No Christian should pay for prayer—Ven .Mukoro
Ven. John Mukoro is the Vicar of All Saints’ Cathedral Church (Anglican Communion), Ughelli. The charismatic Pastor spoke to Spy News Today Editor, Jon Egie in an exclusive interview in his office where he threw light on the way of the Anglican Church. He believes and declares that no Christian should pay for prayers.
Kindly introduce yourself sir.
My name is Ven. John Akpovoke Mukoro. I am an Arch Deacon by status.
You are the Vicar of All Saints’ Church how do you enjoy leading an elite church like the Cathedral?
In leading a church like the Cathedral we learn from the people and the people learn from us. In fact, it is a very wonderful experience because of the good relationship.
Would you say since you became the Vicar of the Church there has been significant increase or decrease in membership of the Church?
To the best of my assessment I think there is rapid increase in membership.
What have been your major challenges achievements and regrets in being a Pastor so far?
Challenges and regrets, I think our challenge has been how the congregation can grow and especially to cover the gallery. We are really increasing in number but we have not been able to cover the gallery. That is our prayer and burden for the people to know God and make heaven.
What are your achievements so far?
My achievement so far, by the grace of God in developmental issues, we have done little work since we came. We have already done a marble altar and the children Chapel building has also finished and I think the congregation, if you want to look at the achievements you could look at it from the spiritual perspective and the physical perspective; on the spiritual angle I think we are going through rapid growth because of the different programmes we are designing with attendant testimonies that abound. Also on the financial side, we met the church at an assessment which is far lower, about 22million naira and before we came the church had been at deficit for about three years but since we came there has never been deficit, by the grace of God last year we paid assessment of 34 million naira, we paid without borrowing but the tradition had been that they paid with borrowing and this year the assessment is 38million naira we are still trusting God that we will also pay. Like I said, on infrastructure development we are trying and you can see that God is helping us.
Sir can you tell us the doctrines of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)?
When you say doctrine it is just like when you want to go to an ocean with a small bucket, except you specifically give me the aspect of the doctrine you want me to make a comment.
We are asking for the foundation of the church of Nigeria, the focus, the philosophy of the church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)?
Are you talking of the vision of the church or the dogma, when we say doctrine it has to do with the dogma that is the worship and it is all embracing. But when you are talking about a particular doctrine like baptism, the Eucharist or Confirmation then I can be able to make a straight comment.
Let me ask again, what is the way of the Anglican Church?
The way of the Anglican Church, in what aspect, is it in the area of marriage? We believe in monogamy though we do not drive away polygamists.
From the layman view please educate us on what the Anglican Church does that makes it different from the Catholic Church or any other church like the Pentecostal?
The distinction between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic is in few areas because the Anglican Church is Catholic but it is not Roman Catholic. Anglican Church believes in infant baptism, Roman Catholic equally believes in infant baptism but the difference is that we do not believe in Mariology, so apart from few aspects, the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic are very close in doctrines. But when it comes to the Pentecostal church so to say, every church is Pentecostal but permit me to use the term, the new generation church, the difference is the mode of worship. The Anglican Church is the church of order, we follow order but in the new generation church they do not have order. They believe that they can do as the Spirit leads, but we are all serving God. That is their pattern, in our pattern we follow a given order of worship and that is why we have what we call Matins, sessional matins which we do once in a month, then we have sessional Eucharistic service which is also done once in a month and then we also have combined praise worship and combined Eucharistic service.So that is our pattern, we follow a given order.
Is there a mechanism of educating the congregation of knowing this given order of worship?
Yes, like in this Cathedral which is an elite church the order is known, but all the doctrines from our teaching our preaching, if you follow the Bible study of the church of Nigeria that we do and even our class teaching, messages and other programmes we have, the people are enlightened in the way of our church.
Let me ask, can a worshipper in a local church say the All Saints’ in Ughelli also enjoy worship in an Anglican Church in London?
Yes, because it is the same communion the difference is that the Anglican Church in Nigeria here like the Cathedral is what we call Evangelical Anglican Church. We are charismatic but if the Church of England is high churchmanship, people going there not that they cannot worship, but may not enjoy the worship.
What do you mean by high churchmanship?
High churchmanship is also a liturgical service which is a kind of a mass where they use candles for prayers. In other words, their method is more rigid than the free evangelical church.
Why is that one not practised here?
Not that it is not practiced, I think in the church of Nigeria it is only somewhere like Abeokuta that we have high churchmanship. We are evangelical, the gospel that was brought to us was brought by the CMS,and that is, the foundation of the church was evangelical.
How does the way of the church affect socio-economic and spiritual life of the church member?
When you talk about the socio-economic you are talking about the income of the people, how the church will affect them; you see, by teaching on what to do and how to do it affects them and also, you will see that we encourage the people to be strong. We do not encourage laziness. If you were in the service last Sunday, when we empowered a woman whose store was burgled by armed robbers, you will discover that at the conclusion I told the people that they should not be lazy and depend on others. We equally told them that begging is not a part of the Urhoboculture; our culture depicts us as hardworking people. We also encouraged them that they should not be lazy, they should come for programmes and after prayers they go for their work.So that is a way of encouraging them but whenever they have challenges we do our best to assist.
In what areas has the church undergone reforms recently?
Church is a general word.
We are talking of the Anglican Church.
Yes, I think we will say that in the charismatic angle the church has really undergone radical reformation. The church of Nigeria is a very spiritual church. In the time past you know that to even shout Halleluiah was an issue but the Church has become very prayerful, there are gifted Bishops who speak in tongues in the Anglican church today. You see priests speaking in tongues today which was not there in the church many years ago. So the church has become fully charismatic.
What are the social responsibilities of the church to its members and to the immediate community where it operates?
When you say social responsibility you are talking about the area the church can be of help to the environment, now if you look at the Church, for instance, in Otor-Iwhreko, Ughelli where we found the church today, it has become a blessing to the area because one, it creates job for the people by providing transport opportunities since on Sundays more Okada riders get here by bringing members to the church that is a social responsibility; on the other hand, there are workers in the Church, the Cathedral has many workers and has provided employment opportunities for many.
Are the workers from the immediate environment?
All our workers are from Ughelli here.
How do you extend your social responsibility to members of the Church?
One, the church is not a Charity Organisation but when they have challenges we give assistance to them. There are some people here, remember that they have children in the school; we help to pay their school fees.There are also some of the youths we have also enrolled for skill acquisition through apprenticeship. Even the one we did last Sunday is a social responsibility. Now, two of our members’ houses were burnt, the Church made money available for them to start all over again. In the women wing nearly every year they sponsor somebody for apprenticeship in tailoring or any other skill and empower the person.
Now, what does the church expect members to do for the church?
Members that are blessed should be of assistance to the church because all fingers are never equal. Members that are blessed should be of financial assistance to the Church, we have a lot of projects, take for instance, the inter -locking of our compound you know the challenges we are facing, so we expect members that are blessed to come and be of assistance to the church.
They say where there is no vision the people perish, we want to ask whether you believe in prophecy and what you would say about modern day prophecies and prophetic ministries that abound all over the place?
Yes, I think that statement, that scripture is always quoted out of context. The phrase where there is no vision, the word vision is not directly about prophecy. Vision is a goal a man has in mind to achieve. In other words, where there is no plan, you must have a plan. So this vision is not ritualistic prophecy so to say. Where there is no vision the people perish, let us put it in another way, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But in modern day churches people try to get scriptures out of context and apply them for their own benefits. Now, I believe 100 percent in prophecy. God speaks to His people in diverse ways but the area of my little problem is with the so called modern day prophecies. Now, with the modern day prophecies it is only God that know the truth but the book of 1John 4 says that do not believe every spirit but test the spirit whether it is the spirit of God because the spirit of the anti-Christ has entered the world and if you look at modern day prophecy you see that the prophets are not able to point out the sins of the people. The prophecy today is that God will bless you or you will die. One, it is to create fear in the people to get what they want to get from the people. Then the second one is to motivate them to get what they want to get. But the truth is that God is still speaking to the Church today but to know exactly who is a false prophet is by the word of God. Yes, the word of God is the evaluation medium of prophecy, be that as it may, I want to believe that we leave the judgment for God because everybody will give account on the day of reckoning.
You will agree with me that prayer is the weapon of the Christian; do you encourage payment for prayer?
Do you pay for prayers, I am asking you.
No, but we observe during prayer session some members of church go drop money on the altar as the prayers progress and that is why we ask, do you encourage that?
That is also a matter of misconception; it is not paying for the prayers. Some of these things they do they believe that God has already answered the prayer, it is a kind of a way of saying God thank you, it is an appreciation for what they have accepted by faith. So, it is not really paying for the prayers. Then another thing is that what some people may call paying for prayer is what I may refer to as sowing of a seed. A seed of faith is a seed that is sown by faith that God will bless you, these are different things. These are the end times, it could also be that there are some quarters where people are paying for prayers but to the best of my knowledge I do not think that people should pay for prayers because you are not buying the prayers, prayer is something you say to God and you appreciate God believing that God will surely answer and that attitude is what is misunderstood in some quarters to mean paying for prayer.
That means ordinarily you will not advise anybody to pay for prayer?
No, no, no! You do not pay for prayer.
Now explain to us the concept of seed sowing, special offerings, tithing, altar callings and how they are related to salvation.
The word related to salvation, they are not a direct medium to salvation but they are an appreciation of the finished work of Christ that is the difference. They have their different import and let me take it one after the other; let us say seed of faith, they are all biblical. Psalm 126 verse 5, says those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy, in other words sowing in tears simply means that struggling to sow and that purpose is to promote the work of God, it is sacrificial. In other words, it is biblical to sow a seed, so a seed of faith is a seed that is given to the honour of God. The person sowing the seed may not have abundance but he believes that God will do something and the bible says they will reap in songs of joy. The other one is tithe which like you know is the ten percent of your income that is given to God. It is biblical, you do the tithing yourself because the tithe of one man may not be the same as that of another man. If a man receives a salary of a million naira his tithe will be a hundred thousand while the man who receives a salary of ten thousand his tithe will just be one thousand. What we may call special offering are some of the collection, like in our church there is what we call special collection which are diocesan collection, they are called special collection because they are collected for a special purpose and are used for that purpose. What you call altar call in the church is that when a message has been preached those who want to give their life to Christ are asked to come out, we call that one altar call.
No monetary attachment?
No! There are people who are worshipping in the church but have not given their lives to God, there are many worshipers who have not experienced salvation so may be after a message of salvation they now do altar call and those people can now come forward but the people today have really believed in God and in that process some persons may also like to drop a seed in the altar but that is not altar call.
People complain that these days’ men of God are money-mongers, how do you react to that?
What do you mean by money-mongers?
I mean that they, the men of God, love money so much
That also boils down to a little of misunderstanding. I will use myself for an instance, when I came to the Cathedral I know the debt I inherited, close to the tune of 14 million naira and I must pay them. So when we were doing call for money I know I received a lot of text messages then that it has not been like this, and even now people are still talking that we ask for too much money but this money we are asking for is for the use of the Church. As an Anglican priest I have a fixed salary that is paid to my status which is also paid to any other deacon wherever they work, apart from that, there is no little percentage of what is received on Sunday that is given to me. I do not know what comes to the Church, except on Monday when they tell me this is what came and has been sent to the bank. So, apart from the approved salary and the allowance, nothing comes to me. So if I even call for one million and they give it to the church it goes to the church. But somebody without this understanding will feel that he is doing this thing because of what he is getting. But it may be different in the one man church where he is the owner of everything. It is his personal ministry, it is like his own business centre but our case is not like that, this is an established Church so whatever comes to the church goes to the church and so the idea of being a money-monger is a misconception.
Now let us go to politics, what role do you think the church can play in partisan politics?
I may not be able to tell you much because I am not a politician.
But you have a lot of politicians in your Church?
(Laughs). I am not a politician, but the role the church should play is advice. They should be able to advise the politicians to play what we call Godly politics. They should also know that even though they are politicians they will still stand before the throne of God and will give account.
Ex-President Jonathan is an Anglican and he has left the office now, will the Anglican Church still continue to pray for him?
Yes, we will pray for him but we cannot pray for him as the President, the Church can pray for him but not as the President of Nigeria. You see, the bible requires that we should pray for our leaders that is why in every service we pray for the leaders, so now that he is no longer the President of Nigeria it will not be as when he was there but the Church should pray for him.
The church and State are inseparable, how would you advise Christians in Nigeria presently to behave themselves under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari who is a Muslim?
President Buhari is a Muslim but he is not a Muslim President. He is the President of Nigeria, he has already said it himself that be belongs to nobody but belongs to everybody so he is our President. Christians should behave decently to let him know that Christianity is different from Islam. Our attitude and sound behaviour should convince him to respect Christianity. They must also comply and be law abiding, the bible says we should respect and obey those in authority, so we must respect and obey him.
Give a general advice to Christians across the country?
Christians should be conscious of one fact, that the end is almost here. Like the days of Noah they were marrying, they were eating, they were drinking, they did not believe that the world would end and it ended. The trumpet has been sounding that the world is about to end and with what is happening around us, it is very clear that the end is near. So, Christians should review their Christians life commitment and they should overhaul their services unto God and be faithful unto God preparing for the second coming of the Master.
Thank you very much Sir.