BY YEMI FETCH

We stood up immediately as the choir began to sing. It was one of those songs that assures you of blessing after giving. I had this N100 note in my hand. I made a tight fist with it as if I wanted to give Mayweather a jab. I just didn’t want anyone to see the amount that goes into the basket. We had to dance to the altar to drop our offerings and I found that really annoying. I’d rather have ushers pass those baskets around. I can’t dance. So I couldn’t stand people who danced in a queue to cause unnecessary human traffic.

Few Sundays later, the church introduced envelopes for people like me….people who are too ashamed to show off what they have to give. Also, the church needed to avoid the weekly stress of stretching ruffled notes after service. There were envelopes for love offering (whatever that means), thanksgiving and building offerings. This is the 7th year and the church still haven’t completed the new auditorium.

So our pastor devised another strategy. The new strategy was to invite a well known and respected minister from another parish to come preach on the importance of building a house for the Lord. His message has been prepared beforehand and honorarium discussed. He comes preaching a very emotional message. And towards the close of sermon, he asks how many people want to build for the Lord.

He says, “raise your hand if you are moved in the spirit to build for the Lord a house…..okay, stand on your feet…..I have just two minutes before I prophesize into the lives of these ones…..who else is willing to join those standing?…you have just one minute more to partake in this blessing….don’t waste this opportunity…..don’t lose the blessing of a lifetime. ” And with this threat, more people are forced to join those standing. Now more than half the congregation are on their feet.

Then he asks those standing to come forward so everyone can identify the church’s enemies of progress — the people still sitting. With this, those who are on their seats are forced to step out too. Once the entire members are out, he separates the rich from the poor by simply playing on their vanity. He says, “If the spirit is telling you to give N500,000 towards the completion of God’s work, come to my right.”

And here’s an opportunity for rich members to make a statement and push their egos an inch further. Then he breaks it down to 400k, 250k, 100k, 50k, 25k, 5k….till it gets to an amount affordable to people like me. At the end of the day, everyone is forced to make a compulsory pledge. Now the minister’s job is done. He gets his honorarium and leave.

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When giving is done out of compulsion or duress, it’s not giving; rather it’s exploitation. People are deceived weekly in the name of the Lord. This is the practice in most Nigerian churches. Don’t be a victim.