Christian meetings still draw crowds that politicians salivate for. Even with crowd-buying, politicians would not afford the Rhema Feast size that thronged Kasarani this last week!
The gathering deposed the theory that large crowds are only available on weekends. The multitude gathered voluntarily for a whole working week. Clearly, Kenyans still count spirituality as a prime part of their life. God is still way ahead of government when it comes to the citizens’ rank of trust.
Taking the tens of thousands in the Rhema congregation as a sample of response to mobilisation, there is still a level of faith in the men and women of the cloth. This should bring a sigh of relief to pastors following the reputational pollution that still clouds the clergy with the Shakahola shocking horrors. It seems all is not lost, and whatever is lost can be rebuilt.
Pastors beware! Christians are now in a post-Shakahola age. They have developed anti-Shakahola lenses and are quicker in detecting and filtering misleading and manipulative doctrines. Different theological traditions will analyse the teachings of the Rhema pulpit from different standpoints. Noteworthy though, were the cautionary sidebars that some of the speakers included in their messages.
Clearly, pastors are aware that not everything goes anymore. Some of the sessions–like those of Apostle Grace Lubega from Uganda–would sharply critique the doctrinal architecture of the event in the spirit of aligning it with biblical truth. Some speakers also expressed off-the-cuff ideas that are worthy of strategic consideration. Such a thought was by Dr Esther Obasike who spoke of Kenya growing to a place where people from all over the world travelled to for their spiritual renewal. Therein was a harvestable concept of intentional religious tourism.
The corporate character of the Rhema Feast tells of a well-aimed shot at grandeur. The elaborate structures, the modern technology, the highly skilled musicians and the efficient programme management point to an event where financing followed excellence and not the other way round. Ancient cathedrals were masterpieces. Excellence was an expression of the magnificence of God. Rhema Feast’s modern take on perfecting a worship space has echoes reverberating from ancient cathedrals. At the center of these tented temporary cathedral was technology. While the technological skill utilised is very impressive, secular graphics have limitations in capturing and delivering richly spiritual and uniquely Christian expressions.
The question of impact will always seek answers. What transformation did the investment stir? The subjective nature of faith makes it difficult to quantify its impact. But that is hard to quantify faith impact does not negate the reality of its intense experience. It is hoped that spiritual music, passionate sermons, prayers and prophecies a will yield and commensurate outcomes. But it is a quality of faith currents to remain active way beyond an event and therefore not possible to limit the outcomes to ‘on-site’ testimonies. Even the much proclaimed revival is hard to track in the absence of a singular dramatic event from where the rush begins. Prayer answers and prophecy fulfillments place themselves in time.
But one prominent item in the convention is measurable and quantifiable–the unveiling of an affordable housing project run by the church. This creative project aimed at establishing Christian communities is God in action through a ‘church in gumboots’. As Bishop J.B. Masinde prayed, “May it not delay in Jesus name.” Sandwiched between an intense worship session and a preaching by the guest Apostle Joshua Selman, this project dedication moment may have taken the shortest programme time but will have a most lasting impact. Rhema Feast convener Pastor Julian Kyula described the project as liberating Christians from the oppression of expensive and indecent housing. The partnership with non-Christian financiers for the project goes beyond teachings on exclusivist kingdom idealism. The Nehemiah-Cyrus partnership to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem punctures self-contained thinking.
The solutionist and innovative dimension of the church is critical in the contemporary church as a quality of faithfulness to God and love for the people. The millions of dollars invested in the project go beyond the convenient realm of charity to the deep waters of investment. As long as the motive remains pure–to glorify God and bring joy to God’s people–such innovations and investments are to be lauded. We are used to multi-million shilling church building projects. It is refreshing to see a multi-million community project. We are used to income-generating projects. It is refreshing to see a dignity-generating project. The success of this project will be good news.
Rhema Feast attendees come from all churches but the leaders and speakers–at least from the surface–are from a certain cluster of the church. While a vision-carrying cluster is inevitable, the absence of the mainstream church is glaring. As long as the Spirit gives a variety of gifts, difference is by design. But the design goes further to wrap the gifts under one skin.
Church maturity looks like denominations with different doctrines wrestling with the outer layers, going past the debatable crusts and drilling into their inner core and finding the calm of unity in a pulpit of good news. I can only imagine what it would mean to the church to see Archbishop Anthony Muheria bring not only greetings from the Catholic Church to the Rhema Feast congregation but a sermon say, on social justice, right on the heels of a session by Apostle Joshua Selman. That would be a grand unveiling!
The modern churches travelled a different road and now have come of age. Their accent is certainly different from that of the mother church. But the convergence is in that same Calvary blood that flows in their veins. The modern church was hewn from the quarry of the mainstream church. Time has come for the mainstream church to pay due attention to the modern churches. The child may have something to teach the parent, and that is okay. Actually, at some point, that was expected and therefore accepted.