7th January, 2011
Prominent pastors in the country and readers of P.M.NEWS have slammed Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his Christ Embassy Church for
Prominent pastors in the country and readers of P.M.NEWS have slammed Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his Christ Embassy Church forimposing a N1,000 toll fee onÂ worshippers who attended New Yearâ€™s Eve service at the Christ Embassy Headquarters in Lagos, South-West Nigeria.
P.M.NEWS had reported in its 5 January 2011 edition how Christ Embassy pastors sold tickets valued at N1,000 each to worshippers who wanted to attend theÂ crossover service in their church.
Indigent worshippers who could not afford the money were denied access and sent back by security men at the gate. The church explained that it collected gateÂ fees from worshippers to control the huge crowd that always besieges Christ Embassy on New Yearâ€™s Eve service.
This development has outraged many Nigerians, including prominent pastors, at home and abroad.
The pastors who spoke with P.M.NEWS yesterday and readers, who reacted on www.pmnewsnigeria.com, described the imposition of toll fee by Christ Embassy as aÂ sacrilege.
The Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Ola Makinde, described Oyakhilomeâ€™s action as anathema and abuse of Christianity.
â€œIt is a sacrilege and commercialisation of religion.Â It is an abuse of Christianity,â€ he lamented.
Founder, Soul Winning Chapel, Rev. Moses Illoh, said that such an act â€œis sacrilegious,â€ adding that the gospel of Christ is supposed to be free and not toÂ be paid for.
â€œThere is no excuse for this.Â The church of God is for everybody, both for the poor and the rich.Â The church where they collect money before you can go inÂ to worship is not a church.â€
According to Primate Elijah Ayodele of the INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, such pastors who collect money from worshippers should be stoned to death or beÂ crucified.
â€œIs this possible? Such church should be destroyed and such pastors should be stoned to death. Pay N1,000 to enter a church? Is the church in heaven?Â It isÂ never done.
â€œIf it is possible, let the government intervene.Â These pastors are for Satan and such pastors should be crucified.Â It is embarrassing,â€ he lamented.
lso reacting to the incident, General Evangelist of Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, Prophet Samuel Kayode Abiara, said collection of money as gate fee forÂ church service is unbiblical.
â€œCollecting money as gate fee before a church service is unbiblical because there is nowhere in the Bible where it was recorded that Jesus collected moneyÂ from the multitude who listened to His sermon and benefited from His miracles.
â€œSalvation is free. You receive it free and you give it free,â€ he said.
Abiara added that he cannot judge Pastor Oyakhilome because he doesnâ€™t understand the circumstances under which money was collected.
â€œItâ€™s not impossible that they must have used the event to raise money,â€ he said.
To Rev. Oladapo Daramola, Media and Public Relations Officer, Methodist Church Nigeria, it is not right to collect money from worshippers before allowingÂ them inside the church.
â€œThis is not right because despite the number of people that came to worship at the feet of Jesus Christ, there was no barrier for them to come closer.Â Â Anything that will bar people from receiving the good news should not be allowed.Â It is not Christ-like,â€ he stated.
Also, Rev. Akintoye Braimoh, Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Christian Religious Matters, frowned at Oyakhilomeâ€™s act, saying it was veryÂ wrong.
â€œA place of worship is a place for all, even for a Muslim. PFN has already rejected Oyakhilome and he is not recognised by the body; he is on his own,â€ sheÂ added.
Dr. Sam Ogedengbe, Special Assistant to the Governor on Christian Religious Matters also stated that it was not right for any pastor to act that way.
â€œWhy should you collect money before one can be allowed to enter a church?Â Is the place really a church? It is wrong to do that,â€ he said.
Some readers who reacted on our website, www.pmnewsnigeria.com, condemned Oyakhilomeâ€™s act, saying that it unscriptural.
Mike said: â€œChurch has become big business in Nigeria. Now, they have introduced gate fee to church, very soon, they will introduce gate fee to heaven beforeÂ someone dies. May God have mercy on them.â€
According to Kayode, â€œthe church should have thought of a bigger venue for this service. The National Stadium for instance would have accommodated a lot ofÂ people. The church should know that a special service like this will attract a lot of people, sinners and the saved, the rich and the poor, the genuine andÂ the fake, but give an opportunity for all to meet with Christ. It was a rash strategy to control the crowd.â€
Gloria said: â€œThis news should have been best tagged â€˜Pastor Oyakhilome deprives the poor of the gospelâ€™. Heâ€™s unbelievable. Jesus Christ welcomed the crowdÂ even when the apostles wanted to stop them. He went as far as feeding them with five loaves of bread and two fishes. We should learn from the bible, this isÂ not crowd control, but daylight robbery.â€
According to Jedidiah, â€œwhen the church becomes over crowded and the senior pastors donâ€™t have a seat for themselves on such occasions, it becomes a goodÂ problem and for this reason, the church should pray to God to provide a bigger church for them. Such services are not for the so-called â€˜true membersâ€™ to beÂ comfortable but for the unsaved to be shown love, thereby winning them over to the winning church.â€
Olo said: â€œit still beats my imagination to hear that such a thing actually happened in Christ Embassy, and at the headquarters for that matter. Whatâ€™s moneyÂ turning man of God into?â€
Temmy reacted this way: â€œImbecile, idiots and stupid people will always continue to follow a stupid pastor. When Jesus referred to his people (including me)Â as sheep, He did not mean idiot sheep like most Nigerians who are following those money worshipping and 419 pastors of nowadays.â€
Thousands of readers, who reacted in various websites and blogs, including social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, also expressed shock andÂ disappointment.
One of them, Madam Sting said on her blog, http://blogsvillegist.blogspot.com, â€œI first heard about this on Facebook via someoneâ€™s status message. I did aÂ little digging around and came up with some more information. Someone who attends the church has confirmed it to be true and said he was there this first dayÂ it was announced in church and he voiced his support of it. All I will say is â€¦na wa!â€
â€” Simon Ateba & Kazeem Ugbodaga