The sack of some pastors of the Living Faith Church a.k.a Winners’ Chapel has again brought to the fore the issue of church administration in Nigeria.
One of the sacked pastors, Godwin Peters who cried out on social media alleged that he was sacked because he did not meet “target”. His station was Ikere Ekiti.
The social media has since been agog with the news of the sack with many pouring vitriols on the set man of the Church, Bishop David Oyedepo.
To passers-by, the action of the church was uncalled for. Why will a church use the yardstick of the world to measure its performance? They seem to ask.
Oyedepo running a business empire?
Some have argued that Bishop Oyedepo is running a business empire. They have gone a step further to use uncomplimentary words to tar him. They can’t just fathom why a church would be caught in the trap of worldly mechanisms.
That said, it’s good to note that Winners Chapel is not just sacking its pastors on account of non-performance. That has been a perennial practice. But non-performance is not just the reason pastors are sacked in the church. Some that were caught stealing church money, or who got involved in shady deals have also been shown the way out.
What makes this particular sack unique is that one of the victims was taken aback when he got the sack letter and had to cry to the world.
Peters: They told me the commission does not run at a loss
The distraught young man could not understand why he had to be so treated. He was wondering if he committed an atrocity that warranted such action. The looks on his face in the video show a young man in the cobweb of uncertainty.
He said he was engaged with some others in line with the church’s expansionist programme on August 28, 2020. He applied himself to the work of winning souls to the best of his ability. But on July 1, 2021, he received a call that the state pastor wanted to see him. On getting to the office he met other pastors that had been engaged by the church.
He said “When I got there, I saw other pastors too, over 40 of them, so I joined them. A few minutes later, we were issued a letter. I opened the content of the letter to see what was there and I saw that it was a sack letter.” Godwin lamented. He was later told, “the ministry does not run at a loss” that the income generated by the assembly he pastors should be able to cater for his accommodation and salary.
Peters was obviously taken aback. He perhaps wondered why a place he regarded as a sanctuary of safety would throw him out into the cold. He was ordered to move his things out of the official quarters and handover the keys of the place to the Church authority. His dream or so it seems was cut short.
The man who had branded himself a winner is now a victim of the system he took pride in. If he is man enough, he will dust his certificate and look in the direction of another church or simply perish the thought of ministry and embrace other endeavours.
In a sense, the church is indirectly telling him to go and do his homework before venturing into ministry work. The church must have set a target for him. And he perhaps had promised he had the capacity to meet the target. But one year down the line, he was found wanting.
On a lighter note, if he is still interested in church “business”, then he needs to take a few lessons in the art of attracting members. He should hone his oratory skill, repackage himself, and leverage the anointing of the set man.
Winners Chapel and its peculiar system
He obviously had no basic understanding of how the Church is run. But then, we need to pause and look at the issue dispassionately. Is Bishop Oyedepo being mischievous by taking such draconian measures in treating pastors under him?
In the first place, he too had a trajectory of starting small. He tells the story of little beginning; from using a rented apartment and growing down the line. He tells the story of how things were so tough for him in the early years.
Just thinking, if he had been sacked by God in those early years of his ministry; nobody would hear his name today. But then the difference between Bishop Oyedepo and the young men who lost their job is that God called him while he called those men.
Between those God called and those called by men
That is where to draw the line. And it should be a striking lesson for those who have brain waves; claiming God has called them to ministry. When Archbishop Benson Idahosa was alive, a bishop under him once said “God called Idahosa, Idahosa called me” he made no pretence about his call.
The person God called won’t be sacked but will be groomed. Usually, those God-called are tolerated for a long time even when they run foul of God’s instructions.
Peter is a classic case of a man called by God. Despite his denial of Jesus and his preference for fish business; Jesus still came to him and commissioned him to ministry. In the later years of Peter, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and he was able to carry out God’s assignment. People called by God are always reluctant at the beginning. You hardly see them seeking for position or title.
On the other hand, the person called by man should get ready for a sack at any time. His vision has to be subsumed under the man who called him.
Unfortunately, the church today is filled with men who were called by men that were called by God. There are also those who were called by their stomach and then those called by friends and well-wishers. That young man and his colleagues were called by Bishop Oyedepo. Or, they put themselves forward to be anointed by him.
Counsel for the sacked pastors
The sacked pastors should not be taken aback by what befell them. Rather, if they have a nudge to do God’s work, they should seek God’s face for direction.
We also need to understand that this is not just about Winners Chapel. It’s about the church global. While it is true that all believers are called to the ministry of reconciliation, there are those who are called to specific ministries and specific assignments by God.
People who feel they have been called to a specific ministry may have to combine their call with secular endeavours or go full time into the assignment depending on their conviction. Sadly, the vast majority of pastors we have today really have no business in ministry.
Many were called by circumstances. Such men are in the category of those who are susceptible to being sacked. Such people can’t have a vision from God. They have to submit their vision to the man who called them. As a matter of fact, many denominations are guilty of this. Only a few churches will permit members to run their independent ministries under their watch.
If we probe further, would the young men in the employment of the church have taken the pastoral job if they got offers to work in an oil company? It may be argued that they had some convictions and love for God. Those that were sacked probably had zeal for God’s sanctuary. But zeal is not enough. Ministry is about a specific calling from God and waiting on God’s timing.
Those who meet “target”
Those who got pastoral jobs through the interview process and who have had to meet targets should however not rejoice. That they are still in the system does not make them special. It still does not show they were called. As a matter of fact, if they have met target, it could well be they have compromised along the line. So, they found the easy way out by applying to stay within their comfort zone.
While it is not wrong to apply to be a pastor and work in a church setting, it is wrong to subject one’s calling to another ministry’s parameters of success. God is the one who calls. God is the one who should assess the person called.
The point is men who work under stringent conditions of meeting targets need to rediscover their call. If truly they have been called, they need to wait for the manifestation of God’s grace in their lives rather than subjecting their calling to odd human parameters.
The issue of being called or not however does not in any way vindicate pastors in the ilk of Bishop Oyedepo who sack those they called on the premise that they did not meet “target”.
In the first place, such action indicates that such assembly is no longer living up to its billing. It also shows such assemblies have a faulty recruitment system. Did God not speak to them before they engaged the services of these pastors?
But then, there is really nothing wrong if a pastor is given the boot for acts unbecoming of a saint. That will be understandable; because a little leaven leavens the whole lump.
In this case, however, it is about membership and some financial consideration. And to think some of these pastors are less than two years in the system also shows how impatient the church authority is.
Value of a soul
If we truly know the value of a soul, we will not ache about not attracting the crowd. For God, a soul is worth the whole world. If a pastor is able to attract just one person to the kingdom, he has done a great job. That one soul could be a Billy Graham tomorrow. The mathematics of growth with God is no doubt different from our own.
It was Dwilght L Moody who went on evangelism and three people got saved. When he was asked, he said two and a half people were saved: Two children and one adult.
His interpretation is that the adult that got saved was half because he had spent half of his life without Jesus. But the children were just starting their lives. For many of us, we will prefer to have adults and not just adults we will prefer money bags in our church than the poor. Some pastors pride themselves on having quality church members. Their interpretation of quality members boils down to those who have money.
All this kind of thinking points to one simple truth that we all need to cry to God in repentance. We need to really plead for his mercy. We have turned the table. We have allowed mammon to call the tune for us. It’s not just about Winners Chapel, it’s about a failed church system that has to be tackled from the root
By Gbenga Osinaike