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Contemporary Kenya lacks resolute pastors who can speak truth to power

Opinion
 A congregation listens as a pastor delivers his message in Church. [Getty Images]

Living in a heavily religious country means that pastors are a key part of the community. It helps, therefore, to understand pastor typologies as it guides expectations and affiliations. Knowing the different types of pastors gives one a premise to decode a pastor’s doctrine and direction.  It explains why particular congregations function the way they do. Pastors will not be confined to one characteristic - each will usually be a combo.  There are multiple ways of describing types of pastors. The following 12 pastor types are based on observing worship assemblies and public interactions.

The hired hand: This pastor is usually politically inclined. The hired hand knows that politicians and society’s top leaders inevitably need audiences and spiritual services. To be accessible, the pastor is liberal in life but maintains a conservative church front. They trade their church platform for favours and cash.  The pastor is “seen”, the price is agreed and the cheque banked. The hired hand has only temporary loyalty. In case of a better deal, they are flexible to switch. Their services are to the highest bidder.  These are pulpit peddlers and the congregation is their merchandise.

The entrepreneur: This pastor has a vision of moving a congregation of countable members into a conglomerate. Towards this, strategic alliances with successful foreign pastors comes in handy.  From the church comes a school, from the school comes catering, from catering comes farming and from farming comes export business - the chain goes on. In the midst of this all, the pastor is authoring books and selling them to the ready market that is the congregation. The entrepreneur pastor expands the business by opening new branches and also by upping the profile of the congregants by attracting prominent people in the society. The base doctrine is mostly the prosperity and seeker friendly kind. The church suffers from opaqueness as the finance and personnel aspects are largely family controlled. 

The mystic: “These things are spiritual” is the mystic pastors favourite line. They paint the world in colours of angels and demons. They function as people “not of this world.”  They wrap their messages in strange ritual. They mostly operate on revealed knowledge and miracles. They “see” into the circumstances of their members and explain it in a way that is accompanied by Spirit-sent instructions. The expected obedience becomes a point of chaining the congregant to a pastor-dependency. The consequent fear-based following sets the stage for manipulation and abuse.  Following a mystic pastor often turns out to be a big mistake. 

The copycat: This pastor has no originality. They seek crowns and fame through plagiary. The copycat pastor is merely an actor. They pastor a congregation that is lower than them in education and exposure. This way, the pastor remains the most advanced member of the congregation. The copycat liberally plucks content from other sources and presents it as their own. This keeps members impressed. This pastor is threatened by congregants who are more educated and exposed and will even engineer their exit.

The hijacker: This is a lay leader who believes their spirituality is in quantities that overtake their pastor. They purport the position without an ordination. They use their influence in the congregation to mute the pastor. They put on display an intense spirituality which their ordained pastor cannot match.  This way, the hijacker “overthrows” the ordained pastor by staging a spiritual coup. The ambition of the hijacker pastor is to render the resident pastor unnecessary and thus technically take over. 

The plain-clothed: This one earns the title pastor by their life. They intentionally, boldly and naturally embody Christ in their work and social places. They take up the mantra that all Christians are full-time minsters. Their hope is to influence persons and systems to align with God’s will.  Some of these plain-clothed pastors serve in very high positions in government and corporate.

The Wader: This pastor looks lost and misplaced. They are called but they come across as still on their discernment journey.  They are reluctant, anxious and apologetic. They bring no energy to the congregation. The congregation sees the wader as a strategically placed divine test for patience and attitude.

The talk shop: This pastor is active in progressive conversations. They describe and prescribe but their talk does not walk. Their ideologies have the laboratory as a permanent residence.  This talk-shop is the trap of many pastors - they are stalled on how to turn the will into a deal and a plan into a plant. It is overstaying at this talk-shop that the church is overtaken by other institutions.

The church-cuffed: These shelve their apostolic courage in favour of loyalty to their employing denominations. They have the truth but they need the food. The lie low for the bread. They are insightful enough to tell the frustration but they have a way of rationalising their inaction.

The hyper: This pastor openly identifies with a celebrity status. They are pastors, fashionistas and socialites.  They literally deliver a sermon “in style!” The message is in the image. They are flashy by design. Their ministry runs away from the conventional. Innovation is their tradition. Their mantra is the church must be “with it” and, therefore, invests heavily in designing “fit in” approaches.

The referee: This pastor is the church keeper. They offer the predictable church. They are moralists and are suspicious of innovation. They sharply correct seeming departures from tradition. Consistently, they see youth as problems that need solving, prodigals in need of a homecoming. When modern denominations face problems, the referee will gladly quip, “I told you so!” They romanticise heritage. They are the living agents of the church fathers. They suffer from denominational pride and with it, ecumenical blindness. Referees are proponents of moving forward while facing backward - itself a fete that cannot go beyond a few feet. 

The resolute:  They speak truth to power with power. Their calling transcends their denominations. They are resolute - if they live they live, if they perish they perish. God’s approval is their bread. These pastors are few and when they exist they stand out. They are labeled enemies of the state and rebels in their denominational clusters. They are courageous. They are discerning.

Fear free, they call, plan and lead revolutions. They are a liberating presence of God. They are hope-stirring priests in seasons of despair. Contemporary Kenya has an acute shortage of resolute pastors.

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