Francis Mbugua’s story: “A Disciple of Christ or the Movement?”

A Disciple of Christ or the Movement?

by Francis Mbugua

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I am 52 years old and a disciple of Christ. I was brought up by Christians, my father was a pastor in the African Inland Mission (today African Inland Church). Hence when I became affiliated with the Nairobi Christian Church (NCC) in May 1996, I had some previous religious experience to compare notes with.

I will not bore you with a personal history, but will dwell on certain incidents that led to my disillusionment and expulsion from the NCC affiliated to the International Churches of Christ (ICC).

When I was baptized into Christ in the NCC, Richard Alawaye was the lead evangelist, assisted by John Kilaha, while Gitau Ng’ang’a was my official church discipler, sector leader and an N.C.C. staff member.

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Joining the Nairobi Christian Church

I first attended church in April 1996 while my life was in turmoil partly due to family problems that I will not dwell on. In that first sermon the church was introduced as God’s movement consisting only of disciples who taught what was in the Bible and would evangelize the whole world by the turn of the century. What I was most impressed by was the statement “We preach only what the Bible teaches.” This was followed by vibrant singing, lengthy emotional prayers and frenzied preaching. After the service, the members were all eager to shake hands, hug each other, and seemingly reaffirm their love for each other before the inevitable soul-searching questions to the visitors, now unwittingly victims of circumstance.

The member who reached out to (invited) a visitor would hover around him/her (the visitor) introducing him/her to the leaders all the while ensuring that no other member, snatched his “catch”. The happy, albeit doctored atmosphere and camaraderie would melt any heart as it did mine, given my emotional condition at the time. I just thanked God that He had finally led me to a place I could find solace. It had been my goal to seek lifelong friendships since my own family had betrayed me.

Consequently it was not long before Gitau Ng’ang’a led me through the NCC study series and convinced me of the necessity for salvation, so that I could join the “band- wagon” to heaven. So sure a convert was I, he had already intimated within his circles that he was about to land a `big-fish’ – ME and they echoed “Go for it brother”. In the traditional Christian churches, the lifestyles of the members are instrumental in attracting new members, not so with the movement (I.C.C.), here deceptive recruiting tactics are used, i.e. you are not told anything about the movement save for the contentious doctrines, this is the only church that will lead you to heaven, that you cannot fellowship or marry outside the movement or attend other churches and associate with non-members. The `happy’ faces that speak to you do not let you know what is beneath the facade.

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After Baptism

After baptism, I was discouraged from any association with former friends. “They are in the world and you are in the kingdom”, I was told obviously against the spirit of 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13. I was told to devote all my time and energy, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, to God’s work. I attended all church activities, including weekly services, Bible talks, prayer meetings and all night prayers, without fail. “Make disciples”, “bear fruit”, “reach out and bring visitors to church”, “have your quiet times at 0500 hours daily”, “initiate and attend discpling times”, “submit to all who are over you in the Lord without reservations”, all this was taught to me monotonously — in effect, abdicate your life to the church and to your leaders.

Initially, I tried with all my might but failed to submit to such a legalistic timetable. I did not have the strength or the heart to do so since, firstly, I was unemployed and there was no way I could spend all my time on church activities at the expense of looking for work.

Secondly, I found all my freedom curtailed. Since I had to shun all my `worldly’ friends, I could not even enjoy a game of darts or a drink with them. I became lonely. Where and how was I expected to find friends to bring to church? I found myself in a situation where I needed new friends (from the church) and had to `harvest’ people off the streets so as to please my discipler.

“And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

My Jerusalem had been with my former friends who I was now deserting for greener pastures! Due to my inability to apportion time between church and secular activities and the inherent fear of reporting “zero fruit” to my discipler in the evenings, I ended up discouraged, disheartened and began scrutinizing my spirituality.

Was I really and seriously devoted to God? Like an unsought rejoinder, Gitau would add that, if I did not bear fruit, how did I expect to be blessed with work, food, and shelter? After “tarmacking” for days without a job, I began to believe Gitau’s edict, which of course was misplaced. For fear of rebuke, I would often report “ghost” visitors and people I was studying the Bible with when giving my weekly statistics (performance report, a requirement in N.C.C).

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:2-5)

I, like many others, was ensnared and lied, to escape rebuke and please the leadership. When it finally occurred to me I was cheating God not man, I started having serious reservations as to whether I should continue to go against my conscience to remain an N.C.C disciple, and if I left, what would become of me?

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Beginning To Doubt

On one occasion, I remember vividly, I had travelled up- country to see my mother 350 km from Nairobi and returned tired on a Friday morning, to find a note pinned on my door, “Bro, make every effort to attend my wife’s birthday today,” signed Gitau.

I ignored it, nor did I attend the all night prayer the same evening, and by Sunday Gitau did not even want to speak to me. He accused me of not initiating discipling time with him, which hitherto was mutual. I took that in stride, since he was not really a friend I could confide in anyway, neither had he made much effort to be one. All we had in common was a boss/junior relationship that left a lot to be desired.

It was uncomfortable, time and again he would ask me how I was doing spiritually, whether there were areas I wanted assistance in prayers, but anytime I brought up the topic of employment, he would cut short the discussion with the remark, “Have faith bro, God is in control” and quote Mathew 6: 33-34, “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” In a works oriented salvation, where is the mark to qualify for the things to be given to you as well? The Bible commands, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat”, meaning I had to earn the bread I ate.

In yet another incident, I had a drink while on `fellowship’ with a sister and ended up being reported to the leadership and apologizing to the sister, despite asking her permission initially to drink a beer. My disciple told me to drink only in my house as he did; otherwise it would look bad to see a disciple drinking a beer in a restaurant. I believe that God will bring to light what is done in darkness and on this understanding I did not agree with him. Surely, at my age, if drinking a beer in public is unchristian, then l have missed the point. When will the hypocritical believers understand it is not sin to drink but to get drunk!

The last straw was broken in an incident on November 30, 1996, when I travelled back to Nairobi from Eldoret to attend the church’s’ Aids campaign. I arrived in the city in the early morning and was mugged at 0645 hours. I was robbed off everything save a few coins and my Bible.

What transpired later that day between myself and the leadership, at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, KICC, (the venue for the campaign) notably Richard Alawaye and John Kilaha, left me with no doubt at all of the movement’s superfluous love. Despite my needing medical attention and the fact that I did not even have bus fare to go home, the two just encouraged me to have faith, God was in control.

Mind you, the church has a benevolent fund for such emergencies so they say. Where then was the much- touted NCC love? 1 John 3: 16-18 says let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth. In Luke 10: 33-37, Jesus commanded us to have mercy on our neighbours – like the Good Samaritan. To me the behaviour of both Richard and John was similar to the priest and the Levite in the narrative. God is merciful and saves us by his grace; later a brother met my medication and transport expenses. It took me a month to recuperate.

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HOPE Kenya Dinner, 1996

In December 1996 the NCC leadership organized a HOPE (the benevolent arm of the I.C.C.) Kenya, dinner to raise funds for an AIDS awareness campaign. The amount raised was Kshs: 120,000/= (US$2,000). Richard had announced that the money would expressly be used for the campaign and members had gone all out to raise funds publicly.

Alex Mola, a brother who runs a small primary school in Kibera, a slum area, had been promised some financial support for his school from the money raised. In January 1997, when he asked the HOPE Kenya administrator for the promised money, he was told that it had been used to pay part of the staff’s January/February salaries. He was given no money.

To date those who have been disfellowshipped and probably the rest of the church too, have no idea how the money raised was spent; yet a lot of them took part in raising it. The church insists that the record books are open but only to those deemed “spiritually correct”, which rules us out.

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Leaving the Movement

In February 1997, I was staying in Paul Kalongo’s house, a brother who lived in one of the posh areas of Nairobi. We were later joined by a Kenyan staff member from the Boston Church of Christ, Pharis Mukuria.

My experience after the latter joined us was very stressful. He demanded to see a time table on God’s work for the week, lectured me on being a worker who bore fruit, examined my Bible study quiet times, insisted on evening prayers, weekly all night prayers, and tithing. He pushed me to bring visitors to church and wanted to know how many people I had shared my faith with and studied the Bible with.

Life was a nightmare in that house. After a month of this drill, Paul summoned me, at Pharis’ insistence and for four hours they tried to `break me’ because I resisted their `doctrine’, but to no avail. Finally, they told me to pack up and leave not only the house but the church as well because my lifestyle was not that of a true disciple.

It was then I told them, ‘If ministry work is done under compulsion rather than for the love of Christ, I do not want any part in the movement anymore but I would remain a disciple of Jesus Christ’. It was God who called me not man, so membership of the movement to me was inconsequential. My focus was and still is on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.

After this I felt enormous relief like I had been born anew. The first day I slept out of their house, I had more peace and tranquillity than I have had for a long time. What I found really tragic was their insistence that I stop working for God’s enemy, (Lucas Mboya a former NCC member), who had since employed me, and trust God to get for me another job.

As a Christian in this movement, one has no freedom of choice but I believe Christ died to set us free and I opted for this freedom.

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Evangelist Richard Alawaye Slanders Those Who Left

In March 1997, Richard preached a sermon (we have it on tape) on a Thursday’s mid-week service. It was full of slander, hatred and vitriolic, Lucas Mboya being the subject. He had been expelled in December 1996 for his stand against some NCC teachings.

May I also mention here that his devotion to Christ and boldness to proclaim the gospel of Christ had been a source of great encouragement to me and to many others who have been expelled either for associating with him, reading articles from the Internet about the movement (spiritual pornography) or refusing to acknowledge the phobic indoctrination that the NCC/ICC is the only true church.

Richard in his sermon threatened any member who read these articles with expulsion. He said those who continued associating with God’s enemies would be expelled.

He then did a double take saying, “I have not expelled anyone from the pulpit”. When people fall away, they should not claim that I have expelled them, he said. This, from a man who is supposed to be shepherding God’s flock! He expected total submission from members, and when anyone questioned the Biblical authority for this then they had questioned divine authority itself.

The same NCC teaches disciples to compare all teachings with Scripture before accepting them Act. 17 v 10 – 11. The issues most questioned were tithing and the financial affairs of the church, the taking of statistics, expulsion of members, pre-determined AGMs, authoritarian rule depicted by the leadership and the demand for unity by conformity.

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Immediately after that sermon, a staff member, George Irungu, who co-led my sector with Richard, approached me outside the hall and asked how I had been convicted by the message. I replied that the sermon was actually a message of hatred, “Richard has insulted rather than encouraged us,” I said. I told him that Richard and his likes were never amused when people told them the truth and any member who kept doing this was marked.

He then confirmed my expulsion from the church and threatened me with physical eviction if I dared attend any church activities. He left and I continued talking to a few disciples who were eager to know what was happening and why Richard had preached such a disjointed sermon.

Another evangelist, Richard Ahenda, accompanied by Alawaye and a staff member, Steve Mukenya, then confronted me. They repeated the same message of expulsion and even ordered away all disciples who were with me. I once again defied them, moved to another location and continued with my fellowship.

For the third time that night, I was reminded of my expulsion, now by Richard Alawaye. He called me a WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING and warned me not o speak to his (pun) disciples again because I had fallen away. He had no power to restrict my freedom of speech and I told him to limit his commands to his disciples because I was a free man and not in a bondage to him, as some disciples seemed to be.

Falling away as far as I know is not expulsion because the decision to turn away from God is personal. In my case I was told to leave and that basically I was not worthy of God, which was not my own decision but that of the N.C.C. leadership. I wonder how a church can determine your relationship with God!

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Richard and the NCC leadership will continue to violate the Scriptures in their bid to protect the system. He said he had a duty to protect his disciples from those who had been expelled. I told him to his face that he himself was the Wolf he had referred to because a good shepherd does not rest until he has recovered all his sheep. But the Wolf would rather destroy the sheep, which is exactly what he was doing. A stranger would scare off the sheep but not the good shepherd because the sheep knew his voice. Many disciples did not appear to find Alawaye’s “voice” familiar. I find 3 John 9-11, particularly reminiscent of the NCC.

In late May, a brother, Joe Mwangi, sought to petition the board to call a special AGM and obtained the required 30 signatures from members. The AGM had not been convened since January 5 as per the church’s constitution. After the petition was sent to both the Registrar of Societies and Richard, Joe was expelled, as were others who had signed the petition. Some were coerced into withdrawing their signatures from the petition.

A ‘secret’ AGM was held on June 26, 1997 under the pretext of a fund raising. The police were called in to man the doors and Richard officiated over the stage managed AGM where everything was endorsed — rubber stamped by his cronies. We had the privilege of exposing the NCC for what it was through the press and the news media, and indeed were blessed with coverage of the AGM on the Kenya Television Network’s (KTN) prime news the same evening. Some brothers have since instituted legal proceedings to challenge the fraudulent AGM.

This incident also led to the expulsion of Joseph Owade, who used to be on staff, and the discontinuation of his church sponsorship to United States International University, Africa (USIU-A), where he was studying, as he was now seen to be against the church. Joseph had been one of the few who had challenged Richard’s decisions during the AGM. According to Richard, the church was under no obligation to pay for his studies despite a written undertaking to the university. He insisted that the church was merely assisting Joseph.

The I.C.C. claims exclusivity, which I am convinced leads to real division among Christians. They do not affiliate to any other church organizations or even allow their members to fellowship or attend services outside the movement. To frighten members into obedience, they denounce Christians in all other churches and practice phobic indoctrination, teaching that if you leave the group you are going to hell. I find no greater sin than this. This doctrine is destructive, cultic and unethical. It has no Biblical basis and indeed is most dangerous because it binds members to the I.C.C. regardless of their conscience.

I believe we will all stand individually before God’s judgment throne. Romans 6: 3, we were baptized into Christ not into any man or movement and all our allegiance should be to him who laid down his life for us. He died and rose so that we may have redemption of sins and life everlasting regardless of who we fellowship with. We should not seek to please man, Galatians 1: 10, but rather seek God’s praise. The movement does not practice what it teaches but goes way beyond what is written by imposing its leaders opinions on members, hence taking pride in one man over against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6) Why were Bereans considered of more noble character than the Thessalonians? (Acts 7:10-11)

A movement that is motivated by money is certainly twisted. The day Lucas was expelled in December 1996, he had just handed in his contribution cheque of Kshs:3000 (US$50), yet he was ordered out because he would still not agree to tithing. In June 1997, some sisters with Richard’s consent sought financial aid from him (Lucas) to meet the burial expenses of a deceased sister, incidentally, one of Lucas’ employees. Yet Lucas, like us, is termed by the N.C.C., God’s enemy. The church also contributed towards the funeral.

I wish to restate my conviction that I am closer to my God now that I am no longer in the N.C.C. I spend time in fellowship with other ex-members and even some current ones with a view to encouraging and strengthening one another in the Lord. There is life after N.C.C / I.C.C. In fact a far better life without stress, mind control and stumbling blocks, but the scars take a long time to heal.

I am confident that God who gives us endurance and encouragement will also give us a spirit of unity as we follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ accepting one another as Christ accepted us.

May the God of hope fill you all with joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit Amen?

Freedom to choose is God given but comes at a price, eternal life or damnation. Obey Christ and be his servants or man and be enslaved. Salvation without freedom to choose how to accomplish God’s will for oneself is enslaving. Christ died to set us free. 1 Corinthians 4: 1-5, Galatians 1: 6 – 10.

Special acknowledgments those who wrote articles posted on the Internet, especially **** ***** for his “Responding to the Boston Movement”. Thanks also to all the brothers and sisters who were expelled from the N.C.C. for upholding their convictions and their spirited support. Thanks also to Catherine Kimani for her computer prowess.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. (John 14:27)

Jesus said “if you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. (John 8: 31-32)

Francis Mbugua
P.O. Box 29856
Nairobi, Kenya

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©1997 by Francis Mbugua. All rights reserved.

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