By Abia Noumbissi
One of Nigeria’s most well-known clergymen in the social mediasphere has raised a storm after criticising the exorbitance associated with Christian worship, especially within the context of music.
Reverend Father Chinenye John Oluoma spoke on the idea that religious worship and church appearances have become increasingly expensive.
In a video trending on social media, he says many new-age gospel musicians request huge payments to perform in churches. He used renowned singer Mercy Chinwo, known for her songs, “Excess Love” and “Confidence” as an example, to illustrate his point.
“We have made religious worship expensive. If I have to bring Mercy Chinwo to come here and sing, how much will I pay her? How much does a gospel artist of Mercy Chinwo’s status charge to come to an event or in a Church, it has reached 10 million naira now,” the preacher is heard saying in the video.
He then goes on to link it to the broader issues facing Christianity, which was the focus of his message:
“This is the tragedy that we have turned Christianity into, that an artist will come to a church and lead in ten minutes praise and worship for 10 million, 5 million. So if that particular artist doesn’t sing Jesus you love me too much, that means God didn’t love you too much?” queried Fr. Oluoma.
These comments have left many divided both about Chinwo and what his overall message was truly about.
“I remember when we tried inviting Mercy Chinwo to our church’s annual Easter concert this year, and she changed us 7Million naira. She also sent 5 pages of terms and conditions and asked that the money be paid in full, and she won’t minister more than 30 Mins,” One person wrote in agreement with Fr Oluoma.
Some people have, however, contradicted the assertions by the Rev. Fr. supporting Mercy Chinwo and branding the priest a ‘malicious’ liar:
“Mercy Chinwo doesn’t charge 10m per performance. I know this because she has been in churches that wouldn’t pay her that. It’s a malicious lie. But even if she did…” another person tweeted.
Another one echoed similar sentiments, adding that if anything, the gospel singer was a philanthropist, despite being unable to say how much was paid:
“Mercy Chinwo didn’t ask for a lot of money when she came to our church. She gave some of her earnings back to the church, which was really nice of her. But I can’t tell you how much she got paid, it’s a secret!”
Some also went to Chinwo’s personal page on Instagram to show their support:
“People that pay so much to watch secular artists perform in an overcrowded venue are complaining about Mercy Chinwo’s alleged charges? You people’s heads are not correct!,” one supporter commented.
Others who have come out in support of the preacher, have highlighted that many of his critics have misunderstood his message. In the sermon Fr. Oluoma says:
“And some people were asking should they be paid? Why didn’t you pay them? If you must bring them, you must pay them because what you are bringing them for is entertainment. We have turned worship into entertainment.”
According to his supporters, therefore, this is the main point of the message, not Chinwo, who is only used as a hypothetical example.
“This take succinctly summarises what Fr. Oluoma was trying to say. He didn’t ask people not to pay the supposed 10 million. His concern is focused on how Christians have turned worship into jamboree & celebrity worship. Whether it’s Mercy Chinwo or church choir, God remains God!” explained one of the social media supporters, who took to Twitter to express their opinion.
There were those still in agreement with Christian artists charging a fee. Citing that just because they ask for a lot of money does not change their message or intentions.
“Wizkid, Davido, and top musicians charge you more than 10Mill, yet you pay dem listen to just the beat not even a song dat enriches your spirit, if not God, Gospel ministers should even charge more than 10 million for giving you worth more than beats that quicken your spirit man to physical positivities. Are ministers of God less human, but for the sake of the Kingdom, their approach towards the world is different but that doesn’t mean they should be taken for granted” said an advocate for gospel singers collecting huge sums.
This sentiment is supported by another who feels that gospel singers deserve more support than they are currently getting:
“Our ministers need to be given Royal attention because they are the real Generals.. May God bless me to be sponsoring their programs so people will stop insulting our ministers as if they are helping them,” they chimed.
It raises the question of how much is too much. Even if Mercy Chinwo does not charge millions of Naira, there are other musicians as well as some religious leaders who do. Can this be justified if they are still preaching about God or do their fees reveal bigger issues amongst Christians as highlighted by Fr. Oluoma’s message?