In the last 8 years of my life, I have been confined to my base in Ukraine without traveling overseas as I will normally do. The reason is why I believe every Nigerian pastor must raise their voice against the operation of MMM and similar groups in the country.
In the years 2005 – 2008 I was busy globetrotting in my efforts to spread the gospel of the kingdom. While I was busy with the rest of the world, some other unscrupulous guys, were busy working on my local church. The church I had labored over to build to become the largest evangelical church in Europe was about to experience it’s biggest test yet. This test came in a way that was unfamiliar to religious groups like ours.
WHY PASTORS AND CHURCHES ARE VULNERABLE.
I could remember hearing a lot of stories and testimonies about financial prosperity by my church members, even though I had spent a considerable amount of time teaching the principles of economic empowerment, I had sincerely thought that all my listeners or hearers were conducting their businesses as I had taught them. However as in every human endeavor, as great and positive things were happening, Satan has a way of making his dirty contribution to it. I did not realize that some individuals who were not really part of the church had managed to convince a few church members to partner with them to fleece my flock.
While we were looking at the crowd of twenty five thousand people who come to pray as church members, we didn’t know that there are other people outside of the church who have their own understanding of any crowd. To them, this was a readymade market that could be defrauded of their hard earned money.
This leads me to another crack in the wall of our charismatic churches that any evil intending person could exploit. I am talking about the fact that pastors and leaders in most evangelical churches easily believe their members. In my case I had an absolute trust in my members that with the caliber of the teachings they had received, there was no way they could go wrong. So when I was hearing about some suspicious activities of a certain company, I simply sent one of my pastors to crosscheck them without really sensing the danger. So when the answer came back to me that everything was okay, I dismissed all other signs of impending danger. This is what has led to me being embroiled in an eight year long court battle that has not allowed me to leave the country.
LET US NOT BE NAÏVE
I am therefore using this opportunity to talk to my fellow pastors and church leaders that we sometimes could be naïve while we are thinking in the positive light of people’s intentions, there might be other people behind our members who have evil intentions. In our case, I sent one of my pastors to investigate, he came back with a positive response, so I asked him the second question who was it that was behind it to which he mentioned the name of a visible youth leader who I knew had been in the church for the past ten years. I knew for sure that such a person cannot have any bad intention so I didn’t have any cause for alarm, or so I thought.
Most often, what I don’t know will have a vastly greater bearing on my life than what I do know.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough
What I never knew however was that even though this young man probably never had any evil intention, but in the real sense he had partnered with other people who were not part of the church, whose intentions we could not guarantee. To pastors especially and leaders of churches, this should be something to look out for, because when the stories get out, people will not believe you when you come to tell them the true story from your side. They will only respond to the cries of woes and since you are the leader of the church, the buck stops at your door.
When I asked one of my assistant pastors to go investigate, what he was interested in knowing was if the organization was legal or not and secondly if it is going to benefit the church members. I of course demanded to see the copies of their official registration which was presented to me. Today however I know that when you are having dealings with unscrupulous people, that might not be enough.
Another lesson I have learned from my ordeal, is that the argument that I was presented with from my assistant pastor that as long as these business activities were benefitting and profiting church members that there was no cause for alarm, is wrong. I was soon to discover that not everything that benefits you in the immediate is expedient at the end of the day.
YOUR MEMBERS WILL POINT ACCUSING FINGERS AT YOU
Dear pastors, let me tell you, when you are being blamed for what you never did and accused of all kinds of evil you never knew anything about, you will quickly come to the conclusion that the immediate benefit for church members is not a strong enough reason to tolerate dubious organizations or business groups in your congregation.
When it comes to Ponzi schemes and organizations like MMM, they actually operate by showing rewards and benefits to church members. They promise people a higher returns on investments more than could be given by any other business organization. So if MMM had attempted to infiltrate the Embassy of God, that could have been easy to detect because MMM was already scandalously famous for been a scam. At this time the founder of MMM Sergey Mavrodi had already been convicted for fraudulently defrauding fifteen million people of their money in Russia, so that could have raised a red flag in me and my members.
But since we were dealing with a legally registered organization with government permission to operate, it could not be classified as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme especially due to the fact that unlike other pyramid schemes, they were investing in properties, land, etc.
I was later to discover that the reason the unbelieving partners decided to approach a rather visible youth leader was because organizations that have not built their reputations always want to ride on the authority of other men with names. I will think this is one of the reason why MMM Nigeria has experienced such a huge growth and success in a very short time. I have personally watched a video by a so called pastor in Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministers promoting MMM. I have also read and seen photographs of members of RCCG actually doing presentation for MMM in their churches. The reason I am saying this is because the method is the same. Somebody that you trust is selling an idea to you that you don’t bother to research and investigate because of your trust for that person. This way a lot of sincere and innocent brethren have fallen prey to the trap and deception of schemes like MMM.
“Evil people rely on the acquiescence of naive good people to allow them to continue with their evil.” ― Stuart Aken
The reason why I can come out openly to talk about this is because MMM is a known pyramid and Ponzi scheme network all over the world. It is actually renowned for it. More so the founder of the organization Sergey Mavrodi has been convicted for Ponzi scheme and has served jail term of four years, so nothing new here.
Besides the above, as the title suggests another compelling factor for me is my personal journey of pain. I will not wish anyone, not even my enemies to go through the sort of defamation, scandal, libels, and false accusations I had to endure. I am therefore coming forth to cry out to my fellow pastors and church leaders to with immediate effect begin to raise their voices against MMM Nigeria and similar schemes.
DOES THIS REALLY REFLECT RCCG’S POSITION?
According to a certain Pastor Olakunmi Oyewale, who is said to be a spokesperson for Pastor E.A Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, he was quoted to have said on Thursday November 3rd 2016:
“It depends on the purpose. If it’s actually to empower the people of the church, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I saw something similar to that MMM you mentioned online, Facebook, but I’ve not been able to analyze it very well. If it’s not against the law and it’s not something that is dubious, but to empower the church I don’t think it’s bad because, you should understand that the church is not just about taking care of the spiritual needs of the people alone. The church cuts across every spheres of the member’s life and so far it’s not something that’s illegal or something that is not unscriptural.”
On the allegation of turning the church to a market place, Pastor Olakunmi said, “It’s not really about turning the church to a market place, people should understand that, like I said, the church is multi-faceted, and when they focused on just one aspect of member’s life and does not take care of the other aspects, then the church becomes one sided. So the church should be balanced in all areas.”
Reading this kind of sentiment brings to memory the words of some of my pastors here in Ukraine. The price of negligence however is much more costly. What you will discover is that the very same people they were trying to help will be the very first ones to attack the church and its leadership when the inevitable happens.
THE DAMNING CONSEQUENCES OF NEGLIGENCE.
Let me give you a list of consequences that I believe will be detrimental to any church that allows the activities of MMM in their church or among their members. Remember that these lessons are coming from personal experience.
Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
1. When, not if, this scheme collapses, the first ripple effect is that a large amount of money has been withdrawn from church members. As a result, the churches will become poorer.
2. The people who participate in these schemes are actually taking either their extra money out to these platforms or they are using their tithe and offerings which equals to fleecing the church one way or another.
3. After the collapse of MMM, pastors will discover that church members would rather use their money to clean up the mess of paying their debt or returning money to their creditors, etc. rather than paying their tithe and offering to the church and this could go on for a long time.
4. There is going to be a lot of strife among church members. People will begin to point accusing fingers at each other for getting them involved in the business which will lead to a lot of conflict within the church.
5. If the network was sanctioned by the leadership of any church even though not directly, the church will still be blamed while all the previous good works of the church will be quickly forgotten.
6. A lot of the culprits will suddenly disappear only to resurface in places like London and Paris, but the churches will have nowhere to run to. They will have to remain to clean up the mess. It could get to the point where the church might have to empty its coffers just to help members put food on their table.
7. Some faint hearted church members who don’t have anywhere to run to could end up committing suicide. Believe me, the media and the unbelieving world will jump on that and try to crucify the church for it.
8. Church members will begin to doubt the authority and validity of the church leadership. Some will even say if the General overseer or pastor is a true man of God, why didn’t he see it coming? Why didn’t God reveal to him that this business was going to collapse?
9. I know this is unlikely to happen in Nigeria but in Europe here, what I had to face is that since I am the senior pastor of the church, a law suit was raised against me, accusing me of being the master mind of the so called scheme. I doubt this will happen in Nigeria because of the respect for our religious institutions and leaders, but you must still know that the danger is there.
10. Due to the loss of the church’s credibility, it will be followed by the mass loss in church members, which would be exploited by the enemies of Christ and His church.
“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.” ― Ian McEwan, Atonement
Due to all the above mentioned points, I therefore wish to appeal to my fellow pastors and colleagues in ministry to do all they can to begin a campaign that will stop the continuous propaganda and infiltration of MMM and other such groups into their congregations.
This is the fifth article in the series of seven articles apart from the introduction with which I started these series. I will be releasing two more articles in my attempt to open the eyes of all Nigerians to the impending danger in MMM network.
Whoever has ears, let them hear. Matthew 11: 15
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHURCH AND NATION.