Yesterday, the Dunamis Church dedicated it’s 100,000 sitting capacity Glory Dome church building in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Present at this once-in-a-lifetime event were political heavyweights, billionaire business people, religious big wigs and ordinary citizens from within and outside Nigeria. The list of the attendees is long and we wont allow it detain us here. Importantly, we now know that this grand architectural masterpiece located in the capital city of the capital of world poverty is the single church auditorium with the highest sitting capacity in Nigeria, Africa – and the rest of the world, no? Praise the Lord!!!

I was unable to attend the ceremony but from the several pictures I have seen, this epoch event was a huge success. However, and as is always expected from Nigerians, there are those who supports and praise the leadership of the church for delivering such mighty ecclesiastical building to Christians and those who believe that pastors and churches who build such edifices have a misplaced priority. For this second group, pastors should rather use the huge resources available to them to alleviate the long sufferings of millions of Nigerians, particularly the sufferings of the sick, poor, aged and hapless/helpless members of their churches and Nigeria.

For me, it is neither here nor there – because both sides of the argument make strong cases. What makes sense to me is the equilibrium point, a balance zone where the two perspectives are respectfully accommodated. Truth is, the average pastor in Nigeria has access to lots of money and thus, most pastors in Nigeria are rich, very rich. From the list of the Top 20 richest pastors in the world, about 12 of them are Nigerians. Another truth is that since 1960, government (and politicians) in Nigeria have had access to hundreds of billions of Naira. Sadly, this same Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world and a country where over 87.9 million people live in extreme poverty/below the poverty line and on less than N300 per day.

You see, I readily agreed with my friend Egole Henry Chinedu that it is not the primary responsibility of pastors to pull Nigerians out of poverty and provide them with social services. This is the responsibility of government; local, states and federal – and since independence, government have woefully failed to do so. For me and like minds, primitive and bold faced corruption by wicked and selfish government leaders over the years, and not the misplace priority or otherwise of pastors and churches, is the main reason our country is still struggling to make a headway. And it is this consistent primitive and boldface corruption that reproduces offsprings like insecurity, conflict (direct and structural), brinkmanship, prebendalism, ethno-religious intolerances and hatred, poor infrastructure, poverty, sicknesses, etc.

In the same breathe, I also see sense in the arguments of those who believe pastors and churches should cater to the human needs of Nigerians; beginning with those of their members, instead of spending so much on these gigantic church buildings. This argument makes sense because as Claude Ake opined, man must first eat before he can pursue religion. Now, I know many pastors in Nigeria who are already involved in many humanitarian outreaches to the sick, the poor and the elderly – but seeing that our government is failing us, pastors need to do more than they are already doing. Yes, they need to do more, and more and more with the resources available to them. Doing more means that, including feeding the spiritual hunger needs of Nigerians through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, they should likewise consciously feed the ‘worldly’ hunger and needs of Nigerians through direct supply of foodstuffs and other supplies (drugs, clothes, shelters, etc) to members/people who are disadvantaged.

I should quickly point out that no government, including the almighty American State, can provide citizens with everything every time just as no pastor or church can provide her members/citizens with everything they need every time. Infact, what pastors have is many many times less than what government has, even in a recession period. What would work, what is needed is a collaboration, a sincere team commitment by both the government and the religions (and the private sector) towards the betterment of the lives of the mass of Nigerians – recognizing that government is the big brother and has to take the center stage and lead by example as others follow.

In closing, I happily join millions around the world to congratulate Pastor Paul Enenche, the Dunamis Church family and all Christians for this uncommon achievement. Indeed, God loves Nigeria and Nigerians and this feat is once again an indication that as individuals and as a people, there is nothing we cannot achieve. We only need to be patriotic, united and committed

Chad Otsapa