By Cynthia Ayeza:
Of all the organisations that could and has the greatest influence on humankind, the church has got to be at the top of them all or at least be among the top. Most churches are positioned to influence their communities but their leadership has become too blinded by the greed for numbers and money. The more people you have in your church services, the more offering /cold cash you can get. The more offering you can collect on a Sunday, in a month and in a year, the more branches a church can build or even more expansions they can make on the current building – extending it from a 500-seater to a 3000-seater. Just imagine it: holding the attention of 3000 lives/people, inspiring them, challenging them, convincing them and selling them what their itchy ears have been longing for – it is simply captivating and thrilling, as opposed to the meagre 200 that would have showed up in the 500-seater hall.
Be that as it may, the church runs on the temporarily committed energies of volunteers for the most part. In recent years, some churches are actually beginning to understand the value of people and therefore creating employment opportunities for young people and some professionals, apart from Pastors and Missionaries. Wait, does one need to go to school to be a Pastor or Missionary? The majority, however, are still living in the dark ages, with delusionary assumptions of influencing their communities. It seems that the more people they see in church, they more they are convinced that they are having a positive impact on the lives of those in their communities. I, however, think that, like the penance that happens for the Catholics on Saturdays, Sunday services have become a place for people to come and make right for the past week's messes, and then the cycle resumes the next day. But that is not my business – each must work out their salvation as they see fit.
Did I mention that the church as an organisation is exempt from taxes? That means they are in control of all the monies they collect on a Sunday – and it is not little money. Instead of building more churches and campuses, and extending buildings in the name of extending egos, why not build some value-adding projects like schools, libraries, clinics or hospitals, skills workshops, kitchen soups for the homeless, shelters, orphanages etc? This for me would make more sense because on top of feeding the people's spirit man, you are attending to their other REAL needs – we are not JUST spiritual beings. We live in physical bodies that are so frail, so corruptible and need many answers in the above mentioned projects.
In Uganda, Watoto has made a name with the good work it is doing with the Watoto children's villages. Some may say that it is a profit making scheme and how the church in re-branding itself is riding on the fame of the orphans. But let's get off our high horses and pedestals and think for a minute: the children do not go hungry, do not go cold, have shoes on their feet, shelter, a mother to nurture them and fathers to guide them – this reality is theirs now, and the past hopelessness has been erased from their days. Gary Skinner, knows that the gospel is more than just “Jesus loves you”. He sure read his bible right in seeing Jesus feed thousands upon thousands with bread and fish, and then feed their spirit man. I applaud his administration. I admire the man's leadership – one where he has put in place succession and continuation of the work in Kampala and Uganda as a whole. I am sure there may be other people making a difference and I would like to hear or even unearth those stories because they should be the reason Jesus' name is kept alive.
One church is not enough. In Pretoria alone, there seems to be a church on almost every two or three corners and yet the homeless multiply, the unemployed are on the increase – hopelessness is making shacks of many hearts. Where is the church? I'll tell you: busy prostituting the bible, selling us the God of empty promises, the manipulative God who will only bless after we have given, the one who will not be good to us because we have been bad etc. It is sickening.
The church is in a position to educate people, skill them, build schools and fully fund them, create jobs for the various recent graduates – make a tangible difference within the communities that they are situated. Instead of building bigger facilities, rather create opportunities for tangible and enduring influence in the lives of generations to come. Life tends to boil down to heritage and legacy and so far the church is at the losing end of it.
So far, we seem to be storing immeasurable riches for ourselves here on earth – wait, we are actually storing up enough for the moth! I know the government has its role to play in various respective countries but I dare say – the church is not doing its job. Our job was never to sell God. Our mission here is to practice true religion – feed the hungry, pray for the sick, comfort the grieving, shelter the widow, provide for the orphan and so on.
“Jesus loves you” means absolutely nothing to me if after it I will have no shelter. It will mean nothing to me if I cannot get a simple internship at the nearby church, where I could learn how to type, work on databases, to be an administrative assistant or even personal assistant – where I could learn marketable skills and hopefully get a small stipend to cover transport and a snack. For the amount of money that the church makes, this is too small a thing to ask.
An organisation such as the church, with mass potential influence, should not be run on reserve fuel. It is recipe for disaster.
I fear that our influence smells of death already. What, therefore, is our legacy as a church going to be?