Woke Christianity: We found God outside the confines of church

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What you need to know:

  • Most times, once a young person leaves their parents’ nest, they begin to think critically about their religious affiliations, and many end up shunning religion.
  • Moreover, in most established churches, young people don’t feel embraced and accepted. Others struggle with the inability to balance between youthful pleasures and sticking to the principles of religion

In most Kenyan family settings, going to church is considered a basic need. Parents strive to make religion a central guide in the upbringing of their children. As such, most individuals’ religious affiliations are hugely influenced by their guardians who believe that being steadfast in matters of faith will make them morally upright adults.

However, most times, once a young person leaves their parents’ nest, they begin to think critically about their religious affiliations, and many end up shunning religion. Moreover, in most established churches, young people don’t feel embraced and accepted. Others struggle with the inability to balance between youthful pleasures and sticking to the principles of religion. 

Further fueling the youth’s reluctance to go to church or practice religion as a whole is the glaring misconduct by preachers who are evidently making a killing out of their followers’ vulnerability.

Amid the shock and horror that has followed the Shakahola religious massacre, more than ever before, young people are redefining their relationship with God, and modifying their religious choices. MyNetwork engaged five youth who talk about their new religious principles.

Photo credit: Pool

Peetstar Poet, 31
Award winning poet, Producer and Actor

Most people are anti-religion, not anti-Christianity. I think there is a thick line between Christianity and religion. Christianity is about having a relationship with your maker while religion is about following some rules in the quest to reach God.

I go to church every Sunday and I attend mid-week fellowships. For me, the church is not a building but a sanctuary where believers collectively form the Body of Christ.

My journey of faith has not been smooth. I have hopped between many different denominations trying to find the right one, only to come to the realisation that it is God who gives guidance. It is after developing a close relationship with God and after professing my faith in him that I got direction on which church would nourish me spiritually.

You shouldn’t go to a church just because your friends are going there or because it has a popular preacher and a huge congregation. It has to resonate with your beliefs and integrate your concerns in its teachings. 

For instance, the church I currently attend, the Purpose Centre church, has had a tremendous impact in my general being, in all spheres of life such as work and relationships. I believe Christianity is not just something we quote, preach and post on our social media, it should be a practice, it should form our daily lifestyle.

I always try to make sure that my worship is not tied to any man’s idea of Christianity but on God’s, and that there is a word to refer to – the Bible. If one doesn’t know the Word then he can be easily manipulated. 

Amid the spike in fake preachers who sell tales of success to get money, I usually implore millennials to aim at having a direct connection with God. Believers should know that they have the power to directly access God without necessarily needing an intercessor.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. All people are equal in God’s eyes, so if a pastor can pray, then you can pray for yourself too” he says.

I would advise my mates to know God deeply and personally. The good Lord is not choosy and no one is better than the other. The more you walk the journey of Christianity, the more you discover who you really are. Then you will find a peace that transcends human understanding.

Rachael Nyambura, 26
Public relations consultant

I believe there is a higher power that controls the universe. I describe my religious identity as agnostic – someone who is doubtful about the existence or non-existence of God or a higher power. I cannot remember the last time I went to church.

“Nowadays, religion is polluted with teachings that are centred on hope for success which the preachers hawk. I prefer staying at home and connecting with the higher being, if there is one. Our churches are really dubious,” she offers.

I have studied religion and history and I think religion is man-made. It was brought by the white man. Originally, as Africans, we used to have our culture and traditional gods that our forefathers pledged allegiance to. The missionaries used religion as a tool of division and centuries later, the tool is still being used to oppress and separate the world, a fact that is evident from the fights we usually see among different denominations trying to assert their dominance.

At the moment, I am in the process of understanding what Christianity is all about. I am reading what scientists say about the world being formed 2,000 years ago, and watching documentaries that seek to unpack the real meaning of religious conviction.

You shouldn’t go to church just because you are a Christian. There is a level of self-introspection that you should do before attaching yourself to a particular religion”.

I grew up a church goer because I had no option. As a child, you don’t get to ask the tough questions. Every Sunday, your parent marshals you to church where the pastor’s words are viewed as the gospel truth and are not to be questioned. It is after going to school and becoming literate that you realise religion shouldn’t be a glass house that people are afraid to pelt with stones of criticism. 

I was a Christian Union student leader in high school but in campus, I became woke in matters religion and began viewing it more objectively.

Most people are just going to church for the sake of it, but away from the public eye, they lead rotten lives. In fact, some of the rudest people I have met are Christians. Some of them are of questionable character. There is a dark contrast between their personalities on Sundays and during weekdays. It is ridiculous how a pastor can be living lavishly while the believers are languishing in misery.

Away from religion, I believe humanity and love are the greatest gifts. Most of my agemates are afraid to speak up since they have been taught that one cannot question religion. They partly resonate with my sentiments on religion being overrated but like caged birds, they cannot state their real feelings.

Photo credit: Pool

Jackson Nyakoe, 19
Media student at Moi University

The woke nature of millennials and Gen Zs has made us loath religion. For instance, I know full well that most pastors are after monetary gain and are not keen on spreading the gospel. In the Shakahola massacre, it was evident that older people are more easily brainwashed by preachers with ill motives.

It is sad that some people believe in churches more than they believe in God. 

I last stepped on the door frames of a church in 2019 while still in high school. The church teachings were not as helpful to me. I hated how insistent the call to give offering was and in some churches, those who gave more sadaka were considered better Christians than those who gave less.

I grew up in a Christian family and this shaped my morals, but I drifted away after high school as I had become very critical of some beliefs.

The pastor’s interpretation of the scriptures was not relevant to me. For example, why does one’s hairstyle or preference for ornaments such as bracelets have to be condemned? “he poses.

As one born in a digital age, my friends prefer to worship virtually unlike our parents who would opt to go to church physically. I was baptised in Form One but back then, I didn’t know myself well enough and didn’t understand the real essence of being born again.

I stopped going to church because the goers were hypocritical. There was a church member who would come barefoot while the other congregants, who were rich, would not even extend a helping hand. The church members contributed to build a big church but overlooked even gifting the poor woman a pair of shoes. At the moment, I pray for myself. I don’t believe in praying in public just to show off. My religion assumes a do-it-yourself form.

Photo credit: Pool

Charity Shekinah, 22
Director, Back, Up and Strong Organisation

I am a firm believer in God. Unlike my friends, I attend church every Sunday because I feel alive spiritually when fellowshipping with other faithful. There is usually a tangible spiritual energy especially during praise and worship time.

“I like how, in my church, the pastor always tries to relate life circumstances and the scriptures. I think for a miracle to happen, one has to put in the effort and not just wait upon the Lord for success without working, as the other preachers claim. Faith without actions is dead,” she says.

The church has instilled in me values such as perseverance, and taught me about God’s abounding grace. My friends reveal that as children, they never had valid reasons to go to church. They were coerced, and now as adults, they do not see the essence of having a close relationship with God.

It is hectic being a young person because at times, you may find yourself swinging between being a dedicated Christian, and doing secular things like partying. However, having friends who know and understand your stand as a Christian helps keep one in check.

I keep an open-mind in matters religion. There are some teachings that I cannot follow blindly. I have to probe them using the Bible as a point of reference. “I think one should strike a balance between life and church so that they don’t end up being over-religious and hypocritical,” she comments.

Anyone can quote a verse and claim to be a man of the cloth, but I think it is imperative for young people to know God on a personal level rather than relying on a preacher who will tell them what they want to hear, but at a price.

Photo credit: Pool

Caleb Makori, 25
Director of partnerships at Nairobi Advent 

Not everyone who is religious is a Christian. Christianity is part of a religion but religion is not confined to Christianity. 

Religion can easily be used as a manipulation tool. There is a surging group of people who call themselves prophets and evangelists, while using people’s vulnerability to faith for their own commercial interests.

For instance, if I started a church where I preach prosperity, allude people’s failures to witchcraft, and then touch their deepest points of need, I would be very rich. People seem to really love success preachings from men of the cloth. 

Luckily, not all churches are interested in swindling their members. My church for example, the Seventh day Adventist church, has a level of order and bureaucracies that cannot allow a pastor do his bidding to any extreme. I appreciate the liberty we have to question a pastor as we try to comprehend the teachings since we usually have in-depth collective Bible study sessions. 

Young people are not immune to being brain-washed because with religion comes a lot of promise and gullibility. Many youth are struggling with self-identity and are learning how to be patient in their pursuit of a good life. Regardless of the fact that they are exposed technological advancements, they too are a target for rogue preachers.

In your 20s, the church is not the most fun place to be especially when your friends are partying. Buoyed by youthful vigor, you might side-line Christianity. But then again, youth is a mirage that passes quickly and years later, when settling down, you will recollect yourself and start craving for a meaningful connection with your maker,” he comments. 

Being vested in the church while young has inculcated in me values such as discipline, consistency and gratefulness in all situations. God knows the plans he has for me. Church for me is a safe haven. Even though my mates might not agree with me, there is a noticeable difference between those who are dedicated Christians and those who are not. While young people seem to prefer virtual worship and listening to church services from home, I believe there is something profound that comes with assembling together while bolstering each other’s faith.

Tomorrow is never promised so I think the youth should not procrastinate Christianity with the hopes of turning a new leaf in future. They should serve God now, in their youthful days, and be true and loyal Christians.


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