Meet Joe and Elfi Muutuki

On Wednesday Shay and I drove to St. Louis to meet with Joe and Elfi Muutuki who live in Nairobi, Kenya but are in the area visiting friends and family. Joe started New City Fellowship in Nairobi about 10 years ago. New City is part of fellowship of churches that emphasizes multiculturalism and is anchored in St. Louis but also has churches in Tennessee and Virginia.

The Crossing, through the work of some of our missionaries, has developed personal relationships with Kenyans as well as partnerships with a variety of ministries in the country. Shay and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to meet a couple that we’ve heard so much about and learn a little bit more about working with Christians in Africa. Here are a few things Joe shared with us.

1. New City in Nairobi emphasizes ministry to Asian Kenyans. Until 1963, Kenya was a colonial state of Great Britain and the British brought in Asians to work on specific projects. That Asian population has grown to approximately 100,000 people out of the 3 million living in Nairobi. While that may seem like a small percentage, the Asians have commonly held positions of great influence in the culture and there haven’t been many (if any) churches that have focused their efforts on telling them about Jesus. This emphasis also allows New City to demonstrate the power of the gospel as two different cultures make up the same body of Christ.

2. Since the official language of Kenya is English, there are great opportunities for Americans to have a significant ministry. However failing to understand the culture has led many outsiders to develop the wrong kind of ministry. As Joe explained it to us, Kenyan culture treats the guest with great honor. So when an American (or any foreigner) speaks at an event, many people will show up because they don’t want to be rude. Because they don’t know the culture well, many outside Christian leaders assume that high attendance translates into high impact. But it doesn’t. Joe explained that out of a desire to be polite, many Kenyans will raise their hand or come forward at an evangelistic event even if they don’t understand the message. When the outsiders leave so does the “fruit.” This at least partly explains why so many Africans can call themselves Christians (for example, over 90% of Rwandans claimed Christianity before their bloody civil war) and yet live lives that seem dramatically unChristian. Of course the same thing happens in our country too.

3. Joe said that the church in Kenya is often described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” In large part this is because there is little affordable theological training available for pastors or other church leaders. Joe was trained at Covenant Theological Seminary where he received his Masters of Divinity but he knows only 2 other pastors in his area in Nairobi that have a seminary degree. One way that American churches can really help is by paying for African pastors to get education and training. According to Joe, there are good seminaries in Nairobi for them to attend.

When I have chances to talk to people like Joe and Elfi, my heart for the world grows. I hope that yours does as well.

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