By Timothy Murungi
Popular US televangelist Creflo Dollar recently renounced his teaching on tithing because it was ‘not correct’. Tithing is the practice of giving 10% of one’s income to the church to support the church or clergy and most Christians, especially evangelical believers agree with it.
“I wanna start by saying to you that I am still growing. And the teachings that I have shared in the past on the subject of tithing were not correct. And today I stand in humility to correct some things that I have taught for years and believed for years but could never understand it clearly because I had not yet been confronted with the gospel of grace which has made the difference,” the megachurch pastor said.
Creflo, the founder of World Changers Church International with headquarters in the US, however, immediately made it clear that he would not be apologizing for the instructions he has been giving his followers on tithe for over 30 years.
“I won’t apologise because if it weren’t for me going down that road, I would never have ended where I am right now,” the flamboyant prosperity gospel pastor said. He is one of the richest evangelical pastors with an estimated networth of over $27m, attributed to money offered by his followers.
Creflo, an author of some of bestselling titles, told his flock to throw away his past books, tapes and videos on the subject of tithing.
“The reason why you ain’t getting that job is because you ain’t tithing. That’s pressure. You should never give in response to pressure. None of you is gonna be blessed, until you start tithing. How to give: You decide (after going to God and seeking wisdom) in your heart what you should give for God loves a cheerful giver,” he explained, citing 2 Corinthians 9:7. He added that one could give less than a tenth and it is fine or even give more than a tenth, which is equally alright.
Creflo, in his sermon, ‘The Great Misunderstanding’ said tithing is an Old Testament practice and was replaced with giving in the New Testament, outlining that’s what God expects of Christians. His scripture reference was Romans 6: 14 emphasising that Christians today should no longer live under the requirements of the law, but embrace acting under the freedom of God’s grace.
He admitted to teaching about tithe through spreading fear among church members.
“Religion is sustained by two factors – fear and guilt. And if there is one subject that religion has used to keep in fear and guilt, it is in that subject of tithing. And it has to be corrected. And its got to be corrected now,” he vowed.
Pastors baffled by Creflo’s turn around about tithe
Dr Joseph Serwadda, the presiding apostle of the Born Again Faith in Uganda, accused Creflo of straying from the church.
“The problem of his assertions is that America created personalized ministries akin to church setups. It is the USA televangelists who belong to their personalised ministries and are in defiance of those structured groups that teach giving of tithe outside a church. That is what he should be repenting of,” he said.
Serwadda said Creflo and other US ministers have created themselves personal entities after deserting the mainstream religion. He said gatherings that use the word ‘ministries’ are different from those with the name ‘church’.
“USA gospel ministers have personal ministries and do not belong to a church. They walked away from their known denominations to establish personal ministries and started collecting tithes which ought to be brought to a church! Ministries are not churches / God’s storehouses and do not possess a mandate to collect tithes! A ministry does not constitute a church nor a denomination,” he said.
Serwadda, who is the senior pastor at Victory Christian Centre Ndeeba, said Creflo does not deserve tithes, but offerings because tithe should be collected in a structured church.
“A television or radio ministry can ask for offerings to run their broadcasts, but tithes, that is for a structured church and a no-go zone for individual entities,” he said.
Bishop Isaiah Mbuga, the senior pastor of Christ’s Heart Ministries International, is still studying Creflo’s U-turn on the biblical principle.
“I am still trying to understand what Creflo Dollar is saying,” he said.
Mbuga said tithe, offertory and gifts are words that shall forever be argued about.
“But Jesus said that one who is forgiven much loves much. And love is seen in how and what we give to God. Every kingdom has its rules. It is not mandatory for everybody, but this is a covenant between believers and their God that they will be in a giving relationship, regardless of what you call it,” he said.
Asked about what should be done in such cases a man of God with a huge following, flip flops on key aspects of teaching, Mbuga admitted a challenge of one body to govern the Pentecostal churches.
“The Pentecostal movement don’t have galvanized structures of redress. It is not clear how it should be handled based on good practices. But ideally, wrong doctrine is cured by correct doctrine,” he said.
Mbuga, however, said Creflo is right to set the record straight according to his conscience.
“He confessed and shared his mind. It should be right in that context,” he said.
Pastor Umar Mulinde of Gospel Life Church International rejected Creflo’s new teaching on how tithe is not mandatory. “Creflo Dollar need to be informed that the tithe is meant to expand the kingdom of God, but not to facilitate lavish behavior,” he posted on his Facebook page.
Mulinde argued that tithe is a right biblical teaching dictated by the calculation of a tenth of it as stated in the Bible Malachi 3:8-12.
Anglican, Catholic, SDA view on tithe
“Tithing is okay as long as people are not coerced to give,” said All Saints’ Cathedral, Kampala provost, the very Rev. Can. Dr. Rebecca Nyegenye. “We do not reject all Old Testament scriptures, though we do not force people. It has to come from their heart, not by intimidation”.
She explained that Christians should not tithe on conditions. “It is not bribing God for breakthroughs. It is a thanksgiving to God for what he has done and his provision,” she said.
Nyegenye said it was also difficult to pay tithes for everything ‘that we have, but by grace we try’.
“I encourage people to give tithe, I give out of my salary because it is a steady monthly income. I can’t cheat God as it is written in Malachi 3:8-10,” she said.
Fr Anthony Musaala, a curate of Rubaga Cathedral parish, said he understood what Creflo’s change of heart because there are traditional Pentecostal churches where Christians are forced to tithe.
“In the Catholic church when we teach people about tithe, we invite them to pray about it and do it spiritually and we don’t compel people to give it. The tithe is a spiritual bond between the one who gives it and the pastor who gives him the spiritual service,” he said.
He said the Catholic Church backs the principle of giving tithe, based on Malachi 3 to support the church.
“Some people do it and others don’t. Some bring partial tithe. We encourage everyone to. When everybody tithes, then you don’t need other collections,” he said.
Musaala said tithe should be offered out of a gratitude and making people give it out of fear is extortion.
“People give tithe out of gratitude for what they have received from their church. Any sense of people giving tithe out of fear will just make it null and void. So, if you give out of fear saying I haven’t paid my tithe so I am going to hell, that is extortion,” he said.
He said the Catholic Church tells Christians to be guided by the Holy Spirit as they give.
“We tell people not to give because a priest has said, but because the Holy Spirit has ministered to you and you feel that is exactly what you should do,”
Richard Nkajja Mulindwa, a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) elder at New Life Church Lubowa, said every Christian is encouraged to tithe because it an act that shows Christian maturity.
“It is an obligation as a mature Christian to show that you are only God’s steward or manager. You have to report to God, who owns all things,” he said.
Mulindwa said the requirement is only for Christians who are able in terms of having an income or job.
“It has to be 10-percent on your net after removing taxes. We have a department that teaches Christians that all their treasures belong to God. But that doesn’t mean God is a beggar or He won’t do something for you because you haven’t tithed or that He is so interested in your money,” he said.
Ugandans give mixed reactions on Creflo’s message of tithe not being a must
Nazziwa advised that ‘everyone should study the Bible and understand it’ so as to act accordingly.
Oscar Kambona opined that Creflo should refund tithe and money made in sale of merchandise.
“Let him refund all the money people have tithed over the years and the proceeds from book, DVD & CD sales,” he said.
Michael Kanyerezi was sarcastic: “After making all that money from tithes’.
Omuhinda Amooti: Tithing is not for the New Testament or church today. We are actually asked to give more. Jesus and the apostle Paul taught about generous giving, the minimum giving should be a tithe today.
Sozi Nathan: Sowing and reaping is always a biblical principal – Old or New Testament. God will be his judge.
Muyonga Moses: I found no error at all with Creflo Dollar’s teaching. All the man of God was teaching was understanding grace-based-giving and not giving according to the law.
Matinyi Kavuma: Wrong preachers instill fear in the children of God concerning giving because they want money.
Chosen Kabixy Samuel: The problem is that we look at pastors as angels. I follow pastor Dollar. He show that he is not perfect and when he makes a mistake, he admits it. I don’t tithe because I know I’m blessed even when I don’t tithe. I give according to what my hearts feels I should give. Tithe isn’t a must. Being rich when you are a preacher isn’t evil too. None of us is perfect.
Kenneth Mugisha: Now pastors will do anything to defend tithing
Sylvia Cossy Muhirwe: Giving tithe is not bad, but it shouldn’t be thought to be unique or that when you give it, you command a blessing yet we are already blessed in Christ. It is as important as giving or any other biblical principle. Christians should not do anything in fear, but in love.
Brenda Katushemererwe: He has repented. Many of you would never. It takes courage and a sense of humility.
Rachael Nabukenya: It is not bad to preach about tithe but sometimes pastors go overboard. There are preachers who have turned it into a religion and the sermon every time they preach.