Merchandising The Gospel – Richard Odusanya.

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Let’s start with the warning messages from Pastor Tayo Ajibade (Ph.D Theology) who teaches Systematic Theology at The Gamaliel Seminary, Maryland, USA. Pst Ajibade eloquently posited: “I think men of God in this dispensation should tread softly. The 21 Century Church is on trial. Instead of preaching Christ and Christ crucified, we tell our own fabricated stories just to give the impression that the man of God has power: high-sounding, spurious, and fictitious testimonies, and then we drag God into our ego-driven braggadocio.

Pastor T A, also talked about Pastors, lies, and phantom prophecies in an article published by Nigerian Tribune. Laced with precise lucidity, mostly the modern-day so-called “men of god” possessed by unbridled self-promotions, avarice, and the kind of rascality displayed on the pulpits during and after the 2023 general elections in Nigeria is a pointer to the facts of the matter. For example, there is no place in the Gospel records where the anger of Jesus Christ is more evident than in his dealings with religious leaders who were fleecing people in the name of God.

Pst Ajibade continued: “Lies like this don’t help Christianity. First, they turn sensible people away from the faith and secondly, they undermine our spirituality and make us look like circus clowns before the very people we’re called to save. Then, those lies don’t help our relationship with God either. They reduce our worth before Him and show us as undeserving servants. Ministers of God should be able to differentiate between the holy and the common.”

Flowing from the above, the word merchandising simply means the act of business of trading. It is to carry on commerce and to promote something as if for sale. When we talk about merchandising the gospel, therefore, we mean preaching the gospel with the intent of material gain. This practice has been on for ages past but seems to be assuming alarming proportions these days. Today, it is now commonplace to see all sorts of things being done under the guise of ministry. The underlying motive is the quest for material gain and fame.

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Furthermore, on two occasions Jesus cast out of the temple those who were bilking the common folk under the guise of spirituality (see John 13-22, and Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). Two classes of “church crooks” received his wrath: those who bought and sold sacrificial animals and those who exchanged Greek and Roman coinage (with their idol images) into currency acceptable in the temple—with extravagant fees charged for the services. William Barclay observed that it “was a rampant and shameless injustice—and what was worse, it was being done in the name of religion.”

Sadly, the acquisition of extravagant wealth under the guise of “ministering” on behalf of Christ has become a smear upon the “Christian” image in this nation. It is one thing to receive a reasonable level of support for work done; it is entirely another matter when men (and women) make “merchandise” of people (2 Peter 2:3), or, as the New American Standard Bible renders it, they “exploit” you. Noted scholar D. Edmond Hiebert once observed that such charlatans are not concerned for the welfare of the sheep; rather, they aim to shear them of their wool!

Quite sad, such individuals suppose that “godliness is a way of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3). Unfortunately, there are those who use the “gospel” as a way of lining their own pockets. Likewise, the phrase “merchandising the gospel” can be interpreted in two ways: religion as being the agent, or religion as being the object of the process of transformation. In some cases, religion can indeed be both the subject and the object. Religion is currently being deployed most shamelessly by the elites to gain an unmerited advantage. Sadly, this is not just about politicians anymore.

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For example, the average Nigerian tends to see everything through the lens of religion (It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone). The pulpit’s malfeasance characterized by inordinate ambition and the display of rascality was noticeable in the just concluded 2023 general elections in Nigeria. Essentially, it was the height of merchandising of the gospel in strange dimensions. The shenanigans started way back in the 2014-15 general elections, when a sitting President was openly endorsed by the “gatekeepers of heaven” It was the beginning of religious politics (Christians versus Muslims), leading to the well-known scam packaged as a messiah in the 2023 general elections.

I’m not even suggesting that people who believe in religion are weak-minded or anything like that – essentially, religion is a man-made thing. It had little to do with the existence of God. It is a social phenomenon that occurs when people collectively try to organize personal experiences of faith and spirituality. It has some positive social cohesive aspects, but since it’s a social phenomenon it always devolves into dealing with power among humans.

And, since it deals with a thing that cannot be proven right or wrong but still deals with ideas very important to humans, it always establishes a fundamental misconception in societal epistemology, which causes societies to focus on the wrong things, on harmful things, on irrational deductions that glorify temporal power, obedience to an unquestionable authority and mitigation of harm not against period but against imagined characteristics of God.

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In conclusion, based on the things I observed and experienced over time, merchandising of the gospel is real. Statistically, I would not call religion a comfort mechanism. I’d call it a coping mechanism, and then refer the captives to a psychologist who might be able to point them toward some reality-based relief.

Finally, I need to be clear; nothing should be accepted blindly everything should be accepted with care and caution. Succinctly put, it has become necessary and important to avoid a repeat of the “Jonestown Massacre” which occurred on November 18, 1978, when more than 900 members of an American cult called the Peoples Temple died in a mass suicide-murder under the direction of their leader Jim Jones (1931-78). It took place at the so-called Jonestown settlement in the South American nation of Guyana.

Richard Odusanya

Richard Odusanya
@Richard_Odusanya is 9News Nigeria special guest writer on Politics, Africanism, African Emancipation and Humanitarianism
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