On Tuesday I returned from a short but hugely challenging and encouraging trip to Kenya. For those of you praying, I thought it might be helpful to post a few reflections on my time there. I may post more as I reflect on different aspects of the trip.
The situation in Kenya
On the face of it, the church situation in Kenya looks very positive. Statistically, something like 70% or 80% of the country is Christian. Praise the Lord?
Sadly not. Statistics sometimes can be misleading, and after spending just two weeks in Kenya it's patently clear that these statistics misrepresent what's really going on.
It seems that there are several threats to the church in Kenya. With my limited exposure, it's fairly clear that the most serious of these is prosperity 'gospel' teaching. People are turning in vast swathes to the empty promises offered by a 'gospel' that offers health and wealth in this life. Several speakers at the conference mentioned the widespread manipulative practise of selling special oil and soil to make businesses, land, family, households or whatever you can think of flourish.
I think it's David Jackman who first said that the church in Kenya is a mile wide but only an inch deep. By this he was suggesting that though the church has spread quickly and widely in Africa with many becoming Christians, people's understanding of the Bible and doctrine is frighteningly weak. It seems that this isn't just a problem for the typical congregation member - it's also true of many of the people who are leading churches.
It's when you begin to realise the sheer extent of this problem that you see the importance and huge benefit of the work of iServe Africa in Kenya. This organisation aims to place recent graduates in churches and with mission organisations around Kenya (and increasingly in the UK for a 2nd year of placement).
What's needed for a people in the grips of a apparently hopeless cycle of poverty? What's needed is not a motivational, optimistic rallying cry that is impotent to provide on it's promises. They seem appealing initially, but they don't pull through in the end. What is needed is the true hope of the gospel, which speaks truth into a broken world. What is needed is a recognition of the world's flaws, and alongside this the offer of a glorious hope built on rock-solid foundations. This hope comes as God's word is expounded and he works.
What's needed in the Kenyan church (alongside the obvious need of God's work by his Spirit) is a deeper and firmer grasp of the Bible which is then translated into expository preaching to equip the saints. It is as these foundations are stregthened that the church will be able to resist being blown around by every wind of doctrine.
It's fantastic, then, that iServe are seeking to equip the next generation of church leaders with skills in Bible handling and faithful preaching. Alongside this, they seek to hammer home the need for servant-hearted, grace-driven ministry.
From what I saw, they're doing a brilliant job.
Please pray for iServe, as it grows in Kenya and seeks to grow across Africa. Please pray that God would use them, and organisations like them, to really strengthen the church in Africa. Pray that as this happens, the church would be rooted and built up in Christ, holding firm to the apostolic faith.