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Who wants to be a gospel millionaire

BOOM: Nigerian churches

‘Profit theoLOGY’ is the new buzz-word amongst Christians. A cash incentive has taken over the church where once ‘prophet theology’ resided. And every time we praise the Lord, the cash register rings ‘kerching’:

“God is good” - kerching!
“God is great” - kerching!
“So is my private jet” - kerching!

Thanks to some good journalism by the African reporter Mfonobong Nsehe, we now know about the wealth of the five richest pastors from Nigeria.

The richest is Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry, better known as the Winners Chapel. He’s worth a cool £90 million.

Then there is:
Chris Oyakhilome of the Believers’ Loveworld Ministries (aka Christ Embassy) - £18-30 million
Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) - £6-9 million
Matthew Ashimolowo of the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) here in Britain - £4-6 million
Chris Okotie of the Household of God Church - £2-6 million

What’s God got to do with it? On these figures you can see why there’s nothing quite like a financial inducement when it comes to praising the Lord. Oh, and by the way, credit cards are now accepted in the collection plate, which is not so much a plate any more than a succession of deep boxes steeped high in notes from the Bank of England.

But before you get all gravilicious and uncharitable about the amount of money these pastors are making for their churches and the amount of money they are earning themselves, it’s better to see what we can learn from them in conducting a successful business. Because not even Reggae Reggae Sauce can match the success of the churches that are successful, despite the near collapse of that sector of business in the Anglican world.

Firstly, if you’re going to succeed in business, clearly you need a Flash Harry name. Church of England or Roman Catholic church just ain’t cutting it anymore. Neither are the ‘Methodist’, ‘Baptist’ or ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ tags.

Those names are so old fashioned it’s unreal. Also their congregations are so old school they are positively Victorian and as out of step with modern life as Hasidic Jews dressed in clobber from the Warsaw ghetto.
Loveworld Ministries on the other hand sounds like somewhere you’ll find Lionel Richie singing, “Easy like Sunday morning.”

But success is not just about a great name for your company. It’s about the right name for you too. You notice how each of these pastors have got an English name beside their more rootsy African names. Let’s face it, we live in a world of fear of the ‘boo-boo’ man. If you have an out and out African name like Dotun Adebayo nobody is going to trust you with their souls let alone their cash. David Adebayo is far more trustworthy when it comes to business. And if the name has a Biblical ring to it too, like David, Chris, Joshua or Matthew, it’s all kerching, kerching,  kerching from there on in.

Of course, when we analyse the phenomenal successes of these super pastors, it won’t have escaped your attention that there is one thing that binds them all together. They are not all simply Nigerians, they are also all of Yoruba heritage. It would be easy for me to simply sit here and fly the flag for my own tribe, but it’s not just about being a descendant of the great god Oludumare from whence all Yorubas (and that includes you whether you’re Jamaican or Trinidadian) come from. It is the tradition of commerce that has been handed down from generation to generation amongst the Yorubas that is the real key behind these successes.

Wherever you go in the world, Yorubas are making business and hence money. Here in Britain Yorubas are the new Asians in their corner stores and they are the new Caribbeans of the pulpit. And the sooner we realise that simply affiliating with Africa and African culture is not enough. If we want to get ahead in this country we have to discover the Yoruba in us (and trust me there is a little bit of Yoruba in every person of colour - including you).

The quicker we start doing this, the sooner will be our realisation that we can all succeed in commerce too.
The Rasta churches are realising this too. For years they have been turning to Africa for their redemption. And no doubt the success of the African churches has influenced the opening of the Pinnacle International Centre last week in Handsworth, Birmingham, for the Rastafari and African communities. It’s as much a business as it is a place to praise Selassie I. And even though their central message is ‘repatriation is a must’ I’m pleased to see that they’ve realised that we want to travel back to Africa first class on that Black Star Liner.

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