TIME TO LOOK AT TITHE BOX IS OVER
RISE UP & WORK!
Bishop Emmanuel Etim is the State Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN and the Presiding Bishop of Faith and Power Church, Uyo. He is one of the remnants who mounted prayer revival many years ago for the birth of Pentecostal renaissance, social and infrastructural development of Akwa Ibom State, in which we are witnessing today. His election as the Chairman of PFN, Uyo two years ago, was well deserved.
He was a member of the State Monitoring Team on Church on COVID 19 protocols. That brief assignment gave him some insights into what pastors under the PFN folds were going through during the period. He is now saddled with a new responsibility to get pastors to embrace marketplace ministry in order to support their families. He shares his thoughts here:
The lockdown dealt blows on some pastors. What is your assessment of the situation now?
The pandemic is now history, something to tell the generation unborn that there was a time everyone was locked down and even the church couldn’t meet again. However, the church in this context does not refer to the building but to believers. Many churches were affected particularly those who are full time because there were no more offerings and tithe to take care of their needs, they became so stranded. Yes, some few churches had opportunities were members paid tithe through transfer but many churches do not even have bank accounts. It was a big hammer against these sets of pastors but thank God that it is all over. Our prayer is that it should not come back again.
The Covid-19 has taught us pastors a big lesson that we should not depend on tithe alone for funding of our activities, you cannot be a full-time minister and nothing else you are doing. Paul the apostle was not a full-time minister without work, he was a tentmaker. The problem with pastors is that many misinterpreted the scriptures. Some say, “God called me and said I should leave all and follow Him.” But the call did not say you shouldn’t work to support yourself financially; there is no scripture that tells you to be full-time and not get something else doing to support your family. Pastors should also let their wives work and support the family. I hope the COVID 19 has taught us something so we won’t repeat the mistake again.
For pastors to get something to do, there must be deliberate efforts to get them orientated towards this direction. Has been any training to help expose them to the art of entrepreneurship?
We held some training when Dr. Sylvanus Ukafia was Chairman, then I was the State Secretary. Our goal was to encourage pastors to embrace tent-making, that is having a business that can fetch you money, while at the same running the ministry. Doing business also would pastors fend for themselves, and not look at tithe and offerings as a means of survival. Unfortunately, there are still some pastors who feel they should stay full-time. The problem with Pentecostal pastors is that we copy wrong things most of the time because most of us came from the orthodox churches but look at the Catholic Church, they have hospitals, schools and other businesses concerns that fetch them money. But I’m beginning to see some few changes because our Churches now have schools, even though school is a long term venture but it is a good development.
Aside from school, I encourage churches to start cooperatives. In our congregation at Faith and Power Church, we have established a cooperative for members. Since then nobody comes to me for money for anything, you go to the cooperative, I noticed also that even none members of our church patronize the cooperative, take some soft loans to do something and pay back. The cooperatives have a lot businesses they encourage members to do, like farming where they will rent a land and support you to farm. Pastors should form cooperatives and help members have something to do. This way they will support their families and the church also. It is easy to begin a cooperative society in your church or among a group of pastors who want to support themselves. I have many pastors under my supervision who are benefiting from cooperatives I encouraged them to start. Of you want to flag off a cooperative, gather yourselves and get advice on it from government agency in charge of cooperatives, register with them and they will train and orientate you on how to successfully operate cooperatives. The purpose of cooperatives is for members to help themselves, so that nobody is stranded. And if you’re honest and faithful, you will make it. The problem with pastors is that so many are not honest and this is why they have many trouble.
Pastors should not sit down and look at the tithe box because if the members do not work the tithe will not come. Wives of pastors should not stay idle, start something small, sell garri and other food items because when there is no food in the house the pastor and wife are in trouble. Many wives of pastors like to eat fufu but would not want to sell it, something is wrong somewhere. Why don’t you go to where fufu is made and get some sale and eat out of it? What is shameful about selling food that you like eating? There is something economists call income, it means it comes in. If no income comes in pastors and their families are in trouble. Of in your home money is always going out and nothing comes in, no income, then prepare for big trouble. I advise our pastors and wives not to be lazy because, as the scriptures put it “if you do not work you should not eat.”
Pastors are citizens of Akwa Ibom State, since your inauguration two years ago, have you been able to get any forms of attention on the predicaments of pastors under your watch?
We have not been able to get attention Akwa Ibom State government to the plight of pastors under our umbrella but we are still hoping we will someday. You cannot go to the banks either because no bank will accept to listen to your pleas. Akwa Ibom State is mainly depending on government, we are yet to have a strong private sector to could support the church. PFN is large group of pastors but we don’t have access to help. We trust God to get the attention of the governor so he the State can also pay attention to the plight of pastors.