A lot has been happening in the Pentecostal movement that has caught the public attention. Nobody has thought these churches would come to Botswana, or should I say this type of worship would come to Botswana and even when it came, nobody had thought it would spread like a wild fire and develop such great and deep roots as is now the case.
Some members of the general public are of the view that this Pentecostal movement is a lucrative business and mafia in so many ways and those cowboys have penetrated the system.
There are some people, some of whom are church leaders, who believe these should be subject to citizen empowerment and localized completely; nonetheless the views are many and violent in their presentation.
The government has also not been passive in this matter.
The government’s reaction has included, amongst others, that the recruitment of pastors must be advertised and be subject to basic criteria such as qualification and also included the localization imperative. In some quarters, people felt that Pastoral work is a CALLING and subject to spiritual credentials. There was also an issue of Churches being required to pay tax which has also been met with resistance, or should I say with murmuring.
Further to that, there was also the publicized deportation of some church leaders also from the Pentecostal movement for reasons known between the deportees and government; these reforms have been received with mixed feelings! Some people felt that government is cleaning society of false prophets, of which government is in his mandate to protect society. In other quarters some of the Pentecostals see it otherwise. ..they see it as persecution!
I am a Pentecostal Christian and has been since 1998. My mother was a Pentecostal Christian to her untimely death in 2008; I tithe and have been tithing since 1998 without fail. My church keeps books of accounts and at the annual general meeting the books are presented.
The Book of Malachi States: “Bring the FULL amount of your tithe to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food (i.e. resources) there in the temple.”
What then is the expectation: the tithe pays the Pastor, the administration of the church, spreading the gospel/missionary services and, most importantly, feeds the orphans, the widows and the poor. I can understand the government wanting to tax the church, because a good part of the tithe in the church coffers must go towards addressing the needs of the poor and the orphans.
Some members of society feel that given the amount of tithes that we pay, the body of Christ could be leading say in the Presidential Housing Appeal for the poor; could be leading in building clinics around the country; could be leading in building old age homes. However, some of the Pentecostal churches are doing quite well in this regard. It could be that they are not reporting it publicly in the media; i.e. centers for street kids with some of these churches going as far as assisting families in need with food rations regularly in addition to providing fulltime professional counseling Monday to Friday!
Some people have literally been healed of various diseases, family reconciliation; Some people have been cured of various ills, including sexual addiction, retired from prostitution and homosexuality and so many other lifestyles contrary to the Bible and societal norms.
Politically, the Pentecostal produces the most conservative voter. Even during the last year workers strike, it is in the Pentecostal churches that Pastors took to the pulpit and told their congregation to continue working …”that you are serving God not men”. …”that the Bible says you must PRAY for your leaders and not fight them”.
Most of the Pentecostal Christians did not go on strike; they contest their issues in the spiritual realm; in so many ways they are not politically charged hence the conservative vote.
I believe that this is a block that can connect with the ruling President, especially in his grassroots initiatives; bringing the outcast, the forgotten and excluded back into the fold; this is the block that is truly an ally to the president.
The question we need to ask ourselves is WHY Batswana have been drawn into these Pentecostal churches so much that they are allegedly willing to give anything and everything; What is the pull of the Pentecost, what are they doing that our traditional churches are not doing.
To be honest, they are pulling the great un-churched; they have successfully transformed even sangomas and retired them from their trade …what is this force…this phenomenal growth and explosion! Are foreign pastors more appealing than local pastors and if so, why?
When Jesus was asked about taxes, he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. Nowhere did he champion the belief that compliance with God is independent of compliance with government administration and policy; The same Bible also says that “touch not my anointed one”. ..I read it in so many of the Facebook postings following the deportation of one of the Pentacostal Pastors.
What next? We need a Pentecostal CHURCH PITSO…to address all issues, agree on the rules, compliance and monitoring. Government probably wants to know the definition of “the anointed one”; what they should expect from an Anointed leader, in terms of values. Government would want to know what the tithes and offerings are and the biblical interpretation of their administration. The gap must be closed; the government may need to be appraised on the CALLING; that God is not limited by geography and can SEND anybody anywhere; what happened to the verses that say: “the Prophet is without honour in his home!”. The real contribution of the Pentecostal church and the church in general may then be appreciated; a feedback mechanism may be agreed; localization issues may also be interrogated; the conduct of local pastors may also be placed under the microscope; a disciplinary code may also be agreed with links to the judiciary.
Government is duty bound to protect the citizens and they are doing what they deem best… a lot could be going wrong in our Pentecostal churches, the churches we love, the churches we run to for solace…a refuge in disaster; however it is only when government is transparent that we will appreciate it as protection…and for that we need a Church Pitso, before we call friends enemies and pass enemies as friends!