SETTING up an Evangelical church in Africa is probably the quickest way of getting rich on the continent, evidence suggests.
The continent may have some of the poorest people in the world, with millions living on a dollar per day. But no one is more astute in getting such people to part with their last dollar, than the sweet talking Pastors who fill churches and stadiums every week end to deliver the word of God to their captive audiences.
The issue of rogue pastors who rob gullible people of their hard earned cash has been debated across Africa for decades. Right across Africa, in each and every country, one comes across so many varieties of breath taking stories, about how people are being swindled daily by the charismatic pastors.
Yet the numbers of such churches keep increasing and congregations keep rising, along with, dare I say, with the bank balances of the men and women who earn their crust by preaching the word of God.
Evangelical churches have become such a growth industry that the pastors who control them are now counted among the richest people in the world.
According to naija.com, a Nigerian blog, five African pastors were listed among the wealthiest men of God in the world alongside Bishop TD Jakes, William Graham, Creflo Dollar and a host of them.
From Nigeria, Bishop Oyedepo sits at the second position with a net worth of $150 million and other private properties. Bishop Oyedo is said to own at least two private jets, as well as several luxury cars. His businesses include bakeries and petrol stations.
Pastor E.A Adeboye was also listed in an African magazine, NEWSWEEK, as the most powerful man in Africa and one of the top 50 global power elites in 2008/2009, among others such as President Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Forbes magazine too has indicated that the richest pastors in Africa are from Nigeria with Chris Oyakilome worth $50 million. T.B Joshua sits in third position with $15 million while Chris Okotie and Matthew Asimilowo stands at $10 each.
But pastors or as some of them prefer to call themselves, Prophets, in countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa – late comers by comparison to Nigeria in the field of Evangelical worshipping – are catching up fast.
Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa of Zimbabwe is reputed to be worth $100 million. He founded the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe several years ago, amid his controversial claim that he could cure HIV.
Then there is Ezekiel Handinawangu Guti, leader of the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God and estimated to be worth $130 million. His church, ZAOGA has built a total of seven biblical colleges in Ghana, Zambia and Mozambique.
South Africa’s flamboyant preacher, Mboro, who owns a fleet of luxury vehicles including a Bentley and BMW i8, keeps his net worth a closely guarded secret.
Critics say Mboro, who founded Incredible Happenings Ministries, also has several businesses that net him a tidy income.
He recently made headlines for threatening to shut down his church if the members didn’t contribute to his legal fees.
Mboro claims that his luxurious lifestyle is not just funded by his church but by a construction business and funeral parlour.
Running a business or businesses alongside the church appears to be a common feature among the most prominent pastors in Africa. Some even have have private investments in the form of privately owned universities, houses, schools and businesses which helps to finance their first class lifestyle.
However, the majority are believed to live on church funds gotten from the pocket of members.
Incredibly, members of the congregations hardly ever seem concerned that their pastors or Prophets own fleets of cars, private jets and properties all over the world while a majority of their members can barely feed their families.
In an article, entitled: ‘Poor blacks rich pastors,’ Seth Dunn elaborated on the plight of the average black church goer. He stated sadly that the wealthiest pastors in the world are blacks pastoring black poor people.
‘It is not uncommon for pastors in majority black churches to have perks such as automobile and clothing allowances. In fact, it is sometimes necessary for black pastors to have such allowance. Many black congregations expect their preachers to appear exceedingly prosperous. After all, who is going to take seriously a sermon about God’s material blessings given by a man with no gold watch, no fine suit, and no Cadillac? Absolutely no one.’
According to an article published by Allafrica, website, Malawian, South Africa-based Pastor Hastings Salanje said pastors need to be rich because the congregation have to pay them for pouring unto them blessings they seek from God. “You see, we men of God are rich just because people pay us for giving them blessings,” Salanje said.