There is a debate here and there over the right of the church to create universities and charge very high tuition fees. My mind is not exempted from this debate and having thought it over and over again with boggling questions, I looked into the history of Christian oriented education in Africa and I have also been divinely drawn to a few verses of the scriptures.
What is the underlying purpose for creating church schools?
The legacy of Christian missionaries in Africa lives up to this day. In Africa most of the leaders who participated in the fight for independence were educated by missionaries or schools built by missionaries.
A thing of note is the history of the Catholic education in Nigeria. The missionaries came with “the Bible and their Pen” as tools for the indoctrination of the Christian faith. They began to build missionary schools in all nooks and crannies of the country with limited resources available.
Christianity laid the foundation for European civilization, it was therefore decided as the only hope for Africa. The missionaries made free and low cost education one of their chief means for the spread of Christianity in West Africa. Missionary activities carried with it building of schools, Churches, roads and hospitals.
Several educationists, evangelists, and even nationalists benefited and many Nigerians quickly passed out of these mission founded schools. Mission schools, since the 1800s offered free or low-cost education to the majority of Nigeria's youth. In 1942, 97% of Nigeria's student population were enrolled in missionary schools.
What is Purpose of Tithe and Offering in Missionary Work?
The Israelites were mandated to donate 10% of certain harvest to the priests and Levites. This goes toward the pastor's salary, the church facility, and other expenses. Whereas an offering is any further donation above the 10%. This is usually earmarked for missionary work, a building fund, the needy, or a para-church ministry.
Christian Universities could be said to be a missionary disposition and the purpose therefore must be towards the values of Christianity. To spread the word of life, instill discipline and moral values and as well target the “least of these”
2 Corinthians 11:7–8, gives us a picture of what church funds are to be used for in the New Testament.
“Have i committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because i have preached to you the gospel of god freely? Vs.8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.”
Should the Church do Business with Church Funds?
Churches are expected not to go into business but to depend on offerings which are in turn used to take care of the church management and activities.
1 Corinthians 9:14, tells us why preachers and missioners must get their living from the gospel and not from business.
In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14
The church has no business in doing business. The sole purpose of the church is to spread the gospel of Christ. Should the church decide to build Schools, hospitals and other institutions in order to spread the gospel, contribute to the society or help the poor, they are not to be in any way profit oriented.
Is Expensive Church Schools Biblical?
No! The Bible has laid a standard which must be upheld by Christ followers. The major reason given by religious leaders who charge too high tuition fees in their various institutions is that: They need to get the word of God to the rich and as well provide quality education.
There are a few errors with such stance.
1. Jesus never targeted the rich or elites, but he revealed the kingdom to babes. If any group should be targeted by the church, it should be the less privileged.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. Luke 10:21
2. Heaven is for the Poor. Should the church decide to offer the Christian faith and quality education through schools, the poor who cannot afford foreign or costly local universities should be the sole target.
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6: 20
3. The rich’s fate is already sealed. Jesus who knew better than anyone concluded the fate of the rich in Mathew 19:24. Since majority of the rich in Nigeria and elsewhere acquired their wealth through political affiliations, self-aggrandizement and corruption, their fate is sealed as long as they remain rich. Coming to God like Zacchaeus the Tax Collector and returning their stolen wealth is the only way to escape eternal damnation. Will the rich ever give up their wealth?
Zacchaeus sought Jesus out by climbing a sycamore-fig tree before Jesus gave him salvation. Churches are not to do otherwise by targeting the rich in any manner. Rather than change the rich, they will end up corrupting the church.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Mathew 19:24
4. The Least of these. God is more interested in the ripe harvest. The healthy needs no physician. The rich can afford existing expensive universities, they can afford to travel out of the country to seek quality education. The church should target the sick, poor and less privileged who are ripe for harvest. In every disposition of the church, we must target the “least of these” whom God refers to in the book of Mathew 25: 40-46
Caring for the poor and marginalized is a central tenet of the gospel. What better passage to reinforce this principle than Matthew 25:40, where Jesus commands us to care for “the least of these. “The least of these” are the poor and needy. Who are the most marginalized in society other than the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, imprisoned, uneducated and poor? As Mother Teresa said of the poor, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. Mathew 25: 45-46
There is therefore no justification for creating profit oriented church schools, church schools targeting the rich and church schools that: the “least of these” cannot afford. If church funds are not sufficient to afford and manage free education, the church should rather spend tithes and offerings on other worthy projects that will bring respect and honor to the church and as well win souls to Christ. Our target must always be the Least of These and not the Rich of These.