My church denomination, Zion Gospel Assembly, is affiliated with a ministry called Church Team Ministries International (www.ctmiword.com). CTMI is a ministry located in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, off the East African coast.
The head of this ministry is Brother Miki Hardy. It is through this ministry that we in our humble church happened to hear the gospel of the cross many years ago. I thank God exceedingly that He enabled us to open our hearts and to receive this gospel. Since then, this gospel has continued to become a revelation in our hearts, and increasingly we see that the plan of God for His church is for the born-again believer to die to sin through identifying our lives with the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Hence, the gospel of the cross: “We preach Christ and Him crucified”.
Recently, I was talking to one of my church members here in Singida about CTMI. Being new to the gospel of the cross, the brother does not know much about CTMI, so now and then I keep filling him in on its details and workings. On this particular day, as I was talking I mentioned that CTMI, unlike other ministries, does not give financial support to the pastors who work with them.
CTMI does support its affiliate pastors and churches in many ways, including giving specific financial support where necessary, but I was telling him about how it does not, as a ministry, give its affiliate pastors a monthly stipend or something of the sort as a way of ‘working’ with them or as an incentive for them to stay in the ministry. Nor does it conform to the ministerial norm of the rich giving to the poor.
“Actually”, I said, “CTMI quite often asks us for contributions for the various ministry needs it has.”
“Well”, the brother said after a long pause, “Miki has raised you well.”
I was stunned. I had never looked at this issue in that light. I had never thought of it as being “raised”. True, it is not easy for a poor Third World pastor to work with a ‘Western’ ministry that does not give out money. But I had simply considered it a necessary part of the gospel we have been called upon to live, no more. Certainly not in the light this brother has seen it.
Now this brother says, “Miki has raised you well”! In an instant I saw the depth of revelation that this brother had received. He should have been my pastor, not I his! I was truly humbled – and grateful to God that He has given me such a man to be by my side.
It is no secret that the money bug has bitten and harmed the church, and in more ways than one. Many African preachers I know of are not free to serve God in total freedom because in one way or another they are into unhealthy financial relationships with Western ministries. In many cases it becomes a case of he who holds the purse-strings has the gospel, something which is totally unscriptural.
That is why there is a problem within our churches here in Africa: you find in many churches the board of eldership is composed of the rich and well-to-do. The poor are simply ignored.
The church has failed to take note of the fact that money is the god of this world, and that it would be inconceivable for Satan not to attempt to use it to undermine the church of Jesus Christ. Having thus slept on the job, the church has allowed Satan to create complex relationships where the receiver becomes no longer a servant of Jesus Christ, but of men.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving and receiving. The Apostle Paul in exhorting the Corinthian church to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem writes:
“7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also… 13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality”. 2 Cor. 8:7-14
And John the Baptist defined the gospel in this manner: “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” Lk. 3:11
Giving is the heart of the gospel.
But money is a veritable breeding ground for evil motives. And today it is not a matter of there being bits and pieces of evidence regarding this. In many of the environments where the gospel should have sounded out with much power, there is hardly so much as a squeak! Unhealthy relationships have been built between the giver and the receiver, and the power of the gospel has been stymied.
But God can only work in an environment of true freedom.
When poor pastors begin expecting gifts and stipends from their rich Western brethren without the revelation of the cross in their hearts, it is the beginning of the end for the gospel to shine in their lives. They are no longer free. Whatever deposit of the gospel that God had put in their hearts is held at ransom by the unscriptural attitude of both the giver and the receiver.
We need to be free in giving as well as in receiving.
I remember many years ago I was in Musoma and an American preacher was coming to preach in town. All the church leaders quickly gathered together and drew up a budget which in my naiveté I thought we would be contributing to. But, alas! the entire budget was for the American preacher to meet. It ran into a few million shillings, and within the budget there were pastors’ and even ‘prayer warriors’’ daily allowances!
When the American preacher arrived, a kilometre-long convoy went out to meet him some miles outside of town. That was almost the entire church leadership in Musoma. Not knowing any better, I was there too. Of course, it is good to welcome a visitor in every good way possible, but it is the motive that was all wrong here.
We escorted him into town with dance and song, and that very evening we began to ‘eat’ his money.
I am glad I am working under CTMI and I am daily learning to be free to serve God, and not men. You realize, of course, the context in which I am using the phrase “not men” here. There is a sense in which we serve men and not God, and that is not good.
Certainly a death is required there and I will gladly partake of it. I will do it as much for my own sake as for my friend’s sake, the brother whom God has given to be such an encouragement to me here in Singida.
[Below: Brother Miki and his wife, Audrey]