Thursday, May 20, 2010

Neo-evangelists influencing how Kenyans pray

Kingdom Seekers Fellowship building in Nakuru Town. Photo/ FILE

Kingdom Seekers Fellowship building in Nakuru Town. Photo/ FILE 

By NATION Team

The mushrooming of evangelical church groups is radically changing the way Kenyans pray. Sunday has been, for many people in the past, the only day set aside for prayers in church. Not any longer.

As these groups compete for members, almost every day and night of the week is church day. Nakuru’s Kingdom Seekers Fellowship church, for example, holds prayers at lunch time on a daily basis.

Road accident

They also have night-long prayers known as kesha on Tuesdays and Fridays. This church was recently in the news when members prayed for the resurrection of two pastors who had been killed in a road accident on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

That the faithful believed their pastors would come back to life shows the hold that these groups and their leaders have on members. The situation is the same in many similar churches which are attracting more and more people from the mainstream churches.

Experts say a hunger for a deeper relationship with God and hard economic times are behind this phenomenon. In some churches, the prayers are organised in accordance with the amount of tithes members give.

At Kingdom Seekers, the prayer meetings held to help solve the problems of various members of the congregation through divine intervention are normally packed to capacity regardless of the time of day or night.

Worshippers spend

During normal service hours, worshippers spend most of their time in supplication. And their main focus are the travails that beset a majority of Kenyans in their daily existence; issues such as unemployment and calamities like drought, diseases or even childlessness.

As a result, thousands of people especially the youths, have left the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and other mainstream churches to groups like Kingdom Seekers Fellowship which, they say, offer them greater hope.

Presently the church has about 5,000 followers in Nakuru Town alone. It has 14 other branches in different parts of the country. The church’s general overseer, Apostle John Kimani, targets what he refers to as “devils of the cities”.

These are the predominant calamities that affect the people in towns such as abductions, mysterious killings, burglaries and violent robberies. Apostle Kimani keeps on telling his followers: “When you take care of God’s business, He will also take care of you.”

This means they should congregate in the church to pray for the country so that God in turn blesses them individually. The worshippers are convinced that Mr Kimani has special abilities to identify individual problems bedevilling any member of the congregation, upon which he leads other members in special prayers for that person.

Before the resurrection fiasco that hit national headlines in February, Kingdom Seekers Fellowship church was hardly known beyond Nakuru. But after the strong-willed and unyielding efforts to bring their pastors to life, people have been curiously trying to know more about this church.

Today, Mr Kimani says even though the pastors did not come back to life, the prayers were not in vain. “I discovered that had we decided to bury the two pastors immediately, the church would have been affected badly.” He says the church would have continued to mourn without hope. “The step we took for them to resurrect has left the worshippers stronger (in their faith).”

Artisan course

Apostle Kimani was brought up in Rurii in Ol Kalau area of the greater Nyandarua. After completing his secondary school education he became a mason. He had been taught the artisan course by one of his uncles. And he embarked on construction of houses until he was later recruited to join the prisons department as a warder. But he quit his job as a jailer in 2002 to devote his life in preaching the gospel.

He had started the work of evangelism while still a recruit at Prisons Training School in Ruiru. And as prisons department employee, he also worked for Nema ministries in Nairobi. He quit both jobs to found the Kingdom Seekers Fellowship church in Nakuru.

Bitter competition

During this time, the Life Celebration Centre of Deliverance (LCC) used to hold sway among other evangelical churches in Nakuru in the long-running and bitter competition for followers. The LCC was founded by televangelist Bishop Mark Kariuki. But Bishop Kariuki has since left Nakuru for Nairobi where he founded House of the Bread Church.

Although his original church in Nakuru is still there, it no longer holds the same attraction for churchgoers that it used to during Bishop Kariuki’s time. Bishop Kariuki’s main message was for people to preach the gospel outside and spread it all over, but Mr Kimani rallies members to capture the “cities” or to focus on the predominant problems the country is facing.

He is also known for spearheading the Mission to the Body of Christ International (MBCI) through which he targets pastors of other churches and brings them together to organise “breakthrough conferences”. Such forums have also raised Mr Kimani to prominence.

His church is housed in an impressive edifice on a three-acre compound at the heart of Nakuru Town. The structure belies a humble beginning as a small church started in a single-room building behind a busy market place. The church also owns a four-storey building that hosts conference halls and offices for its pastors.”

Save mankind

Mr Kimani denies that his church is a cult. “I have been preaching on television and radio for the last five years. My doctrine has been open. Check it out. I have nothing to hide. The Bible says that God sent His son Jesus Christ to save mankind and return man to ways acceptable to God. But more than 2,000 years, most Christians have deviated from the Christian values.

It is for this reason that the Seventh Day Adventist Church launched “Follow the Bible” initiative intended to stimulate interest in reading and understanding the Holy Book. According to the SDA executive director central Nyanza field Tom Obuya, there are various organisations which have come up with questionable doctrines.

Indeed, the recent controversy that dodged the Finger of God Church where an official said the church accepted drinking as long as a person does not get drunk drew a lot of criticism. Many people also questioned its moral doctrines after one member, TV anchor Esther Arunga, abandoned her career.

Said pastor Obuya: “People have resorted to making money in preaching. The church is to blame because our members should teach followers good morals to shun, say, corruption.”

Reports by Eddy Ngeta, Lorraine Anyango and Abiud Ochieng’

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