It has been such a controversial subject that there is even a naughty comparison, which goes; the closest thing in running a church is a drug business.
While the basis of this wild juxtaposition is that churches - like a narcotics cartel - hardly pay any taxes, a number of questions have arisen as to whether these religious outfits, especially modern day establishments, really need to make profit, given that they 'feed off' a free socio-cultural activity or phenomenon.
In a recent comic strip, cheeky Zimbabwean cartoonist Tony Namate, parodied these money-making ventures saying: "Judging by the number of churches springing up everyday, religion is now the biggest money-making business in Zimbabwe".
And when critically analysing the religious sector, God has really been good to some of Zimbabwe's "prophets" and church leaders, as they have been making big cash from tithes, business conferences, church enterprises, merchandise and other goodies. In this helluva scramble for cash, some of the world's best known preachers have emerged as serious dollar-millionaires and these include: Living Faith World Outreach Ministry's Bishop David Oyedepo, whose net worth was given as US$150 million, Christ Embassy's Pastor Chris Oyakhilome with an estimated $30 to $50 million kitty oand Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) founder Prophet Temitope Balogun (TB) Joshua at nearly US$10 to $15 million.
Others include British-based Matthew Ashimolowo, who runs Kingsway International Christians Centre (KICC) and he was an estimated US$6 million to $10 Million net worth. House of God Church's Pastor Chris Okotie is pegged at $3 to $10 Million.
According to Forbes and other globally renowned publications, some of these churches have thriving congregations and branches in America, Nigeria, Canada , South Africa (SA), amd the United Kingdom (UK). Pastor Christ Oyakhilome, for instance, has minted from his Love World Publications, which sells over two million copies of his devotional material under his Rhapsody of Realities theme. The flamboyant Nigerian churchman also owns a hotel, television station and a fast-food chain.
Although the likes of Celebration Ministries International (CMI)'s Tom Deuschle, Tudor Bismark's New Life Covenant Church (NLCC), Christ Ministries (CM)'s Godwin Chitsinde, Ezekiel Guti's Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (ZAOGA) and United Family International Church (UFIC)'s Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa were not readily available for comment, some of these "prophets and prophetesses" have made quite a tardy sum of money for their institution sand themselves.
Amid increasing charges that the church is now a convenient place or way to make a quick buck through the perversion of Christian dogma, CMI, NLCC, UFIC and Zaoga are among the names or churches that have taken a leading role in raising top-dollar through various initiatives. These include newsletters and other audio-visual material or paraphernalia, regular conferences, transport business and even educational facilities.
While traditional churches (such as Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist) would insist on 'storing up your riches for life after death or in heaven', it would seem that some Pentecostal churches have been making a killing - from poor - by pushing a prosperity agenda. So 'blessed' or endowed are some of these 'prophets and apostles' that they life a life of splendour and luxury, with the likes of Guti, Chitsinde and Makandiwa rolling around in expensive cars.
The UFIC founder , for instance, has shuffled Mercedes Benz limousines with ease and his wife recently got a Mercedes Brabus version as a mother's day present from his women's fellowship wing. According to a South African publication, Makandiwa preaches about 'possessing the promised' and justifies his car-upgrade(s) on the philosophy that whenever 'the devil steals from you, he replaces what was stolen two-fold'. This was after he had crashed his Mercedes S320 limo and quickly replaced it with a bigger one, the paper said.
extracted from weekendpost