This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Kenya church planters are trained to multiply

NAIROBI, Kenya — Multiplication — one of three Eastern Mennonite Missions core values — was at the heart of a training on “simple church” concepts and disciple-making movements July 13-23.

Church-planting training participant Catherine Korirengi holds her baby. — Brandon Jones/EMM
Church-planting training participant Catherine Korirengi holds her baby. — Brandon Jones/EMM

Simple churches are low-maintenance, highly reproducible and heavily focused on discipleship.

EMM worker Noah Kaye conducted the training in conjunction with All Nations, an international leadership-training and church-planting network. All Nations staff Neil Hart and Brandon Jones taught training sessions along with Kaye.

Seventeen church planters, pastors, lay leaders and other church members attended from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and the U.S.

Seminary is not very common in East Africa, according to Debbi DiGennaro, EMM’s East Africa regional representative.

“So this is one avenue where pastors and leaders can get trained for ministry,” she said.

The training has given church leaders a new model for leadership and EMM partners a new approach to church planting.

Organic church networks

The training included some lecture and lots of interaction, including small groups and long breaks for prayer.

“Several Kenyan and Ugandan pastors and leaders who attended plan to give their own fellowships the training on how to make disciples, so that the multiplication can continue,” DiGennaro said.

She hopes the training will become part of how these churches make disciples, plant simple churches in various regions and create organic church networks.

“The methods are supposed to be simple enough to be adaptable to any context,” she said.

Pastor and EMM partner George Nyaundi hopes to implement what he learned at the training.

After 2008 election violence in the Sotik area and the village of Chipilat, Nyaundi brought together leaders from the Kisii and Kipsigis tribes to encourage dialogue. Several vibrant peace-seeking churches grew out of that. The Kisii and the Kipsigi, who at one time were killing each other, are now openly communicating and living together.

With this new training, Nyaundi is shifting his focus to a new stage in leadership development and discipleship within these churches he helped to plant.

It’s a model that’s new to many in the region. The educational system in East Africa stems from British colonization, according to DiGennaro. The teacher or church leader is held in high respect. But All Nations emphasizes the Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher.

“This creates a very different church-leadership model from what many East Africans are accustomed to,” she said. “But during the training, many participants received gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and speaking prophetic words to complete strangers, which emphasized the Holy Spirit’s role as ultimate teacher.”

New paradigm

Amos Stoltzfus, EMM’s strategic partnership coach, says the training is also a new paradigm for church planting for EMM partners.

“Traditionally, church planting has had a set of standards — like construction of a building, hiring a pastor and singing certain worship songs — that are not necessarily the heart of making disciples,” he said. “Now as a result of this training, many of our partners have expressed passion for making authentic disciples of Jesus in a more grassroots fashion.”

EMM East Africa hopes to hold more of these trainings in the future.

Kaye is relocating his family from South Africa, where he worked directly with All Nations, to Tanzania, where he can implement these trainings with more EMM partners.

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