I have traveled to Africa for more than 25 years, and there is no country I have visited more than Kenya. To me Kenya has always represented Africa’s best hope for democracy and peaceful interracial relationships. This is why it is so shocking to hear the devastating news over the past weeks. Kenya has always struck me as a country of optimism, but obviously that good feeling has taken a hit after the December 27th election.
To date, more than 600 people have been killed. Particularly shocking was the appalling incident at an Assemblies of God church outside the city of Eldoret, where almost 50 people were burned to death, and several of those who attempted to escape where cut down with machetes. Political pundits blame the problem on tribalism and corruption, and rightly so. Yet, when I read of the atrocities between the Kikuyu tribe and the Luo tribe, I am startled because I have precious friends within both of those tribal groups and have seen them work together for the cause of the Gospel for decades.
Maybe more than any African country, Kenya has been open to missionaries. Almost every mission in the world is represented in this East African country. The 70’s and 80’s were a time of genuine spiritual revival, when tens of thousands of Kenyans came to Christ. Our ministry has conducted large Gospel Festivals in nine cities with amazing results.
During my visits to Africa over the last five years I have been particularly concerned about a “drift” I have noticed; a drift away from the simple, Jesus focused Gospel to more mystical forms of Pentecostalism with emphasis on holy oil, strange manifestations, spiritual mapping, self centered prosperity teaching etc. There seems to be a lessening focus on what Christ accomplished at the cross. I just visited another African country, much similar as far as the potential for tribal infighting. One pastor told me that Charismatic pastors had invited church members to bring their AK47 machine guns to the service so they could anoint them with oil to evoke a divine blessing for greater accuracy as bullets were fired. That is extreme, but I must admit that I was not surprised. It seems at times the lines between spiritual warfare and using bullets has become fuzzy. I have mentioned before about a highly acclaimed pastor who publicly prays that God will cause Palestinians and Arabs to turn on one another in mutual destruction hardly the Spirit of Jesus, who came not to destroy but to save (Luke 9:56). This week I put plans into action to go to Eldoret, the city where this horrible crime was committed, to conduct a Festival focusing on redemptive truth. What is the hope for Africa, or any nation?
1) A revelation that Jesus’ death on the cross tore down divisive barriers between tribes and nations. We who were not a people have become a people. The idea of the old covenant was separation between the High Priest and the regular priests, the priests and the people, men and women, Jews and Gentiles. Whenever old covenant thinking takes root in the church, we go back to this theology of separation. The Gospel liberates so that we discover that no group has the advantage over the other, but that we are all one in and through Jesus Christ.
2) Let’s get back to Gospelization instead of Christianization. So much of mission effort has been to install western Christian values and traditions rather than the liberating Good News of Jesus.
Faith comes by hearing, and as the truth of Jesus’ finished work on the cross is proclaimed, it effects human behavior. Pray with me for our plans to start a Bible College in Kenya. The idea is for a school that will touch the Swahili speaking world, which includes not only Kenya, but Uganda, Tanzania, parts of Congo and Rwanda.
Let me hear from you – Peter