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Beyond tithes and offerings, here’s how a church can complicate your finances

By Winnie Mabel November 22nd, 2023 3 min read

Kenya is largely a Christian society and as such, there are hundreds of thousands of churches across the country. We are a religious nation by all markers, right from the President down to the baby born yesterday.

As such, many live by the Bible’s tenets of giving back to the church. We are expected to give a tenth of our earnings/produce to the church as tithe, and present offerings to the Lord any time we attend church or go before Him. We are encouraged by several Bible verses that tell us the Lord blesses those who give- whether it is financially or materially- as long as it is in His name.

But then, there are some rogue church leaders who use these verses on giving to the church to financially enrich themselves to the disadvantage of their congregations. We have seen many instances of this in Kenya involving some renowned infamous pastors including Pastor Kanyari who fleeced his congregation by telling them to plant a seed of Sh 310 with him to receive miracles. The preacher would dissolve potassium permanganate in water, turning purple, which he then claimed treated unknown diseases. He recently made news again with a pyramid scheme where he told people if they gave him a certain amount of money, they would receive from him up to between 10 to 60 times what they gave.

So then, as a religious person, how can you determine if a church is financially misusing you for nefarious reasons?

The first thing to look out for is the numerous financial requests that tend to come fast and furious for development and activities. Large budgets beyond the congregations’ capabilities are announced; and because God loves a cheerful giver, congregants are pressured to ‘honor the Lord’, sometimes even being subtly threatened with shaming if they do not comply. This is manipulation in its simplest form.

So you and your fellow congregants embark on opening the seams in your pockets to see if there are any more coins in there to give to the church even though your personal financial capability is in a mess. Shaming is not your portion, right? Your name is expected on the contributors’ list after all.

Then…after all that struggle to give to the church, you come to find out the church has been taking you all for a ride. The fund raised money is not channeled into what it is supposed to do. There are no development projects to show for it, activities continue being postponed “because there is no money”…and you wonder, where did all that money go to? Surprise, surprise, the church leader rolls into church the next week in a new vehicle, and we are not expected to question them because God says we cannot touch His anointed. And you slept hungry that week to contribute to the church…

The other thing to look out for is, like Pastor Kanyari, churches begin preaching prosperity gospels not rooted in the Bible. During and after the sermons, you will have given up to four times to “receive the promise of God”. “Someone run to the alter with an offering to the Lord because this word is to heavy to not catch it for yourself”…cue hundreds of congregants rushing to the pulpit to deposit notes- not coins- into the offering bin. By the time you are leaving the church, in addition to the tithe and offering you initially set aside, you spent an extra Sh 1000 or much more because the pastor anchored his sermon on money for blessings. And it is every Sunday (or the day you attend church).

Last, but not least, you can note that a church is complicating your personal finances when the church makes unexplained financial decisions and the consequences of not doing due diligence, the consequences are transferred on to the congregation. They take out loans that end up being liabilities and the congregants are expected to pay for the loan without even knowing a loan had been taken out. You find out the church is in excessive debt and because you are a long time member, everyone knows you or your are a community leader, you are expected to lead by example in helping to offset these loans.

Yes, the Lord loves a cheerful giver who gives with a genuine heart. But some churches have taken advantage of this to complicate their congregants’ personal finances without thinking twice. The church must stand, right?

Here’s where you need to wear your logical thinking cap and evaluate whether you are being edified by the church with sermons and activities rooted in the word of God or you are simply a weekly ATM machine who is welcomed by a cheerful usher at the gate. You might want to consider finding a church that does not operate at your disadvantage.

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