Passing on the wrong baton beautifully

Wanyeki Mahiaini

It has been said that it is easier to pass on bad habits than good ones. In Kenya, church workers have a tension to resolve: what are they to pass on to the next generation, beautiful buildings or mature disciples?

It is so much easier to pass on buildings and church traditions than carefully nurtured disciples. Over and over again we meet those who lament that they feel compelled to give their efforts to fundraising and development work at the expense of discipling the church. Career mobility and social pressures require that they do this. Discipleship gives way to money matters. One person put it this way, ‘It doesn’t matter how many people come to Christ or how many are baptised – if my employer and church members don’t see ‘development’ then I count for nothing. I must out-perform my predecessor in terms of building work and my ability to raise money.’ And so the cycle continues, as each church leader tries to out-do the one who came before. This is what we call passing on the wrong baton beautifully. 

But in Kenya buildings and development work cannot be ignored. Instead, growing the physical infrastructure has to be held in tension with discipleship. What does this look like? 

Rev Muasya works in a rural parish and has administrative responsibilities over several parishes. Besides this, he has a young family and a ‘shamba’ to look after, where he grows his own food for subsistence. He is a busy man but covers the wide area he is responsible for on his motorbike.

For a year now he has been meeting regularly with a number of evangelists in his area to teach them how to let the Bible speak for itself as well as to hone their skills in culturally relevant evangelism. More locally, he meets with a group of clergy to teach them discipleship and expository preaching. The class gets to preach to each other and afterwards Rev Muasya gives them feedback. 

We asked him how he handles the pressure to do development work and raise funds for his administrate area. ‘I try to do both’ he said. ‘Previously, most of my efforts went into fundraising and making sure I had ‘people of means’ in various parish councils. Today, I give about 60% of my time to preaching and discipleship and the rest goes into building the infrastructure. From this, I have seen that better fed congregations are better givers. In giving more attention to feeding the churches spiritually, I’ve actually been able to do more of the development work!’  That’s what we call passing on the right baton well.