Recession Should Never Affect Churches – Akanbi
General Overseer of God’s Mercy Revival Ministries (GOMERM) Lagos, Dr James Akanbi, worked for 17 years as Finance and Administration Manager in a multi-national firm.
He spoke with Sunday Oguntola on the economic recession and how churches can cope.
How is the recession affecting churches in terms of income generation?
There is one thing I’ve been saying and convinced about: there is no individual that can finance the church. Only God can finance it and I know one thing about God. He will always finance Himself no matter how tight.
Finances are shrinking for sure. But as it is shrinking in one way, God is looking for another way to take care of His church. If your purpose is God’s purpose, God will finance you.
In our church, people have asked me how we have been able to finance over 70 branches worldwide. They ask if the money is coming from those at the headquarters. I do say no because there is no branch that we collect offering from at the headquarters; we don’t do that.
Why is that? What administrative structure do you have in place?
I allow them to use their funds to grow their branches and that is what we do up till now.
You mean they don’t remit any percentage?
No remittance of any percentage at all. The 75 branches we have are not remitting a dime. Rather we send money. We pay salaries of workers and their rents from the headquarters.
People will wonder how they will remain loyal to you and know they are under the headquarters with that kind of structure?
Yes they know they belong to the headquarters. For example, on a monthly basis, all their pastors are here. On a monthly basis, there is a combined miracle service for all of us in Lagos and I go to all the zones.
People say that remittance is a way of always avoiding breakaways and serve as their own tithe
Has that stopped some of those churches breaking away from the headquarters? It has not stopped anything.
So, branches out the country also don’t remit?
In the United Kingdom, they take care of themselves. But others like Gambia, Senegal and Republic of Benin we do everything from here.
So, the recession does not affect operations?
In the last five or six months, we’ve been able to start about ten branches. If we are talking about starting a branch, some of the branches will take more than a million to start.
When we were starting the Ajah/Lekki, it gulped hundreds of thousands. So, I believe if it is God’s vision, He will make provisions for it. If it is purpose, He will handle it. I’m not going to stretch my hands into what He is not doing and when He is stretching my hands into it, then He must be able to empower my hands to be able to get something.
I agree the economy shrinks one way or the other but divine provision will not shrink. Offering to the church might shrink but divine provision will not shrink. He will raise it from whichever angle definitely. Our impact in the lives of people should still continue the recession notwithstanding.
How many more month do we have to get over this recession?
By the special grace of God and prayers of everyone with willingness from everyone, I think in the next 12months we should be able to get out.
Can Nigerians survive another 12 months of recession?
The tenacity is there and Nigerians know they can survive. What some family have been surviving is worse than what we are experiencing now.
It is the government that should look at themselves and feel they have failed the people. And it is just this government but successive administrations.
Your church has ventured into agriculture. Why is this?
It is a mechanism to beat the hard times. We are at one site around Osun state trying some few acres we are looking at. We have at two places, one at Igbo-Elerin.
We are into planting of yam, cassava, corn and all kind of things. For now, it is maize, yam and cassava. That’s for the one at Mugo. Our pastors go there weekends to supervise those that work there.
Some people argue churches should not have anything to do with businesses. They say the only business of the church is soul winning. Where do you stand?
Perfectly I agree that we must not miss our core mission but we should understand that church is a place of diversified talents. People are gifted in different things. While the headship and leadership is focused on our core mission, there are people that can actually take of other interests of the church.
In the early church, some people concentrated on the word, prayer and fellowship. But there were those in charge of the business aspect of the church. They were feeding the people. They got things from people and distributed to others.
They had managers and administrators as well as apostles. For example, I have not been to the farms and do not lose any sleep on it. There are people gifted in that. Members of the church could have degrees in agriculture-related courses.
For goodness sake, what are they doing sitting down? Let them go and be farm managers. They should take care of that. However, I do not agree the church should be in serious business that will crush its core mission.
Do you mean focus as in being on full time?
It is hard to have a blanket rule on that. I didn’t start as full time general overseer. I was still Finance and Administration manager for some time until God asked me to quit. So, if I say others should be full time, what about when I was part-time?
It depends on what God tells individuals but what I found that is when I came in as full time, it makes the work move a little bit faster. Where I worked, the company agreed I should work for only two days in a week. I spent three days in the church office.
But God still said I should give it up. So, for me, the final decision lies with God. Size of the ministry is another factor. With 75 branches and over eight independent ministries under my supervision, there is no way I would have coped without being on full-time.
What is your typical day like?
I don’t resume in the church office every day. I come here Tuesdays and Thursdays. I work from home where I have a huge library. I have written over 29 books. To be here, there is no way I won’t have some distractions.
I do a lot of online works, e-mailing and stuff with many of the branches from home. I do a lot of readings and also have a private time with God. My typical day runs from 8am. Even when I’m at home, I’m always in the library.
Most people know that you come in 8:15am they meet me in the library, officially I close around 7pm.
Did you put in that much when you were in the corporate world?
In the corporate world, I didn’t spend that much time. I put in my best no doubt. Sometimes I stayed in the office till 1pm but not every day. By 5pm, I’m off to home.
I had about one and the half break time but I don’t have break time here. I only have a flask by my side, take a cup of tea and move on.
There is pastoring and leadership. If it is to pastor a church of 200 people, you can say you don’t have much to do but when you find yourself in multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary leadership, you have to pray because the job is something else.
You need the presence of God because the moment it is gone, you are out of the ministry. You have a lot of things that actually have to go into it.
I usually tell my people that you can’t be stronger than your routine. If your routine is weak then your life in ministry will be weak.
Has your secular background helped?
Yes it helps a lot. If you do not have that background, there will be a particular aspect of management that will be missing. It could be budgeting or control of deviations.
Every year, I have a particular budget on my own and I’m controlling deviations. I’m looking at things that can bring in some contingency, do contingency planning and that helps with financing.
We have a lot of courses on finance that also can be applicable to leadership. My background has been helpful enough. I have been able to structure a system, have organ gram and put people into functional units.
I was in Harvard a few weeks ago to learn more on leadership and management.
A church leader in a Harvard class? Do you need such business training?
There is no born again way of cooking a yam. You have to place it on a stove. If you are managing people, you have to learn how to handle them. You manage people in corporate world, you manage people in the church and there is management aspect of the church. There is a leadership aspect of the church.
Management is different from leadership. In leading and managing people, you need knowledge. There is no ‘thus says thy Lord’ in managing systems. That is where confusion comes and people wreck churches.
If you are confusing the whole thing together you go nowhere, so we have to understand management of systems and leadership of people. They are two different things.
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