There seems to be a church one every corner here in Nairobi. They go from a little tin shack to the huge 5,000 seat auditorium. Some are in huge marquees, others in buildings without windows to the tabernacles that you can see from miles away. There’s some that have short names, others like ‘The Church of the Deliverance of the Holy Ghost in XYZ’. I kid you not.
Labels and titles are so over rated here. If you’re a ‘bishop’ you almost have to treat them like a king. A Deacon is a church leader and not someone who helps physically set up the service. On the other hand you will see people in top jobs who are happy to be in the car park making sure everyone gets in. Only a few have services online but one thing they all have in common is that they like their music loud.
The thing that Kenyans know how to do is praise and pray. Some church services go for 3 hours, then they have other programs in the afternoon. As far as I know there are no night services in Nairobi. Probably because people have been in church all day, but also it’s a security risk getting home when it is dark (around 6.45pm).
We decided before we came that we would got to the International Christian Centre (ICC) where I visited in 2007. One mistake people make when moving to a new place is to try every church out in town for one that suits them. Sometimes you just have to make a decision and stick with it. It’s and English speaking church with mostly Kenyans in it. Some songs are in Swahili so it’s good practise to figure out what is being sung.
Pete, Liz and I go to the 10.30am service which is aimed at young professionals, it’s called Frontrunnerz and led by Pastor Gibson (meet him below). They have 2 services in the morning, with about 600 going to the second service. They do have a Saturday night service but we work most weekends so it’s not always easy to get there.
Some people might say it’s a happy clappy church. I figure it’s much better than attending a service that is like a funeral. Sure, there’s time for reflection and quietness, I’m all into that but sometimes it’s just great to enjoy the good things that God has done. Here in Kenya things like getting a job, being able to study, making safely through the week or having food on the table is something to get super happy about.
We’ve been to some African churches where they get so excited they lift up the plastic chairs and do a dance with it. There’s been some where all the women get up and do a special dance (a good opportunity to hide behind a camera). I’ve been in ones where Pete gets to sit up the front and me way back (being just a woman of course!).
What I love about Frontrunnerz and ICC is that they present a relevant message in a relevant way. Sure, it’s not perfect but neither are we!!
It wasn’t our goal to come to Kenya to start a church but it is part of our DNA to be a part of a local church. We’ve all heard how no person is an island but it’s so easy to do. It’s easy to look at ‘The Church’ and point the finger, look at all the deficiencies and things that are done wrong and decide not to be a part of it. That’s the thing though, no one nor any organisation is perfect. We’re a work in progress.
I remember Pastor Simon McIntyre who was with us when we were at C3 Oxford Falls (Sydney) saying ‘This church might not suit you, but there is a church for you, a church for everyone’.
If we stopped complaining about ‘The Church’ and decided to be a part of it, we would see some of the great things that are happening. We would meet some different people, some who would drive us up the wall. We would be challenged to get out of our comfort zones. We might even find a place we can call home and a family that accepts us, warts and all.