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,