The Making Of The Pastor
By Olaide Omideyi
Titus is unemployed and tired of his penniless and disadvantaged position in life. At his age, thirty two if his memory is still serving him correctly and has not started malfunctioning because of hunger and the frustration of daily trudging the streets of Ibadan, searching for employment. He had already tried getting a job in Lagos with the same results. The ‘Wanted Urgently’ notice boards are scrutinized and as a ‘senior applicant of Nigeria’, he writes his applications and submits them immediately to no avail.
After attending countless interviews without success, he started paying more attention to the self-employment programmes on the radio and television stations. His main grouse with the promoters of these programmes is that they never tell you where you will get the money to start since the banks are not ready to give you loans because you have no collateral. Your relatives are afraid that you will use their money to procure a visa and run to America or Europe, never to be heard from again.
It was while on one of his aimless wanderings around the city that he met another unemployed graduate like him who changed his perception about life forever. Unlike Titus however, Kola is street smart, well read and full of ideas and always on the lookout for a willing ear for one of his theories and surprisingly, always seems to have money to solve the basic problems of life. He is reputed to be able to discus intelligently about and on any topic under the sun. He also spends so much time browsing on the internet that his friends call him “Kaloo! Search engine”. This was in recognition of his ability to mention websites where information on any topic could be obtained without breaking sweat.
Titus had branched at a ‘bukateria’ to eat the cheapest food available, that is bread and beans before continuing with his relentless search for the elusive job. His confidence had also recently received a boost at the church convention where the Pastor, Founder and General Overseer of his church had declared the year as the ‘Year of open gates’ for all the members. He has passed through so many of these open gates and has left disappointed but as they say “Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win”. He will continue to search until he found and claim his ‘miracle’ and also possess his possessions.
Kola had taken one look at Titus and concluded that he must be an applicant. From the look of his scuffed shoes, worn-out suit and shirt, he must be a “S.A.N”, Senior Applicant of Nigeria for long. He also concluded in his mind that the young frustrated gentleman will be willing to listen to one of his lectures and vibes about the country without being bored to death.
‘Good afternoon guy, may I sit beside you?’ Kola said politely to Titus.
‘Yeah’ Titus replied not very politely. You have to be very careful these days with polite young men. He may want to beg me for money to eat, thought Titus who was on the verge of becoming a beggar himself.
‘Please do not be worried about me begging from you at all. I have the money to buy my food’. Titus involuntarily heaved a sigh of relief that sounded comical to Kola who laughed uproariously. His laughter was infectious and before he knew it, Titus was also laughing and shaking hands with Kola.
After the meal, Kola invited Titus to sit for a while in front of a nearby carpenters’ shop where he said they would be able to sit down and discuss intelligently about the present economic situation in Nigeria.
‘Where did you finish from and what did you study?’ asked Kola
‘ABU in 1999. I studied Industrial Chemistry and Mathematics’ answered Titus
‘I also finished from Uni-Jos in 1998 and studied Botany. I assume you are looking for employment in your field of training? Kola again
‘Hm. Not really. I have grown wiser now. Anything at all to keep body and soul together will do’
‘How about self employment?’
‘I have heard about that and tired of listening to those stupid people. They know that there is no way you can start a business without money and where do you get it from?’
‘Think about something you will like to do and maybe I could help you with some ideas on how to go about it without spending too much money’
‘This is too sudden, my friend, I have to think very well about it before answering and maybe you will not be able to offer any help at all’.
‘Okay, okay, while you are thinking about what you will like to do, just pick any other job or vocation and try me a little and see.’
By now, Titus was getting tired of the whole thing and really wanted to continue searching for the “Open gates” but was compelled to sit down because a suitable exit strategy eluded him at the moment and did not want to appear rude.
Without thinking, he said “How about establishing a church?”
‘The simplest thing in the world if you know the tricks’ answered Kola
‘Tell me about that while I think of what I would like to do’ said Titus.
‘Churches, most especially the Pentecostal ones are easier to establish than the regular, old churches because you do not require any training or other formalities to establish your own. Once you receive the “call to the Ministry”, you are ready to move in and enjoy the bounties of God’.
‘You mean there are no formalities for establishing churches?’ asked Titus, who in spite of his education, is still a novice in most of the ways of the world
‘Yes, my friend, you don’t require license to serve in God’s vineyard and that is the beauty of owning a church as a means of self-employment’ said Kola, now warming up and getting into the spirit of the discussion. ‘Establishing a church start from deciding on a unique, nice name, that is not like any other name to set your church apart from the other churches in town’.
What is in a name? After all, a church is a church because you worship God there and that fact is known by all and sundry’. Titus asked, once more displaying his ignorance of the ways of the world.
‘A church is not just a church and you better know it. All churches are different because their names are the centre-point of their attraction to their members. There would be no need to change churches by people looking for the ultimate in miracles and sharing the word of God if they are homogenous’.
A gem of a thought started germinated in Titus’ mind then but he could not pinpoint exactly what it was all about and years later, he will tell people that that was the moment he received the “call to serve in God’s vineyard”.
‘So how do you register a church if you decide to establish it?’ Titus is also getting more interested now and gradually forgetting about walking round again to see if it was his day of “miracle” as prophesied by the Prophet, Founder and General Overseer of his church.
‘Well, you go to the Corporate Affairs Commission with the relevant documents and you are registered as an entity to start operating though you can start operating without a license’ said Kola, who has also noticed the increased interest that Titus is showing in the discussion and was encouraged to delve deeper into his reservoir of knowledge so as not to disappoint him.
‘Okay, if you have decided on the name and have registered with the commission, what next?
‘The next thing is to start attracting members one by one to the new church. You might be disappointed at first by the response of the people to the church but if you persist, you will succeed. You must also ensure that you attract more women to the church than men to ensure that you maintain the membership at acceptable levels’ Kola enthused again.
‘Why women?’ Titus would like to know why this is very important.
‘Women are the backbone of any church, Pentecostal or orthodox. Once the women are there, their husbands will come even if it is grudgingly and the children will come. The women are more committed to the house fellowships, Sunday school, morning service, night vigils and Holy Ghost fire nights than the men. They also contribute more in relative terms during offerings than the men and are more loyal to the pastor. While the woman gives all she has, the man is thinking of football, pepper soup, girlfriends and beer and will keep some of the money back to satisfy these “evil deeds” before thinking of giving to God.’ Kola said, looking self-righteous as if discussing morality with a class of senior theology students.
‘I see that most of the Pentecostal pastors take pains to dress nicely. Can you tell me the importance of dressing to a pastor’s success in the service of God?’ Titus has forgotten about looking for his miracle today and found himself concentrating more on learning about the intricacies of establishing a church.
‘The way a pastor dresses is what distinguishes him from the charlatans and the pretenders. Again, it shows your flock that if you are talking of prosperity, you know what you are talking about and they will listen. Imagine a pastor dressed in “bend-down boutique” telling his flock that God is good all the time? They will leave his church and find another one with a better dressed pastor. You might however not care if you are talking of the white garment churches.’ Kola said and winked conspiratorially, though the importance of this was lost on Titus.
‘All Pastors seem to have their wives beside them wherever they go. Why is it important for a pastor to be married?’ Titus, being a bachelor could not fathom the importance of having a woman at his beck and call without the money to feed and clothe her properly.
‘Please note that having a wife gives stability to a pastor’s life. It assures the flock that you are not interested in the spinsters and will not be openly molesting their young daughters. My friend, think again, how can you talk about marriage and counsel the married couples among your flock if you have no basis for comparison?’ Kola said gravely and Titus nodded his head in agreement, unconsciously thinking about Clementina, his long-suffering girlfriend and how he will arrange to marry her without delay for reasons that are still very unclear to him.
‘Why is it important to be careful about what a pastor preaches?’ Titus is now enraptured with all the answers that Kola has been giving him so far and has concluded that he has probably found the “Open gates” he has been looking for all these years. The idea that has been lurking in his unconscious has started taking shape and he still need to learn more to finalise the plans. He was however sure of one thing, his days as an unemployed graduate are numbered and he could already smell the nice clean suits, the air-conditioned jeeps and the mansions he will build. Clementina also featured prominently in the plans and he could already see her in designer wigs, gowns and shoes, looking contented and holding his son in her arms.
‘Well, the difference between a filled church and an empty one partly lies in what a pastor preaches from the pulpit. These days, nobody wants to hear about hellfire or a wrathful God when they enter the church. They are already facing more hell than they could manage from NEPA, the police, their landlords, fuel prices, the economy, Niger Delta and the traffic combined. When they enter the church, they want to be told that things will get better and that God will overlook all the corners they are cutting to survive in Nigeria and not condemn them to eternal perdition. Visit some of these orthodox churches and you will understand this better’. Kola wiped his lips and adjusted his seating to a more comfortable position for emphasis.
Titus also nodded his head sagely at this, remembering very well that he had changed from being an Anglican to his present church because the Reverend preaches week on week out, about how annoyed God is at the iniquities of the human race and the impending doom that awaits his congregation once their eyes are closed in death. It did not help that the Reverend always seemed to be looking in his direction while graphically describing the torments of hell, making him very uncomfortable during the services. He had been invited to his present church by a friend and after attending his first service, he decided that it was better to listen to the message of hope and forgiveness being preached by the pastor than to face the wrathful mien of the Reverend again.
Titus was not finished yet and Kola suspected that there was more than meet the eye now in the unusual questions he was being asked by Titus. He was also sure that before long, another new generation church will be joining the ever-growing list in the country claiming to be the harbinger of hope for the hopeless and prosperity without sweat to the masses.
‘Let us look at the importance of music in the church to attracting members. Does it have any relevance?’ Titus asked, trying to mask his growing interest and excitement with little success.
‘Let me answer that by letting you know that every African at heart is an ardent music fan. Music in the African sense must be heavy with rhythm and lots of clapping, stamping and dancing to be satisfactory. This is a carry-over from the days of festivals to the deities where marathon dancing sessions were held to appease the gods. Since the influence of Islam and Christianity has made dancing to the deities’ passé, the African must still have the opportunity to dance and this he founds in the new-generation churches where long dancing sessions are held during services to glorify God. Invariably, the churches with the best choirs and musical instruments are always filled to the brim every Sunday. Africans don’t want to sit down and listen to the piano, organ or the harp and endure those tired old ladies singing off-key every Sunday. They want to participate and sing along with the choir. To run a successful church therefore, you must endeavour to have a choir that sings angelically or shall I say heavenly?’ Kola concluded his long speech and waved at an acquaintance passing on the opposite side of the road, promising to visit later in the evening. He also used the interlude to ask if Titus had been able to decide on the business he will like to go into but this question was parried by Titus with a meaningless smile. Titus also agreed with this assertion totally since he also like listening to Daddy Showkey, Pasuma Wonder and other musicians playing different genres of music. His next question however confirmed the lurking suspicion in Kola’s mind that Titus was already asking the questions that interest him.
‘Is it important to perform miracles to keep the crowd coming to your church?’ Titus asked again, with a straight face that took lots of effort to achieve.
‘Miracle is a very sensitive issue and concept in the modern churches. While the orthodox churches regard it as off limits, there are different schools of thought on miracles in Nigeria, each with strong arguments and biblical facts either for or against the issue. In my own considered opinion, establishing a church on the basis of performing miracles is a very risky venture since it raises lots of expectations and you will lose your flock immediately you cannot perform the miracles as advertised. Leave the miracles alone but if one happens incidentally, utilise it to the maximum by attributing it to “faith” and the hands of God moving to convince the unbelievers that He is still there in all His glory. Concentrate more on testimonies by your flock who enjoys the bounties of the Lord’ Kola sighed, now wishing he could leave Titus to go to the internet café to try the latest credit card number he obtained two days ago from a friend but Titus was not done yet and was already asking the next question before Kola could stand up to leave.
‘How about speaking in tongues during services?’ Titus asked and the temptation to show off won the day because Kola sat down firmly again on the bench and launched into another long speech.
‘Speaking in tongues is a landmine for many established pastors and the aspiring ones. You have to be really good to be able to carry it off convincingly or else, your ass will be out in the open before you can even finish spelling ‘ministry’. Some few men of God speak genuinely in tongues occasionally and contrary to general believe, it is not something you could do at the snap of a finger. You really have to be inspired by God to do it. Alternatively, if you have to fake it, you have to be able to speak obscure languages like Tonga, Gaelic, Divehi, Telugu or Inuktitut to convince your flock you are receiving the vibes from God. My advice, sir is that you should steer clear of speaking in tongues if you ever establish a church.’ Kola said, fully convinced that Titus will soon establish his own church. Titus has never heard of Telugu, Divehi or Gaelic and he cared less but decided to ask another question
‘What is the best title to take as the head of the church?’ Titus again, with an anxious face.
Kola cleared his throat at this before continuing ‘titles are important to church leaders because it shows their pedigree. Adopting the simple title of “Pastor” however is the best because you might end up confusing yourself with those long titles. Imagine the effort you have to make to remember a title like ‘His Most Eminence, Founder, General Overseer, Superior Primate and Shepherd of XYZ church”? You will continue to confuse yourself and become a laughing stock. The most revered Christian leaders in this country today are the ones who retain the simple title of pastor’ and he reeled off names of highly revered church leaders to the admiration of Titus, who felt like hugging him.
Titus was now convinced that his meeting Kola that day was pre-destined and part of God’s grand plans for his life. If not, he reasoned, who could have taught him all those invaluable lessons he had learnt today? To cap it all, he is now convinced and confident that he could succeed if he establishes his own church. He now has one more question for Kola before allowing him to go but he also have to keep in contact with this maverick for he was sure that he will still need to consult with him on knotty issues.
‘How do you maintain control of the finances of the church without seeming to be greedy?’ Titus now came to the crux of the matter and the issue that will determine the success of his planned “ministry”.
Kola was convinced that this will probably be the last question for the day but was also sure that Titus will return to find him and he prayed in his mind that Titus should succeed in this endeavour since he intend to milk him maximally once he start making money.
‘To retain control of the church finances, you have to start from the people you appoint into the board of trustees of the church. I suggest you put your wife, your mother or a trusted sibling and two other weak persons on the board. You will always have the majority vote on all the issues since your wife and sibling will vote whichever way you want them to.’ Kola said and stood up now with a resolve that was easily understood by Titus.
They exchanged numbers and while Kola started walking towards his favourite internet café, Titus returned home, surprising his brother’s wife who could not remember the last time Titus had returned home in the afternoon before. She however kept her peace and managed a smile of welcome. Titus went straight into his room and brought out his bible which he studied with the seriousness of a student preparing for his final Degree examinations in a top university. He also got books written by other Christian leaders and devoured them voraciously, making copious notes. Titus was able to improve his praying abilities and before long, had assembled a “Prayer Warrior group” including his uncle’s wife. Adhering to the advice of Kola, he also ensured that the majority of the “Warriors” were women with Clementina acting as the “Women leader”.
Based on the success of the “Prayer warriors” the ‘Deliverance (Temple of Forgiveness) Holy Ghost Church of the Lord” was established three months later with Titus as the Pastor and Pastor (Mrs) Clementina Titus, newly married wife of the Pastor as the Vice Leader of the new church. It was also advantageous that his uncle’s wife sings angelically and she was appointed Choir leader for the new church. The board of trustees also composed of Titus, his wife, two of his brothers and two members of the church.
This story is part of a collection of stories from a yet to be published book 'Letter to Hadiza and other Stories' by the author. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org