Stories of some clergymen being involved in immoral and unethical activities are no longer a unique or strange feature in Zambia.
We have also heard on many occasions about the 'men of God' getting involved in criminal activities while hiding behind the church while others have managed to divide their own congregants by jumping into the political arena, while wearing church outfits.
The country has in the recent past been subjected to shocking news of some pastors allegedly having carnal knowledge of members of the flock, while others have in worst case scenerios been accused of murder.
As if this is not enough, there are also some clergymen whose immorality levels have hit the lowest ebb by enriching themselves from the offerings of the poor congregants.
Apparently, their survival solemnly depends on their congregations and their preaching is driven by their desire to reap from the members of the church through offerings and donations. This is not only criminal, but also immoral!
It is against this background that we welcome the call from National Guidance and Religious Affairs Minister GodfridahSumaili for clergymen to uphold high standards of morality as they preach the Gospel.
Rev Sumaili's observation that "it is sad to see our Lord Jesus Christ put to shame by those who claim to serve him but who misrepresent his character, and multitude are misled and led into false paths," is absolutely a wake-up call for the clergy.
Rev Sumaili notes that her ministry "aspires to see that both the church and the servants of God are empowered". However, we are not ashamed to state here that the opposite has been the norm in many churches in Zambia today.
Pastors have immorally been empowered by their poor congregants who have continued to wallow in poverty. And unless there is a change in this scenario, we will end up having more divided churches than politicians in Zambian.
A good clergy is the one who is a servant of the people rather than the one who pressures his or her congregants to donate more so that he or she can befit personally.
In fact, Peter in the Bible made it simple and clear when he told the elders of the Church (1 Peter 5: 2-3) that 'Be Shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you
must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being example to the flock'.
In this case, a good pastor,regardless of the church denominations he or she is leading, is the one who regards himself or herself as servant and understands ethics and morals in working with the people.
They should also understand and work within the state laws and regulations. Today Zambia is full of foreign clergymen who are coming in the name of the church, but some have only ended up breaking the laws of the land.
The high number of foreign clergy could be a sign of Zambia's willingness to embrace those that are ready to help in the spiritual transformation of the country. But this is not proving to be the case
all the time. To the contrary, some foreign churches and their leaders have been used as conduit of criminal acts in Zambia.
We therefore call on Rev Sumaili to ensure that her Ministry works closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs in screening those entering Zambia on the mission of evangelism.
The aim is obviously not stop well-meaning men of God from teaching and preaching the Gospel in Zambia, but to flush out any criminals hiding in the name of the church.
Similarly, we would like to urge Rev Sumaili's Ministry to keep on reminding the church leaders on their role of maintaining peace and unity by being impartial in the politics of the country.
Evidence suggests that some church leaders have taken a partisan stance on political issues, a situation that has not only divided their own congregation, but also placed them on collision head with other churches.
It is not a secret that the church is a home for those seeking peace and solace regardless of their political affiliation. In a country where politicians ceaselessly argue against each other, the clergy are even more important in uniting the warring factions and retaining peace which is key to national development. On the other hand, any attempt by the clergy to be partial is a serious risk of destruction.
It's important for the clergy to note that we are not in any way suggesting that members should not take offerings and donations to their respective churches. But we strongly feel that pastors should not exploit their congregants, otherwise they will be labeled 'men of gold' rather than men of God.