Saturday, July 21, 2007
Is 'sowing' biblical?
THE Sunday Vision undercover story on the activities of pastors Ronnie and Betty Bada of Liberty Praising Centre, Luzira has raised ethical questions in the born-again churches. Anthony Bugembe spoke to Pastor Martin Ssempa of Makerere Community Church about sowing in the Church.
What do you have to say about this story?
Criticism is good for the development of any institution. The Sunday Vision has done a commendable job in exposing church leaders who rip off unsuspecting believers in the name of sowing. These people have been tarnishing the image of born-again churches.
What is sowing?
Pastors who preach the prosperity gospel tell their followers that God’s blessings and salvation depend on how much they give to the Lord through the pastors. Many believers have been intimidated into giving cars, phones and huge sums of money to their pastors in the hope of having their prayers answered.
What does Christianity teach about sowing?
Sowing defiles Christianity. There is nowhere in the Bible that we read about Jesus asking for money or material things to perform miracles or bless the people. When Jesus was sending out his disciples, he told them to heal and bless believers freely because he had also given them his blessings freely (Matthew 10:8).
Don’t you think sowing sustains God’s work?
It is not bad to contribute to the sustenance of God’s work, but it should be out of free will and not because they expect something in return as the prosperity gospel teaches. Besides, believers must not to be categorised on the basis of how much they contribute. There are several churches where prayers and blessings are offered depending on how much one has contributed. This is not true Christianity. We are just experiencing a cult of ‘sowers’ which aims at exploiting the ignorance and desperate situation of their followers. Sowing reduces the pastor to a stage comedian who receives tips from excited fans.
In Acts 4:32-37, the early believers used to sell their possessions and bring the money to the apostles to be given to the needy. This is not the kind of sowing we have now. Today people sow into their pastors and not into the Church, yet there are many needy believers.
A Christian from Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral once asked me to help pay her tuition fees. I told her to seek assistance from her pastor (Robert Kayanja). I wondered why such needy Christians are not helped. Pastor Kayanja one time sowed into Joyce Meyer Ministries, yet Meyer herself is already rich (Kayanja testified on October 24, 2004 that one time God told him to sow $10,000 into the Joyce Meyer Ministries).
A church obsessed with sowing faces a lot of difficulty preaching about holiness because the biggest givers are sometimes those who amass wealth dubiously. Therefore, Christians should be encouraged to tithe as a means of sustaining God’s work, and not to sow. You don’t lose anything by not sowing.
What is the way forward?
Some time back, we initiated a code of ethics for born-again churches to check pastoral discrepancy. Unfortunately, some pastors rejected it because they feared that it would expose them. Now, we are going to convene a national summit (of born-again pastors) to find a solution before the Church crumbles.
You cannot tell someone that they will get four times more than what they have given. Obtaining money or any item by false pretence is a crime. It is good the Police have come out to investigate this. We are ready to co-operate with the Government to restore religious sanity.
Doesn’t this cast doubt on the authenticity of born-again Christianity?
The problem of ghosts is not among the balokole alone. Even other institutions like the Police and the army are grappling with them. Therefore, we should not victimise the born-again Christians. For example, the leader of the Muslims is in court over poor handling of properties.
What should Christians do in the meantime?
I advise believers whose pastors emphasise sowing to begin finding their way out of those churches because they will grow poorer with each passing day, while their pastors become richer.