I spent some time digesting my time in Nairobi, in particular visiting churches, and listening to the stories of how they had been planted, what their context was and how they had grown.
And these were churches that grown during the violence in Kenya, that saw many people killed in tribal violence inside churches, with churches being burnt down, and some pastors also inciting the violence.
In addition to material aid to displaced peoples, the churches I visited had sought to provide an alternative worship space to the locations where so many horrific abuses had taken place (and many of these people's churches had been destroyed in the violence).
So sitting in a tent in a field, with one community totaling 2,000 people, many living in the local fields, many walking in, some coming by car, lots of ex pats from various countries, I asked myself what is going on here? What is going on that means faith is close to the surface, that makes this church community so vibrant, dynamic and full of Jesus?
And if I could see and understand some of those ingredients, would they illuminate other contexts, like the one I live in? I know my context is very different, and in contrast to my time in Nairobi it seemed to be one of consumer bourgeois indifference and apathy, compared to one of persecution, and starvation.
So in trying to translate something, here are three things, that seemed to stand out to me:
1. Social Justice/Ministry to the poor
Care for the poor, involvement in social justice seems primary to these churches nature and engagement with their community.
Space and places, to form Christian identity in the midst of conflicting realities. Worship here is not about personal style and aesthetics but the radical orientation of identity together around Christ, for formation and engagement in the hostile world around them. Worship is political the engagement in ordering a way of life, that is public.
3. Gospel Proclamation
The declaration in action, relationship, and with words, that Jesus is Lord. A call to the ordering of life together around the death and resurrection and eternal realities of Jesus. And it struck me how doomed to failure these churches would be with just one or two ingredients missing. Care for the poor, worship and Gospel declaration were inseparably intertwined.
So in my context, I am asking myself reflexively:
1) Are we a community that cares for it's neighbors, and what does that look like for us?
2) Do we worship, gather to form identity around Jesus, as a new social movement, inmfact as part of the social movement of Jesus and his body, in the face of western secular liberal individualism.
3) Do we declare the gospel, the radical announcement of the Kingdom of Jesus, and his call to order our lives around him?