Worshippers at the headquarters of Christ Embassy Church in Lagos had to pay N1,000 each as gate fee to attend a New Year’s Eve service presided over by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome. This revelation has shocked many Nigerians and infuriated others who think of the fee as extortion, PM News reports.
Worshippers who wanted to attend the crossover service at Christ Embassy’s headquarters on Billings Way in Oregun Area of Lagos on 31 December, 2014, were made to obtain gate passes that sold for N1,000 each. Those who could not afford such passes were turned back and told that they could go elsewhere to worship or watch the service online for free.
While the practice is not new in Christ Embassy Church, it led to an uproar in January 2011 after it
was first introduced on 31 December, 2010.
Many people described it then as extortion, abuse of ‘Jesus’ teachings and another confirmation that some Nigerian churches and pastors are more interested in making money than winning souls for God.
But the church explained, though informally, that it was a way of controlling the crowd and discouraging thousands of people who come to church once a year on 31 December and prevent “real worshippers” from securing seats at the headquarters on that important night.
The argument did not win many fans and under a barrage of criticisms, the church prayed the matter would be forgotten. Nigerians also hoped gate fee collection would stop. But the practice has continued and is now seen as routine with those who cannot afford the money being turned back on 31 December of every year.
With a sitting capacity of roughly 20,000 seats, Christ Embassy might have made at least N20 million from the sale of gate passes used for the crossover service.
Worshippers in Christ Embassy and former staff have complained in the past that the emphasis was often too much on money in the church rather than on spiritual things Jesus Christ taught his disciples. While virtually all prosperity churches in Nigeria apply the principles of “giving to the church to receive from God”, many say the level of financial demands and pressures in Christ Embassy Church is unusually high.
Since the revelations about the gate fees collection at Christ Embassy Church were made public last week, Nigerians have continued to express shock, outrage and indignation with many finding it hard to believe.
Where do you stand, is the church justified in this action?