By Kobina Ansah .
The writer is a playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, an Accra-based writing company
Whose money is it when men give to God in church? If it’s God’s, do men need to give a hoot about how it is used? If it’s men’s, does the church need to account periodically to those who give?
It’s awkward when modern church leaders try to make it look as though one is being too nosy or carnal when they demand accountability from the church.
In the wake of so many “one-man” churches, it’s rare to see many churches today periodically brief its members on its financial activities. The irony is when the same church that urges the government to be accountable to its people knows nothing about accountability!
The church is, first of all, a human institution. Every person who gives towards the building and upkeep of this institution becomes a stakeholder. Otherwise speaking, all church members in good standing are supposed to be fed with how every dime they contributed was used, at least, yearly. They should be in the knowing how well or badly their money is being managed.
Especially in Africa, it is such a pity how corruption thrives even in churches because almost everybody is kept in the dark as far as “God’s money” is concerned. Church money has been painted to look spiritual. It belongs to God, they claim. Can someone show me which bank God saves with please? Haha.
Mismanagement of funds thrives here in Africa because we have succeeded in mystifying accountability of and in the church. An African church may run for decades and centuries without its leaders rendering any account of any sort to the shareholders (church members) who keep it running with their widow’s mite. If money given to God is received by men, those men ought to be accountable for it!
If we want to fight corruption in this part of our world, it ought to start from the church. If we want to see a culture of discipline and accountability in governments, the church is the right place to start from because almost all our political leaders sit in these churches. If we want to see fiscally responsible governments in Africa, we need to see fiscally responsible churches!
Money is money― whether it sits in church or wherever. When people ask for its accountability, it’s not because they are suspicious. It’s not because they don’t trust their leaders. Being accountable makes us responsible.
There’s nothing carnal about church members wanting to have the church’s yearly expenditure made known to them. There’s nothing unspiritual about they demanding to know how the hard-earned money they give to the church is spent. If the church wants to raise accountable citizens, it should be accountable itself.
Let me share with you a story about my home church in Dansoman-Accra and how gravely unaccountability cost them. This church, which has well over 30 branches nationwide, has been in existence for close to a century (yes a century!) but hasn’t made much impact spiritually and physically in Ghana. Thanks to this experience I am about to share with you.
In the early 1990s, an incident happened that shook the entire church and gradually tore it apart. The head pastor of the Dansoman branch claimed the church was his. This was several years after the founder had died. Apparently, the church members had trusted him so much that all financial inflows were not even accounted for let alone how they were spent. After every service, all monies will be bagged and left in his coffers. No one asked of its whereabouts thereafter.
It was when this said pastor changed all properties of the church into his name that the entire congregation woke up but… it was too late. He had faithfully squandered all the church money and stashed the rest into his personal account. He had overtaken almost all of the church’s properties and guess what, he was ready to get all dirty in court with anyone who would dare challenge his decision.
He broke away from the church with his booty and sued some elders of this church. For the next three decades or so, this tussle has been in and out of court. Loads of money have been misspent in court settlements. Families have been shredded and unimaginable harm has been caused. Even until today, this matter hasn’t been resolved though this supposed man of God died last year. His offspring have taken over and are fighting on behalf of their father.
Now, read the story again and see how things would have turned out if there were organized, laid-down procedures to make every dime accountable. Imagine how the plot of this story would have been if the people had not entrusted their destiny into one man’s hands. No matter how well we trust others, they need to be accountable.
Unfortunately, when I observe some churches today, especially those built around particular people, I see them going down this dirty path some years to come. Where there’s no accountability, there’s obviously no proper transition of power from one generation to the other. After all, the church is built around someone and his family!
Mr Founder, kindly listen. If you didn’t build the church with only your money, it doesn’t belong to you. Be accountable to your church members. If you take tithes and offertory from your church members to run this church, disabuse your mind of the notion that it is your church and be accountable to the people. If you resist accountability under the pretext that church money is for God, next time, go to God for tithes― not men.
An accountable church is one that will last beyond the existence of any man.