There was a time I went through what I would call crazy personal conflict about how I felt in relation to the church. Something seemed to have disconnected between my life as a Christian on one hand and my ‘church’ life. During this time I even thought of maybe taking a break from church, a sort of ‘strategic retreat’ to evaluate this disconnection. I was overwhelmed by a gentle voice in my heart that soon became a nagging loud line “I love Jesus, but I hate the church”. At some point I thought “hmmm… That would be a great title for a book”. It turns out, someone already had written a book with the exact same title. There is even a website. Aiii.
So what was going on? What is it that was making me uncomfortable after such a long time of church involvement? This situation has not changed much even now. Questions abound in my mind about whether what we now call church is what the Lord had in mind in the beginning. I raise these questions not out of a self-righteous attitude. It is more of a “guys, look what we are becoming…” sort of stand point.
1. The church and money
In the last few weeks, there was a ‘wikileaks’ of pictures of the home of one of the pastors of a certain megachurch (where did this word even come from?) in Nairobi. This home is palatial, with state of the art lounges and grounds. At first you get so impressed and amazed. Then when you are told who it belongs to, ok at least it happened to me, I felt the same way I feel when I see a deadly car with all the ‘madoidos’, then realise it is a government vehicle. You are glad to see it yes, but you just feel that it is in the hands of someone who would probably not have it if they focused on their ‘core business’, mandate and/or calling. It just gives you the feeling of, aiii, where did all this money come from? The same way the church gets money from one source, it’s members, the government gets money from one source, it’s subjects. Both are expected to spend this money in a manner that is transparent and in line with good stewardship. You keep insisting that I plant a seed, are you the right/only soil? Some churches do not have an elders’ court or oversight board to hold the senior pastors accountable but even many of those who do, seem to only have such boards as rubber-stamps to hoodwink the congregations into believing they being held accountable. If we are to be Christlike in our relationship to money as church leaders, then my Pastor should be able to tell me sincerely and truthfully “Danzo, imitate me as I imitate Christ…” without any shame. This Christ had no place to lay his head, used a borrowed colt, boat and even grave, lived humbly and being in very nature God did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped.
2. The church and leadership
Rick Warren, I love this guy, recently tweeted “If you have to put “Apostle” on your business card, you likely arent one”. Kenya seems to be getting too many “Apostles”. I know that a pastor needs to have a sense of a career path of sorts, but who determines these titles? It just seems as though we are taking “from one degree of glory to another” too literally. Others have allowed themselves to think that their ‘popularity’ on the pulpit can become a platform for even going for national leadership. For others ‘servant leadership’ is more of a political buzzword yet they want to be treated like royalty. Again, let’s look at Christ, he was not trying to compete with Caesar. He was already King of kings and did not find it necessary to prove it. One of the things I have loved about the Nairobi Chapel and its sister/daughter churches like Karura Community, Mamlaka Hill, Lifespring, Mavuno etc. is the deliberate leadership development programmes embedded in their vision and mission. The churches have developed many phenomenal leaders in this way. Success without successors is failure.
3. The church and ministry
One of the areas of ministry I seem to have ‘beef’ with of late is music. I love good music. Kenyan gospel music has come a long way. But it worries me to think that this long journey is not achieving it’s purpose. The idea was not for gospel music to be so catchy that there is no difference between it and ‘secular’ music was it? Has gospel music been rendered so irreverent that it can be played and danced to in bars and pubs and have no impact at all? Don’t get me wrong, I would rather dance to Kuna Dawa, Tobina and even Sudu than Busta Rhymes. But what is my motivation? I know this is where I will be referred to as a dinosaur but can we please sing songs that make sense? What happened to the hymns? Can we praise God respectfully. He is still God. Can we worship him without suggestively gyrating our hips towards each other. What’s next, gospel strip clubs? Yes I have heard of decaffeinated coffee, non-alcoholic wine, but we cannot and should not ‘de-Christ’ our music or ministry. No we should not ‘market’ our church and ministry. We should preach Christ and leave the results to God. The more is not the merrier all the time. I could go on but I think you get the point.
4. The church and prayer
There is no shortcut to prayer. We cannot have a discussion about prayer or share prayer requests and think we have prayed. We have not prayed until we have prayed. Now Jesus example of starting very early makes sense to me. I do not understand keshas though. I also do not believe that repeating my prayer loudly several times makes it more effective. Nor does it help to pray in a manner that is strange. I am not more spiritual when I pray like I am shivering or on the verge of an epileptic feat. Decorum and personal discipline should not be sacrificed at the altar of ‘as the Spirit leads’. So many people have said this that I actually cannot say without doubt who this quote originally came from,
“Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.”
5. The church and grace
There is a book by Philip Yancey called “What’s so amazing about Grace”. I love it.
We have been saved by grace through faith. This is a statement whose depth eludes many. Grace is not preached enough in my opinion. There is too much emphasis on works and doing stuff as a christian. Sometimes this confuses one into thinking they can earn or deserve the salvation we have. Grace is the undeserved, unmerited favour of God.
1. Justice – Getting what you deserve
2. Mercy – Not getting what you deserve, usually punishment
3. Grace – Getting what you do not deserve
I’ll have number 3 please, with some salad and vinaigrette dressing please!
What do you not like about church?
PS: This week marks six months since this blog began. How do you celebrate a half anniversary? Any ideas?