Can you imagine with Ben ACKAH-MENSAH :The Church Economy


Can you imagine? Deep and croaky frog-like voices incanting… “Sherebababa makatashaaaa! Heeey! Hurumutusha matashahuin! Heeeeey! Arishatumukaiiii! Somebody saaaay, Aaaaameeeeen!”

“Nowwww. Let’s pray for riches! Let’s pray for the child to come! It’s the way of the lord! The marriage will happen! The promotion will come! You will prosper beyond imagination! That family member who doesn’t want you to progress in life will dieeeeiii! 2023 is your year of unimaginable things to happen in your life! Haaashhh! Yakamatuwilimuassssh!”

“Somebody, praaaaay!” “The lord is listening.” ‘Keep praying.” “Ummmmsshh!!” “Kakakasulatumuo.”

Clap, clap, clap! Silence. Kooooom!

Then suddenly in a cacophony of beats, the guitar, trumpet, drum and other instruments take over the minute’s silence. “Ni3 wo ay3 ama me 3dooorso, Ni3 wo ay3 aaaama me 333dorrrsoooo”. The singing -or should I say screaming – begins. ‘White handkerchief, white handkerchief, white handkerchief!’.

The dancing starts. Big asses, thin asses, malnourished breasts, over-sized breasts, some drooping down, some upstanding and overshooting like Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick, or pointing to the lord above – all bubbling. Witches, wizards, prostitutes, rude wives, cheating husbands and wives, side-chicks, ‘awengaas’ (Sugar Daddies), thieves, corrupt politicians, that bribe-taking policeman, juju-using Waakyi or Kenkey sellers, Daavi the Akpeteshi seller, wicked market women and the innocent worshipper and novice, all singing, shouting and dancing to the charms of the not-so-Godly preacher-man or the truly anointed one.

“Arrhhhh! Today, church is good!” – the pastor, bishop, apostle or whatever-titled church ‘owner’ would be thinking or murmuring to himself, because the congregation is enchanted and the thought and fits of money keep seizing his brain.

Then, bam! You see the ushers wheeling the Collection boxes to the fore. At this point, the church ‘owner’ elevates into a different telluric being. He is extra-elated; dancing, shouting and urging the congregation to sing louder, or sometimes to misbehave. They are encouraged to make noise (some body make some nooooise!) and cause inconvenience to neighbouring homes. “Shoouuut unto the lord”. “Heeeeey! The lord has been good to you this week! Herebababababa, Makatashaaaa!”

Interestingly, some unsuspecting church members who had already been sold ‘Demon Canes’ by agents of the church ‘owner’ will be encouraged at this point to ‘lash the demons in their lives’. With venom, resentment, anger, disappointment, hatred and ‘nkurasesem’, they will exert every energy to hit the ground or any object they find with the so-called ‘Demon Cane’. (I don’t know if they charge VAT, NHIL, E-levy etc. on the sale of canes, oils and other items)

By the time order is restored in the church before ‘Collection’ or ‘Offering’ begins, brains of the congregation have been overworked and become too tired and lazy to apply any rational thinking of not emptying their pockets or wallets or handbags. At the present, rent, school fees, ‘Chop Money’, loan and debt repayments, taxes, parents’ upkeep monies, petrol, refuse charges, roofing that uncompleted house, helping a needy niece or nephew, re-painting the dirty house etc. do not matter. As a matter wonder, all the things that matter in life suddenly evaporate. The brain has become spiritually confused! Mystically muddled!

Sadly, by the time they leave church some are so drained physically and financially – and famished. The church ‘owner’, on the contrary – having verified the total ‘spoils’ of the day after some of the counting ushers have helped themselves with their share – gleefully ensures the ‘offerings’ are deposited safely in the church’s account. Some even engage the services of bullion-vans with security to do this. Some also have bank branches on the church premises – for obvious reasons. Some simply take the ‘booty’ home to keep them on behalf of the lord… and some banks are making a meal of this by setting up Churches’ business desks or Apps to collect proceeds. Some bankers’ appraisals hinge on this.  It’s big business.

I am writing all these not to make mockery of any church or because I do not believe in the church or because I am not a church-goer. Far from that! Perhaps it may interest readers to know that I am a regular church-goer. Very, very Catholic and a Knight for that matter. However, I believe it is worth delving into the entire church economy in the country, albeit not infringing on individual’s fundamental rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bill of Rights, Article 12(2) in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

Religion, as it were, and church-going has become the Volkgeist of the Ghanaian. It is part of the folk soul of the country. The church economy, as a result, is huge; and some charlatan preachers and con-artistes are taking advantage to dupe and deceive some spiritually hungry people while the state looks on and loses out. Preaching of instant riches, prophecies and miracles have become huge crowd-pullers in the country.

Can you imagine? A certain church, reputed to be one of the fastest-growing in the country can have more than fifty thousand attendance every Sunday. Only Sundays! Forget about other days. Thus, if we peg this figure to, say, 50,000 attendance and multiply that by an average of GH¢10 per head for ‘Collections’ – it’s a cool half-million, GH¢500,000 for just one round of ‘Collections’. Then multiply that by, say, two rounds of ‘Collections’ times four Sundays in a month. You can do the math better!

This is just one church. Now imagine the number of churches in the country, the various programmes they organise outside Sunday services, and I believe this bigger picture tells the story of the church economy better. Please note that they have overhead costs to cover ooo!

In 2014, DW News reported that there were more than 10,000 churches in Ghana. A very conservative estimate. In June 1989, the then PNDC government – in order to introduce some sanity into the religious sector of the country, among some other unpopular reasons – introduced the Religious Bodies Registration Law, PNDC Law 221. Section 3 of that ‘infamous’ law required that all religious bodies in Ghana shall be registered; failure to do so warranted a closure. It is reported that by 1990 the government had received over 11,000 applications from religious bodies.

What happened to that law I cannot tell, but it is believed there are about thrice as much of the above figure for churches in the country.

According to the Ghana 2021 Population and Housing Census by Ghana Statistical Services, Christians form the majority of people in Ghana with 71.3% of the total 30.8 million population. Islam is 19.9%; Traditional religion is 3.3%; Others – 4.5%; and citizens with no religious affiliation form 1.1% of the entire population. The number of Christians in the country has grown from 68.8% in 2000 to the current 71.3%. Islam grew from 15.9% in 2000 to 19.9% as of the time the census was conducted in 2021.

The 71.3% translates to about 22 million Christians in Ghana. Not all of them go to church though; but for the purpose of looking at the church economy, multiply this number by the average GH¢10 for ‘Collections’. You would be looking at about GH¢220million per every Sunday. Then multiply that by an average of 52 weeks in a year. A whopping GH¢11.4billion economy.

There are many pros and cons to the above assumptions and this argument; however, it sheds light on an important aspect of our national life and probably evokes further thinking and narratives on the subject matter.

Now check this: the orthodox churches are losing ground to the syncretic, or if you like the Pentecostal or Charismatic churches. Business is at play now. Sorry, spiritual poaching is at play now. The Census revealed that the Catholic Church has lost 5% of its population since 2000. In 2000 it had 15.1% of the Christian population. This reduced to 13.1% in 2010 and 10.0% in 2021. The Protestant churches (being the other orthodox churches like Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican etc. put together) have seen a reduction in their figures. They reduced from 18.6% in 2000 to 18.4% in 2010, then to 17.4% in 2021.

Meanwhile, other Christian churches – i.e., the charismatic and co – gained ground. They increased from 11% in 2000 to 12.3% in 2021. Why is this so? They are probably poaching from the orthodox ones or they are becoming attractive to worshippers, or they are applying marketing techniques to lure people: business.

As of 2021, Traditional religion worshippers formed 3.2% of the population while other religions like Hindu, Buddhist etc. increased from 0.7% in 2000 to 4.5% in 2021.

Christianity and the church are however the focus of discussion in this piece. Since the Portuguese introduced it into Ghana somewhere in the 15th century, Christianity has grown to have thousands of denominations, many different theologies and size-culture.

Basically, three are three different categories of churches: The memorial churches – i.e., in the style of the orthodox ones; the maintenance churches – i.e., the ministry-style churches, current and modern in nature; and the movement churches – here the examples are obvious.

The last categories of churches are usually where the worry is. Some are notorious money-swindlers designed as churches, yet because of the cover from freedom of worship and fundamental human rights very little has been done about them. Some of their pastors or leaders are very dangerous to their own people. They are not just wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are wolves dressed as shepherds leading sheep. They cunningly lead their sheep to the slaughterhouse.

The debate about regulating and the church is longstanding one. The moment it is raised – hey, matter done come! Touch not my anointed! Thus, some churches have been left to fleece their members and the nation. The church economy is big!

How did Paul Kagame of Rwanda tackle this? When he started sanitising the unscrupulous church menace in his country, about 700 churches was closed down in Kigali alone. In total, there were 6,000 churches shut down.

In Ghana, the church economy is far bigger than that of Rwanda – and so is the menace. Usually, women are the victims. The Census revealed that females outnumber males in ten out (10) of the sixteen (16) regions of Ghana. The female population in the country is 50.7% while male is 49.3% – i.e., 97 males for every 100 females. The rat-race will be very tight!  And so must be any effort to sanitise the church economy.

It’s church-time. Bye-bye!

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