Property, An Indispensable Tool In Evangelism And Church Growth’
LET me start this paper by commending the Law and Property Committee of the Conference of Methodist Church Nigeria for organizing this second workshop on making landed property asset beneficial and relevant to the church. The first one took place in Enugu last year. The bible says, “my people perish for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4,6) Valuable knowledge can indeed be gained for the development of the church from this workshop and the activities of the Property Week’ inaugurated some years ago. We urge therefore that these enlightening events should be sustained annually.
This paper will commence by considering three key words from its title, namely property'; evangelism’ and growth with a view to establishing a positive correlation or relationship between them.
The paper will progress by briefly examining some identifiable pattern, character and management of property asset holdings of Methodist Church of Nigeria. The aim of this examination is to indicate some challenges that may constrain positive contribution of property asset ownership to the growth of evangelism and church development in M.C.N.
How to bring about and sustain such positive relationship between property holding and evangelism on the one hand and church growth on there growth in Methodist Church Nigeria will subsequently be addressed in the concluding portion of the paper.
Property, Evangelism and Church Growth
By property, we mean land in bare and developed form. Individuals, public, private and religious, organizations require property in both forms for a variety of purpose including residence, business operation and investment. More specifically, the church including MCN would need property for place of worship, residence of ministers, (which we call manse) economic and social services such as educational, health welfare, rehabilitations centre and other outreach programmes. Evangelism which involves various efforts and means of winning more souls to Christianity is a major outreach programme of the church requiring property in different forms and sizes. The Lagos Ð Ibadan expressway readily comes to mind where various religious denominations including MCN have acquired large parcels of land and are being developed into periodical convention grounds mainly for evangelism. A pioneer on the motorway is the Redeemed Christian Church of God whose camp has in fact developed into a new town housing among others a university and perhaps the largest modern convention facility in the country.
Of course, church growth is assisted by evangelism. By growth, we mean visible increase in the membership of the church and the associated facilities including places of worship and available manse with more noticeable involvement in health, educational, welfare and other relevant social institutions. A question that may be asked is, “Does growth in sheer numerical sense really translate into development of human being?” It was Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the eighties who sensitized the nation to the fact that sheer economic growth does not necessarily bring about real development in the citizens of the nation. Can we say convincingly that noticeable growth in the number of orthodox and pentecostal churches in the country in recent years has improved moral and social values and brought about more God fearing leadership and followership in the country?. We pray that the growth being targeted by MCN will inspire and produce better citizens for the nation. Here the contents of our evangelism should be watched and skewed in favour of timeless truth of God’s words no matter how old fashioned they seem to be.
The rapid growth of the pentecostal denominations in the country in recent years can be attributed to their aggressive evangelism. To say that aggressive evangelism requires a lot of financing on continuous basis will be an understatement. Conventional and contemporary evangelism involves not only regular crusades and conventions but also continual and creative use of modern mass media such as radio, television, bill boards and regular churning out of attractive fliers. All these efforts cost fortunes which conventional sources of church income particularly the Sunday collections are grossly inadequate to meet. Here church investments in property would come handy. Other church denominations such as the Anglican Communion and Catholic are known to generate more substantial income from property development such as hostels, guest houses, multi-purpose halls etc then M.C.N. From the foregoing it can be readily fathomed that property in different terms is indispensable to evangelism and church growth on all parameters including quantum of places of worship, residences of the clergy, institutions and facilities for social and economic services, size of congregation and evangelism. All things being equal therefore the more property asset in the optical mix a religious organization has the more empowered it should be able to execute its various programmes including evangelism
Property Holding and Methodist Church Nigeria
Like other churches, M.C.N. through her local chapters, Circuits, Dioceses and Conference Headquarters acquire property for different afore-mentioned purposes in several ways, mainly by purchase, donations (gifts), leases and licences. Precise statistics of the property holding of the entire MCN is lacking but a list of properties under the control of the Headquarters is available. For example, the Estate Department prepared a list of such properties in 2006 and its contains 133(nos.) hereditaments spread over the country. An emerging type of property asset being jointly controlled by Headquarters and local churches is the mass communication sites being leased to mobile telephone operators for the erection of their towers. 12 (nos) of such sites across the country are leased to MCN while one to Globacom in Ogui Circuit, Enugu, another one to Starcom at Itesi, Abeokuta and two to Helios at Kano and Olodi Ð Apapa, Lagos.
Conscientious effort is currently being made by the Property Subcommittee of Conference to compile a comprehensive asset register of all the Methodist Churches in country which will eventually be computerized with the attendant benefits of such a record in modern technological format.
Compared with some sister churches, MCN has a lot of challenges to confront in terms of property holding, evangelism and church growth. With a total membership population barely above 500,000 and number of dioceses less than 60, MCN is far behind the Anglican Communion and Catholic Church. Also MCN ranks behind in terms of property holding particularly for investment purposes. When it is recalled that MCN was the first Christian denomination to berth in Nigeria in 1842 through Birch Thomas Freeman, our church should strive to justify her pioneer status in terms of growth driven by evangelism and enhanced by property holding. After all, Methodism was born in songs and revival which is a form of evangelism was the hallmark of John Wesley the founder of Methodism.
Confronting headlong the growth challenge, Conference through its Finance and Strategic Planning Committee came up in 2009 with a 5-year Development Plan with the following projected targets.
To be continued
(Being A Paper Delivered By Bro. Dosu Fatokun At The Second Confab Of Legal And Property Advisers Held Between 24th And 26th March, 2010 At Methodist Church, Bodija, Ibadan