General overseer of the Nigeria-based Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastor Enoch Adeboye, who was named one of the world's 50 most powerful people in 2008 by Newsweek, told congregants this week that they should not give an offering to his church if they are unsure of their salvation.
Addressing congregants at the opening of the church's annual Holy Ghost Congress on Monday, Adeboye told members that when they give an offering they are sending money to Heaven. He warned, however, that it is a waste to send money to a place if they are unsure if they will enter.
"The Bible teaches that when you are giving to the work of God you are sending money to Heaven. You are sending money ahead to the bank in Heaven. You are laying up your treasures above. And that's the major reason why I decided to take the offering tonight because I want to make an announcement. And I want that announcement to go around the entire Redeemed Christian Church of God," said Adeboye in a recording of the service posted on YouTube.
"From tonight, whenever they are taking an offering and you are not sure of your salvation, don't give … why must you send money to Heaven if you are not going there? Why must you send money to London if you don't have a passport? How will you collect?" he asked.
"If you are not going to Heaven, why must you keep on sending money to Heaven? Rather than waste your money, use it to enjoy yourself so that when you get to Hell you can tell the devil 'at least I tried,'" he said.
Adeboye, according to Newsweek, is one of the most successful preachers in the world. He told the publication that his church has outposts in 110 countries. In Nigeria alone, where he claims some 5 million members, his church has 14,000 branches. Some 360 RCCG churches can be found in Britain with about the same number spread across American cities such as Chicago, Dallas, and Tallahassee, Florida.
The 73-year-old Pentecostal leader also pointed out the condescending approach of some U.S. preachers toward him and his church during the service where he delivered his controversial statement on giving.
"I've been going to America now since 1979, almost 40 years. When we get there and all these big, big men, talk to us, they always ask a question 'and how can we help you?' It's a polite way of saying, 'I know you have come to beg,'" said Adeboye.
"And I have always told them 'no, no, no. The only help I need from you is to come to Nigeria and see what God is doing. That's all,'" he said to applause.
"On one occasion … one of them said, change the name of the church to our own and we would continue to supply you with whatever money you want. I said 'thank you very much, sir. The God of America is the God in Nigeria.'
"We were poor. But by the grace of God we were poor and proud in the Lord," he added.
Adeboye, who is formerly a mathematics professor at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, began working at RCCG translating the previous pastor's sermons from Yoruba to English, Newseek reports.
He took over the congregation in 1981 and credits his success to his message.
"Pentecostals have such an impact because they talk of the here and now, not just the by and by," he said. "We pray for the sick, but we pray for their prosperity, for their overcoming of evil forces, and so on. While we have to worry about Heaven, there are some things God could do for us in the here and now."