Realizing the value of the Lost Sheep: Addressing the issue of Church Dropping in Kenya.

During the last year of my theological training at Scott Theological College, I had an opportunity to study church growth at some level. I recall one of the class assignments where we were required to carry out research on a radius of 10 Km from the School. We were to do this assignment on Sunday’s to interview the people who did not attend church.

Just like in any other research we developed a questionnaire which outlined many reasons as to why people didn’t attend church. But we also provided space for any additional reasons other than what we had.

The findings revealed that the number of people not attending church almost equaled or was slightly higher than those who attended. The area of research being predominantly Christian and with a long standing history of mission activities attracted many questions.

Answers to these questions revealed that people did not attend church more for reasons which had to do with the church (es) rather than reasons outside its sphere.  These reasons stretch across the whole country as a whole, and are evident in church attendance today in most parts of our country.

For instance I am told in the region where I currently live the entire population is about 1.5 million, with Christians as the majority with about two thirds of this figure, interestingly only 2% of these two thirds attend church.

Back to my report; a disclosure of this report to most of the church leaders we had interviewed was not positively received as it was perceived to taint the image of the church. Further most of the issues raised touched on the integrity of the leaders in these particular local churches including the clergy and the worshippers.

But those who read through the report gained insights from our recommendations on how they could best reconcile themselves to the “lost sheep” in this case the Church Dropper.

One of the conclusions I came up to was that the church dropper was not lost on the account of merely being lost as many people understand it, but rather lost on account of keeping away from the straying shepherd and the local church.

This kind of sheep finds fellowship from other personal initiatives through the media and group discussions. This could be a replica or the new frontier of the 21st C church in Kenya which traces back to the apostolic church as expressed in the Acts of Apostles.

Similarly, borrowing from my local African Traditional setting, when the shepherd brought the sheep to rest in the evening; the sheep could only gain entry willingly  to the sheepfold-rest if there was no danger or a strange smell, or any sense of insecurity. Failure to these factors, they instead opted to sleep outside or around the shed. But if forced inside they made lots of noise.

It was until the shed was cleaned and secured that the sheep could access it. The usage of these two words shepherd and sheep are familiar metaphors in the Bible, It seems here that one of the lessons we gain is that of cleaning the place of worship before the purportedly lost sheep is brought home.

I agree that it is imperative for the church to engage in mission work as well as evangelism work; however this should be done simultaneously with transforming and preparing of the place where we bring them.

Another fascinating discovery is that, in some sense the Jesus of Nazareth appears to me more of a Pastor to non-believers than to the believers. This is particularly true if we consider His continued usage of Phrases like I have come so that the sick may have healing, for the hopeless to have hope, for the lifeless to have life and that I have come to seek the lost.

This is qualified through a reflection on the life and ministry of Jesus which reveal that Jesus spend most of his time with the social outcasts. Spending more time or most of his time with a particular group of people should ring bells in our minds. Jesus was not passing time or wasting time by being with these people but rather doing or accomplishing what had brought Him to the world.

Even to the rich whom he visited they had  issues which held them back from encountering God in the places of worship and so Jesus visited them with a common denominator that they were unbelievers and needed to be reached out with the message of hope. Those who felt that they were whole did not bother showing up where he was, and if they did it was to prove their might.