Now and again on road journeys before the journey begins someone stands up in the bus to pray and preach. In the past, it was purely voluntary: some passenger volunteers himself/herself and everyone joins in the singing and praying and possibly listens to the preaching.
In the last decade or so it seems a profession has grown out of the practice so much so that if a passenger volunteers to pray, the bus conductor or other person tells him/her to hold on since they have someone whose job it is to pray before the journey starts. I have personally seen this. I guess we can refer to this person as the Official Bus Pastor.
Of course, the Official Bus Pastor must be paid! Who pays the pastor? Moreover, I kinda suspect that the pastor himself pays to be permitted to preach else the bus conductor wouldn’t preserve their office so jealously. It is very common if not ubiquitous for such Official Bus Pastors (mostly our Igbo brothers) to ask for offerings at the end of the prayer and message. (I would have thought the One who sent them could pay them, if they were really sent by Him).
It upsets me (I am sorry) so I often either do not participate at all or I don’t drop the ‘payment’. In my last bus journey, the preacher was skilled at capturing the audience: “wave your hands if you belong to the Lord”, “I need a louder amen”, “clap your hands to Jesus” and all such public speaking clichés. Of course the message needs not be too deep lest the customers get offended and refuse to pay.
In this case, at the end of the message, while he was praying the preacher dropped a CD in selected laps and exhorted a bit on “sacrifice”. I was one of the selected (maybe my suede jacket and the ‘I Believe in Visions’ book I was reading helped my selection). After the prayer, he made the request for money in a web of words mentioned possible denominations such as five cedis, ten cedis …. Well, I did not donate. In fact, I turned my face to the window. I would have preferred to give the money to the boy begging for food outside.
Believe it or not, after the prayer, as the preacher walked backed from the other end of the bus he picked the CD up right from my lap with some stealth. Err… OK… So it wasn’t free after all. Amazing. As he walked out of the bus I wondered what he would be most glad about that morning: the number of souls he won or the amount of money he made. What do you think?