Money. it is said is the root of all evils, and it is the only reason the current trend in the Christian community has been drawing many pastors farther from God every single day. There was a time when Christian missionaries were renowned for their simple lifestyle. They would leave the comfort of their homes, often in western countries, to live in Africa. They endured the hardship the natives suffered in a bid to impart in them the knowledge of Jesus Christ as well as education that would improve their lives. The early pastors were always there for their congregation tending to their needs and this was passed across to their successors who were Africans, but the legacy of the likes of Reverend Ajayi Crowther who spent their entire lives ministering to the spiritual needs of members of their faith and widening the knowledge scope of Nigerians generally has since dissipated to a more self-centred doctrine which the pastors of these generation now preach.
The early pastors would give education freely to their congregation just because they wanted them enlightened and tower above their peers in the society which education brings, but today, rather than give cheap education to their congregation who definitely might have contributed towards the construction of these schools, the fees are placed at a range no ordinary member of the church can afford. The churches were once ministering to the spiritual, educational and even economic needs of the people, but now, it is expected by many of the churches specifically, the new generation churches that the people, even the poverty-stricken, provide copiously for the church. Offering which in the past was voluntary and meant for the sustenance of laudable church work, is now made compulsory with some pastors pronouncing curses on who ever refuses to come with one and it is hardly ever used for any positive humanitarian work.
Worse still, the lifestyles of these pastors are weird. In order to acquire all the luxuries of life, these pastors, rather than teach the word of God, have perfected ways to milk their hapless followers dry by collecting money from them through different guises all in the name of God.
Pentecostal churches advertise tithing as a condition for enjoying material blessings from God and to back up their claims, they cite Malachi 3:8-10 which says: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, in what way have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. For you have robbed me. Even this whole nation. ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’
This is part of the scripture that some so-called pastors use to collect money from unsuspecting members who so much believe in them and quickly open their purses to please God.
But rather than use the tithe money collected for the growth of the work of God, the pastors use it to sponsor themselves on expensive and exotic holidays and acquire private jets, wonders-on-wheels and mansions.
Against the practices of the early churches whose church properties are not in anybody’s name, the present-day pastor registers the church in his name and acquires properties for the church at the expense of the congregation in his own name and this informs the reason churches are transferred from father to their children or wives in the case of their demise. Pastors have also perfected several means of generating income from their unsuspecting followers aside from tithes and offering.
The pastor popularly known as father of million babies is laughing to the bank every day because he allegedly has the power to produce babies for those who are seeking the fruit of the womb and with the way he parades his abilities, those who are desperate are trooping to his church to get their own share of the babies.
And in return, they end up donating different products, including olive oil, especially the one claimed to be from Israel which people rush to buy. Recently the news was agog that the purported man of God shows his other ability as he pounce on his wife beating the poor woman blue-black which first call into question his anointing and later it was reported that his supposed miracle babies are also stage-managed just to broaden his business empire.
Chris Oyakhilome, was said to have developed his style right from when he was still in school where his church was formed from his Believer’s World Fellowship which was later turned to the present Christ Embassy Church. His core preaching is hinged on “Sowing the seed”, which requires followers to give part of their earnings to the church in offering and tithes. And he knows his onions when it comes to raking in naira in millions. His church boasts of hundreds of young company executives and businessmen, and every church programme guarantees enormous revenue. Those without money are enjoined to turn in their jewellery, wristwatches and other personal items as offering. Followers fall over one another to do that, expecting God to run his tap of blessings. Others give cars, generators, musical instruments and chairs to the church.
Some of Oyakhilome’s church members have even gone as far as stealing just to meet the demand. An example is one Lawrence Agada, an assistant pastor who was a cashier with the Lagos Sheraton Hotel and Towers. He donated cash gifts to the church totalling N39 million alleged to be stolen from his employers.
And in appreciation, Oyakhilome wrote him a letter: “May God, who gives seed to the sower and bread for eating, multiply your seeds in Jesus name.”
But rather than receive God’s blessings, Agada became a guest of the police when his employers discovered that he had stolen from them to give to the church. Agada’s employers also insisted that Oyakhilome should refund the money but he refused.
Another member of his church, Gbenga Kehinde, who was then an assistant manager with the now defunct Eko International Bank, allegedly stole about N40 million from his employers and donated N10 million to the church to receive blessings of God.
It is also alleged also that Oyakhilome during his numerous church services asked the members to donate hard currencies to receive more blessings of God and the case of “I am not with money” is a thing of the past in his church because the automated teller machine is right inside the premises of his church for church members’ use.
Aside from collecting money from members of his church, Pastor Chris has income streams other than offerings, tithes and donations. He appears to have a sharp business sense; his face and name sell huge quantities of products which make him such a preacher of the gospel.
Some of the products he sells include books, video tapes of his crusades and miracles, audio tapes, CDs, VCDs and DVDs of his teachings, which are sold at the various parishes and through agents.
They can also be bought online, via the digital media store of the church website.
One of the church’s website advertises audio and visual materials of the Christian faith. In Nigeria, a video tape costs between N300 and N1,300 while CDs are bought for between N300 and N1,300. DVDs attract between N600 and N3,600 and there are books which cost between N200 and N450.
The most successful of these is Rhapsody of Realities, a bi-monthly devotional guide. The book which is published in 25 languages and also has children’s version, is considered a companion to the Bible. For Oyakhilome’s followers around the world, it is an important emblem of faith.
In Nigeria, it costs N350, abroad it is $5, while a one-year subscription attracts $42.20. For online purchases, video tapes, CDs, VCDs and DVDs cost between $18 and $20.
Oyakhilome’s messages are also received in pocket personal computers, mobile phones and palmtops and with his large congregation one can imagine how much his income would amount to, and these he makes use of with various investments which range from hotels into publishing house. He was said to have acquired companies both in the media and manufacturing sectors within and outside the shores of the country. He was said to have run into troubled waters with Senator Mike Ajeigbo, when he tried to lay claim to his defunct television station MBI and that according to sources was the reason the TV station was closed down.
Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo is the founder of Kingsway International Christian Centre KICC. His second name is fast becoming controversy. He was at the centre of controversy over a quarter of a million pounds he was paid to run an evangelical church which plunged him into the centre of a financial scandal. KICC was investigated by the Charity Commission which uncovered serious financial irregularities a few years ago and Pastor Ashimolowo, its founder was ordered to pay $200,000 back to the Christian Centre.
It was discovered that he used the church’s credit card to buy a timeshare in Florida and got $120,000 to celebrate his birthday while he was also alleged to have transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds abroad.
The investigations also showed one of KICC’s employees (name withheld) claiming that Pastor Ashimolowo received an annual salary of between $250,000 to $260,000. While he was alleged to be using different names to defraud the church, the pastor, knowing fully well that the British authorities may close in on him, instead of investing the money over there, he invested heavily here in Nigeria on properties.
He is alleged to have a glass skyscraper in Ikeja area of Lagos, estimated to cost several millions of naira, while in Osun State, the pastor is also said to be building an edifice which will later be converted to a university, and it is called Land of Dreams.
Aside from properties, Ashimolowo is a lover of wonders-on-wheels and he has in his garage Range Rover Vogue Sport, Bullet-proof Hummer Jeep, Porsche Cayeen Jeep and other exotic cars, while he also loves expensive wristwatches.
His show of wealth reached its peak some time ago when his father in-law was celebrating his birthday and he decided to give him a Hummer Jeep as a birthday present. It is believed that the trouble he’s been facing in the UK was the reason he decided to broaden his business here in Nigeria by the completion of his church university at Ode-Omu with an amount in the region of one billion naira. The style and tricks these pastors use differ from church to church depending on what they capitalize on in the lives of their congregation.
His church may not be as big as that of other pastors but the resources he pulls out of the church has been largely responsible for the acquisition of almost half of Oregun community in Lagos where he’s having his church. Pastor Chris Okotie of the Household of God Church is one of the present-day Pentecostal pastors who have made so much money for knowing what to say to their very influential congregation.
His sojourn into church business started years back when he decided to shelve his musical career that was not doing so well after returning to Nigeria for the pulpit and the decision has since turned him to a multimillionaire. Christopher is a man that knows his onions when it comes to making speeches that will backed with his law background. Okotie knows what to say to make his congregation go to the wire in fulfilling his financial needs.
He made millions with the sales of his book the Last Outcast, which was hawked by members of his church. It is also believed that he made money playing politics and that he chose not to contest for the office of the president under his Fresh Party in the last election because of the new Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) chairman’s decision not to release money to contesting parties, an amount Okotie has been collecting in the past to divert into personal use.
He’s not only the most controversial amongst Nigerian pastors but also almost outspoken and he might have hit the nail on the head recently when he said all Nigerian pastors including him should be jailed for corruption. Pastor Tunde Bakare, who practised his law profession before he became a pastor, knows that he had got some money since he became a pastor that he is not supposed to have touched in form of offerings and the excesses of some of his colleagues in the ministry irked him to making such confession.
Though he looks modest, it is a fact that he rakes in millions through many other programmes and publications. His Latter Rain Assembly sits on a large expanse of land in the heart of the city which he said was sold to the church very cheap, while he rakes in money through programmes like Apostolic Training School which is an online programme said to train pastors, The Dominion Partners Global which is group of people who use their God-given resources to advance the ministry work by supporting the vision and purpose of the church and Global Apostolic Impact Network, a forum of spiritual interconnectivity of believers in various walks of life using their various vocational, occupational and professional abilities to impact the world and implant His glory. Church Development Center is a forum for Kingdom-minded ministers of the Word with a common vision where they are empowered to extend the frontiers of the Kingdom to the world at large, while International Centre for Reconstruction and Development is passionately committed to re-engineering the social, economic and political landscape of Nigeria and the nations of the earth.
All these bring money into the church one way or the other. Another source is his book ministry which is becoming more popular, as many would want to read the things he claimed he had predicted in the past that has come to pass just to further make people who really need a genuine prophetic impartation approach his church through one of the earlier listed progammes, he’s also blessed with several wonders-on-wheels which aids his movement from his highbrow Opebi home to his Ogba church every service.
Bishop David Oyedepo
In the league of those who are raking in billions in the vineyard of God is Bishop David Oyedepo of the famous Living Faith Ministries a.k.a. Winners Chapel. The church, touted to be the world’s biggest church building, is situated in Ota, Ogun State.
Also inside the vast expanse Canaan Land is Covenant University of which Oyedepo is Chancellor as well as a secondary and primary school.
The primary school, named Kingdom Heritage, is very expensive and is not for children of the poor. It has branches in 12 other Nigerian cities. The secondary school named Faith Academy charges N250,000 per session. The university charges different fees in three different colleges but the fees are from N650,000 and above.
Recent happenings show that the school may be bringing in more money as the bishop has taken more interest in the establishment of tertiary institutions he introduces Landmark University in his Omu-Aran, Kwara State home town and another one is under construction in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. He was also said to have announced that he will be starting seven more universities in different parts of Africa with South-Africa’s university already under construction.
Aside from the levies generated through the schools, it is also the duty of members in all the branches of the church to contribute towards the development of the institutions. Members of the church call themselves Winners, an allusion to their perceived victory over poverty, demons and diseases and their general overseer, who is affectionately called Papa, is an exponent of prosperity teaching and his followers believe that his teachings inspire them to see themselves as winners and every Sunday, they troop to Canaanland for service.
And as they stream into the vast auditorium, they are handed envelopes for offering, tithes and other donations. But according to a reliable source, that style is now archaic; the instruction to all members now is to bring their envelopes that will contain their different donations from their respective homes. The routine is also repeated during Shiloh, a week-long annual camp meeting which draws members from Nigeria and abroad.
His foreign branches are also mandated to send revenue to the headquarters, to which “Papa” has unfettered access. It was this money that caused problems between Oyedepo and his pastor in Ghana, George Adjeman.
It was said that the monthly revenue being remitted by the Ghana church was $60,000.
Bishop Oyedepo is also into publishing. According to Oyedepo, God gave him a publishing mandate and told him: “Your books are supernatural arrows for the liberation of mankind; send them forth! My presence shall go with them and they shall subdue and devour the works of the wicked multitudes…(Readers) will be saved, baptized in the Holy Ghost, healed and delivered from all oppressions of the devil. Emphasize the books and your publications; that is my task for you.”
And Oyedepo seems to have fully accomplished this task. As part of his business empire, Oyedepo established Dominion Publishing House and has written about 70 books covering various aspects on the Christian faith, teaching followers how to be successful in business. The books are bestsellers in their own right and have been translated into French. On the church’s website, the prices range between four and eight pounds each.
His wife, Faith, is also an author with a number of books about marriage to her credit. In 1998, Oyedepo established the Gilead Medical Centre at his headquarters in Lagos. Two years later, he opened its branch in Kaduna where his ministry began.
However, the church claims that the clinic provides treatment at heavily subsidized rates. Oyedepo’s church also sells gift items online. Its website bears information on the use and how to buy. “Our gift certificates are the perfect gift solution that will put an end to those tricky moments when you just can’t seem to find the right gift, or you need a gift in a hurry. Send as many as you want to let friends, family or customers and colleagues select the present they really want. We have something for everyone,” says the website.
Recently the church decided to start their own airline called Dominion Air. This according to source is because the number of aircraft in the possession of the man of God is increasing by the day and rather than just allowing it all wasting away without use as he can only travel in one at a time, he decided to commercialize it. With its long product chain, Oyedepo’s Winners Chapel is something close to corruption. The bishop himself lives like a business mogul and he owns a garage that parades state-of-the-art cars as sources claim he has a very big garage where about three Chrysler brand of cars were abandoned and not in use as well as other cars like that.
Bishop Mike Okonkwo
He was alleged to have left the banking industry under controversial circumstances before starting his own church the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) after defaulting from the church that posted him to Lagos. Bishop Mike Okonkwo is a pastor who will rival his mates in the church business in terms of material things; he is one of the pastors who preach prosperity above everything and this informed his decision to bring embarrassment upon the church when he collected gifts on behalf of himself and the church from Emmanuel Nwude, a man prominent for his role in the advance fee fraud and on the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
It was the same love for money that pitched the head of TREM against Bishop Lanre Obembe of the El-Shadai Bible Church, during the process of world evangelical ministration of Reverend Benny Hinn, who visited Lagos some years back. In the aftermath of the crusade which was described as a flop by all that attended, Obembe declared that the failure of the crusade was because he refused to give out of the money Benny Hinn gave for the hosting of the crusade to Okonkwo who was then the president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria while Obembe was the state Chairman and Obembe’s outburst was followed by a sanction by the Okonkwo-led national body.
Just like the trend among Nigerian pastors, Okonkwo has under his care fleet of cars and cares less for what befall members of his church and where or how they make their money provided it is made available for his use in the name of the church.
Pastor Joseph Agboli
Apart from collecting tithes and offering, the senior pastor of Victorious Army, Joseph Agboli has devised another means for his congregation.
It is alleged that the pastor during service would tell his people that the church is in need of certain things and he wants people to contribute to the work of God. But to make people wake up to his call, he would just mention a bogus amount of money in the tune of millions depending on what mood he is.
And immediately he mentions this, the whole congregation has no option but to donate what they didn’t bargain for.
And to further display his new-found wealth in the vineyard of God, Pastor Agboli is in the habit of asking his wife how much he bought some of his accessories like wristwatch, shoes etc. He would call out to his wife, “Mummy, where did I buy these shoes and for how much?” and mummy would then reply, “I remember you bought it at Harold’s in UK for 10, 000 US dollars” and the whole congregation would then shout halleluyah.
One ex-church member told Global News that he stopped going to the Victorious Army Church when he saw the way the man of God was forcing money from his church members and while the pastor and his family live big, some of those who are donating their hard-earned money are struggling to survive.
Pastor Wole Oladiyun
He’s one of the pastors with eyes for business. Pastor Wole Oladiyun, the founder of wave-making Christ Livingspring Apostolic Ministry popularly known as CLAM, situated around Omole in Ikeja, was born to Christ Apostolic Church-attending parents but in his quest to learn more about making money through God, Pastor Oladiyun went to the Latter Rain Bible School Lagos, after which he moved to Deeper Life Bible Church, and later Victory Christian Church before he ended up with Faith Family Bible Church, Ojodu, headed by Rev (Dr.) D. K. Aboderin.
He left Faith Family Church to establish his own, and since then the church has been growing both in numbership and material gains that accompany today’s gospel work. His unique selling point is his prophetic ministry which has seen many move to the fold of the church. The church it was gathered is fond of telling people that attending the church is an assurance that the person will make heaven; this was in one of the church website that “We have a covenant with God that whosoever passes through this ministry or has contact with it in righteousness shall make heaven.”
The pastor who owns a private school, J-Nissi Children School, Ogba, is also into real estate as shown in CLAM Estate, from where the church sells properties to everybody who is interested. The church apart from these also owns a farm as well as an event centre to further generate funds. The Ondo State-born pastor also has an online store where his books and that of his wife are sold. The church in no time has grown to become a big business venture since it was formed. The church like others also has training school as well as an online medium through which the church can collect offerings and tithes.
Bishop Ayodele Oristejafor
Ayodele Joseph Oristejafor the Bishop of Word of Life Bible Church and the current president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), can be said to have gone a step higher than even the second richest man in the world Mr. Warren Buffet by the acquisition of his state-of-the-art aircraft valued at around N4 billion and as expected it was a gift from members of his church on his Birthday.
This will have confirmed his overbearing influence of his congregation who will stop at nothing to please their pastor who wanted to own an aircraft like the Adeboyes, Oyedepos and Oyakhilomes of this world, and since the sermon is always about giving to your pastors even when you can’t afford, the church members in order to make their pastor happy decided to give him a befitting birthday present in a N4 billion private jet, with a promise that they will be contributing enough money to pay for bill that the place they will be parking the aircraft will attract as well as servicing and other maintenance that will arise as time goes on the plane.
It will be recalled that Oristejafor deserted his former boss in late Bishop Benson Idahosa pulling out a large chunk of the congregation of his mentor’s church in Warri just because he knew how much they realized after every. The CAN president is also one of the leading offering for blessing preachers of this era and the result of his sermon has now manifested for all to see.
Pastor Itua Ighodalo
Making money has always been the watchword of this flamboyant pastor. His marketing strategy has seen him build his church from nowhere in less than two years to its present state. Pastor Itua Ighodalo of the Trinity House church has shown that he is a motivation speaker any day and this is what has endeared him to his congregation who can go to any length to fulfil his immediate needs.
When he decided to form his own church after he was disciplined by the Pastor Adeboye-led Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) over his decision to marry ex-beauty pageant and event planner Ibidun Ajayi, it was revealed that for the duration with which his new church worshipped at the very expensive Civic Center, the bills were paid by a friend of the church and to the surprise of many he did not worship for more than eight months before the church acquired land where their new church auditorium is sited at the moment.
The pastor who has other establishments apart from the church gets the chunk of his money from running the church and has to his credit some monster-on-wheels with which he and his wife move around, sources revealed that the cheapest of his automobile runs into a couple of millions whereas there are so many members of his church who will have to trek or join public buses to the church only to be asked to donate from the meagre sum they earn.
Pastor Lazarus Muoka
This soft-spoken pastor has grown to become one of the richest Nigerian pastors in no time. His business sense will compete favourably with that of any of his business-oriented kinsmen sourcing for customers across markets all over the world. Pastor Lazarus Muoka of the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Renewal Ministry has shown to all that he’s not in the church business to join the bandwagon but to make a stand for himself and the future of his family.
Just like other pastors in Nigeria who are general overseers, his book ministry is not doing bad as he has been raking in millions through this medium both online and in church bookshops. Apart from the book ministry the pastor also owns a secondary school in Imo State named after the church and sources have it that he has been working tirelessly on establishing his own university just like other churches in his league.
He also has an online medium where donations can be made into the church’s purse for his church members who are not living around, while he always ensures his church members are having access to all his church programmes by making them available live on different online media. And to generate money he makes sure there is always one programme or the other that will keep his members busy and these programmes go with names that are not only attractive but also touchy like ‘HOPE FOR THE NEEDY’, ‘THAT MY WONDER MIGHT BE MULTIPLIED’, ‘THE GOD THAT NEVER FAILS’ and many more.
His unique selling point is the availability of testimonies some of which many of his followers had come out to refute. They claim the testimonies are all stage-managed and that the pastor who sells things like oil and other things to rake in money is nothing but a cheat. It is, however, very obvious that he just like every other of such pastors have prioritized money above all things.