Christianity is prevalent in Kenya. More than 85% of Kenyans identify as Christian, according to the 2019 U.S. State Department’s World Factbook. However, Daniel Lowry, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary in Nairobi, says the majority of Christians in Kenya have a distorted view of Jesus and the Bible.
In a post-colonized era, western practices have infiltrated and woven themselves into the fabric of Kenyan traditions and culture. One popularized idea that has seeped into the Kenyan religious culture is the prosperity gospel movement, Lowry said.
Traditional Kenyan religious culture promotes the concept of a “big man,” or a moderator who is the mediator between God or evil spirits and the common people. This “big man” speaks to the people on God’s behalf or protects them against the evil spirits. The prosperity gospel has coupled itself with this mindset through the “big man in charge” mentality, Lowry said. The moderator promises health and wealth through faith, if the people do what he says.
Lowry is dedicated to teaching truth and training faithful preachers of the gospel. He and his wife Kristen have served in Kenya together since 2018. As a professor at the Kenya Baptist Theological College and Seminary, Lowry has opportunities to teach truth and correct misunderstandings of the gospel among Kenyan ministry students.
Because one-to-four-years of school is neither financially possible nor feasible for Kenyan students, each term at the seminary is four-to-five-weeks long – four weeks for a diploma student, five weeks for a bachelor student. Currently 40 students attend the seminary, both male and female, from all walks of life and professions.
Many students who attend the seminary are already involved in ministry but want more training. The Kenyan Baptist Convention also requires training to serve in a pastoral role. Other students have been called out of a profession into the ministry.
As students attend the seminary, their eyes are opened to the truth of the gospel. After one of the professors taught on the four Gospels, a student responded, “I have never heard this taught before in my church. How can I go back with this new information?”
IMB photos IMB missionary Daniel Lowry works alongside national partners to train a future generation of African Baptist pastors at Kenya Baptist Theological College in Limuru near Nairobi. Since 1982, the College has partnered with churches within Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda in preparing church leaders.
For Lowry and the other professors at the seminary, the goal is to see Kenyans leading churches that are faithful to God’s Word.
“A well-trained Kenyan could do more work in Kenya than I could ever do,” Lowry said. “We recognize the ripple effect we can have here. We hope to impact a nation through the faithful teaching of God’s Word.”
Lowry wants to see students trained not only in theories, but also in practical application. He wants to partner students with faithful pastors so that the students can see firsthand how to live out what they are learning in the classroom.
The work he and other seminary faculty are doing is vital to the spiritual state of the country. While witnessing to non-believers is difficult enough, witnessing and teaching to those who believe they are Christian but aren’t is equally – if not more – challenging, Lowry said. Because of the dedication of seminary faculty and the dedication of the students to learn the truth of God’s Word, God is on the move in Kenya. The light of the gospel is pushing back darkness.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Catherine Finch is a writer with IMB.)