NAIROBI, Kenya -- Multiplication: it’s one of Eastern Mennonite Missions’ (EMM) three core values. It was also at the heart of a training on “simple church” concepts and “disciple making movements” on July 13-23, 2015, at YWAM’s Athi River base in Nairobi, Kenya. EMM worker Noah Kaye conducted the church planters’ training in conjunction with All Nations, an international leadership training and church planting network. Simple churches are low-maintenance, highly reproducible, and heavily focused on discipleship.
Seventeen church planters, pastors, lay leaders, and other church members attended the training, coming from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the U.S. To attend, they gave ten days (plus travel) away from their families, farm work, and/or other employment. “Seminary is not very common in the region,” said EMM East Africa Regional Representative Debbi DiGennaro. “So this is one avenue where pastors and leaders can get trained for ministry.” All Nations staff Neil Hart and Brandon Jones, along with EMM worker Noah Kaye, taught the training sessions. The time included some lecture and lots of interaction, including small groups and long “prayer pauses.”
“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. “Hopefully, it 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.”
The training also focused on obedience to the Holy Spirit (another EMM core value), with times for the participants to be open, transparent, and vulnerable. “The values and structure of the educational system in East Africa stem from British colonization. In that system, the teacher or instructor is held in high respect. However, All Nations emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher [rather than a church leader or teacher]. This creates a very different church leadership model from what many East Africans are accustomed to. 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,” DiGennaro said.
One of the pastors to receive this training was EMM partner George Nyaundi. In the past, Pastor George set his sights on planting churches of peace along violent tribal hot spots throughout Kenya. Following the 2008 election violence in the Sotik area and the village of Chipilat, George brought together leaders from both sides of the Kisii and Kipsigis tribes to encourage dialogue. The result has been several vibrant peace-seeking churches in that area. Today, the Kisii and the Kipsigi, who at one time were killing each other, are openly communicating and living together. With this new training, George is shifting his focus to a new stage in leadership development and discipleship within the churches he has helped to plant. This training is just one way EMM East Africa is hoping to implement disciple-making and simple church principles in a growing cluster of churches on either side of tribal hot spots.
Amos Stoltzfus, EMM’s strategic partnership coach, said, "This kind of training has given a new paradigm for church planting for our 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. 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 have more of these trainings in the future. EMM worker Noah Kaye is currently 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.