Should Africa Invest in Churches?

Published on 4th August 2009

If it is building churches and the bigger the better, no other race will surpass 'Black/African' folks whether in Africa or USA.  

Congratulations, to all the hands and heads that saw the coming of All Saints Anglican Church, Houston, a mostly Nigerian/Igbo church. A visit there on Sunday, is not really about doing the worship in a manger style, but showing off SUVs, the most colorful of attires, and making sure one is seen better than being viewed. The Nigerian-Houstonians have just joined their cousins - African-Americans in doing what Blacks are known to do: build bigger churches, in mostly depressed and deprived neighborhood all in the name of God. Who says blood does lie?  

Despite many years of separation from the continent, the way Blacks and Africans do things are alarmingly similar. They will build a bigger church but when it comes to doing something to help advance their community, they will have their hands out to others. No black church or her African counterpart has embarked on an aggressive research to find a cure for sickle cell; a disease that is known to afflict mostly black people. In the Nigerian community in US, a recent survey indicates that about 15% of kids born to Nigerians families in US, have the disease and yet, no church big or small, has taken up this issue to address.  

The biggest church in the world outside the Basilica, is in Cote D'Ivore, west Africa. In DFW between Potters House - TD Jakes, Friendship West - Fredrick Haynes, Inspiring Body of Christ - Ricky Rush, and Oak Cliff Bible Church - Tony Evans, all churches in zip codes with unemployment higher than the local average, but an expenditure of more than $300m on church edifices: Zero tax base for the community.  

In Nigerian communities what stand as a testament to community collaboration is always a religious facility. Even in my tiny village Ihe - Enugu State, the people rallied and built a cathedral. However, they are not able to agree on having a community bank, scholarship fund, renovate the schools, improve the village market or create jobs for local high school graduates who are defaulting into other activities that cause concern on the well being of the people. Because black people/Africans are suspicious of seeing anyone improve on economic and business endeavors, they rather give to a church.    

There is something ingrained in black/Africans people about church and its place in advancing the course and cause of man. The Americans, Europeans and now Asians that Africans run to for 'money in a beggar style', have lowered their desire for religious/church leanings. Without the vast number of Africans and their South American counterparts, the Catholic/Anglican churches would be challenged. In a recent survey by EU, many Europeans concluded that it is no longer necessary to believe in God and as a result, many churches are being converted to other uses as memberships have significantly dropped.  

Blacks/Africans will not collaborate to advance their colleges, hospital, real estate/businesses that help in creating jobs and adding value to their tax base. Bishop College now Paul Quinn College, Dallas, that many Nigerians/Africans attended, is at the verge of being shot down because of finances. The vast Nigerians/Africans/Blacks that obtained their degrees/diplomas from this institution, have not rallied to give generously to the college. Were the move/need is to build a church on the college ground, I am sure the response would be awesome. 

Nigerians have no bank or credit union to help them access credit for businesses and economic development. However, they will in a flash rally for a church building. The average black in America whether Africans or Americans will give generously to a church but will not invest in a program to advance their community.  

While church is a good example of coming together, it is not a good example of investment that helps advance a community in dire need. Of all the acclaimed presence of black churches in DFW, that in a given year deposit about $2 billion in area banks, there is no African-American owned bank in the area. No where in US have Africans come together to develop a credit union or have a community bank that cater to the financial needs of their respective communities.  

Every ethnic group in US has one except Africans. So the Japanese comment that Africans are strong on their individual strides, is right but on collective basis, they are doormats for other races. Churches do not add to the collateral content of any community in terms of job creation or adding taxable base for revenue to the state or local community. Build them as bigger and best, they are just an edifice. 

As Blacks/Africans glorify God in magnificent places, how come the lives of Blacks/Africans are yet to be magnificent in the eye of the Lord? Blacks/Africans still suffer some of the most unimaginable afflictions at the hands of others. Does it mean their prayers are not heard or that they pray the wrong prays in the wrong place they think is right? Your guess is good!  

God can be worshipped in small places and still hear the prayers. It is not so much where one worships God that matters, it is what one does after worshipping. I will not celebrate building of a church as a coming together of a people in need and search of economic presence. Anything done in the name of God is what it is.  

I will bet that with all the 'highs and cheers' that come from building All Saints Anglican Church, Houston, if a church member is in need of an organ donation, chances are no church member will step forward to assist or even be screened for a match. Blacks and Africans dance and sing to different music and songs, and it is no wonder their standing among other races is where it is. 

Since some see religion as the opium for the poor, they may have observed blacks and their African cousins for this saying. Go to Nigeria, the only industry growing in leaps and bounds are churches and they are mega in their physical presence but shady in their conducts. At All Saints Church, Onitsha, a priest in the 1990s was indicted for poisoning a church member on behalf of a rivalry using communion. It led to church goers for a while refusing to be given 'holy communion' by priest. It led to communion being put in the palm.  

With all the shout of thy name, black folks and Africans appear to remain far from the intention of God because they are still ones that 'beg' for their existence. After the worship on Sundays, where do folks go for employment? Mainly establishments owned and controlled by others. Monday through Friday, black folks and Africans are subjected to untold employment, business and economic torture. On Saturday, they may barbeque and on Sunday get out in their best attire to ask, sing and dance in the church, seeking temporary reprieve from the torture they endured the week before and about to embark again. There you have it, in the name of the Lord. 

Ejike Okpa ii

Next Generation Fellow, Dallas Texas

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