Selling sermons: How pastors exploit desperate believers

Extortion: Some pastors ask believers to pay for special prayers. NET PHOTOS

What you need to know:

UNGODLY MEASURES. You go to church desperate for solutions only for problems to increase, writes RAJAB MUKOMBOZI.

As I went to do a transaction at my savings and credit society in Mbarara, I met a 68-year-old woman who is also a member of the sacco but had trouble settling her Shs1m loan. The officials were giving her a last chance or they sell off her property.

I took the old woman, who looked disturbed and miserable, aside. I asked what could have gone wrong. “I have some family challenges and hoped going to church and seeking God’s guidance was the only solution to my problems,” she said.
She went to one of the fast growing local churches in Mbarara Town.
“they prayed for me and the pastor asked me to sow a seed of Shs1m to receive blessings and rid my family of a curse that is haunting us,” she said. She got a loan and put her land as collateral security. She now risks to losing her property.

Categorising offertory
Like this woman, Emily Ainembabazi, 28, says she had challenges of getting employment and was convinced by a friend to go for prayers and blessings at the same church but was disappointed when believers were clustered according to the money they had to be prayed for.
“Remember I was not employed but as a believer I chose not to go empty-handed in the house of God, I went with my Shs1,000 which was supposed to be for my supper. All went well but before they prayed for us, the pastor asked different people to go to the pulpit for prayers. First were those with Shs1m, followed by Shs 500, 000, then Shs 200,000 and he stopped at those who had Shs 100,000. The rest, he said, we could use a general prayer,” Ainembabazi recalls, adding that she cried and went home disappointed.

The pastor went on to say that those who wanted blessings would take envelopes which they would deliver at the next worship service on Thursday.
“I never went back to the church and I chose to seek and cry to God myself. I’m now employed and found a new church I believe is guided by Godly principles,” she added.
Some people either sell off their property or take loans to fulfil their obligations as demanded by churches.
Today many have come to believe that religion is more of lucrative business than a spiritual calling. And starting a church is seen as the quickest way to make money which has caused misery and suffering to many desperate souls instead of comfort, compassion and true devotion.

Consequences
Apostle Will Tumwiine, overseer of Pentecostal Born Again churches in Mbarara, says preaching for survival is dangerous adding that only has it impeded growth of the church but it has also increased sorrow and pain.
“Preachers who preach for survival are examples of many things including false prophecies, setting up price tags for things such as counselling, anointing, and blessing, all these are price-free before God but false preachers are using them to water down the gospel and fleece unsuspecting believers,” said Apostle Tumwine.

Bills Bakatonda, a religious scholar, says religious leaders are exploiting human suffering and hopelessness caused especially by poverty to hoodwink believers.
He further explains that some believers go to church to get help for their social economic problems but instead get exploited and buried into more misery.
“Pastors (priests) sell their message as if they are in a market; they have consultation and blessing fees, special anointing, prayers, tithe and thanksgiving. Imagine all this and they even dictate the amount,” says Bakantonda.

Economic motive overpowers
Bakantonda says in some churches giving tithe and offerings is no longer a believer’s choice but the preacher’s.
He opines, “Do you think the mushrooming places of worship in villages, towns, some in makeshift structures, are driven by the gospel or the Holy Spirit or evangelical mission? No, most of the people who start these churches are driven by an economic motive,” he says.

If some of these pastors and religious leaders are not starting churches for economic gain and self-aggrandisement, how come most of the properties believers contribute such as land, buildings and other projects are registered in name of individuals?

Pastor Joshua Busingye of Awakening Ministries in Mbarara, says it is high time government came out with a regulation and policy to critically look into affairs of religious institutions which instead of being a place for solace and hope, are turning into a source of misery and suffering.

Pastor comments
Pastor Joshua Busingye of Awakening Ministries, Mbarara, says whereas as tithing, thanksgiving and offertory, are biblical, some church leaders are exploiting this to rob believers and keep them far from God.
“Some believers worship their pastors, not God because some pastors have established themselves as the only bridge to God with the motive of exploitation. The relationship with God is between an individual and God, not a pastor/priest,” he says.

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