The forum continues monthly the second Friday from 6 – 8 p.m. In September we spoke on Communion with the Trinity. For this month of October we took God and Evil in view of the events of Westgate still being so fresh in the mind. Many young adults are being exposed to serious Christianity in this way. On November 12th. the subject will be the very relevant one of Worship.
This time I have asked Oliver Allmand-Smith, Pastor at Ramsbottom Trinity Grace Church (U.K.) to report on his visit to Nairobi in May in our absence.
Between Tuesday May 7th and Wednesday May 15th I was invited by Trinity Baptist Church Nairobi to minister God’s word in various contexts. It had been five years since my last visit, and I was full of anticipation as the time drew near. It proved to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding weeks of ministry in my life. There were four main aspects of the ministry:
The Pastoral Theological Course
My principal responsibility for the week was teaching the students in the PTC. They were a mixed group in terms of education and spiritual maturity, but the hunger for learning and the depth of their interaction was most profound.
Our subject for the six days of study was “Christian Ethics”, and we spent the first three days constructing the hermeneutical framework required to understand and apply the law of God as it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We rejoiced to see how the Lord Jesus takes the law of God and by His Spirit writes it, not upon tablets of stone, but upon the fleshy tablets of human hearts. We then spent the rest of our time examining the second table of the law and working out the details in the context of Kenyan culture. This was a real challenge for me, as you can imagine, and I was greatly dependent upon the input of the men – I was not disappointed! Time and again we were able to apply the principles we had learned to the details of the pastoral challenges the men were facing, and their faces positively lit up as they realised the truth of II Timothy 3:16&17… We concluded by considering topics such as guidance, conscience, prayer, church and state and the fear of God.
Each day began at 9am with a devotional word and prayer from the men themselves, followed by teaching from 10am to 5 or 6pm depending on our energy levels and the ground we needed to cover. They worked hard! Even when we had finished for the day, many of them stayed to study late into the night. It was impressive to see their level of commitment.
There were 9 men on the course, with three others visiting on different days. Several were from Nairobi, others from different parts of Kenya, and one man had travelled from Sudan. One of the visitors who came for two days was a Somali believer.
The highlight of the week came on the final morning when one of the brothers led the devotional. His text was I Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He was from a charismatic background and only recently persuaded of the doctrines of grace. He explained that his ministry up to that time had been about himself, and not about the Lord: his experiences, his gifts, his preaching, his access to the Holy Spirit, his energy, his leadership, and so on. He told us that he would often get up on a Sunday morning in the church, read a text, put his Bible down, and with no preparation just tell the people whatever came into his head! It was all about him. He then said that he was determined, by the grace of God, to change completely. It would no longer be about him but about the Lord Jesus. Through our studies he had come to realise that the power is in the Word of God, not in himself: his task was to expound the message of Christ from the scriptures, and let God speak to the people.
The brother was a confident and self-assured man by nature, yet now he was nervous and actually shaking! He was deeply moved and humbled under God’s word. I was in tears. It was a privilege to play a small part in the great work TBC Nairobi is doing through the PTC, training the minds and hearts of these men, equipping them effectively for their ministry.
The Meaty Forum
On the Friday afternoon we headed across Nairobi to a large church building near to the university for the “Meaty Forum.” Our driver for the day had not arrived, so I offered to take the wheel for my first experience of driving in Nairobi. With no road signs, no road markings, endless potholes and very few rules (or at least, very few drivers abiding by the rules) it was my greatest challenge in a motor vehicle! Folks were travelling around roundabouts the wrong way, ignoring red lights and just careering all over the road! The fact that we got there and back in one piece with no (outward or visible) damage to the car or its passengers is a testimony to God’s sovereign grace. On one occasion, we ended up travelling up a slip road in the wrong direction – I had better not tell you how we got out of that spot of bother…
The “Meaty Forum” is a remarkable meeting! It was launched about a year ago by a couple of students in membership at TBC Nairobi. They decided to take different subjects that were important to serious Christians and put on an evening of messages and discussion. They hired a large room in one of Nairobi’s bigger churches and now between 60 and 100 students from many different spiritual backgrounds gather each month to hear God’s word.
The subject we were addressing was Biblical Church Government. I was to give the introduction to the theme, then Pastor Murungi (elder at TBC Nairobi) spoke on the qualifications for leaders, and finally Pastor Ken (elder at another Nairobi church) spoke on the attitude of Christians towards their leaders. Each speaker spoke for half an hour, and then we had an hour of questions! No singing, no presentations, no breaks, no entertainment – just messages and discussion of the word of God. Many of them are from charismatic churches, but they were all in dead earnest about understanding the word of God. The main topic of discussion for these students was the role of women in ministry, and although the questions were strongly worded, the answers we gave were carefully considered and there seemed a real concern to understand the will of the Lord.
It certainly was a “meaty” evening! To see all those students spending their Friday evening in serious study of the word of God was moving.
This is a tremendous opportunity to mould the hearts and minds of a coming generation and time alone will tell what an impact it may have on the future of the church in Kenya.
The Men’s Breakfast
On Saturday morning, 20 or so men from the church gathered to share breakfast together. I spoke from Philippians 2 on the example of Timothy and Epaphroditus who were reliable, committed and zealous men in their service of Christ and His people. There was a warm response and a sincere concern to apply the lessons to their own lives.
The Lord’s Day
The Lord’s Day was a great joy!
We began with all-age Sunday school. The adult class was led by Murungi, who began a series of studies in the spiritual disciplines. His text was I Timothy 4:7, “train yourselves unto godliness”. It was a timely reminder of our need to focus upon the means of grace God has given for our own spiritual benefit and growth.
In the morning service I spoke from Genesis 5 on the kindness of God, and in the afternoon from I Thessalonians 5:12-15 on the characteristics of an “edification church.” The congregation, which numbered about 100 in the morning and 50 in the afternoon, were attentive and alert to the word of God. They appreciated ministry that faithfully expounded the truths of God’s word. It is clearly what they are used to! Praise the Lord.
We also broke bread together in the afternoon, and it was a great joy to see the unity and warmth of fellowship around the Lord’s Table. This is a congregation that is growing in its communion. The highlight of the day was to hear one of the men pray for the needs of the fellowship – he prayed with genuine concern and compassion, as a man whose heart was in tune with the heart of Christ. He prayed as one who loved the people with the love that flows from the cross itself. May God continue to bless His church in Nairobi and add many more such men to their number.
We do thank the Lord for the way He is keeping the brethren in Nairobi. Two brethren from America will be coming to teach the PTC in July. Our many visits in UK are going well and we are greatly encouraged by the fellowship of many brethren.
In Christ’s service,
Greetings in the Lord from Liverpool, England, where we are spending a long weekend en route to the States. Getting ready to be away from home for 4 months is always arduous with pastoral ministry continuing to the time of departure. And this time there were also two big meetings to be involved with.
1. Trinity Baptist Leaders’ Meeting (April 2-4)
Every local church must be either registered with the Government or be covered by the registration of another church. When new churches start they naturally operate under the registration of Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi. We recommend them to seek their own independent registration when they have a functioning leadership in place. Five churches have so far gone this way. There are presently more than 30 under our registration and we called the leaders together for these few days of fellowship. Having had to postpone the Association meetings because of the elections, and there being no Pastors’ Conference this year, we felt the need of fellowship together. They came from various parts of the country and we were thankful for the peace in the country that made it possible.
Pastor Murungi and I ministered to them: Acts 20:28 on taking heed to oneself and to the flock, fellowship among sister churches, guidelines for the local church, theological training, church finances, constitutional requirements. We also had extensive reporting on the progress on each of the churches. We trust they returned to their appointed fields of labour with much vigour for the great task of the day is to preach the word in season and out of season.
As Elders in Nairobi we find taking responsibility for these churches until they grow to maturity a heavy one, especially the financial aspects – constant requests for support of leaders either by regular funding or setting up income generating projects, and to make contributions for funerals and even weddings, sicknesses and transport to meetings. This is undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of our ministry that we are seeking to turn over completely to our deacons.
2. Reformation Conference (April 10-13)
Let me give you some background to this encouraging development in Kenya! A few years back Bill & Tessa Sked found themselves in Mumias, west Kenya. They come from Queensland, Australia and their daughter, who had worked in Africa, encouraged them to visit. They were converted from atheism in mid-life, went through many years in the charismatic movement, and now find great joy in the doctrines of grace and very openly proclaiming this Biblical truth. I do not know how it was that they came to Mumias, except that there must have been a divine imperative. Yet, here they were, preaching in a church pastored by Noah Ikari. He called upon a near-by pastor, Elly Achok to translate. That one hour was life transforming as Billy preached the true gospel. For a number of weeks Elly wrestled with the reformed doctrines until he was firmly convinced of their truth. Elly was put into contact with us and he has completed the three years of training in our PTC in Nairobi. He preached for his older brother Barnabas in Mombasa who was concerned at the changes from the ‘Word of Faith’ ministry they had been immersed in for a decade. Barnabas is now in his 2nd. year in the PTC, and Noah joined at the beginning of 2013.
This is the third ‘Reformation Conference’ to be hosted by Elly Achok and the church in Mumias (named Gospel Missions Agency). Each year it has grown substantially. From Wednesday-Friday there were 100-150 present, the vast majority from charismatic backgrounds, with a contingent of more than 20 from Uganda, and even a few from Rwanda and Burundi. Saturday saw 400 gathered for the first graduation of 30 men and women from ‘The School of Wisdom’, a 9 month training course thoroughly committed to the precious Reformation truths.
What I found so encouraging, after ministering here in Kenya for 40 years, was the very open and direct preaching of the doctrines of grace. The theme was: What’s wrong with the Gospel? Elly Achok opened the Conference with ‘Is there no physician here?’ (Jeremiah 8:22) and gave 4 reasons from the chapter why God judges, with the obvious application that Kenya is ripe for judgment. Bill Sked had 5 sessions on the content of the Authentic Gospel. I myself had 6 sessions on Romans 8:28-30 and the ‘Golden Chain’. Barnabas Olare from Mombasa has 2 sessions on the Characteristics of False Teaching – misconceptions about God (Acts 17:16-31), and misconceptions about man (Romans 3:9-18). To many these truths were totally new and there was much mental wrestling (and we trust in the heart also) as was shown by the long list of questions for the Q & A session. May the Lord give abundant fruit for His glory. PRAY for brothers Elly & Barnabas as they lead this work.
3. For Prayer
(1) Progress of the Biblical Gospel in Kenya. We have great opportunities in Nairobi:
- Meaty Forum – This continues the 2nd. Friday evening of every month with 60-100 young adults in attendance.
- TV Station – We have been offered the possibility of having a digital station and a number of brethren are seriously looking into its viability for us.
- Christian School – A number of our families have seen the deficiencies in the typical education facilities in Kenya and want something specifically Christian.
- PTC – It will continue in my absence with brethren from UK and USA coming to teach in May and July.
- Pastor Murungi – Although we will be in regular contact by email there is a very heavy weight of responsibility on him as the only Elder.
(2) Leave in USA. From April 23 to May 28 we are in the States. For the first 2 weeks we shall be in the State of Pennsylvania, first at a weekend Missions Conference and then visiting a number of other churches in the east of the State. For the last 3 weeks we shall be with son Jonathan and family in Ohio, with a weekend visit to a church in Indiana. Please PRAY that we shall be refreshed and useful to the Lord in His kingdom.
In Christ’s service,
Keith & Priscilla Underhill