Is Putting Economic Pressure On Would-be Couples Acceptable?
In most cases, a regular and devoted church member is likely to take certain things for granted and expect concessions from the church when organising memorable events of his/her life such as a wedding. But how would such a member feel, if told that he/she has to part with a handsome sum of money before a minister could officiate at the event? This is not all. The Choir is also expected to be ‘appreciated’ with money, as well as pay for the church hall that will serve as the reception. This scenario becomes even more confounding, if the intending couples are church workers and have been contributing steadily to the upkeep of the church. Sounds strange? Well, that is what obtains today in some churches. But should economic pressure be put on would-be couples? Shouldn’t committed church members be exempted from such financial obligations, especially on their golden moments? Won’t such stance on the part of the church discourage steadfastness? CHRIS IREKAMBA took the issue to some clerics.
‘We Are Trying To Review Similar Thing In The Anglican Church’
(Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Johnson Akin Atere, Bishop of Awori Anglican Diocese)
IF they are workers in the vineyard, they should be given some preference, as they should be able to benefit from the work they are doing. Some churches have a tradition of giving list to intending couple to pay for certain things, but even then, if they are workers, I think such things could be waived. Church halls may be for commercial purposes, but they may be given a discount so that it may not be a recurring decimal in future. They may not pay as much as others, but I think they should still pay something.
On the gift to ministers, I think it is the ministers that should give to the one getting married to assist him. But I’m aware that some churches give list and whatever is given, if it is not statutory, is voluntary. It should, however, be from a cheerful heart because that is what the Bible says.
What obtains in the Anglican Church is similar to what you are saying, but we are trying to review it because people sometimes get married even though they are not rich. In the case of those that are unable to afford such money, the pastor’s discretion is required. It is good to appreciate the officiating minister. The ordinary members are likely to organise a party and such things after the wedding. So, part of it may be used to appreciate God. I think the first thing is what is being offered to God because He comes first. Secondly, is the person capable of appreciating the ministers? Like I told my own people, if such a person has nothing to give, they should still go ahead and conduct the wedding. A time will come when he will come and show appreciation. What I’m saying may not be applicable to all Anglican churches. I’m only expressing my own view. I believe that God loves a cheerful giver. If you are told to give to officiating ministers and you sincerely don’t have, then you should say so and nobody should force you.
But I think why all these things are so is because sometimes the same people that claim not to have anything, you see them spending thousands and millions entertaining and hosting friends at the end of the day. But when it comes to giving to God, they begin to analyse. There have been situations in the past, when the church sponsored the whole wedding. So, it’s not because some churches want to exploit, but just that they want to let the couples know that it is their responsibility towards the church. I think if there is anywhere people should invest, it should be in the church because it is the collection of people’s money that makes the church rich. If the church is not blessed by people, then their obligation may also be at stake. The point here is that sincerity must prevail. If there is conviction, even without being asked or given any list, people should do the proper thing and all we need to tell the couple is to appreciate God. I don’t believe in legislating or giving the couple certain amount to pay. If they don’t have money in all sincerity, God knows their heart, go ahead and do the wedding. You are not expected to take money in the first instance.
In my opinion, those charging for performing their responsibility are not godly. But some people may think because I’m a bishop, I don’t need money and that’s why I’m speaking so. But who says I don’t need money? It is not in my place to say you must give me certain amount. But if God is leading you to bless me, go ahead and do so and I will also bless you with prayers. I think it should be voluntary and from a cheerful heart. It’s a pity that some of our choirs except to be appreciated or promised something before they can perform. Such things should not be enforced, but I think what the church is doing is to say, if you can afford it, these are the areas where you need to appreciate people.
‘These Days, The World Has Crept Into The Church’
(Pastor (Mrs.) Ngozi Oluwagbemiga, Famous Gospel Proclaimers Ministry, Ojodu, Lagos)
THESE things were not done like this before. In fact, if someone wanted to wed in the past, the church would even encourage him/her by making the facilities available freely; so long the person is from the church. But these days, the world has crept into the church and this is why you see all sorts of payments. Notwithstanding, there are also some churches, where structures are put up for public use in order to generate funds. In such cases, members are expected to pay a token, unlike what an outsider would pay. It’s not general and for the couple in question, may be that is what obtains in their own church. I remember in the Anglican Church, when they were giving my mother in-law a title, she was given a list of what to buy and things to give to the bishop. She felt she was doing something for the Lord. Mind you, it was actually church members that came up with such ideas to generate money for the church.
Anything that has to do with the church must not be generalised because we have different pastors. While some are not educated in the things of the Lord, some are business-oriented and all they want is to make money at all means. Then some of these things emanate from member themselves and it becomes a norm that everybody must play along with. But the idea of paying the choir members is strange. That is why I said you must look at the pastor and the church’s background and see if it is their practice. If it is, then there is nothing you can do. But you don’t pay pastor; you can only give him an honorarium. I know that’s what happens in most of the churches. Pastors who officiate get honorarium to ‘whom honour is due’ but since the people in question are workers, they should not be asked to go that far; except they volunteer to appreciate the platform given to them. Three things are involved: I know a lot of churches where women come together to build a hall, an event centre, which they use to generate revenue for the church. Sometimes it comes as an idea from the people and if it is an income-generating avenue for the church, when it comes to your turn, you should also dance to the music. They are the ones that usually go to the pastor to ask, ‘how do we generate income for the church?’ And then they begin to come up with such ideas as building event centre. But concerning the choir, I think the person can package food and drinks for them and not money. And if the officiating minister is an outsider, they probably give him transport fare. I don’t think they should pay the minister; there is no way you can pay a man of God. The honorarium for the officiating minister comes from the offering and not from the individual, but if they are beginning to demand that from individuals when they are wedding, it is wrong.
‘Certain Things Have Become Necessary Both For The Church And People To Make Contributions’
(Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Abuja)
DON’T forget they are also going to feed the people free of charge. There are certain things that have become necessary both for the church and the people to make some contributions. If they are church workers and the hall goes for N10, 000, for instance, they can give it to them at N2, 000. People want comfort in the church, but when you demand some contributions from them, they magnify it and give it all sorts of names. After the wedding they are going to give free food and drinks to people even some mad people around, anyway. But if they are asked to bring money for diesel, they say they are monetising the social services in the church. I know the choir has its constitution concerning when a member is wedding. They come in fully to support one of their own. They are also given food separately. Regarding the church hall, there are people cleaning the place and they don’t do so for free. After all, the celebrants are going to pay for music, pay the caterer and all that.
I know how we operate. I don’t know what you mean by paying the man of God. It might just be a stipend you are giving to the priest, which he may not charge you, but which you give him all the same. The man of God might also reduce the price for him. When it comes to parting with money, people are usually not happy. If you belong to a church, then you should know that wedding has been taking place there for centuries.
If members desire to use church facilities, then they should be ready to pay for them. But if is that the man of God is over charging them, that I will not agree with. In some of these churches, there are rules as to how these facilities are to be used. Church workers might be given 80 per cent discount or even be allowed to use the facility for free, while outsiders are made to pay 100 per cent, which might just be N15, 000. If you belong to a church you know the rules. As so long a couple has fulfilled all conditions for the sacrament, you go ahead and wed them. If at the end they say, ‘pastor take this bottle of wine,’ it is more appreciable than charging them what they can’t afford. But if there are laid down rules and conditions, then people should comply with them and not complain. If you are a member of the choir, you know the rules that you have to provide food and drinks. And if you have been enjoying that when others wedded, then you shouldn’t complain when it is your turn. But extorting people coming to wed in the church is unacceptable.
‘There Is Nothing Wrong Giving Honorarium To The Ministers After The Service’
(Bishop Isaac Olawuyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Methodist Church Nigeria)
I WOULD like to briefly define the Church as the assembly of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is referred to as ‘the body of Christ’. The Church is not the building but the people, the believers therein. In the first instance, the Church of Christ is established purposely for spiritual development of the members— to seek the face of God, share the word of God and pray together; to be equipped through the biblical teachings and doctrines for the propagation of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
The Church is not a commercial outfit, or a profit-making venture. It is not established for moneymaking purposes or a business place. Its only business is to preach the gospel and save souls. However, we need money to build an auditorium, a comfortable place of worship, where people will gather to pray and hear the words of God. We need money to pay the ministers and Church workers. There is need to get money for media evangelism and purchase public address system.
There is no other way the Church can run its programmes than through tithes, offerings and collections from other occasional services and functions. There is nothing wrong with the idea of giving honorarium or appreciation token to the ministers after the service. Choir may also be appreciated as well.
Imagine what normally happens after the marriage service in the church. For instance, the couple will rent an event centre for as high N500, 000 or N1million, pay for entertainers, which includes a band, comedian and MC. We all know how much all this costs. But any demand from the church is regarded as a burden, when at the end of the day, a token amount of N10, 000 to N20, 000, is required for thanksgiving.
While church members should not be overburdened through oppressive demands, the members should also be conscious of their responsibility to the church and ministers. Where it is obvious that the celebrants are unable to do as expected, the church should show understanding and love to give them the services as deemed fit. Money should not determine the level or quality of services to be rendered. Rather, love and fellowship must be allowed to prevail. Everyone, whether rich or poor should feel acceptable in the house of God. Services must be rendered indiscriminately because there is no partiality with God.
‘Why Would I Take Money From You Because I’m Preaching Or Because Choir Is Singing?
(Rev. Ben Eragbai, Divine Appointment Ministry Int’l (Upper Room Pentecostal Bible Church) Palmgrove Ilupeju, Lagos)
BASICALLY, if they are workers in the vineyard, they ought to get the benefit of the vineyard. What we do here when people are wedding is to ask them to pay a token for the form, which is less than N5, 000 just to make them be serious. After that, they don’t pay a dime to the choir because they are part of the church. Why would I take money from you because the choir is singing for you? Why would I charge you, when you did not call me? The God I’m serving knows how to bless me. So, I’m not going to charge you because I want to conduct your wedding, especially if you belong to a group in the church. But if over the years you have not been paying your dues a month, the church may ask you to go and clear such debts in your department, which is what obtains all over the world. But for the choir to charge you before they can sing on the wedding day is erroneous, just like charging for the venue. If you belong to the church, you are already part of the church. By the grace of God there are churches that don’t do that.
A lot of things have entered into the Church. For instance, there is a church here in Lagos, where if you want to see the man of God for counseling, you must pay money. If you have to pay before seeing a man of God, you can only imagine what you will be asked to do on your wedding day. It’s unfortunate because different kinds of people, businessmen have come into the church and they are bringing disrepute to the church.
There is another church, where people buy anointing oil. But here in our church, we only pray over the anointing oil and it has raised the dead, healed the sick, and even healed people with HIV and all manners of sicknesses. You just come with your anointing oil and I will pray over it. We don’t monetise the things of God and that is why Jesus had to flog people out of the temple. It’s the same thing that you are seeing, but the main thing is that we should not be distracted because we are in the end-time.
On the contrary, if an outsider, who is not part of the church and has never contributed to the building comes for wedding, you can ask such a person to go to group A, or B to clear him/herself.
‘You Will Need To Encourage The Choir And The Officiating Ministers’
(Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Peter Ogunmuyiwa, Bishop in charge of The African Church, Abuja)
THESE church facilities have to be maintained. They require money and sometimes the administration may not depend on the offering alone to be able to meet their financial challenges. If a member needs to use some of the church facilities, it is good for such a member to also contribute towards their maintenance. For instance, the church has a hall and you want to use it. You know there will be generator to provide light and we know that fuel is expensive these days. So, you have to pay some amount to contribute towards the realisation of these things. I think that is the major reason you need to pay something.
In fact, if you are a member of any church and you want to make use of available facilities, you are not necessarily going to pay as much as an outsider. Like in my own church, there is a register for every member. There is a card that is giving to every member, especially financial members of the church. So, if you pay your dues regularly, of course, you will have access to whatever church facilities we have. For proper maintenance of these facilities, it is also good for members to pay some token.
Ordinarily, you don’t pay for the church choir. There is what is called extraneous services, which are extra services out of the normal services church workers do and you will need to encourage those who attend, such as the choir. Of course, the officiating ministers have no other business than to water the flock of Christ. So, the pastor that will officiate at the programme needs to be appreciated. That one is biblical— ‘he who works at the altar will eat by the altar’. Regarding payment of the choir, it is good for one to encourage them because the members have other things to do, but it is not mandatory. So, if you will rent a hall and organise a party outside the church, how much will it cost you to just refresh those who will also minister to you in the spirit? These ceremonies are not expensive. For instance, if a church member tells me that he wants to wed and he comes with five family members from his side and there are also five members from the bride’s side, I will invite only one or two members to sing and in 30 minutes, the ceremony is over. It will not cost you anything, but when you want to invite the whole world to witness your wedding, that makes it very expensive and that is when some of these things come in.
There is no way you will have a programme in the church and you will not appreciate the pastor. It is not possible, but if you are a dedicated worker nobody will ask you for anything. The choir will come and render their services free of charge. The ushers will also come and even the church hall will be provided free so long you are a very committed worker, nothing will be added to you. But it is then left for you to appreciate the pastor. A house of God is not a commercial venture, even though the facilities in the church have to be maintained.