The Church, the Mosque and Poverty in Nigeria – Japheth J Omojuwa(@omojuwa)

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Dairy of a Freeman
Tags: , , , , , ,

And God is able to make all grace (every favour and [a]earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need [b]be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (AMP)

Religious organisations in Nigeria have come under fire, some of it deserving while some of those are just a form of misplaced aggression. Many have designed the craft of abusing religious bodies, saying they are the bane of the society. While that is increasingly a popular path to take, it will never be the right path. The purpose of engagement is productivity and if we cannot say or do the things that’d make these organisations get better, we’d indeed be wasting everyone’s time by just blowing hot air without adding value. This piece is about how religious organisations can raise the ante and help bring about the much-needed change our country craves. I’ll be speaking mostly about what the church can do hoping that a reading Moslem or other believers can find a place for their beliefs in my ideas. This is for those genuine religious organizations that are interested in doing things better and improving on the good they already do. It is unfortunate that bad eggs in the midst make all the eggs look bad but the reason we have adulterated forms of anything is because the authentic forms thrive.

Contrary to some opinions, the Nigerian church has indeed done a lot! Many have had their lives transformed by choosing to apply some of the principles they picked up in church. People say they teach about prosperity but I’d rather that than poverty. People say churches collect people’s money but can we sit down and think; if the members had no money to give, would these churches be sustainable? That people give and give every week says something about the church and its style; it works! The church creates millionaires and billionaires who in turn give back to it. Like everything else, there’d be those that make money illegally who’d give to the church. I don’t think the church would start dividing its members into those who make legal money and those who make illegal ones. In my opinion, everything rests on what the church does with what it gets. That is the essence of this piece.

More often than not, those who knock the church are not those who make contributions to it. I am a Christian http://omojuwa.com/2010/09/god-does-not-exist-the-complete-edition/ and I believe I have earned the right to say some of the things I’d be saying because I am a Giving Christian. I do not give because I want God to bless me, God does not bless me because I give. I give because that’s who I am. God blesses me because that’s who He is.

The Nigerian church is doing a lot but the church is not doing anything near enough. Compared to its potentials, the church could start a revolution in this nation. By revolution I do not mean that of bullets and blood, that’d never work and Nigerians will never agree on those to kill anyway – federal character will end the debates about who to kill first (1966?). I expect the church to start a revolution of wealth creation and the development of education.

It is not always about the big system and its macro solutions, there is a lot the microcosms of the system can do in making the society a better place. In Germany, 25 per cent of the nation’s energy supplies come from renewable sources, while 51 per cent of the said renewable sources come from private homes. These are citizens essentially powering the nation from their homes. These numbers are expected to rise decade upon decade till the nation gets to source 80 per cent of its total energy needs from renewables. Citizens can indeed start revolutions and until we understand that the best revolution is that that places the responsibility of development in the hands of every citizen, we’d not have even started our march forward.

What if each religious organisations – in this sense I mean specific churches and mosques – have institutionalized systems of giving to the society? By giving I am not talking about the conventional ones that are often cosmetic in nature. We give clothes and food to the poor but as long as these ones remain in a position where we’d have to give them the same thing the following year nothing would have been done. We need to do better. We need to give in such a way that those who receive from us will not need alms again. A friend of mine told me of how her dad said and I will paraphrase “you should give so that they can come again tomorrow, if you give them too much they will grow wings and you will not see them again.” Our job is to give in the opposite sense of these words; give so that others can have enough to fly themselves. Give to productive activities.

What if we had a LIBRE Foundation dedicated to Education, Women and Entrepreneurship by a church called LIBRE? There is the Real Woman Foundation http://therealwoman.org/index.html that provides shelter and rehabilitation for abused women and the orphaned children. Projects like these should not be outliers; they should be the norm. The work starts from within. There are dedicated members who are able to attend University but are indigent. We can create an Education Fund for dedicated members in this situation. There is a chance they will stop attending your church/mosque after such benefits but you have to understand that you are doing this for the society and not your church. Nigeria has the world’s highest number of children out of school. If we reduce this by half, we would have reduced by an even more percentage the number of armed robbers, sex workers, potential terrorists that’d be unleashed on the nation in the coming years. If churches build schools, they should have a dedicated admission percentage slot for indigent church members. It is essential to charge the rich while building world-class self-sustaining institutions but what is the essence of a church that does not give back?

What if we had a fund for small businesses to grow bigger after training the owners of these businesses? Imagine the revolution. When businesses grow, they engage more hands and more hands mean more productive activities. The engaged hands even save enough to start their own businesses. You eventually have a domino effect of productivity and job creation. We can decide as a church to grow a particular number of businesses to a certain size per year. The funding could be in form of single digit loans – for sustainability – and in some cases even equity funding.

What if the church had a food bank where at least indigent members of the church can access food in times of food shortage? Where other members who have “more than enough” can give of their abundant food, new clothes and what have you. I once attended a church during my University days where everyone was allowed to come for food if in need during the examination period. I knew I’d never need such but I felt glad knowing that whoever was in need of such would find a way out because the church made a way. I know Nigeria’s Lagos based Daystar Christian Centre does this.

What if each religious organization reduced poverty in its midst to say less than 10% of its membership? Yes Jesus Christ did say the poor you will always have in your midst but He never said “the poor shall be the majority in your midst.” The most important thing is to start. How many poor people do you have in your church? How many of them have jobs? How many of them can be empowered to start businesses? We cannot reduce the numbers effectively if we don’t know exactly how many people are in the poverty box we need to lift out. When your members succeed, your church succeeds!

Considering the number of Nigerians that go to church and the mosque every week, we can go beyond the promises of the intangible. I know these promises of Heaven are real but we need to attend to the issues of today. If we could do this, we will bring back the souls lost to the world that felt the church was too big but too big for nothing. We would win even more souls for the Lord because it is easier to convince a man you’ve just fed to “come to the House of the Lord” than it is to convince a hungry man. He is angry. It is also easier for cynics to see the essence of the church beyond promises of Heaven. What is the purpose of a church without earthly relevance?

We need a revolution in Nigeria, no not a revolution of guns and bullets – we will never be united enough to have a nationwide revolution of this kind – but we can always be united to fight against poverty.

What if we sold the private jets? Would the monies be useful to educate more children? to help more mothers? to make the society a better place? Yes religious fathers need private jets, only that need is not as needful as the fact that the brethren is hungry, angry and needs convincing that this service to God is not about a few fathers instead of being about the children of God. What is the beauty of a Limo-stretch riding pastor’s wife in a church of mostly poor people? Do not be deceived by ceremonial Sunday attires, there are more poor people in your church than you’d imagine. We have competed enough on who has got the most beautiful church and the most modern backdrop, it is time to compete on who has lifted more people out of poverty. This would be a holy competition indeed!

The giving of the church should not be about giving for the recipients to return for another morsel tomorrow, it should be about giving to empower the recipients to survive on their own and become givers themselves in a matter of months – the 8th level of giving. We’d not have fake pastors if there were no original ones, we’d not have fake churches if there were no original ones. We’d not have the adulterated version of anything if there were no original ones. I believe there are true men of God and I believe it is time these ones shine the light on this country’s seemingly perpetual darkness. Thank you for the prayers, it is time to work!

The purpose of being blessed is to bless. Blessings are designed to flow not to be stagnant. It should flow from the blessed to bless others and the flow must never stop. Blessings should not be destroyed by being hoarded; we can create even more by blessing others. The symbolism of Jesus feeding 5000 is that He cares about the tangibles of this world. It matters to him that stomachs are filled with food, as it matters to Him that our spirit is filled with Him. He gave examples of giving clothes to the naked, food to the hungry etc these examples even came in parables concerning the way to Heaven.

For Christians, the fundamental part of our faith is the tangible reality of a gift: God gave His only begotten son and that son gave His life. There’d be no Christianity without giving and it is time we use this to address Nigeria’s unwholesome socio-economic realities. The church has the powers to raise men, women and resources to help lift more Nigerians out of poverty than any system in Nigeria apart from may be the Nigerian government.

 

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