Shape, Form & Substance

But how might the Church Look like? This was the big question on 23rd October, when we held a core group meeting to continue  discussion on the Kikuyu Plant.

We did a recap of the previous meeting : Spiritual mapping of Kikuyu area.

  • Social-economic status of the little-town, challenge of gambling, drugs, prostitution, extreme poverty and very rich people, lots of value attached to owning rentals.
  • Need of a bible centred church. People are seeking faithful Bible teaching churches and they have to travel to the city or long distance to access one.
  • Plan to begin the public gatherings in June/July 2017. Closed gatherings can begin as early as February.

How then might such a church look like? Those present made the following observations…

  • Singing and preaching to be Christ centred
  • A cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic church that welcome people from different backgrounds.
  • A church with its focus of Gospel, living out the gospel.
  • A church encouraging small group meetings (cell/home group) to encourage more intimate fellowship/community.
  • A church that is deliberate about key ministry areas e.g Children, music, youth etc.
  • A welcoming church-that people attending it have a witness of it to outsiders who would come on being invited.
  • Deliberate on replicating-with deliberate training and mentorship and encouraging people who are able and convicted to plant churches.
  • A church with a culture of welcoming active community e.g a cup of tea after the service to encourage members to get social.
  • A church with a focus on preaching/proclaiming the Word.
  • A church with true community-a place where there’s genuine care on members as members of one family, e.g when a members misses to come to church, the others members find out where they are.
  • A church keen and deliberate on discipleship and discipling many others to ensure that discipleship is an ongoing process.
  • A leadership keen on mentorship, such that the leadership are not the only custodians of the word.
  • A church not described as “kanisa ya fulani’- we ought to be careful to have an identity in Christ and a group of people rather than a one man’s show eg, pastor.
  • A church leadership that keep’s its word.
  • A church that will keep time.
  • A Church that wisely and carefully stewards it’s resources.

What do you think?

Other Emerging Issues for the next meeting…

  • Is it wise to target a particular niche or group of people even as we think of community?
  • What about Doctrine? This was the big elephant in the room.

Prayers were held for the matters discussed.

Next meeting to be held on 20/11/2016.



Clarifying Questions

We all like to be clear about what we are doing at any one point. In fact, the biggest barrier in any task/project is usually our own convictions as to the rightness/wrongness/timing/strategic value/our role etc of the matter at hand – all within our minds/hearts. Once we move beyond the inner barriers we deal much more easily with external challenges.

At our last meeting in September, a number of questions came up for us to deal with ahead of the actual planting. These include but are not limited to…

  1. What are the gospel needs in Kikuyu town?
  1. What would an ideal biblical church in the town look like?
  1. What should be done in order for the above to happen?
  1. Have you ever thought about/been part of a church plant?
  1. Is church planting necessarily a good thing to do in Kikuyu now? Why or why not?
  1. What cautions/pitfalls would you suggest for those thinking about planting?
  1. What would be a good road map towards a healthy church plant?

I grew up in a tradition that did not embrace planting. Growth was by cell division and took a lot of effort to ‘be given a parish’. Planting afresh was not something you did let alone think about. Planting was almost equated with rebellion and it has taken many years for me to see planting as a natural outworking of the gospel. I am still dealing with a lot of the questions and more and it helps when we engage.




Why another Church in Kikuyu?

From a survey we carried out earlier this year, there are well over 40 churches in Kikuyu township. One wonders therefore if the spiritual needs of the area are not adequately covered. But the matter is a little more complex than mere numbers.

Staying with numbers however, we observed that the average church in Kikuyu has about 300 members and 100 children. But there are well over 240,000 people in the area according to the county government website. Although the figures cited might be for the larger Kikuyu urban area, the township and its environs certainly has more than 100,000 dwellers. This means the current 40 churches are serving about 20,000 people. If numbers could build a case for church planting then there are a lot of people to evangelise.

But numbers can be deceptive. A major assumption in the postulation above is that people living in Kikuyu attend churches in Kikuyu and that the churches in Kikuyu serve the people living there. It is not uncommon to see buses belonging to churches in the city ferrying folk from Kikuyu on Sunday mornings. A good number of city churches have cell groups in Kikuyu suggesting that a good number of Kikuyu folk actually go far in search of christian fellowship.

Whereas people going far in search of church is an indicator of many things, it certainly shows that folk are spiritually hungry and that community is not defined in geographical terms. It might also point to the need for more churches in a given locality since some needs are not being met, hence the long drives to look for it.

But church, like all other things, needs to be local. The Biblical pattern for church throughout the NT is that it was localised to a given place – whether a home, a city or town. Gospel ministry can only be lasting in an area if the local church is a faithful witness to it. There cannot be transforming a society if the people living there are not part of the vision for its transformation.

There is need for more solid, faithful Bible teaching churches in Kikuyu – not 1 or 2 but many to evangelise and disciple the thousands who are not yet in the fold.

Kikuyu Town

Kikuyu is small town located 21 Kilometres west of Nairobi. It is one of those thriving ‘bedroom’ towns [together with Ngong, Rongai, Kitengela/Athi River, Tala, Ruiru, Kiambu and Limuru]  where a lot of the people working in the city live -enjoying the proximity to the city and the sense of a somewhat rural feeling.

It is not clear where the name of the town came from but early stories suggest that the area signalled the begining of the land settled on by the Agikuyu as one moved away from Nairobi in the westerly direction. Sometime, the area is generally known as Kabete but the two names have been used interchangeably for a long time.

Given the name of the town is also the name of an ethnic group in Kenya, Kikuyu is a place you dont want to be. It can sound like an exclusive enclave for a speciific people group but that is not the case. That the politics of the day seem to ride on ethnic sentiment, makes the name a turn off for most. However, it is not the only town to bear a name of an ethnic group – if that is any consolation.

Kikuyu is actually a cosmopolitan town that is occupied by many people of different ethnic and indeed racial background. The small manufacturing [Pharmaceutical, Oil Refining, Steel Rolling and Food Processing] industries employ people from all over the country. That Kikuyu hosts major national institutions such Alliance High Schools, Presbyterian Hospital and University, UoN Campus among others, has also helped it to shed the ethnic tag and to be respected as an important town.

Kikuyu has a rich history right from being a major mission station for Presbetyrian Missionaries from CSM to a colonial railway station [originally it was known as ‘ceceni’ } It has had its fair share of contribution to the national story. More to come


Karibu sana to this page. As you perhaps already know, this page is a bouncing board for ideas, a wailing wall for prayer and some sort of notice board for information all regarding a church plant – or indeed a church planting movement, being envisisioned to start in the small town of Kikuyu from mid 2017.

Church planting is no mean task. All sorts of questions emerge as soon as the idea is conceived and some answers will not be clear until many years later. It calls for so much work in terms of preparation – structure, location, governance, theology, worship, membership etc. This hard work needs to be done by a community.

But planting is an act of obedience. As we can see from the scriptures [Acts 11: 19 – 30], church planting is the natural overflow of the gospel. New communities of faith popped up everywhere the message went, filling the hearts of men and sending them to ‘regions beyond’ to grow new ‘branches’ of the work the Lord was already doing. This needs not to stop ‘until all hear’ the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

There is certainly much more to be said about the reasons for planting and the justifications for a particular location and that will come later. Meanwhile, please add in your own comments in order to enrich the conversation. Do feel free also to raise concerns, fears and doubts and we will think through and draw help from the scriptures together.



Why Plant? Tim Keller

This article is available to download here.

Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, US makes a compelling case for church planting. We alluded to this article in the last meeting and I have shared it here for your interest. As you can see from the footnotes, it is ok to share it.

A vigorous and continuous approach to church planting is the only way to guarantee an increase in the number of believers, and is one of the best ways to renew the whole body of Christ.

The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the con­sistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement, but to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.

The normal response to discussions about church planting is something like this.

  1. “ We already have plenty of churches that have lots and lots of room for all the new people who have come to the area. Let’s get them filled before we start building any new ones.”
  2. “ Every church in this community used to be more full than it is now. The churchgoing public is a shrinking pie. A new church here will just take people from churches that are already hurting and will weaken everyone.”
  3. “ Help the churches that are struggling first. A new church doesn’t help the existing ones that are just keeping their noses above water. We need better churches, not more churches.”

These statements appear to be common sense to many people, but they rest on several wrong as­sumptions. The error of this thinking will become clear if we ask, “Why is church planting so crucially important?”



Virtually all of the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant church­es, not simply to share the faith. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) is a call not just to “make disciples” but to baptize. In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a wor­shiping community with accountability and boundaries (cf. Acts 2:41–47). The only way to be truly sure you are increasing the number of Christians in a town is to increase the number of churches.

Why would this be? Much traditional evangelism aims to get a “decision” for Christ. Experience, how­ever, shows us that many of these decisions disappear and never result in changed lives. Many deci­sions are not really conversions but are only the beginning of a journey of seeking God. (Other decisions 2


are very definitely the moment of a “new birth,” but this differs from person to person.) Only a person who is being evangelized in the context of an ongoing worshiping and shepherding community can be sure of finally coming home into vital, saving faith. This is why a leading missiologist like C. Peter Wag­ner can say, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”1


The greatest missionary in history, Saint Paul, had a rather simple twofold strategy. First, he went into the largest city of a region (cf. Acts 16:9, 12), and second, he planted churches in each city (cf. Titus 1:5—”appoint elders in every town”). Once Paul had done that, he could say that he had “fully preached” the gospel in a region and that he had “no more place . . . to work in these regions” (cf. Rom. 15:19, 23). This means Paul had two controlling assumptions: (a) that the way to most permanently influence a country was through its chief cities, and (b) the way to most permanently influence a city was to plant churches in it. Once he had accomplished this in a city, he moved on. He knew that the rest that needed to happen would follow.


“But,” many people say, “that was in the beginning. Now the country (at least our country) is filled with churches. Why is church planting important now?”



Consider these facts:


First, younger adults have always been disproportionately found in newer congregations. Long-estab­lished congregations develop traditions (such as time of worship, length of service, level of emotional responsiveness, sermon topics, leadership style, emotional atmosphere, and thousands of other tiny customs and mores) that reflect the sensibilities of longtime leaders from the older generations who have the influence and money to control church life. The automatic maintenance of such habits does not reach younger generations effectively.

Second, new residents are almost always reached better by new congregations. Older congregations may require a tenure of ten years before someone is allowed into places of leadership and influence, but in a new church, new residents tend to have equal power with longtime area residents.

Third, new sociocultural groups in a community are always reached better by new congregations. For example, if new white-collar commuters move into an area where the older residents were farmers, it is likely that a new church will be more receptive to the myriad needs of the new residents, while the older churches will continue to be oriented to the original social group. Also, new racial groups in a community are best reached by a new church that is intentionally multiethnic from the start. For ex­ample, if an all-Anglo neighborhood becomes 33 percent Hispanic, a new, deliberately biracial church will be far more likely to create “cultural space” for newcomers than will an older church in town.

Finally, brand-new immigrant groups nearly always can be reached only by churches ministering in their own language. If we wait for a new group to become assimilated into the local culture, we will wait

  1. C. Peter Wagner, Strategies for Growth (Glendale, CA: Regal, 1987), 168.3

for years without reaching out to its members. Note: Often a new congregation for a new people group can be planted within the overall structure of an existing church. It may be a new Sunday service at another time, or a new network of house churches that are connected to a larger, already existing congregation. Although it may not technically be a new independent congregation, it serves the same function.

In summary, new congregations empower new people and new peoples much more quickly and read­ily than can older churches. Thus they always have and always will reach them with greater facility than long-established bodies can. This means not only that we need church planting so that frontier regions or unevangelized countries can become Christian, but also that Christian countries will have to main­tain vigorous, extensive church planting simply to stay Christian!


Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60–80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body, while church­es over ten to fifteen years of age gain 80–90 percent of new members by transfer from other congre­gations.2 This means the average new congregation will bring six to eight times more new people into the life of the body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.

Although established congregations provide many things that newer churches often cannot, older churches in general will never be able to match the effectiveness of new bodies in reaching people for the kingdom. Why would this be? As a congregation ages, powerful internal institutional pressures lead it to allocate most of its resources and energy toward the concerns of its members and constituents, rather than toward those outside its walls. This is natural and to a great degree desirable. Older con­gregations have a stability and steadiness that many people thrive on and need. This does not mean that established churches cannot win new people. In fact, many non-Christians will be reached only by churches with long roots in the community and the marks of stability and respectability.

On the other hand, new congregations, in general, are forced to focus on the needs of its nonmembers, simply to get off the ground. Because so many of a new church’s leaders came very recently from the ranks of the unchurched, the congregation is far more sensitive to the nonbeliever’s concerns. Also, in the first two years of our Christian life, we have far more close, face-to-face relationships with non- Christians than we do later. A congregation filled with people fresh from the ranks of the unchurched will thus have the power to invite and attract many more nonbelievers into the church’s life and events than will the members of the typical established body.

What does this mean, practically? If we want to reach our city, should we try to renew older congrega­tions to make them more evangelistic, or should we plant lots of new churches? That question is surely a false either-or dichotomy. We should do both! Nevertheless, the above shows that, despite the occa­sional exceptions, the only broad-scale way to bring many new Christians into the body of Christ in a perma­nent way is to plant new churches.

To throw this into relief, imagine that Town A, Town B, and Town C are the same size, and they each have a hundred churches of one hundred persons each. In Town A, all the churches are more than fifteen years old. The overall number of active Christian churchgoers in that town is shrinking, even if four or five of the churches get very “hot” and double in attendance. In Town B, five of the churches are fewer than fifteen years old. They, along with several older congregations, are winning new people to

  1. Lyle Schaller, quoted in D. McGavran and G. Hunter, Church Growth: Strategies That Work (Nashville: Abingdon, 1980), 100. See also C. Kirk Hadaway, New Churches and Church Growth in the Southern Baptist Convention (Nashville: Broadman, 1987).4

Christ, but this only offsets the normal declines of the older churches. Thus the overall number of active Christian churchgoers in that town is staying the same. Finally, in Town C, thirty of the churches are under fifteen years old. In this town, the overall number of active Christian churchgoers is on a path to grow 50 percent in a generation.3


“But,” many people say, “what about all the existing churches that need help? You seem to be ignoring them.” Not at all.



It is a great mistake to think that we have to choose between church planting and church renewal. Strange as it may seem, the planting of new churches in a city is one of the very best ways to revitalize older churches in the vicinity and renew the whole body of Christ. Why?


There is plenty of resistance to the idea that we need to plant new churches to reach the constant stream of new groups and generations and residents. Many congregations insist that all available re­sources should be used to find ways of helping existing churches reach them. There is, however, no better way to teach older congregations about new skills and methods for reaching new people groups than by planting new churches. It is the new churches that have freedom to be innovative, so they be­come the Research and Development Department for the whole body in the city. Often the older con­gregations have been too timid to try a particular approach or absolutely sure it would “not work here,” but when the new church in town succeeds wildly with that new method, the other churches eventually take notice and gain the courage to try it themselves.


In older congregations, leaders emphasize tradition, tenure, routine, and kinship ties. New congrega­tions, on the other hand, attract a higher percentage of venturesome people who value creativity, risk, innovation, and future orientation. Many of these men and women would never be attracted or com­pelled into significant ministry apart from the appearance of these new bodies. Often older churches “box out” people who have strong leadership skills but who cannot work in more traditional settings. New churches in a city thus attract and harness people whose gifts would otherwise not be utilized in the work of the body. These new leaders eventually benefit the whole body in the city.


In general, the success of new churches often challenges older congregations to evaluate them­selves in substantial ways. Sometimes it is only in contrast with a new church that older churches can finally define their own vision, specialties, and identity. Often the growth of the new congregation gives the older churches hope that “it can be done,” and it may even bring about humility and repen­tance for defeatist and pessimistic attitudes. Sometimes a new congregation can partner with an older church to mount ministries that neither could do by itself.

  1. See Lyle Schaller, 44 Questions for Church Planters (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991), 12. Schaller talks about “the 1% Rule.” Each year any association of churches should plant new congregations at the rate of 1 percent of their existing total; otherwise, that association will be in decline. That is just “maintenance.” If an association wants to grow 50 percent plus, it must plant 2–3 percent per year.5


The new church often produces many converts who end up in older churches for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the new church is very exciting and outward facing but is also very unstable or immature in its leadership. Some converts cannot stand the tumultuous changes that regularly come through this new church, and they move to an existing church. Sometimes the new church reaches a person for Christ, but the new convert quickly discovers that he or she does not fit the socioeconomic makeup of the new congregation and gravitates to an established congregation where the customs and culture feel more familiar. Ordinarily, the new churches of a city produce new people not only for themselves but for the older bodies as well.

In summary, vigorous church planting is one of the best ways to renew the body of Christ in a city, as well as the best single way to grow the whole body of Christ in a city.

There is one more reason why it is good for the existing churches of a region to initiate or at least sup­port the planting of churches nearby.


All in all, church planting helps an existing church best when the new congregation is voluntarily birthed by an older “mother” congregation. Often the excitement and new leaders and new ministries and ad­ditional members and income wash back into the mother church in various ways and strengthen and renew it. Although there is some pain in seeing good friends and valued leaders go away to form a new church, the mother church usually soon experiences a surge of high self-esteem and an influx of new, enthusiastic leaders and members.

However, a new church in the community usually confronts churches with a major issue—the issue of “kingdom-mindedness.” New churches, as we have seen, draw most of their new members (up to 80%) from the ranks of the unchurched, but they will always attract some people out of existing churches. That is inevitable. At this point, the existing churches, in a sense, have a question posed to them: “Are we going to rejoice in the 80 percent—the new people the kingdom has gained through this new church—or are we going to bemoan the situation and resent the three families we lost to it?” Our atti­tude to new church development is a test of whether our mindset is geared to our own institutional turf or to the overall health and prosperity of the kingdom of God in the city.

Any church that is more upset by its own small losses than grateful for the kingdom’s large gains is betraying its narrow interests. Even so, as we have seen, the benefits that new church planting offers to older congregations is very great, even if not initially obvious.


If we briefly glance again at the objections to church planting in the introduction, we can now see the false premises underlying the statements. Objection A assumes that older congregations can reach newcomers as well as new congregations, but to reach new generations and people groups will require both renewed older churches and lots of new churches. Objection B assumes that new congregations will reach only currently active churchgoers, but new churches do far better at reaching the unchurched, and thus they are the only way to increase the “churchgoing pie.” Objection C assumes that new church planting will only discourage older churches. There is a possibility of some initial discouragement, but 6

for many reasons new churches are one of the best ways to renew and revitalize older churches. And a final objection assumes that new churches work only where the population is growing. In actuality, they reach people wherever the population is changing. If new people are coming in to replace former residents, or new groups of people are coming in even though the net population figure is stagnant, new churches are needed.

New church planting is the only way that we can be sure we are going to increase the number of believ­ers in a city, and it is one of the best ways to renew the whole body of Christ. The evidence for this statement is strong—biblically, sociologically, and historically. In the end, a lack of kingdom-minded­ness may simply blind us to all this evidence. We must beware of that.


If all this is true, there should be lots of evidence for these principles in church history—and there is!

In 1820, there was one Christian church for every 875 U.S. residents. From 1860 to 1906, U.S. Protes­tant churches planted one new church for every increase of 350 in the population, bringing the ratio by the start of World War I to just one church for every 430 persons. In 1906 over a third of all the congre­gations in the country were less than twenty-five years old.4 As a result, the percentage of the U.S. population involved in the life of the church rose steadily. For example, in 1776, just 17 percent of per­sons in the United States were categorized as “religious adherents,” but by 1916 that figure had risen to 53 percent.5

After World War I, however, especially among mainline Protestants, church planting plummeted for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons was the issue of turf. Once the continental United States was covered by towns and settlements, with churches and church buildings in each one, there was strong resistance from older churches to any new churches being planted in “our neighborhood.” As we have seen above, new churches are commonly very effective at reaching new people and growing dur­ing their first couple of decades. The vast majority of U.S. congregations peak in size during the first two or three decades of their existence and then remain on a plateau or slowly shrink.6 This is due to the factors mentioned above: they cannot assimilate new people, or groups of people, as well as new churches can. However, older churches have feared the competition from new churches. Mainline church congregations, with their centralized government, were the most effective in blocking new church development in their towns. As a result, the mainline churches have shrunk remarkably in the last twenty to thirty years.7

What are the historical lessons? Church attendance and adherence overall in the United States are in decline. This cannot be reversed in any other way but the way it originally had been so remarkably in­creasing. We must plant churches at such a rate that the number of churches per 1,000 in the popula­tion begins to grow again, rather than decline as it has since World War I.

Copyright © 2002 by Timothy Keller, © 2009 by Redeemer City to City.

We encourage you to use and share this material freely—but please don’t charge money for it, change the wording, or remove the copyright information.

  1. Ibid., 14–26.
  2. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776–1990 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1992), 16.
  3. Schaller, 44 Questions, 23.
  4. Schaller argues that a lack of church planting is one major cause of the decline of mainline Protestantism (44 Questions, 24–26). Finke and Stark show how independent churches, such as the Baptists, that have had freedom to plant churches without interference, have proliferated their numbers (Churching, 248).