A smart pastor distinguished the donation given to the poor and lowly from the donation given to God through churches. The pastor explained that giving to the poor is giving to ordinary man who cannot bless or pay you back. While giving to the church meant giving to God himself who will bless and pay back a hundredfold. The pastor explained that worshipers’ obligation is donating without asking how the church donations are used, as that’s left between pastor and God. This scenario shows a common event in many Nigerian/African churches that raise questions about church donations and offerings.
Recently, there has been disagreements about different forms of church donations whether offering, tithe or seed. Some churches are alleged to conduct five to six types of money collection using various names and schemes. Even the extremely poor and sick people in the churches are urged to donate in faith for healing and breakthrough. Despite church donations, the society continues to depreciate and worshippers continue searching for newer churches with better blessing promises. Though donations may raise issues in other religions in Nigeria/Africa, the fuss is most obvious in Christianity.
What is the mission of Christianity?
Christianity is a way of life that is modelled after the life and mission of Jesus Christ. The Christian title was first ascribed to the Jesus’ disciples in Antioch following their love for one another. Thus, love and generosity remained the hallmark of Christianity featuring in different parts of the bible. In other words, Christianity is a continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ on earth. Jesus declared his mission statement after his baptism, forty-days fasting and temptations, saying:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the POOR. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18
This statement of purpose emphasizes Christs’ interest in the poor, prisoners, blind and oppressed, and who later became his disciples. Jesus constantly proved his commitment to liberating the hungry, poor, sick, blind and oppressed despite their tribe or race. Whenever people came to Jesus Christ for salvation, he redirected them back to their society: “go share your belongings with the poor” and “make peace with people before bringing your offering to the altar”. He never requested donations to build church mansions and auditoriums, rather he preached change of heart to social responsibility.
Function of Christians – feed my sheep
Towards his end, Jesus specified the function of religious leaders’ by telling Peter “if you love me, FEED MY SHEEP”. Since then the watchword for Christian leaders following Jesus’ mission remains “feed my sheep” not eat my sheep. Jesus’ sheep is anyone who is disposed to truth and meaningful living anywhere in the world. These are the people who Jesus has commanded his apostles to feed when he said, “feed my sheep”. Feed my sheep can be applied in different forms in the society.
- Feed my sheep spiritually (direction to relate with God to do God’s will for peace and justice)
- Feed my sheep physically (physical care for the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned and oppressed)
- Feed my sheep emotionally (identify with people both when they rejoice or weep)
- Feed my sheep mentally (my people perish for lack of knowledge, thus give them education).
Missionary work as a continuation of Jesus’ mission
Every Christian is called to this mission “feed my sheep”, and many people have devoted their lives to the ministry. Many of the early missionaries who came to Africa strove to manifest Jesus’ “feed-my-sheep” mission in various parts of Africa. They built free mission schools and hospitals, supported the people with farm-knowledge and teachings on the sanctity of human life. They took care of lepers, orphans, alleged-child-witches and wizards and other people that were abandoned by their people. Though many missionaries were getting infected and dying from tropical diseases, others continued coming with zeal for Jesus’ mission.
Church donation as continuation of Jesus’ mission
By going on mission to Africa, the early missionaries gave their lives to Jesus’ mission of feed my sheep. Many of the present politicians, professors and elites in Nigeria and other African countries benefitted from the missionaries’ works. However, the missionaries would not have accomplished all they did in Africa, Asia and other places without help. Many foreigners donated their fortunes, life-savings, inheritances and better portions of their salaries in support of the missionaries’ work. They made these donations as contribution to Jesus’ mission of feed my sheep, since they could not go physically.
Diversion from Jesus’ mission in church donations
Today, the mission to feed-my-sheep remains true for the church and urgent all around the world, especially Africa. Despite the missionaries’ initial social interventions that produced rich elites in Africa, many Africans desperately need to be fed. Millions of Africans are sick, hungry, uneducated, poor, unemployed, oppressed and imprisoned in societies managed by former beneficiaries of mission-works. The political structures colonially imposed on African societies tie various people’s growth-opportunities to alien forms of government. Yet, instead of redressing the choking political structures for the people’s liberation, former beneficiaries of mission-works exploit them to their advantage.
Unfortunately, some religious leaders who are expected to rebuke errant socio-political officers align with them and share in the spoils. Thus, these religious leaders end up eating the sheep they were supposed to feed for Christ. Presently, some religious leaders compete with politicians, drug-barons and fraudsters in flaunting accumulated wealth as private jets, luxurious cars and designers. And those who have not received (enough) political spoils apply several forms of emotional manipulations to get money from worshipers. These are the religious leaders that emphasize the supremacy of church donations and tithes over feeding Jesus’ sheep.
Realigning church donations to Jesus’ mission of feed my sheep
Churches in Nigeria cannot continue to wait for foreign missionaries to liberate Nigeria’s hungry, sick, poor, uneducated and oppressed. Hence, different churches are creating institutions for various forms of social responsibility in line with Jesus command to feed-my-sheep. There are reverend sisters and religious people who need assistance to manage schools, hospitals, orphanages, old and destitute homes. There is Justice, Development and Peace commission (JDPC) and other bodies who take up Jesus’ mission to feed my sheep. Though we may not be available to join these people in the mission, we can donate to further the missions. Hence, it is important to confirm that the church where you are donating justifies and sanctifies your donations by feeding Jesus’ sheep.
Many other churches and non-religious organization and individuals can form and sponsor institutions for social responsibility. They can form affordable schools for intellectually feeding hungry minds or vocation training and medical centres, food outreach, destitute homes and orphanages. These are ways to grow the society along with the beautiful cathedrals and auditoriums we donate as places of worship. Hence, individuals who wish to give to God can make church donations in socially responsible churches. These are the types of church donations that prepare people for admittance into heaven: when I was sick, poor, hungry, imprisoned and homeless… you fed me. For whatever you do to the least of my brothers (poor, sick, hungry etc.), you have done it unto me.
Some people give to the mission by GOING, while others go to the mission by GIVING to feed my sheep.
Make sure your church donation is for Jesus’ mission of feed my sheep.
 Acts 11:19-26
 Matthew 19:21, Luke 18:22
 Matthew 5:24
 John 21:17
 Ephesians 4:9-18
 James 2:14-22
 Romans 12:15-16
 Hosea 4:6
 Matthew 25:31-46
 Matthew 23:39-41