Monday, March 8, 2021

Pastorpreneurs: When the Word of God Meets Profit

Capitalism has brought with it interesting times. In the past decade alone, we have seen a boom of pastors who do not fit the conventional model of ‘traditional’ pastors who have well-intentioned, strong theological foundations that pay little attention to the pockets of their congregations. Gospel hymns that echo through church halls and coin tithes thrown in weaved collection baskets are no longer enough for some churches.

Now, sensationalism is the order of the day. We mostly see a business oriented approach to faith; oils, water, stickers sold as prosperity generatorsÔÇönot forgetting prophetic readings, miracles and exuberant exorcisms. In a world that has exempted churches from paying tax, are we turning a blind eye to the manipulation and extortion that occurs under the guise of religion? Is regulation justified?

From the Bentley driving, jet setting pastors to those who own expensive properties around the world ÔÇô some modern preachers are seeing the benefit of being entrepreneurs. Where money is involved, the scent of corruption is never far. Various stories have sparked outrage and condemnation; grass eating and petrol drinking congregations, T.B Joshua’s collapsed building and pastors scandalised for sleeping with their followers, just to name a few. This however, does not deter those ‘faithful’ followers who hardly hold these preachers responsible for their actions ÔÇô for many are self-interested and milk their congregation’s pockets due to their ignorance fueled by desperation for miracles and miracle money.

Social media recently buzzed when videos surfaced depicting two of our local entertainers absorbed in moments of prophecy. They have now taken the label of prophets and are speculated to have their own churches, to the amazement and outrage of most. Interestingly, last week our very own parliament brewed high emotions between ministers over the amendment bill pertaining churches. Clearly this issue hits home, and because it’s an issue of faith, it is tackled with a lot of discretion and discomfort. It is difficult to chew.

Peter Drucker’s classic book on innovation and entrepreneurship states, “Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice…the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” Mr Batshu, in 2013, expressed his concern over 1 600 registered churches in Botswana. How are Batswana to discern between real pastors and those who are out to turn their desperation for prophecies into profit?

I took to the streets for some opinions.

Lesedi mentioned that nowadays everyone can call themselves a pastor. “Look at how anyone can just say they are a prophet, it is because money is involved. Someone can just wake up and proclaim to be a pastor. There’s a lot of deception, real pastors put the congregation’s needs first, they don’t make them poorer than they already are by demanding money for oils and stickers,” said the devout Christian.

Oshiro Sebogiso, a young financial analyst, had this to say about the issue of regulation. “In dealing with the perversion of churches nowadays, I don’t think taxing them is prudent. It doesn’t address the main reason why people flock to them and act mindless by giving these pastors all of their material wealth. People are desperate, people are unhappy, people need belonging, and people are lost. If society had a positive support structure, we wouldn’t have these problems.”

Musyani said, “I don’t think churches should be taxed, but they should have some form of accountability.” Lesego Nchunga and Onx, who are local performers, shared a similar sentiment in stating how accountability should be placed on both the pastors and their congregations.

Pastorpreneur is derived from the merge of the two words ‘pastor’ and ‘entrepreneur’. These are preachers known to take advantage of the na├»ve dispositions of their followers – who can be said to be equally at fault for their lack of discernment and gullibility. Exploitation, even if it comes in the form of spirituality, must be condemned and resolved like any other issue.

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