Down Memory Lane
In order to see what I see today regarding the impact of the church on the economy, I will have to take you down my “church memory lane”. I was born into a Presbyterian family; and spent most of my primary school days in Kumba, where I worshipped at Presbyterian Church Kumba town as well as Buea Road. Thereafter I spent seven years in Presbyterian secondary schools (PSS Mankon, followed by CPC Bali). This means that between the ages of 5 and 19 years I was very close to the church; attended morning and evening devotion as well as church service on Sundays. During these years I learnt a lot from the Bible. I also questioned many things about the Bible, but mostly in my head because the environment I grew in did not allow such questions. The church through its activities provided some checks and balances in society, provided for the poor and needy through various ministries (prison, scholarships, widow etc.). The Presbyterian Mission and others (Catholic, Baptist, and Apostolic etc.) were also involved in shaping the economy through various activities – Schools, printing press, hospitals, garages/workshops etc. These activities created jobs, and stimulated the economy. Note that some of these still exist today.
You notice that while the churches at the time were working hard to spiritually empower their Christians, they also tried to practically empower them – Christians needed to go to school, learn skills and become economic contributors to the country. It was generally understood that people had to work every day of the week, Sunday was reserved for service. Weekly church meetings were generally held in the evenings – after work.
Back to recent days
As I travelled around Cameroon in 2015, I noticed that the Church (referring to all, not just Presbyterian) has occupied a central role in the lives of Cameroonians. The church has been given so much power and control; it therefore has a bigger responsibility towards the people and the country. The following are some observations that I found worth sharing:
1) The growing number of churches and lack of regulation
There is a church on almost every street in the big cities in Cameroon. Back in the day we had less than 10 churches; today we have a huge number. It is so easy to start a church nowadays and anyone can become a pastor/prophet/apostle/bishop etc. The big question to ask - is there need for regulation of these churches? The lack of regulation means that anyone can start up a church and preach/practice their version of God’s word. We have seen images of pastors climbing on Christians and others asking Christians to walk as sheep. As an employer I battle with employees on this church issue; during an interview, after having explained how the company runs (operating hours, culture etc.) an offer was made to the candidate. The candidate’s response was: I will go and speak to my pastor for approval and get back to you.
It is dangerous for an economy to allow a sector as powerful as the church to run without any accountability, especially in a vulnerable nation as ours (Cameroon).
2) The preaching of hope and the numerous numbers of church services is gradually creating lazy citizens.
I was taught that if you prepare (i.e. study hard) for an exam, you will pass the exam. Nowadays more and more people believe that if you pray hard, fast, sleep in church you will succeed in life. I am not disputing the power of prayers. I am saying that if you are looking for a job, learn to write a good CV, learn interview tips, and enhance skills that are needed in the market. Don’t spend one week in a church and hope that these skills and knowledge will miraculously be transferred to you.
I was very shocked when I saw a pastor preaching in his church to many young Cameroonians at 10 am on a Wednesday. How come that in a country that has a lot of potentials and lacks skilled workers, we can afford to sit in church on a week/working day? Many churches today have service every day, some during working hours. This deprives the economy of man hours that could have been used in stimulating growth of the economy.
3) Tying of capital in church buildings
There is a new phenomenon now – almost all the congregations of the different churches want a bigger and nicer structure. If you visit 5 churches, at least 3 of them will be asking offerings for a project (usually a church structure). These structures are financed by the very Cameroonians that are referred to as poor people. Do we really need huge and nice churches when we are unable to access portable water, electricity, transport etc.?
4) The church is promoting distrust, a deterrent to economic growth.
Many churches today attract masses of people through the performance of “miracles” and as expected I have not seen a miracle where the sales of a business doubles mysteriously or good roads appear in our cities. The ‘miracles’ you see or hear of mostly have to do with pastors saving people from their wicked ancestors, brothers, friends etc. People now more than ever before attribute all failures in their lives to a curse/a snake or a diabolical object that has been fashioned against them. So though we go to church in our numbers, we are scared of each other. This has created a lot of distrust amongst Cameroonians. This has a negative impact on the economy – businesses will thrive if business players trust each other and respect their commitments.
Pastors and Christians should be able to practice their religious beliefs without any restrictions if and only if they do not exploit or derail the citizens of our beloved country. The government has the right to implement some regulation to ensure that churches do not abuse their powers.
As has been mentioned in previous write ups – the key ingredient that is missing at the moment for economic growth to happen in our country is LACK of RELEVANT EDUCATION. This is why it’s easy for some churches to prey on the citizens of the nation. People will belief in just anything that is said by him/her that is considered a man of God.
Churches need to understand their role in society and work hard in making sure that the role is met. Doctors, teachers, the state and many other institutions have their roles too. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”
This is the last of a series (four) of write-ups under the heading 2015 STOCK TAKE, written and published by 25-45 Business Consulting SA in her quest to make a contribution towards the economic growth of our fatherland (Cameroon).
25-45 Business Consulting SA – a proudly Cameroonian company.
Part 2 – Personal Financial Management issues that impact on the economy.
Part 3 – The role played by the Diaspora (Bush fallers) in the economy ofCameroon.
Part 4 – The impact of Religion in the economy of Cameroon.