Prominent pastors in the country and readers of P.M.NEWS have slammed Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his Christ Embassy Church for imposing a N1,000 toll fee on worshippers who attended New Year’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 the 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 gate fees from worshippers to control the huge crowd that always besieges Christ Embassy on New Year’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 a sacrilege.
The Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Ola Makinde, described Oyakhilome’s action as anathema and abuse of Christianity.
“It is a sacrilege and commercialisation of religion. It is an abuse of Christianity,” he lamented.
Founder, Soul Winning Chapel, Rev. Moses Illoh, said that such an act “is sacrilegious,” adding that the gospel of Christ is supposed to be free and not to be paid for.
“There is no excuse for this. The church of God is for everybody, both for the poor and the rich. The church where they collect money before you can go in to worship is not a church.”
According to Primate Elijah Ayodele of the INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, such pastors who collect money from worshippers should be stoned to death or be crucified.
“Is 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? It is never done.
“If it is possible, let the government intervene. These pastors are for Satan and such pastors should be crucified. It is embarrassing,” 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 for church service is unbiblical.
“Collecting money as gate fee before a church service is unbiblical because there is nowhere in the Bible where it was recorded that Jesus collected money from the multitude who listened to His sermon and benefited from His miracles.
“Salvation is free. You receive it free and you give it free,” he said.
Abiara added that he cannot judge Pastor Oyakhilome because he doesn’t understand the circumstances under which money was collected.
“It’s not impossible that they must have used the event to raise money,” he said.
To Rev. Oladapo Daramola, Media and Public Relations Officer, Methodist Church Nigeria, it is not right to collect money from worshippers before allowing them inside the church.
“This 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. Anything that will bar people from receiving the good news should not be allowed. It is not Christ-like,” he stated.
Also, Rev. Akintoye Braimoh, Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Christian Religious Matters, frowned at Oyakhilome’s act, saying it was very wrong.
“A 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,” she 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.
“Why should you collect money before one can be allowed to enter a church? Is the place really a church? It is wrong to do that,” he said.
Some readers who reacted on PM News website,condemned Oyakhilome’s act, saying that it unscriptural.
Mike said: “Church has become big business in Nigeria. Now, they have introduced gate fee to church, very soon, they will introduce gate fee to heaven before someone dies. May God have mercy on them.”
According to Kayode, “the church should have thought of a bigger venue for this service. The National Stadium for instance would have accommodated a lot of 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 and the fake, but give an opportunity for all to meet with Christ. It was a rash strategy to control the crowd.”
Gloria said: “This news should have been best tagged ‘Pastor Oyakhilome deprives the poor of the gospel’. He’s unbelievable. Jesus Christ welcomed the crowd 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 is not crowd control, but daylight robbery.”
According to Jedidiah, “when the church becomes over crowded and the senior pastors don’t have a seat for themselves on such occasions, it becomes a good 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 ‘true members’ to be comfortable but for the unsaved to be shown love, thereby winning them over to the winning church.”
Olo said: “it still beats my imagination to hear that such a thing actually happened in Christ Embassy, and at the headquarters for that matter. What’s money turning man of God into?”
Temmy reacted this way: “Imbecile, idiots and stupid people will always continue to follow a stupid pastor. When Jesus referred to his people (including me) as sheep, He did not mean idiot sheep like most Nigerians who are following those money worshipping and 419 pastors of nowadays.”
Thousands of readers, who reacted in various websites and blogs, including social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, also expressed shock and disappointment.
Source: PM News