn back. After all, there are so many other denominations around, where they can worship God. What happened on that crossover night in that denomination was not occurring for the first time. It shows what has been going on.   

  Remember that a headache is not sickness. Rather, it’s symptomatic of an internal disorder in the body.  Also, a fever cannot be malaria, but a symptom of malaria, though some other ailments can bring up fever, while some other sicknesses bring about pain. So, what that minister did shows the world what has been going on and what his congregation has suffered silently in that church. 

  It is not Biblical and not shown anywhere in the Bible. The Bible says ‘God loves a cheerful giver,’ but I don’t think that is the context the minister operated. Nowhere did Jesus minister and charged a gate free. How can you charge worshippers gate fee for coming into the house of God to pray? We are not talking about offering or tithe, but gate fee for goodness sake. Is asking people to buy tickets before being allowed to pray the best way to raise money? This is neither Christ-like nor Biblical. 

  A lot of people are so gullible that they don’t know their left from their right. A lot of worshippers have been so hoodwinked into thinking that some ministers are tin gods that cannot be challenged. 

  I am angry. I wonder whether the God that I serve is the same One that this type of ministers also serve. The Bible made it expressly clear that they are serving the god of their belly. 

 ‘It Should Be Loudly Condemned’

(Rev. Amos Achi Kunat, Pastor of New Estate Baptist Church, Surulere, Lagos)

IT is completely wrong and has no Biblical basis. I don’t know the church that did such, but it is absolutely wrong and should not be encouraged. 

  It should be loudly condemned because it is wrong. The gospel is not supposed to be peddled like that for money. A minister would put financial condition under which people could access the grace of God, which is given freely. For whatever reason, it is totally wrong. If you put a condition of N1, 000 before people can come in to pray, then that is no longer a church. If anybody comes into the church and wants to give an offering on their own, such is called free will offering. The person can give an offering as his free will, but not as a condition to gain access into the premises of the church; it’s absolutely wrong. 

  The church is supposed to be a place of grace, where the grace of God is being freely dispensed, as the grace is a gift, freely given to us. So, people should also access it free and when they are being blessed, they are free to give an offering, which is completely free will. That is my position on it. 

‘For Whatever Reason, It Is Unchristian’

(Elder Sunday Oibe, Director, Research, Planning and Strategy of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)

It will be good for me to have the facts of the matter before I can comment. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no Christian church in Nigeria or in the world that says people must pay before you worship because ‘freely we have received and freely we give.’ But I don’t have the facts. If you were bold enough to name the church, I would have known what to say. But from the Christian point of view and Biblical injunction, I know nobody should pay to worship God. We don’t pay money before you can enter into the house of God. So, I don’t know where this one is coming from. 

  I am surprised to hear this, and I don’t want to believe it is true. Maybe they were doing a programme that you were not aware of, which is why I requested you supply me with the facts of the matter. Then I would be able to speak authoritatively. You know there are so many things that are happening in this world. Maybe they have a business transaction, but that is not worship because nobody can put a condition that you must pay N1, 000 before you enter the church. I’m just hearing that for the first time. It is not practised in Christianity and not part of the Biblical injunction. It is strange. 

  For whatever reason, it is unchristian and if such a thing happened, people should be able to know and speak out. So many things are happening in the name of Christianity. Fraudsters and 419ers are everywhere and some people have even designed a logo that looks like that of CAN. There are many criminals out there, but what we are saying is that is not Christianity. It is strange and we don’t know about it.  



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