Article of Faith: Why Pastors don’t go to Heaven, By Femi Aribisala

Femi Aribisala, Ph.D
Femi Aribisala

The “gospel” is now a product marketed with razzmatazz by mega-pastors and televangelists.

I was having lunch at “Sweet Sensation,” a fast-food restaurant in Lagos, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I looked back to see a gentleman grinning at me from ear to ear. “Dr. Aribisala, how are you doing?” he asked expansively. It was one of my former pastors.

As a young believer, I was so hungry for God I juggled several church-memberships simultaneously. I grew up in the Anglican Communion. But when I finally had an encounter with Christ, I switched to the Baptist Church and then to Pentecostal Assembly. Even then, I also attended mid-week services at Zoe Ministries, before ditching both for several branches of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

When the Lord formally called me to a healing ministry, I decided to establish a Christian fellowship of my own with a handful of people in Lagos. Within five years, it metamorphosed into a full-fledged church.

A repentant pastor

My former Zoe pastor was genuinely glad to see me and I readily changed tables to sit with him. He told me he was no longer with his old church but was now coordinating a small prayer-group. He wanted to know what I was doing. When I told him my office was just five minutes away, he insisted on seeing it. So after finishing my lunch, I took him back to my office complex and showed him the different features of the building.

When we came to my office, I sat down behind my desk and he sat in front of me. He looked at me with a curious intensity. Then he said: “So you are now a pastor?” It was a question and yet not a question. I had shown him the church-hall, the Christian video and book libraries, the prayer-room, television room and the counselling cubicles. I had also come clean and acknowledged I was then a pastor. Nevertheless, he felt it necessary to ask the question again, as if he was trying to confirm it to himself.

He suddenly became very quiet. He seemed to crouch a little bit in his seat. He stared for an embarrassingly long time at his finger nails. Then, out of nowhere, he started to apologise to me. His apologies were all the more intriguing because we never had any noticeable differences in the past. But there in my office that afternoon, he just felt the need to apologise and I understood exactly why. In a rambling manner, he told me how sorry he was for “all the rubbish we were doing in those days.” Somehow, he just knew that by now I would have come to know they were rubbish, even if I might not have realised it at the time.

I remember one occasion when Zoe president, Patrick Anwuzia, was visiting the church, we were required to raise a “love offering” for him. But then the pastor insisted it had to be in either dollars or pounds sterling. He asked for public pledges but when nobody responded, he called people up at random and dictated pledges for them. He told them what they had to contribute irrespective of whether they were so disposed or not.

In those days, he often came up with imaginative ploys to extract money from us. No less than three offerings were collected every service; one for the Father, another for the Son and a third for the Holy Spirit.

Church business

When Jesus was only twelve years old, he went with his adoptive-parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But on returning back home, they discovered he was missing. They spent an agonising three days searching for him and finally found him in the temple, engaged in discussion with the teachers of the law.

His mother chided him for his insensitivity. She said: “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought you anxiously.” (Luke 2:48). But Jesus was unapologetic. He said to them: “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

A similar anomaly applies to pastors. Precisely what is the Father’s business and to what extent are pastors engaged in it? The Father’s business is supposed to be the preaching of the gospel in order to usher men into the kingdom of God. But make no mistake about it; today’s churches are far more interested in your money than in your soul. The single, most important, objective of today’s pastorate is the collection of money from church-goers.

House of merchandise

Folusho Aribisala told me about a banker colleague of his whose church applied for a loan from his bank. He was dismayed to find in the application projections about anticipated increases in the amount of tithes and offerings that would be collected over the next few years. The man was disgusted that his church was not only targeting his current income, it was already making plans about his future earnings.

Jesus’ gospel is addressed to the poor. (Luke 4:18). James insists it is the poor that God has chosen for his kingdom. (James 2:5). But the primary focus of today’s gospel is the rich. Pastors are ever reaching out to those better able to pay fat tithes and give big offerings. Some even give commissions to church-members who invite them to church. In some cases, special seats up-front are reserved for them.

Pastors have become get-rich-quick tipsters who offer keys, not of the kingdom, but of financial prosperity. We organise special programs for businessmen, promising to give them the power to get more wealth. Like Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas (U.S.A.), we offer our parishioners “your best life now;” an infinitely more appealing proposition than Jesus’ “take up your cross and follow me.”

Marketing Jesus

No wonder, many now see church-going in economic terms; deeming it invaluable for making business connections. Bankers come to church in search of depositors. Traders come to church in search of customers. That nice gentleman shouting “hallelujah” across the aisle from you is likely to button-hole you after the service, give you his complimentary card, and inform you that he services generators; just in case you are interested.

The “gospel” is now a product marketed with razzmatazz by mega-pastors and televangelists. Bishop T.D. Jakes of Potters House, Dallas, Texas organises a lavish annual religious jamboree called “MegaFest.” The 2005 edition in Atlanta, Georgia was sponsored by Coca-Cola; GlaxoSmithKline; American Airlines and Ford Motor Company, among others.

But how can the gospel of a kingdom not of this world be obligated, at the same time, to corporate America? Inevitably, there is conflict, as the message is punctuated by the obligatory “word from our sponsors.” It is not a surprise therefore that, according to Annette John-Hall of the Philadelphia Inquirer, during the kick-off of the 2005 MegaFest, T.D. Jakes mentioned his corporate sponsors more times than he mentioned God.

In effect, pastors are no longer engaged in the Father’s business. Mary and Joseph have been looking for us in all the right places, but to no avail. Someone needs to tell them we can be found in the supermarkets and flea-markets, putting Jesus up for sale. (Continued).


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  • Mezie Ibeh

    Femi always with the raw truth. Keep it up dear.

  • Dr Vic

    The Lord bless you Bro. Femi. I am one of those who eagerly await your columns every week. I was beginning to think I have a problem accepting the hypocrisy we call church in Nigeria until I stumbled across your write up in PT. May the Lord enlarge your platform to proclaim these kingdom truths. Pastor, I have wept my eyes out on the hopelessness of the Nigerian church in particular but your messages are beginning to rekindle my hope. At last somebody is speaking out! Sir, the truth is that the Nigerian church is a cruel travesty of the church of Christ. And this travesty is PREDICATED on MONEY! Money (not the power of the Holy Spirit) is the fuel on which our churches run. May God takeover His church; may He purge us all!
    Keep up the good work.

  • Ade

    Thank u

    • olami

      God will continue to strenghten u IJN

  • Wole

    So, ALL pastors do this? Really sad that things have got to this– I mean you have got a wealth of samples to draw from — but it is still pathologically inaccurate of anyone to conclude that ALL pastors do this.

    As beautiful as it reads, there should be a red-liner that there are still few infamous pastors somewhere who are neither after fame nor money, but would rather pursue their callings appropriately.

    Maybe Femi’s philosophical eloquence is multiplying my dead brain cells. It just couldn’t cut through me that this is all Christianity is left for – the vanities of life! I have seen this maybe a little bit lighter. But I am still of the considered opinion that not every pastor is driven by these ‘infirmities’, and generalising the menace creates as more confusions, if not worse than those accused. We all need repentance: both the gutted observer perversing the ‘su’bjectivity and the perverse perpetrators.

    Yeah, the truth is that these things exist but the report is laced with guts and subjectivity. Christianity must have been ‘Nigerianized’ by our people or commercialized by many people across the world, it’s refining resides in our ability to create a balanced truth. Isn’t that a better truth?

    • Johnson

      While Aribisala shares some shades of truth in his well written piece, Wole in my opinion provides the balance the discourse so obviously requires. Generalisations of this kind, particularly since you are pastor yourself, smack of a certain demarketing coy with the effect of promoting the alternative- being yourself and your ministry, in your very words “I had shown him the church-hall, the Christian video and book libraries,
      the prayer-room, television room and the counselling cubicles”, how objective!

      You threw names here and there freely, as an intelligent person, you do know that when you take a statement or event out of its situational context, you could create an entirely different meaning. That my friend is what has been achieved here. I distaste any pseudo-piety and gimmick employed by preachers to extort people, i also dont think much of those who make a blanket case with a certain holier-than-thou undertone.

  • I read through this whole article and came to the conclusion that my brother Femi Aribisala is not a called pastor. He is a professional pastor. Writing something that has been known even in the bible days. It appears Femi is a baby in the Lord although he claimed to be a pastor/christian in the time of Pastor Awuzie, Zoe Ministry. Why is he putting up this immatured write-up? It’s unnecessary and a wasteful exercise!

    Please stop using people’s tithes and offerings for this type of publication. You are wasting God’s money. Continuing putting up this publication will certainly bring you to mockery before the matured minds in the kingdom of God and take counsel from your brother Wole here.

    • Nelly

      What aspect of his write up marks him out as a baby in the Lord? Your write up portrays you as myopic and your argument puerile. Instead of focusing on the issue raised, you are attacking his personality. If u have nothing better to say, get out of this forum.

  • Joseph

    Femi you are making reference to pastors in the US when your CAN president Oritsejiofor is the best example of corrupt pastors. All the Oyedepos with private jets where do they get the money from?