By David Ohito and David Odongo
Ever gone to a church service and realised as the tithe basket was being passed that you forgot your wallet at home? Ever wanted to put a little more extra in the offering basket after a particularly moving sermon? Then have no worries, tithing and technology have now became the best of friends, and with the swipe of your credit card, you will have given God your offering. After all, worship is a regular part of many people’s lives. We need to pay for it somehow.
Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam), popularly known as popularly known as Nairobi Pentecostal Church, is moving from the traditional tithing and preaching approaches. You do not have to carry your purse or wallet to church. Simply carry your debit card swipe your tithe to connect with your God.
“We are adjusting to modern times. Previously offering and tithe was paid in cowrie shells. Then came currency and soon plastic money will be more widesoread. That is where we are going.” Bishop Oginde says.
Rent for pews
Historically, churches have had many ways of getting the congregation to contribute. In the 1880s, everybody paid rent for the pews they sat on. The pay-per-pew model was practised by Protestant and Catholic churches, too, and some were particularly serious about the commitment. Aaron Smock, a wealthy but mean man, was the subject of an 1884 article in the New York Times under the headline, Smock Must Pay His Pew Rent. The Second Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Freehold, New Jersey, sued him when he fell $600 behind on his bill for Pew 62. The jury eventually came into a decision. Smock was to pay the outstanding balance.
The tithe question has changed over time from churches renting out pews to the wealthy more than a century ago to electronically pulling money from people’s bank accounts more recently.
Citam’s swipe-your-card is the first of its kind in the country, and they don’t just stop at digitalising tithe. If your Bible is in small print and has started to age, just leave it at home. The Gospel will be projected on the wide screens and monitors to your liking.
And if these options do not meet your needs, simply visit their website at www.citam.org and pay your tithe digitally. And you do not have to write notes with ink, simply wait for the service to end and minutes later you walk away with the sermon on CD or DVD or simply download it on your storage device and go home.
Perhaps that is why Citam is chipping away faithful from the ‘traditional’ churches like Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, SDA and many others.
The new churches are receiving faithful in droves because members are looking for places of worship that are in tandem with their aspirations and busy lifestyles.
Citam Bishop David Oginde explains why the Church has decided to revolutionise its gospel and preaching. “It all boils down to our target audience. Citam wanted to tap into the young urban professionals and we went ahead to tailor our services to their needs,” Bishop Oginde told The Nairobian, adding that just like a business, the church needs to know its congregation.
“We package the gospel and preaching in a manner that is relevant to the target audience,” says the bishop. And true to the audience, it is the church in which the pastors often mention issues close to the hearts and minds of many. From love to football, they all come laced with unrivalled humour.
On a good weekend Senior Pastor Ken Kimiywe will remind football fans of the Saturday results and sooth losers to take heart and focus on the bigger picture.
The Church has structured its Sunday school and youth services targeting children and youngsters of different age brackets. They are assigned smart teachers and caretakers… they draw, colour and do homework in Church as they are exposed to the gospel.
Says Bishop Oginde: “We know our flock is digital. They use iPads, smart phones, projectors, state-of-the-art TV sets and monitors and present their ideas in Powerpoint slides at the workplaces. We will not be communicating when we preach using obsolete technology.”
“The Gospel is true and unchanging but how it is packaged and preached varies,” he says.
He says the music and drama which laces the gospel in Citam Churches goes along way to help faithful connect and bond with God.
“People come to Church to experience God. Music guides their minds and emotions and aides their communication with God.
“We do a lot of research and our decisions are informed by the flock. We pass questionnaires and ask them what they want and that is how we keep the church rocking,” Bishop Oginde says.
Citam, formerly known as Nairobi Pentecostal Church, was established in 1959 as a ministry of Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
And it seems Kenya is not far away from the West when it comes to use of technology in churches. For example, in America, a software developer worked with pastors at Stevens Creek Community Church in 2006 to install ATM-type machines referred to as ‘giving kiosks’. The faithful simply have to go to a machine with a computer screen, a key pad and a magnetic strip reader. One simply swipes one’s card, keys in the amount to be given to God and gets a receipt. When Jesus comes back, do you think he will storm into churches and overturn the tables… I mean… ATM machines?
-Additional reporting by Nyambega Gisesa