Renowned embattled millionaire televangelist Pastor Ezekiel Odero defied the government on Sunday by continuing with operations at his New Life Prayer Centre and Church in Kilifi.
Hundreds flocked to his church for spiritual nourishment despite a government ban.
According to a notice issued by the Registrar of Societies on 18 August, the government deregistered Pastor Ezekiel's church along with alleged cult leader Paul Mackenzie's Goodnews International, Bishop Thomas Wahome's Helicopter of Christ Church, Theophilus Church in Nairobi and King's Outreach Church.
The registrar said the churches were deregistered on May 19, 2023. However, the pastor and his wife continued to preach at their church in Mavueni, Kilifi County.
"We won't stop going to church because of the government. We will continue to pray and serve God," said Martha Nekesa, who attended the church with her family.
However, business operators outside the church condemned the government for deregistering the church.
"I hope the government will take care of the hundreds of families who depend on the pastor for their livelihoods. Why target an innocent man? What mistake has he made? The church wars will affect many people," said Felistas Muthoki, 23.
Ms Muthoki, a caterer, said she lost her job during the Covid-19 pandemic before she moved to Kilifi County from Makueni where she found a new job.
"I work at a lodge where most guests are worshippers of the New Life Church and Prayer Centre. I hope the government will resolve this matter," she added.
Pastor Ezekiel has transformed the lives of the people of Mavueni after building a mega-church that can accommodate more than 60,000 worshippers. Alongside the church, he has built an international school, a hotel and a petrol station.
Pastor Ezekiel has been linked to Mr Mackenzie, who is accused of forcing his followers to fast to death in order to meet Jesus. More than 400 bodies have now been recovered from Shakahola forest in Kilifi, where he is believed to have set up a base.
The wealthy televangelist, who has a huge following in East Africa with followers of all faiths including Hindus, Muslims and Christians, is being investigated on a raft of charges including fraud, money laundering, murder, assisting suicide, kidnapping, radicalisation and child abuse.
He was arrested and released in May after the state failed to prove how his freedom would interfere with the collection of evidence, including DNA samples from the bodies of victims of the Shakahola massacre. The televangelist was released on Sh3 million bail with a surety of the same amount or Sh1.5 million cash bail.