Mmm… Unfortunately, We are learning more and more how distorted and deceiving things have become in many churches here in Kenya. We had already seen the last few weeks how there is such a HUGE focus on money every Sunday. There’s always 2 sermons preached, there’s always one on tithing, and then some other sermon after that. They focus A LOT on money. Money has become an idle. And the church has become like a business. The focus is not on God, it’s not on worshiping Him, the money is the focus. It’s pretty heart breaking. Tim has been preaching the 2nd sermon the last few weeks, but this week, a Kenyan preacher preached. The first sermon, of course, was about money and giving to the church, give more, you are not giving enough! Then in the second sermon, his message was about how he was poor when he wasn’t saved, and then with Christ, he was rich. At first I agreed… Spiritually rich, with Christ, we have all we need. But as I listened, he meant it in a different way. He began to talk about how he was able to buy a new roof and furniture and all these new things for his house, and a motorcycle. His message was about when you are truly saved, you should receive (material) blessings from God, and if you don’t you must not saved, and you’re living in sin, and that’s your punishment. I noticed he didn’t use his Bible or refer to any scripture. But I felt so bad, not only was this not out of the Word, but these people that have hardly anything, they have so little, they must believe that they aren’t truly saved or that God is punishing them for their sin or punishing them for not tithing enough because the evidence is that they don’t have material possessions. So many came up to the alter call crying, and I just can’t help but wonder what they are thinking. The Truth is that they don’t have to have material possessions to be loved by Christ, they don’t have to have nice things to prove that they are blessed, because they can store up their treasures in Heaven, they can have many blessings in Heaven, and they can have many spiritual blessings here on earth through their relationship with Jesus Christ. I just don’t know what to think. I just feel frustrated. For so many of these people, their only hope is in Jesus, they worship so beautifully, and if they believe these messages some of these pastors are sending, then they must think that they must give more and more money to be blessed, they may think that they are being punished for something because they don’t have material things, Jesus must not love them and they probably think they aren’t truly saved because they can’t prove it with material blessings. Salvation is a free gift!!! There is nothing we can do to earn it. Attending church doesn’t get you a ticket to Heaven, money and tithing can’t get you a ticket into heaven, it doesn’t earn you salvation. We can never be worthy enough to earn it. But it is a free gift, Jesus’ blood was shed as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins. “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by GRACE that you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by GRACE that you have been saved, through FAITH- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9
On the walk back home after church, Tim and I were talking with Willis about the message to make sure we understood it right. He said that that is how many Kenyan preachers are, they preach a lot about money, blessings, and prosperity. A lot of the culture believes that when someone is sick, it is God punishing them for their sins, or if someone is hurt or their house is burnt down, it is punishment for having an affair or committing a sin, so they automatically judge that person. While God does in fact discipline His children, their way of thinking is quite judgmental, not accurate, and not Biblical. In John 9, the disciples asked Jesus about a blind man who was blind since birth. They asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he is blind?” The disciples thought he was blind as a punishment for sins, but Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happed so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” This man was blind only so that God’s work could be displayed through his healing. And again with Job, he was God’s servant who was blameless and upright, yet God allowed Satan to take away his family, his material possessions, his wealth, and his health. He was miserable, yet he never cursed God and did not accuse God with any wrongdoing. He said may the name of the Lord be praised!!! Yet many people around him thought it was punishment, that he must have sinned greatly against God, but he did not! In addition, we are not the ones to judge, but Christ alone. So a lot of culture here has taken over religion.
Willis said that it gets so hard for him sometimes. He went to Bible College and has studied the Word a lot, and seems to have many of the truths stored in his heart. While he was in school, he realized that a lot of what is preached in church is not truth from God’s word. He told us about when he first came back from Bible College, he tried to have meetings with some pastors, and there were many that came in the beginning, but then the number really decreased as he taught the truth and ended up stepping on many people’s toes, and they were getting mad at him, saying that he can’t try to change or take away their culture. It’s tough. They even tried to say that Jesus didn’t come and change culture, but HELLO, so many people didn’t like Jesus and his disciples because what he was teaching was different than what the Pharisees were doing and what people were used to… and he taught about sin and having inner purity, He told people that he desired mercy, not sacrifice. He wanted them to be merciful and compassionate, not just go through the motions offering their empty burnt offerings and going regularly to the temple for meetings, etc. He taught about denying oneself and taking up one’s cross to follow Him, he talked about selling all your possessions and giving to the poor and coming to follow Him. What he taught, many people didn’t really want to hear, they were so accustomed to their own way of doing things. That’s part of why they wanted Jesus crucified and that’s why so many disciples and followers were beat, persecuted, and killed! He did come to make a change, people were sinning and he come to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, and to teach us and set an example of how to live as a follower of Christ and as God’s servant.
Tim’s really trying to teach these preachers and pastors how to study the Bible and teach Biblical truths at the preacher’s discipleship each week. But we did notice the number that attended decrease by 6, just curious if they were upset that it went against their culture. Like we mentioned before, many of the preachers and pastors don’t even have a Bible. Sometimes they preach without one, or they borrow one when they get to church Sunday morning, which means that they didn’t even prepare and study and meditate on the Word before preaching. Please just pray that God will help their hearts turn to Him, and be willing to learn the truths of the Bible.
I begin meeting with the women tomorrow and as of now, I plan on talking about Job and explaining some of the things I’ve talked about on this blog. Then Tim will be meeting with the men both Tuesday and Wednesday and Tuesday he’s teaching about doctrines, like what the Bible says about scripture, what the Bible says about God, etc., and Wednesday about some other basic Biblical truths and more how to study the Word and not add or take away from it. We pray that we’ll be patient with them, strong in the Spirit, brave to speak the truth, and have perseverance.
We realize that we have traditions and cultural practices also that aren’t quite lined up right with the Bible, too, so we pray to humble ourselves and take direction and correction from the Lord also. So we are praying for Christ to be Lord of our lives and their lives over culture and tradition.