NEW TESTAMENT PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH FINANCING IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF FOUR SQUARE GOSPEL CHURCH)
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Money they say is a spirit and it has principles that govern it, both in church and the world at large.From the amount of time spent on investigating this matter of the principles of church financing in some New Testament churches, we have come to a well-reasoned conclusion that finance/money is the only topic of importance to the church and to the preachers. The rate most New Testament churches demand for money has become alarming and despite the emphasis upon money in these churches, money and giving is a vital part of New Testament Christianity, and we can see this in the Bible Acts 2 where the freshman church isdescribed:
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need Acts 2:42-45.
Perhaps the paramount reason Christians seem to have so much trouble with this subject of money and material goods is that they see it differently and also have a wrong view of it. On the other hand, based on current thought in some New Testament churches, money and material goods are not evil; neither are they a curse, but a blessing from God and a fulfilled promise from Him. Taking a look at 1Timothy 4:1-5 Paul rebuked Timothy about those false teachers who would forbid marriage and certain foods as evil. Paul also said, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude” 1Tim 4:4Paul also wrote in this same epistle: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” 1Tim 6:17.
Therefore, worldly riches are not just there for us to only enjoy, they are also for us to share with the needy. And this is well explained in 1Tim 6:18-19 which says, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed”. In the early chapters of Acts the attitudes of the Christians in selling their goods and satisfying the needs of other Christians showedto a large extent the way the reality of their faith and the strength of the bond between Christians.
Money controls a lot. Rather than viewing money as a sign of spirituality, or that spirituality guarantees prosperity (1Tim 6:5) a misconception that is familiar to many in New Testament times and today, money was to be understood as a stewardship, an important thing that is meant to be wisely used and invested, and not to betaken and hidden or lavished upon ourselves (James 5:1-6, Lk 16:1-13; 19:11-27).Material belongings in the Bible are never seen as an end in themselves. Chasing after wealth/prosperity has caused great heartache, problem and difficulty to quite a number of Christians. Material things are to be viewed as a means through which we can prove our love for God and our love for our brethren.
Whatever we have is given to us by God. Hence, our belongingsare not completely ours. We observed from the book of Acts that Christians did not consider their possessions as belonging that completely belong to them. This means that they did not claim their right of ownership.From the description from the Apostle Luke: “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them” Acts 4:32. From the scripture above, we can see that there is no mandatory collection of goods and money from anyone. This is most clear in Peter’s words to Ananias and Sapphira: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” Acts 5:4a. The land belonged to Ananias and Sapphira and they are entitled to do with it what they wish. They were not mandated to sell the land, or to give any part of the proceeds to be used for the poor. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was that of deception, lying to the Holy Spirit Acts 5:3-4.
Second, the text did not also say that everyone sold everything they had and pooled it all together. It further expatiated that no one made selfish use of his right of ownership. There actual ownership did not change except in the case of property that was sold. Therefore Luke said, “… not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own …” Acts 4:34. Material blessings are not only for us to enjoy alone, but for us to share with others who are in need; they are a vital means of showing Christian love and unity to believers and to express the life-transforming power of the gospel of our savior Jesus Christ.
1.2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The poor growth and expansion of churches in Nigeria as a result of finances has been a major stumbling block to Christianity and the spread of the gospel of Christ. The consistent poor financing of churches as a result of lack of financing principles has led to the mismanagement of funds and the spending of money on inappropriate things which therefore has prompted the study.
1.3. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine the New Testament principles of church financing. Other specific objectives of the study are;
- To examine the level of church financing in four square gospel church and other churches in Nigeria.
- To examine the impact of church financing on church growth and survival.
- To determine the financing principles of churches in Nigeria.
- To recommend ways of improving church financing in Nigeria.
1.4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What is the level of church financing in four square gospel church and other churches in Nigeria?
- What is the impact of church financing on church growth and survival?
- What are the financing principles of churches in Nigeria?
- What are the ways of improving church financing in Nigeria?
1.5. RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
H0: Church financing principles does not have an impact on church growth
H1: Church financing principles has an impact on church growth
1.6. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study would be of immense importance to church management in Nigeria as it would enhance church growth, expansion and development by examining the New Testament principles of church financing on church growth and expansion. The study would also benefit students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing further study on the subject matter.
1.7. SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study is on New Testament principles of church financing using four square gospel churches in Uyo Akwa Ibom state as a case study.
1.8 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
CHAPTER TWO/REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Financing is becoming a common theme in African Churches today. Less than twenty five years ago, we were taught not to worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will take care of itself, and to learn from the birds of the air, who have no storage yet they survive (Matthew 6:34). We thus learned to put our trust in God who provides for us, but we failed to recognize that we have an important part to play in caring for His creation. Our preachers tended to only espouse the literal meaning of this scripture, and by implication, suggested that those who talk about financing were unnecessarily worrying about tomorrow. These preachers were honestly speaking about God’s providence without elaborating the nuanced meaning of ‘worry’. There is no doubt that this understanding of the scripture was very popular among our people because we live on a continent where half or more of the population lives in poverty, and we have learned to see every day, every meal and every sunrise and sunset as a celebration. However, financingis not about worrying. Rather it is about living happily and responsibly today, and thereby providing for tomorrow by conserving what we have. The second scriptural consideration that influenced our lack of receptiveness towards financing was based on the interpretation of the following text: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground— everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. Genesis 1:28-30 (NIV) Our earlier understanding, on the basis of this text, did not allude to the relevance of financing. We saw those who talked about financing as restricting us from exercising our God-given rights of subduing and dominating the earth. We were completely oblivious to the responsibility that goes with such rights, in the context of a complex system of interdependence and interconnection called the ecosystem. We rejected any suggestion that human activities can have a negative impact on the earth and itsfinancing. Concerns about environmental degradation and ecological disasters, which were even known to our ancient societies, were flatly underplayed.
Consequently, we developed an attitude towards environmental financing that was predicated on the limitless, ‘divine right’ we have over the earth. Our situation was compounded by the general prevailing global attitude towards financing as well at that time. Generated by the Industrial Revolution and further advances in science and technology, the attitude of modern society towards financing was characterized by a combination of indifference and ignorance, predicated on the idea that humans can conquer the environment to get what they want without taking cognizance of the consequences of such actions. We simply ignored the trail of our ecological footprint and embarked on ‘development’, spurred largely by the desire for economic profit. Although the environmental movement began centuries ago , it was much later, in the 1970s that it started to gain traction and climaxed with the World Commission on Environment and Development report “Our Common Future” in 1987, and the growing recognition that it can no longer be business as usual, and that the environment is not our foe. Hence, the slogan, “environmentally friendly”, “green”, “organic”, “renewable”, “recycled” and more became catchphrases. Yet, from Stockholm in 1972 – UN Conference on the Human Environment, Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – UN Conference on Environment and Development, Johannesburg 2002 – the World Summit on Sustainable Development and, more recently the Climate Conferences in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, the world’s journey towards financinghas been one of great challenge and promise . Using this as a yardstick, we proudly can say that with regard to financing the African Churches are in step.
2.1 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
In our contemporary world, hardly a day passes by without the news media informing us of corruption in the country. Corruption in Nigeria is so common that many Nigerians assume that some of the most trusted institutions such as the Church is corrupt. In our current dispensation, the Church cannot afford to be reactive but remain proactive in managing its finances above reproach. In other words, there should not be a hint that the Church’s finances are not managed properly. This is because the Church by nature is supposed to be playing a major role in the quest for transparency and accountability in our society today. Besides, the congregations want an assurance from the leadership that monies that they give sacrificially to the Church as their offerings are used prudently. However, while some stakeholders in the management of offering in a section of the Church are proactive in managing their churches funds above reproach others are just doing the opposite by pilfering their churches’ offerings. Churches happen to be victims in this instance. Apart from this, in Nigeria the print media often carry stories of pilfering of offerings by either the clergy or the laity. A point in case is a private newspaper that carried on its front page, a story of aformer accountant of the Winners Chapel, Nigeria, who stole a large sum of the church’s offerings. The church offerings, according to the report, were “suspected to have been pilfered directly from the offertory box after normal church service”. Thus, while some account clerks are prudently managing their churches’ offerings above reproach others do the opposite. Hence, it is important to examine the procedures put in place by these selected churches in the management of their offerings. This will enable one ascertain perhaps the challenges, if any, that these churches are facing hence their inability to manage their offerings above reproach.
2.2 THE CONCEPT OF FINANCIAL RECORDKEEPING/EVOLUTION OF RECORD KEEPING
The origin of recording according to Okafor et al (1996:1) can be traced back to ancient civilization in Babylon, Egypt, Rome and Greece. Early Babylonians had begun by 4500BC, to levy and collect taxes and records the receipts and disbursements. The development of “papyrus” and “calamus” as paper and pen respectively by early Egyptians is a great impetus to record keeping. Before the advent of writing, man could talk and could express himself in drawing but he could not write. Therefore, record keeping could be dated back to about 300BC with the discovery of “hieroglyphics and cuneiform” writing by early Egyptians and Babylonians respectively. The introduction of the decimal system by the Arabs as early as 850AD greatly enhanced the development of recording keeping. The emergency of money as a medium of exchange has provided impetus for development of accounting and record keeping (Okafor, 1996:1). It becomes necessary to record business events on monetary aspect rather than on physical quantities. Moreover, the industrial revolution of 18th century which brought about ample growth in the world trades and industry provided an important stimulus to accounting and record keeping. The businesses have been on continuous growth and expansion, resulting in increased need for information through proper recording. Before this era, businesses were on small scale and individual proprietors were so personally involved in the business that the need for information was less required. The industrial revolution was in effect the basis of the modern business enterprises ranging from partnership to joint stock companies. In view of Okpe (1998:1), described business organization as the vehicle for mobilization of funds and human resources”. He further stressed that it involves the principle of stewardship or accountability which marks a step further in the development of accounting and record-keeping. There is great need for effective and efficient communication network between the enterprises and the interested parties especially for showing how the resources are utilized. In the opinion of Okpe, (1998:1), he stressed that of the man or an entity just going into business, experience has clearly indicated that an adequate record keeping system helps to increase the chances of survival and reduces probability of early failure. Similarly, for established industrialist, it has been clearly demonstrated that a good record keeping system increases his chances of staying in business and or earning desirable profits. Record-keeping can help owner managers of small enterprises keeping their business on a sound basis.
2.3 THE NATURE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF FINANCIAL SYSTEM OF NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES
The churches are established mainly to render services and not to make profits (Freeman, 1988:14) the objectives of churches are to provide as many goods or as much service each year as their financial and other resources permit. They typically operate on a year-to-year basis, raising as much financial resources as possible and expending them in serving their constituency. According to Freeman (1988:16), he observed that financial management of a church typically focuses on “acquiring and using financial resources upon sources and uses of working capital, budget status and cash flow rather than on net income or earning per share”. There is no profit motive and there are no individual shareholders to whom dividends are paid. In essence, businesses are organized for profit, the church for Christian services. Again businesses may be re-organized, sold or liquidated, churches are difficult to re-organize or liquate and their properties are rarely considered as cash assets. The use of funds is restricted when given by donor for specific purpose. In other words, some assets are restricted for a particular purpose like in a club, the members may be assessed for certain capital improvements such as the construction of a swimming pool, the proceeds from the assessment will be set in a restricted fund to be used only for that particular purpose. In view of James et al (1976:24) in their handbook titled “The Modern Accountant Handbook” the measurement of the benefits resulting from sacrifices of the New Testament churches are much more difficult since the attainment of goals can be measured only in term of “performance” to compare to that of commercial enterprises which can be measured as net income. The commercial organizations do have the responsibilities to report on the stewardship of their resources, the emphasis of their accountability is on the utilization of the resources to earn a profit. But in non-profit organization, the emphasis is placed on accountability and stewardship. It is important to understand that the standard of reporting for New Testament churches have developed differently from commercial accounting standards because there is a difference in emphasis in the objectives for recording the date and because of legally binding restrictions in New Testament churches which have no real counterpart in business enterprises. One of the characteristics of non-profit organization is that those contributing financial resources to the organization do not necessary receive or proportionate share of its goods or services (Freeman, 1988:40). The non-profit organizational financial reporting should provide the economic resources, obligations and net resources of an organization and the effects of transactions, events and circumstances that change resources and interests in those resources (Harry, 1993:16). The performance of an organization during a periodic measurement of the changes in the amount and nature of the net resources of a non-business organizations, and information about its service efforts and accomplishment provided that the information most useful in accessing its performance. How a church obtains and other factors that may affect an it’s liquidity should include an explanations and interpretation to help users understand financial information provided. In relation to James et al (1976), the objective of record keeping and the presentation of data are to make available meaningful financial information. This requires appropriate and adequate disclosure of the information required by the users of financial data. The purpose of preparing and presenting such data are comparable to the purposes of presenting financial statements for commercial profit seeking corporations. The emphasis in a church accounting is on “stewardship” rather than on matching cost with revenues. This emphasis arises from the fact that New Testament churches receive funds for which they must maintain accountability. This takes the form of general accountability and specific accountability. The churches are established to carry out special functions and to meet the designed objectives. The church has the general accountability to use the funds and resources it receives for the established objectives. In some cases, funds are contributed for use in a specific accountability to be certain that the specific requirements on the donor are carried out. The general characteristics of recording and reporting data for the various types of New Testament churches are similar; the historical development of accounting principles and procedures has resulted in a variety of record-keeping procedures and forms of presentation of the financial data. Recognizing the need for uniformity in reporting some of the churches developed manual doe use by their groups.
2.4 THE CHURCH ACCOUNTING MANUAL
In the opinion of Harry (1993:20) the general accounting manuals includes a general description of the overall accounting system, the charts of accounts, numbering scheme, account description and if desired the general accounting principles and policies being followed. Parts of the general accounting manual are usually included in the user manual to provide account coding information to outside department such as purchasing, receiving and others to code transaction documents or otherwise providing accounting information a more complete manual containing a section of accounting principles and general procedures. The accounting manual may contain copies of reports, and accounting statement produced by the system. The user manual is most useful in interpreting where non accountants initiate or prepare original accounting forms or documents that provide accounting information to the general accounting operations. The users’ manual has a listing of income and expense account numbers and codes and descriptions and use of accounting forms. It can be used as a training tool for non-accounting supervisors, secretaries and others who are involved in adding or checking data on accounting input documents.
2.5 FINANCIAL DECISION MAKINGS PROCEDURES IN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
The financial decision making in religion organizations like Christian religions is being taken by the church officials in charge of finance with the overall conclusion by the pastor or priest for the particular church. Before any expenses or project is to be executed, the priest in conjunction with finance council will deliberate on it and decide the amounts that are to be expended. This forms a basis for controlling excessive spending and relating actual income to it expenditure. Most of the churches operate a bank account of which the priest or the pastor forms the signatory to the account along with the person that handles the cash. Thus financial decision making in religious organizations involves taking risks. According to Anyafo (1997:25) in his book “God’s People Finance”, decision making is not an easy task, it is even more difficult when it has to do with money. We are talking about financial derivation by risk taking. Financial decision making is made most of the time under conditions of uncertainty. Because of uncertainty of outcome, there is risk. A systematic approach to solving decision problems under conditions of uncertainty is referred to as decision analysis (Anyafo, 2001:8). It seeks to prescribe a decision for the individual that is consistent with his or her preferences and attitude towards risks. Real life decision problems; financial or otherwise involves the selections of a course of actions from among two or more alternatives. This can be classified into two or more categories: i. Decision-making under uncertainty: This entails the selections of a course of actions when we do not know the certainty the results that each alternative action will yield. However, it is assumed that the outcome of whatever course of action we selected is affected only by chance and not by an opponent or competitor. ii. Decision-making under conflict: This is similar to decision making under uncertainty in that we do not know with certainty the result each available alternative course of action will yield. However, the reason for this uncertainty is different in the case of decision making under conflict. In such cases, we are in effect confronted by one or more opponents or competitors. The outcome of our chosen course of action depends on decisions made by our opponents. Decision problems of this type fall under the discipline known as game theory. Because Satan is an opponent, the Christian is confronted most of the time with decision making under conflict. Nevertheless, the bible assures that you are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). The Christian is well equipped to take risk because greater is Jesus Christ that is in Him than Satan that is in the world. Making money involves risk-taking of some degree. Every child or God has the privilege of transferring these risks to Jesus Christ who stretches out His hands to take over the risks with the words come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). However, the financial decision making in Catholic Church is being taken by the Parish Finance Councils of the parish with the parish priest as the chairman. The Parish council decides the financial strength of the parish by consulting the Finance Committee and discusses all financial prospects of each organization or society that make up the parish and act accordingly. Thus, the Parish Council calls for tenders, selects and approves one and authorizes treasurer and parish priest to pay on completions of the project. The parish finance council discusses relevant issues concerning the church with the parish priest and decides how the matter will be solved financially. In other words, the parish priest does not have sole authority to the church’s funds but takes directives or works along with the parish council on issues concerning finance. Because of the vital importance of the financial decisions to the church. It is essential to set up a sound and effective organization for the finance functions.The ultimate responsibility of carrying out the financial functions lies with the Bishop.
2.6 FINANCIAL CONTROL: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL
The establishment of church is mainly channeled towards bringing souls to God and not for profit making (Olademej, 1985:35). Though the fund for managing its affairs has to be controlled, there is the necessity for an effective approach to the exercise of appropriates and effective controls over the finance of the church. Control is a management activity of comparing actual output or performance with pre-determined or planned situation and analyzing any differences for purpose of managerial corrective actions and co-ordination. Such controls are of two types viz.: internal controls and external controls. Internal control must be such that it will establish the credibility and project the image of the church as semi-autonomous organization able to plain their financial programmes and collect and disburse their monies in a controlled and systematic manner designed to achieve their objectives without waste or loss and at a minimum cost. Millichamp (1986:42), internal control system is defined as the whole system of controls, financial and otherwise established by the management in order to carry on the business of the enterprise in an orderly and efficient manner, ensure adherence to management policies, safeguard the assets and secure as far as possible the completeness and accuracy of the record. The individual components of an internal control system are known as “control”. More so, a good system of supervision and control over church fund is necessary in order to be able to prevent fraud and detect errors as soon as possible. They advocated for the appointment of church auditors both internal and external. The duties of the accountants will not stop with the preparation and submission of income and expenditure accounts but also must find the best way to present and communicate to members the financial statement of the church at various levels of expenditures and to the appropriate bodies. It is however, pointed out that managers should see that money is being expended in a systematic way and should make sure that church items are not consumed too fast. Thus, for financial control purpose, the manager or whoever is in control of church’s fund should try to control cost by eliminating unnecessary spending and making sure that money donated by people are judiciously utilized for the purpose it was received. In essence, the existence or effective internal and external control of this nature should be of considerable importance to the progressive development of sound financial management. The most important to the internal financial control fund in catholic churches are the preparation of annual and supplementary estimate of income and expenditure and the operation of a system designed to ensure that actual expenditure does not exceed the approved estimates. Also, that of revenue reaching the budgeting figure so that the finance of the church will be well managed. Each individual parish in the diocese sends their yearly budgets to the diocese. In the parish level, there is internal control where the financial secretary collects, records and deposits money into the bank account of the parish. The parish priest and treasurer or one other person are the authorized signatories to the account. Also another form of internal control is the appointment of financial committee who have special responsibilities for the maintenance of effective system of financial control. In terms of external control, the diocese controls over the finances of the parishes. Each parish priest is expected to present an annual budget of his parish to diocese, and also expected to render an annual or semi-annual account of all income and expenditures of the parish. The parishes should be encouraged to stand on their own feet and prove that they have demonstrated a sound understanding of their financial responsibilities and of public accountability.