10 ways the Kenyan church is stunting its growth, influence

A sanctuary of a small church. [Getty Images]

While the Kenyan - and African - church has grown over the years, there are still some vivid gaps that limit its rise to full influence.

Dwarfism: The African church still shrinks before the Western church. The shrinking is not in honour of the founding church but is in an identity of smallness. Dwarfism manifests in both the Mainstream and Pentecostal churches. Mainstream dwarfism is mostly in resources which makes churches rely a lot on foreign funding. Pentecostal dwarfism, in addition to resources, is evident in perception of foreign “men of God” as most powerful. This leads to a worshipful regard for foreign speakers so as to “tap” into their “anointing” and harvest their “atmosphere.” In Kenyan political language, the church “servers” are located abroad.

Isolationism: As it is, the church is not active in building bridges with other institutions in the community. It practices “connection by necessity” and not in the essence of its philosophy. This weakness can be traced in the weak interconnections between churches, a condition that infects its relationships with other institutions in the community. In the academic world, the trend now is interdisciplinary – where one discipline utilises the concepts in another to reinforce a contribution. Theology as presently practiced in Kenya needs a “shot” of friendliness so that it can open up its doors to the wisdom of other disciplines without fear of being challenged, overtaken or intoxicated.  Such openness will enhance the missional agency of church members who work in different professions.

Crusadism: The church boasts in boundaries between the secular and the sacred. While this is understood on the holiness front, it stifles the understanding of salvation. The church occupies itself with saving souls while doing little about the systems that create hell on earth for the souls. The church has creative “crusade” strategies to save souls but is clueless in the face of systems of injustice. The “healing crusades” must expand into new frontiers! The church must participate in flashing corruption out of Kenya’s blood. The church must drill the spirit of love into heartless politicians.  The church must promote Kenyanism over neocolonialism. The church should not just be a food distributor but an economic liberator. The church must inspire people not to keep calm under the hand of injustice. Revival is not just a church that sings but one that stings! 

Unilingualism: The church largely interacts with only one face of politics – election politics. This narrow understanding limits the church’s ability to convert its value in the elections phase into gain in the governing phase. Politics is multifaceted and for the church to increase its effectiveness, it must up itself to a multilingual competency. Without such knowledge, the church will continue to suffer the “use-and-dump” treatment. Political illiteracy is cured by expanding the political alphabet.  

Fractionism: Strangely, despite a clear call by Christ towards unity, the church prides in its denominations. It even invests in their entrenchment! Church splits are now normalised while unification is unheard of. Churches compete viciously for popularity and influence. If unity efforts at the level of umbrella bodies are slow, local church leaders should take up the initiative and intensify co-operation between denominations at the level of local neighbourhoods. The possibilities of a united church are too great to be ignored.

Paralysism: The church in Kenya suffers a severe originality drought. The church sometimes prays too long that in the closed-eyes moment, it becomes prey to people who understand its weaknesses. “Paralysis by intercession” snuffs out proactivism. The value of prayer is in the outcome. Part of the outcome should be inspiration of strategic direction - not just dramatic miracles. Without strategic action, the church is a talking shop that chokes on its own saliva.  Even when given an open goal, it still kicks the ball wide.

Proximism:  A section of the contemporary church is very close to political power. The biblical Esther used her proximity to the king to save her people. Nathan used it to chastise the king. But church leaders are capitalising on the proximity to boost their personal profiles. Instead of understanding proximity as an opportunity to do good for all, leaders are choosing to enjoy the palace and not bother the king. Proximity without planned impact is wasted grace. 

Traditionalism: It is contradictory when the church claims to be the custodian of the most futuristic existence – heaven – yet hardly exhibits forwardness.  Traditions hamper the church’s inability to innovate.  A combination of boldness and innovation saw missionaries bring Christianity to people who knew it not. Sometimes insistence on tradition is a cover-up of inability to engage the contemporary times. A stranded church could masquerade as a stringent church. The church should lift the tradition protectionism and expose itself to market forces. Only then will it find a relevant “Christoquilibrium.”

Repulsivism: Actors in the community are actively seeking the loyalty of young people. A serious church must get into this scramble for young people. Its message of salvation stands a chance to shield them from ill-intending hunters. One way of assessing the seriousness of the church’s message is assessing its passion for young people. Church leaders keep asking “Where are our youth going?” The biblical response is “go look for them!” Young people leave the church and no investment is made towards tracking where they went. The attitude is “The lost sheep must love the woods, why disturb them?” This raises the question of whether they were cared for them in the first place. To sideline the youth is to sign up for extinction.  The institution that gets young people gets the future.  

Stagism: There is an expanding trendy church which stages worship as a performance. Skill is paramount. Making a joyful noise is not allowed. Only the most excellent are worthy of the stage. These trendy churches are a reaction to those on the other side of time who are not respecters of skill. The worship space is themed – so is the preacher’s outfit. In “stagism” the applause of the fans is the measure of success. Being a popular church is a key. A decline in views and subscriptions jeopardises everything. Worshipers should be impressed not offended. Prophecy must be the favourable kind - the rattling kind is for those who do not know how to do business. “Keeping it real” means affirming people by shielding them from transformation. Stagism presents a Christ on brakes!

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