Archive for June 5, 2008



“The need today is for Christians who are active and critical, who don’t accept situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply. We no longer want masses of people like those who have been trifled with for so long. We want persons like fruitful fig trees, who can say yes to justice and no to injustice and can make use of the precious gift of life, regardless of the circumstances.”

Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, The Violence of Love

I am delighted to be able to join you for this annual reunion of the Kenya Church Association. I am a grandchild of the East African revival and grew up in the Anglican Church before moving to the Nairobi Chapel where I currently fellowship more out of convenience than out of any fundamental differences with the Anglicans. I need to say upfront that I am a Christian and any criticism I might make of the Church here or elsewhere is based on my deep love for the church, my recognition that the Church has done so much to improve the lot of the African people, and my desire to see it achieve its fullest potential in lifting up the people spiritually and socially.

To understand the role the Kenyan Church played in the lead up to the 2007 General Election and what role it can play in the healing and reconstruction of the country after the widespread violence that followed the announcement of the presidential election results, it is necessary to briefly go back in time and examine the way the church has faced the challenges of each new political era. This will in turn help us in determining the way forward for the Church in post-election Kenya.

The Church and colonialism

The missionary church made a huge contribution to Kenyan society, especially in the areas of education and health. I for one am a result of a missionary education having attended The Alliance High School, which was the first high school founded to educate African boys in 1926 and the brainchild of the Alliance of Protestant Missions.

But if the Church did well in helping to lift the living standards of the colonial populations, it is also an inescapable fact that that it did little to openly challenge the social injustices of the colonial era, preferring instead to engage in quiet diplomacy with the colonial powers rather than seeming to rock the boat. It thus acquired the image of a collaborator in the evils of colonialism.

This image of the Church in the colonial era can be gleaned from an article I stumbled upon in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (Friday, 9th May 2008). Reacting to calls for disestablishment of the Church of England, George Pitcher wrote, “The Christendom paradigm…withered with the British Empire. The idea that the Church and the State co-existed is long gone, a dim historical memory of missionaries converting the noble savage, Bible in one hand, Union flag in the other. Furthermore… the Church should never have got itself into its unholy alliance with the State; the Church’s ministry is at its most authentic when it is not at the State’s heart, but a thorn in its side, a national conscience rather than a national Church.”

The Church in Independent Kenya

The perception of the Church working to civilize natives in order to pave way for colonization and therefore not questioning the status quo survived the end of colonial rule. In the early years of independence, the Church tended to concentrate on saving souls and to mind its own business, turning a blind eye to glaring social, political and economic injustices of the new order.

During the Moi era (1978 – 2002), however, when there were very few spaces for political expression, the Church rose to the challenge of filling the political vacuum by providing a social and political space for resistance to one-party dictatorship. A few courageous church leaders such as Bishops Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge and David Gitari of the Anglican Church and Reverend Timothy Njoya of the Presbyterian Church became vocal critics of the political establishment.

But the Church was not united in its approach. While Moi came to regard the mainstream denominations as “the enemy”, he closely aligned himself to the evangelical churches and was a staunch member of the African Inland Church and never missed Sunday service even as his repressive regime assassinated rival politicians, detained others without trial and tortured those who threatened his power base.

The Church was instrumental in pushing for constitutional reform through the Ufungamano Initiative that forced Moi to make certain important concessions and agree to a people-driven constitutional reform process.

The Kibaki Years (2002 – 2007 )

When Mwai Kibaki took over as President in 2002, the Church became largely silent on matters of social justice. Perhaps like the rest of civil society, it make the mistake of giving the new government the benefit of the doubt in the expectation that it would deliver on the various promises it had made in its manifesto when it fought the 2002 election. The then General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, an erstwhile critic of the Moi regime, became a close ally of President Kibaki and served as a presidential appointee on an anti-corruption body. (He went on to contest a parliamentary seat on the President’s party soon after stepping down from the Council and is now an MP. The recently appointed Cardinal of the Catholic Church is also a close ally of the President and has on several occasions issued statement that could be interpreted as being supportive of the establishment.)

Meanwhile, the Church remained silent as the new ruling coalition crumbled under the weight of a pre-election memorandum of understanding that the President refused to honour following the 2002 General Election, allegations of grand corruption and other signs that the new government was not really committed to a new way of managing the country.

In the run-up to the referendum on the new draft constitution for the country in 2005, the Church seemed to find its political voice once again, but its agenda was narrowly focused on resisting the inclusion of Islamic courts in the new constitution. This was hardly the prophetic voice that the Church had come to be associated with.

While not denying the Church the right to articulate its views on issues of concern to it, the expectation that it would rise and speak more forcefully on broader issues of justice in the constitutional debate largely went unmet. Instead its own forceful and largely insensitive articulation of its opposition to Islamic courts alienated the Muslim community, its erstwhile partner in fighting for constitutional reform in the last years of the Moi regime.

The referendum became the new frontline for forces aligned to President Kibaki and those coalescing around his former ally turned political foe, Raila Odinga, who was then leading a group of renegade ministers in opposing the draft. The campaign for and against the new constitution assumed the character of a campaign for and against the status quo with opponents of the draft arguing that it was meant to consolidate power in the hands of a few (read Kikuyu) elite.

At the beginning of the referendum campaigns, a vocal segment of the Church mobilized to reject the draft and publicly and forcefully stated their positions. However, with time, many key Kikuyu church leaders backtracked and counseled their followers to ‘vote with their conscience’. This was interpreted by the “No” camp to indicate that the Kikuyu church leaders’ change of heart was ethnically motivated.

The Church was thus seen as divided and serving narrow political interests depending on the ethnic group to which its leaders belonged. The prophetic voice of the Church to act as the conscience of society was lost, and the Church did nothing to evaluate its own role even after the people voted to soundly reject the draft constitution.

Approaching the 2007 General Election

In the run up to the 2007 General Election, the Church was seen as being openly partisan, along ethnic lines. Christian believers were clearly confused by conflicting “prophesies” of prominent Christian leaders which predicted victory for various candidates and prayed and anointed them as God’s choice for President. The uncertainty generated by these conflicting views fuelled the divisions in the Church.

Reports from the Rift Valley indicate the church leaders used civic education, prayer meetings and other occasions to openly campaign for their preferred parties and candidates. It is no wonder that at the height of the violence in January, when asked to comment on the role of the Church, a political analyst famously quipped, “We have seen the Church of PNU and we have seen the Church of ODM but, pray tell, where is the Church of Jesus Christ?”

Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that when the political crisis erupted leading to widespread violence in the wake of the disputed presidential election results, the Church struggled to find its voice. Church leaders could not rise above their partisanship and give the country a clear moral direction and the church was reduced to a helpless spectator to the emerging tragic drama.

The burning of over 400 churches during the violence was a sad reminder that many had come to regard churches not as sacred and neutral places of worship and sanctuary, but as part of the contested terrain of partisan politics. In the immediate aftermath of the elections, the overwhelming impression was that Christians had been betrayed by their own brothers and sisters and their own leaders.

Where do we go from here?

In March, the National Council of Churches of Kenya formally apologized to the nation for having taken sides during the 2007 General Election. This is an important step in the long road to the Church recovering its credibility and playing its role of being the conscience of society.

Several churches also joined forces in an initiative dubbed Msafara – The Wheels of Hope in which over 500 believers joined a caravan from Mombasa through Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret to Kisumu praying to cleanse the nation from demonic influences and taking humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons. But the Church needs to do more to recover its leading role in raising a strong civil society to hold the government to account.

As Kenya grapples to come to terms with what happened in the first three months of this year and the way forward, the Church needs to prepare to take the lead in the following respects:

1.         Discipling the nation.  – There is need to ask ourselves how is it that Christians so easily turned on each other. The Church needs to be at the forefront of fighting tribalism and forging an abiding spirit of nationhood. There is need to seriously address issues such as the gospel and culture, which go to the ethnic divisions that have plagued Kenya for many years. There is also need to connect spiritual warfare with rigorous socio-political analysis and engagement. In this regard, the words of Archbishop Romero on Christians needing to be active and critical and not accepting situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply are very timely for Kenya.

The post-election violence exploded the myth that Kenya is one united nation. The sad fact is that Kenya as a nation has never really been born. What exists currently is a collection of 42 disparate ethnic groups with very little binding us together. Politicians have made it very clear that if left to their own devises, they shall continue to mobilize for support along ethnic lines and therefore continue to fracture this fragile country. The Church therefore needs to urgently step into the void by defining the spirituality of our nationhood and helping us to define and own our Kenyanness.

2.         Constitutional, administrative and legal reforms.  – The protagonists in Kenya’s crisis have pledged to embark on constitutional reforms. As stated earlier, the Church in Kenya has in the past played an important role in pushing for constitutional reform. It must strive to recover its foothold in this important area. As Kyril, the Archbishop of Smolensk and Kalinigrand reminds us, “It is not acceptable for the Church to refrain from participation in law-making and from the opportunity to influence the political process, where not only the Church’s own future but the future of the entire country is dependent upon laws and political decisions”

3.         Land reform – the unequal distribution of land lies at the heart of Kenya’s political problems. The Church needs to push for more equitable land policies to ensure that this perpetual threat to national stability is dealt with once and for all. However, it has to be said that the Church has been reluctant to challenge the status quo in land distribution because mainstream churches are among the biggest land owners while some of the mushrooming evangelical churches have been mentioned in the Ndungu report as having been irregularly or illegally allocated public land during the Moi regime. Many churches are built on grabbed land.

4.         Peace building, reconciliation and restoration process. – The government and the political players have committed themselves to setting up a truth and reconciliation process, but this cannot be left in the hands of the politicians alone. The Church has been called to a ministry of reconciliation and must exercise this spiritual mandate in the wake of the election crisis. The Church shall have to closely monitor the process to ensure that it is genuinely aimed at achieving national healing and not merely a whitewash aimed at sweeping past injustices under the carpet for political expediency.

The Church should also use the pulpit to teach and preach genuine forgiveness and reconciliation and encourage people to participate in dealing with the past justly and comprehensively so that the nation can truly be healed of its multiple wounds. The Church also has an ongoing responsibility of healing of the trauma of the violence among its own members.

Finally, the Church should live as much as possible as a reconciled community and thereby become a model to the rest of society of what can be accomplished if people live together in harmony.

As part of a society struggling to come out of a deeply traumatic experience, the Church in Kenya has been left deeply wounded, disoriented and almost without voice. Fortunately, the Church can learn from the experiences of churches in other countries and other ages such as Germany after the 2nd World War or South Africa after apartheid. To do so, the Church must quickly move to recover its voice, restore its credibility and play its prophetic role in advancing the cause of justice, healing and reconciliation in the wake of the Kenyan crisis. As South African theologian, Charles Villa-Vicencio reminds us in his book, A Theology of Social Reconstruction: Nation Building and Human Rights,

“Unless the Church is able in these situations (of reconstruction) to translate the values of the gospel into practice and proclaim its beliefs in a language that makes sense even to those who are no longer interested in its views, it may well have no significant role at all to play in the period of reconstruction. This means that unless the church’s theological values make sense to those beyond its own membership, and are given expression through secular debate in a language understandable to a broad constituency of people… it may not be heard at all.”

In January, when Kenya was falling apart and looking for moral leadership, the Church stumbled and could not give a clear direction. The peace agreement signed between the politicians in February has given us some breathing space, but the root causes that led to the crisis are far from resolved. The Church must take advantage of the ceasefire to get its own house in order so that in the event of a future flare-up, it shall be there to speak with authority and to continue leading the country along the treacherous path to healing and true reconciliation.

I thank you.


*The Kenya Church Association is a UK-based fellowship of Kenyans and UK friends of Kenya of all denominations, committed to support and encourage Christian work and development in Kenya. The KCA was formed in 1920 in order to keep in touch people who have a special interest in Kenya, and particularly the work of the Church there. In the past many members have themselves lived and worked in Kenya as missionaries. Today there are many Kenyans who live in Britain, and many are Christians. So most of the KCA’s potential members are Kenyans who are resident in Britain. KCA is building a fellowship that includes former long or short term missionaries and Christian expatriates to Kenya, Kenyan Christians living or working in the UK and current missionaries in Kenya.

** Njonjo Mue is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a human rights campaigner. He currently works with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The views expressed in this speech are his own and do not reflect the position of the Commission.


June 5, 2008 at 11:49 pm 6 comments

The Last Days


These are the last days. A short glimpse at the headlines will confirm this. As the church, this is the time we should be most sensitive, not only to the happenings, but even more seriously to our preparedness to respond to the same.

I am convinced that at this time one of the things we should be on the lookout for is that activity or conduct that will give the devil leverage in our lives. The Bible says that we are not unaware of the devil’s tactics. Yet he always seems to find a soft spot to lead us astray. Why?

I want to share one thing I feel God wants us to open our eyes wide to especially in view of the times we are living in. I believe demonic activity will increase. In fact that is the reason the times are called perilous. I am also sure that God’s people will need to be more receptive to God’s leading to be able to respond to the pressure the world and the devil is focusing on us.

One clear thing that I know will unwittingly give the devil a lot of leeway is the church structure. In fact, that is one thing any student of church history will recognize as a catalyst in the decline of the church. Control is one thing everyone craves. That’s why politicians kill, lie and break as many commandments as possible to get it. That’s why even some practicing Christians will visit witchdoctors to get the best from both worlds. That is why people will even throw away their morals for a promotion.

Desire for control is human. A church leadership in control could be very dangerous to the course of Christ. This is not to say that Christian leadership is bad, it is just to say that church growth is under the Holy Spirit, Who like wind goes where it wills (Jn.3:8). I believe the church grows most when the growth is spontaneous, where the most visible action of the church is to train, equip and release ministers, leaving the results to God – and God does things only He can do, baffling even those with great expectation and faith. Growth denotes life; structures sometimes quicken death.

A church leadership in control is very easy to infiltrate, either by compromising the leadership or tripping even one key leader. In fact that is how many churches become cultic, if not become actual cults. And I am sure this may be the key strategy of the enemy to wreck the church from within before the Antichrist is unleashed on the world. That is the easiest way for corruption to take root.

God raises champions; we desire superstars. God works with teams; we want performers. God is no respecter of persons; we want to categorize all in classes. God values humility; we crave supremacy. History is His Story; we want our prominence in it. God’s altar requires natural uncut stones; we want monuments that will show our magnificence and creativity. And that’s human nature. The problem is that these are the very things the devil will fuel to sabotage the course of Christ. Since desire to be in charge is in our makeup, we won’t think it is something we should deal with, we might not even notice it – and that is the devil’s ultimate strategy. What is the difference between coveting, greed and ambition? One can easily be used to cover up the rest.

In places where the church is most vibrant, it is very difficult for the outsider to know who the leaders are. These are normally the places experiencing persecution. It is too risky to stand out as a leader outside the church since it will endanger your life and the people you lead. The church also can’t expose its leadership to the world for the same reason. Another key strategy in those areas is that a leader is always disposable – sorry to use such a word. But due to the dangers the churches are experiencing, a leader will always be discipling and mentoring a few others since they know that their days may be numbered. Else they will be caught off-guard.

This might be a foretaste of the tribulation, only that what is happening there, though it appears tough, is like child’s play compared to the tribulation. What about the rapture? You may ask. I don’t think it really matters. Whether the rapture occurs before or after the tribulation is not the main thing. Jesus equated interpretations to straining at a gnat (mosquito) but swallowing a camel. In any case, whether I will be there or not, I am sure there will be people in the tribulation period and I think it will be very selfish not to prepare whoever might remain.

An unrecognized leadership will continue ministering long after all the church buildings are closed and all the known leaders compromised or incapacitated. This is what makes the church in China and Indonesia a threat to the powers that be. This is why the church in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was key to the collapse of communism. This was because it was different to what the church is now known for – having a form of godliness but denying its power – especially the power to transform us to be more like Christ. The church is the leaven or salt, whose power does not lie in its visibility but by its effect. Its power lies in the fact that it is a living being, yet one that can’t be grasped. It is a leadership that responds to God’s call and will sacrifice for that instead of feeding off it. No titles are necessary, only the functions matter. And I’m sure this is what the church desperately needs even now. But I don’t expect this to be a very popular message since much of the church leadership is totally in control and would rather wish away the threats to the church instead of willingly dethroning themselves and enthroning Christ. Not in words but lifestyle.

Jesus commanded that we make disciples of all nations. He showed us how to do it first. Since it took 3 ½ years for God in the flesh to prepare the 12, one who failed and another who died shortly after Pentecost, what makes us think that there are shortcuts to this? He spent most; I actually think all this time with them. He ate, slept, taught and fought with them by His side. Aren’t we deluded to think that we can make disciples in 3 months, and that’s when we have an hour weekly with them? In the recent past I have walked out of seminars and lectures that offered 7 easy lessons to discover your full potential, 35 days to become the leader God meant you to be, the Bible Study that will take you to your calling in 10 easy lessons, and several such. I have opted out of evangelism seminars that present The Strategy to win the lost in 25 short minutes with an almost nil chance of failure. Or the strategy that will let your church become ___in ___. Why do this? It is because after I go through the curriculum, I find them as mere short cuts to disciple making and Christian growth, which I am convinced have no shortcut. Evangelism also has no shortcut. I am not saying that one can’t grow in 3 weeks. But no one can mature in that time. What I mean to say is that discipleship is essentially life on life. Only one life can impact another adequately for it to be called discipleship. Lessons make students; only life interaction can make disciples. That is why the Bible says leaders must have been Christians for long and then they need to have been tested. This does not nullify the Spirit’s transformational power. In fact that is the main reason for time. David was anointed as probably at 11, yet he actually started reigning at 30. Lk. 2:52 says Jesus grew. Paul had so much fire when he met Christ, yet he needed Ananias and Barnabas to grow with him. Apollos was mighty in the scriptures, yet he needed Aquila and Priscilla to guide him more accurately.

That is the strategy I see in the Scriptures. Even in church history, leaders can be traced to their mentors. No one attended lectures to become an evangelist. He joined a Christian leader and grew as he was exposed to the ministry until God called him to be an evangelist. I am not despising classes and seminars. I still attend them. I just want to state that I am what I am more from the people who spent time to disciple and mentor me than from the lessons I have attended – and they are many. I will also say the same about the people I have discipled. I believe life begets life. Lessons produce professors. Lessons should help polish who I am, they don’t make me. By the way that’s the way it is in the spiritual order all over. Look at witches, sheikhs, priests and all the rest. That’s why there are monasteries – for focused life-impacted instruction. That was the same with the schools of prophets in the Old Testament.

I am wary of anything called The Strategy for church growth. One reason is that it is too exclusive and elitist. I think the only strategy that fits that is discipleship – because that is what Christ ordered. I desire a church that will strategize to make discipleship more relevant to our generation and as closest to Christ’s model as practically possible. Then lets release those we disciple by supporting them to go and do the same thing where God sends them. And leave the results to God!

I want to highlight the dangers of a church leadership needing control with respect to releasing the called. Looking at many, especially big churches, we find a large disparity and no desire to bridge it. That is people with resources and people who are available. So many people are sold out to God yet so little is being done because a leadership in control does not want to connect the available to the resourced. Therefore the few who have a little of both are burnt out because the need is so great and they are so few. Yet there are so many people who are trained and called and are rearing to go, but they must have resources otherwise they will soon be worn out because they don’t have the resources to minister as much as their calling demands. The other group that is also frustrated is those who have the resources but have no time to minister. Their cry is for someone available for the ministry in their heart. And I believe that is the way God means it. Otherwise why are we the body of Christ?

I think the first problem is that we fear connecting the available to the resourced will reduce all the gifts we enjoy. It’s a real fear because many leaders are spiritual brokers rather than parents. And it is the brokerage that pays my bills. Experience is the greatest obstacle to the growth of faith especially when God wants to do a new thing with us, which is always. Therefore I will always want to be the channel so that I can get my portion instead of making the actual connection that puts me out of the picture and God in.

If we were humble enough to admit that we can only do so much, yet we have the potential in partnership to accomplish a million times more, we could easily and completely evangelize the world in a matter of months. But such partnership demands that I descend from my throne and bow to Christ and treat all others as partners on an equal footing. It means letting go of my security and finding it in other members of The Body. It means trusting God enough to give what I have to one called to do what I value.

What about those we fear will let us down? Jesus stayed with Judas for 3 ½ years yet he knew he would betray Him. He made him the accountant yet He knew he was a thief. Let’s do our part and leave the rest to God. In any case He said that the wheat and tares would remain together until He comes back. I think I would rather risk by doing the right thing than refusing to venture by fearing a wrong result. Let’s also consider most of the people God has used over time. In any case I am sure that you are like me, you have also let God down some time and He still uses you. Let us support those we know have the call of God, irrespective of whether they will agree with our interpretations.

Decision-making is another very dangerous aspect of a church leadership in control. This is because I fear that someone may shortcut my vision. Yet who actually owns the vision? This needs me to be surrounded by as many yes-people as possible to guard against the enemy (who is my brother who may be closer to God than I am) who has a different opinion from mine. I will also make meetings yes-forums due to the same fear. I will also categorize the church into those for or against me. I will require a show of allegiance before I admit anyone into my circle. This will of course limit involvement of most but those who worship me, or those who can convince me that they do so. Of course our collective impact as a church will plummet. I will also seek to show my enemies who I am. Now this is where infiltration thrives. The devil will then use me to frustrate those who are God’s precious servants because they will not be getting marching orders from me. Of course I will be thinking that those people and ministries I am killing are the enemies of Christ. Jesus said as much in Matthew 24. Do you realize that when people talk of a bad or corrupt leader, they will always blame those around him? That’s the principle of infiltration. To blind me from hearing from God, the infiltrators will fill the void I will feel when I am not walking with God satisfactorily. They will surround me with comfort and an external show that things couldn’t be any better, flattery playing the greater part. Of course they will first have shielded me from people who will not be scared to confront me. Eventually I will be just a shell of my former self spiritually, questioning anyone who can hear from God, asking like Zedekiah asked Micaiah ‘when did the Spirit of the Lord leave me to speak to you?’ by then I will have become paranoid like king Saul and will start open persecution of all such. Remember Diotrephes in 3 John? That’s the shield of the infiltrators.

I pray that leadership in the church of Christ in this generation will stand up to be counted. I believe many churches are already infiltrated or are in the process of the same. The sad fact is that none of them will even want to consider that possibility. When I look at my life, I like looking at 1 Cor. 10:12 – let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall. It is when we feel most stable that we may experience the greatest fall. I am prone to infiltration, especially when it appears that things are going on very well.

I write this as a leader and I am sure this relates to me as much as to you. I just meant to give us the wake up call I received from God praying that it will challenge you as it did me. I am nowadays seeing a lot of scripture fulfillment in the news and am sure this means that any day might be it.

Like Jesus said, we should live like children of the light. Let as remain awake an alert to all that is happening. By the way I don’t mean we release and support anyone who is zealous. We are commanded to guard the doctrine. We should also make sure their character is consistent with their profession. Jesus said that we would produce what we are, that we shall know them by their fruit. Let’s know where they come from before following their passion. Time and a lot of prayer is what should guide us to release all these people available for ministry. In fact I am convinced they are the ones who will take the Gospel not only to the unreached people groups, but also to the forbidden frontiers.

Gituma M’Ikiara is the Founder and Chairman of Restore Hope Ministries, an Empowerment Ministry targeting the disadvantaged (refugees, orphans, widows, etc.) He is also the author and publisher of ‘Perspectives, whose perspective runs your life’, a Christian book. He is in the Encouragement Ministry at Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi, Kenya. He can be reached through 0722 220147 /

June 5, 2008 at 11:31 pm 2 comments

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