Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Kenyan churches according to Kenyans

I've so far marked about 15 essays on 1 Corinthians. In these, I asked my 2nd year students to apply the teaching of chapters 1-5 to Kenyan churches. Very interesting, though not very encouraging. It ties in with the same story we hear from many others.

The following refrains were heard in their essays again and again:
  • That 1 Corinthians would fit pretty closely as an epistle to the Kenyan churches!

  • Pastors aim to gain followings for themselves, build personal empires and personality cults, demand personal loyalty, openly rubbish other pastors. They are insecure and authoritarian. In preaching, the aim is to impress with one's skills rather than to communicate truth. (The sign of being filled with the Spirit is that you work yourself up into a real lather).

  • Church discipline is a means exercised unilaterally by pastors to get rid of their enemies. The aim is not to lovingly restore with "tough love", but to punish and humiliate. The rich and influential are not disciplined because the pastor/church committee doesn't want to lose the income.

  • Sexual immorality is so rampant - including pastors preying on young girls - that it's thought nothing of, and laughed at.
I was chatting with a church member yesterday at his place of work. He told me that at a nearby "church" they collected (over a period of time) 3 million shillings from the congregation - about £27,000 - for the pastor to have a flash car. (In Kenya the average daily earnings are somewhere about 150 shillings, or £1.20; only the tiny middle class can afford to own any kind of banger, let alone such a vehicle). The pastor rejected it, demanding 6 million. For a new Mercedes Benz - which in Kenya is considered the ultimate status symbol; these are what cabinet ministers get allocated. The church then raised the rest. About 110 years of average earnings. Why do people give to such collections, I asked? It's because of the "miracles" - desperate and ignorant people believe these well-dressed charlatans' claims to be able to bring the Holy Spirit to heal, and hear them promise/threaten that God will honour their gift/curse their refusal.

Another day, the same member told me that a few years ago a friend had invited him to the weekly all-night prayer meeting at his church. At about midnight, various (including the friend who'd invited him) started "pairing up" with members of the opposite sex, heading off for a quiet spot and... you can work it out. Apparently this is one of the regular functions of all-night religious meetings; to provide such a meeting point.

Are those stories shocking? Here they're fairly run of the mill. Do pray for Christ's kingdom in Kenya!

1 comment:

Chad C. said...

Wow! I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I observed some similar events and behaviors as you mentioned. Oh let us keep praying for reformation and genuine revival to take place in the Kenyan churches!