by Lucas Mboya
I had been a member of the Nairobi Christian Church (NCC) for close to six years, (from February 28, 1991 up to December 20, 1996), when the Lead Evangelist Richard Alawaye excommunicated me, The bone of contention was that I had allegedly refused to tithe. He also accused me of being divisive because of my belief that tithing was part of the old law and that under grace (the new covenant), neither I nor anyone else was bound by Scripture to continue this practice. I believe that what one gives is a personal decision and that that right comes from God. [2 Corinthians 8: 8, 2 Corinthians 9:7[
Richard, on the other hand, gave me an ultimatum; tithe or leave. I earned the label “divisive” because of being outspoken at his insistence that I tithe. He contended that disciples had to tithe like Pharisees, Luke 18:12 (one particular Pharisee), in order to equal or surpass their righteousness, Matthew 5:20. Absurdity knows no bounds. He said that he and his wife gave 20% of their income. I guess that brings him closer to God than those who give less. In any case, since staff members of the church have 10% deducted from their salaries at the source, none of them have any choice in the matter!
I have already written my story but would like to add a few remarks to help convey more meaningfully the predicament of being a member of the NCC and by extension to International Churches of Christ (ICC)
What did Jesus mean by: Matthew 10:27-28? What we learn from him is to be vocal and fearless about our understanding of Scripture and our quiet revelations. Thats what I understand.
I’m hoping that anybody who is reading this will have read an article I wrote earlier this year posted on the Reveal WWW site, The Empire Dies Screaming. If you have not read it, please do so in order to understand this article better.
A lot of the ICC’s power and control is derived from restricting the information its members have access to about it. I am determined to whittle down this “advantage”, (that gives them a monopoly over “the truth”), by regularly divulging information on the strange on-goings in the Nairobi Christian Church (both past and present events) to current members. This I hope will help bring to the light the other side of things.
In the NCC disciples are encouraged to learn about other churches and denominations, and in particular where those churches have gone wrong (according to ICC doctrine), in order to refute their adversaries, and (of course) to ensure that the disciples build in their own minds negative attitude towards other churches.
They are not, however, encouraged to learn about their own church, its roots, history and teachings, or to look critically at their own teachings in the light of Scripture. In fact, the latter practice, as I learnt from bitter experience, will get you disfellowshipped! This is despite the fact that, in the first of their study series (commonly known as the Word), they use Acts: 17:10-11 to lead a prospective convert into thinking that he has the freedom to abide only by what he understands to be Biblical.
While in NCC, I taught many who are disciples today that they had an obligation to examine and understand the Scriptures first before making a commitment to adopt a particular practice or doctrine. I taught that neither my word nor the church teachings were viable alternatives to what one understood with conviction to be the Biblical message.
That was what I practised and it inevitably led to a showdown with the leadership of the NCC.
I came to learn later that Kip McKean, the ICC’s “Pope”, had issued a directive to World Sector Leaders in 1996 or thereabouts saying that tithing was to be made mandatory, thus explaining Richard Alawaye’s actions. This was recounted to me by Joseph Owade, a one-time member of NCC who was also a staff member. He, in turn, had been made aware of this in a discussion with John Kilaha (currently an NCC Evangelist).
It appears that McKean is the real doctrine/policy maker of the ICC, then, and not the Scripture. I’m sure that is where the ICC derives its cultic labels. The fact that McKean has a more final say than the Bible in “disputable matters” (Romans 14:1,5) indicates a cult of personality. It would appear that there is a less than subtle Kip McKean hero-worship in the ICC.
I have in the Nairobi Church witnessed similar undertones in the form of a Richard Alawaye hero-worship, which I can say with certainty continues to date.
I lucidly recall a conversation I had with John Kilaha in either February or March of this year. This was after I had been excommunicated. I went, as I often did, to the Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday, where the Church met. After service, at about midday, I was in the car park talking with some disciples when John called me aside and asked to have a word with me. We went upstairs to the restaurant where many disciples “hung out.” He then asked me why I kept coming to church, yet I had decided to leave. I replied that I had not left but had been ‘kicked’ out by Richard and he was a witness to that. He then tried unsuccessfully to talk me into believing that I had left on my own volition. I became very angry.
I then told him to honestly answer a few questions “Did Richard tell me to tithe or my name would be taken off the membership?” He said yes. I then asked him “Is that Biblical as far as you can see?” He said no. Finally I asked “Was Richard right or wrong in what he did?” He then hesitated, said “wrong”, then quickly added, “But that is not the point, the point is you were prideful and were going about things the wrong way”. At this point he could no longer look me in the eye. It is interesting to note that, in the ICC, how you “go about things” and your obedience towards the leadership may be more important to them than the truth.
I’m using this as just one of many examples that I have seen of disciples and leaders in particular, giving in to pressure from the powers that be to sideline the truth in favour of their standing with others (peer pressure).
I think it becomes obvious now why the NCC do their utmost to prevent disciples reading about their own church from the Internet or any other source. This will show them to have the double standards that they may already be aware of and demonstrate clearly that some of their leaders are deceitful. In the ICC, disciples are taught to trust their leaders to the extent of allowing them to make most if not all the major decisions in their lives, hence the phenomenal control the leaders have over their congregations. Others and myself have concrete proof that a leader has been lying to protect his position and the credibility of the movement as a whole. This, to them, poses huge threats, as any hint of duplicity by leaders erodes the trust disciples have in them and subsequently prevents the control over others that the leaders seem to crave.
Again, I often find myself wondering why the leaders should be so keen in censoring literature about the church if they really believed that God was ‘in control’, as they often say. Are the disciples in the ICC so weak in their faith as to be shaken by a mere story about their Church, that a “fall-away’s” opinion on their leadership would irreparably damage their faith? The ICC seems bent on keeping disciples from reading “spiritual pornography”. Some of them may be honest enough with themselves not only to recognise that a lot of the literature is true, but become vocal about it as well.
I’ll end this brief monologue by pointing out that, in Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus taught that a house would only stand if it has been built on the right foundation. The ICC should put its faith to the test by giving its disciples the freedom to learn more about the Church, its origins and practices. Undoubtedly, there are increasing numbers who fear that they will find that building on McKean is not quite what Jesus had in mind.
Here is a good example of double standards within the NCC. I use it with the permission of my friend Joseph Owade who was and continues to be outspoken concerning the inconsistencies practised in the ICC. The following are direct transcripts of letters written by the ICC/NCC to Joseph. Anyone who doubts their authenticity can call me on Tel: +254 2 723182 Kenya (GMT+3), and I will fax them the details.
- Joseph’s appointment to staff of NCC letter written on NCC letterhead dated September 1, 1993.
Re: Letter of Appointment
We are delighted to welcome you to the staff of the Nairobi Christian Church. We look forward to a long and happy fellowship with you as you continue to grow in your love for God and for others.
These are the conditions of your employment with us. Please read this document carefully; it constitutes the legal conditions between us. Should you have any questions please contact me at the office. Otherwise please sign this and return it to the office.
You will commence work with us on September 1, 1993.
As an intern, your salary will be as follows:
|– Taxes||(Kshs: 1,686)|
|+ Rent||Kshs: 2,000|
|+ Expense allowance||Kshs: 879|
|Net pay||$179 per month|
Per your commencement date you will be eligible for A.A.R. Medical Centre Services.
Upon termination of your services, one months prior written notice or, in lieu of written notice, the payment of not less than one month’s wages will be required on either side.
Deanne de Vries
Both the administrator and Joseph signed the letter.
- The following is the letter written by the NCC to Joseph Owade terminating his services. This was also written on an NCC letterhead, dated January 10, 1997.
Termination of Employment as an Intern in the Nairobi Church
This letter is to formally inform you that your employment as an intern in the church will end December 31, 1996 as per my previous conversations with you on this matter. This decision was not reached hastily but after many months of prayer and meditation. It was a difficult decision to make keeping in mind always what was best for you and your family.
The practice in the International Churches of Christ is for men to lead side by side with their wives in the full-time ministry. For many years I made an exception in your case because I knew how much you wanted to serve God in the ministry, and I also felt Ebby deserved a chance to rise up and lead with you. The job of an Evangelist requires that one’s spouse be at a certain spiritual level for such a man to discharge these duties effectively and properly. Presently I feel it is best for you to step out of the ministry so that you and Ebby can work side by side together.
You will receive two months severance pay as per the church policy employment guidelines. Your tenure as an intern has been awesome and the church really appreciates the many hours of tireless service you have given. You have given of yourself in so many different ways and we will miss your love and devotion on the staff.
My prayer is that God will continue to raise you and Ebby up as you continue to serve him in the kingdom. I remain your loyal friend as we continue to advance God’s kingdom together in East Africa.
NCC Evangelist Richard Alawaye signed this letter.
You will note that the dismissal letter clearly states that the problem was not with Joseph himself but that his wife did not seem to be growing enough spiritually to come on staff. In the appointment letter, there is not a word about his wife, yet he was married at the time, and the letter constituted the legal conditions between Joseph and the church. The letter does not mention any spiritual conditions to be on staff, so why attempt to introduce them four years later?
Where in Scripture does it require an evangelist to be married? Where does it require his wife to be at a certain spiritual level, and who is to be the judge of that? What criteria would be used, but the evangelist’s opinion? Where in the Bible is Paul’s wife mentioned? What about Timothy’s? I believe they were both evangelists. The evangelist John Kilaha in Nairobi is single! The NCC administrator’s wife is also not on staff, so why the double standards?
- On January 9, 1997, Joseph wrote a letter to the church, which he got Richard Alawaye to read out, as follows:
To The Nairobi Christian Church:
I would like to announce that with effect from January 1, 1997, I ceased to be a member of staff of the NCC A number of you have heard from different sources about this situation and have had mixed reactions and a lot of speculations regarding the reasons for this.
I want you to know that I was asked to leave the staff, not because of personal incompetence or sin on my part, but because my wife is not in the full time ministry and may not be in the foreseeable future, and therefore my exceptional status would not be in line with movement policies of leadership.
I want to thank all my former colleagues on staff for all their help and input and all the brothers and sisters with whom we’ve worked together over the years.
Please pray for my wife and me as we continue the search for God’s chosen role and purpose for our lives.
Joseph signed this letter.
The fact that this letter was read to the congregation by Richard indicates to me that he was in total agreement with it, and the only reason Joseph was asked to leave was because of “Movement Policies”, not Biblical ones. All this, from a church that ‘prides’ itself on being “God’s modern day movement”. [“Revolution through Restoration II”, by Kip McKean.]
At the time of joining the full time ministry Joseph had been preparing to further his education. After his dismissal, he decided to enroll at the United States International University, Africa. He persuaded Richard to have the church pay his first year fees since his removal from the staff was not because of his own shortcomings and, when he was asked to join the paid ministry, it was not mentioned that his wife had to join him. On January 30, 1997, the NCC wrote to the United States International University-Africa located in Nairobi to inform them that they would pay Joseph’s fees for one year.
- The following is the letter to USIU-A.
Re: Sponsorship for Joseph Owade
With regard to the above mentioned, we the Nairobi Christian Church agree to undertake full payment for his 1997/98 academic year tuition fees.
He is intending to pursue an MA in Counselling Psychology beginning from spring quarter (March/April 1997).
The said undertaking will be the sum of US$ three thousand eight hundred (US$3,800).
This letter too bears Alawaye’s signature.
All this took place before Joseph was disfellowshipped and, of course, before he spoke to the Kenyan Press about his experiences in the NCC This was also before the church learnt that he and others who had been disfellowshipped were intending to sue the Church. After paying for part of the first year, Richard went back on his word and denied that he had agreed to have the church pay Joseph’s fees. This has left Joseph struggling to find means to continue funding his education. Read about Joseph Owade in “Open Letter to Evangelist Richard Alawaye, Nairobi Christian Church”.
- In a letter dated July 21, 1997, the disfellowshipped groups’ lawyers received a reply from the Church lawyers, Igeria and Company, directed to Joseph in particular.
Some excerpts of the letter are as follows.
“We have been retained by the Nairobi Christian Church and are instructed to respond to your letter dated June 26, 1997 addressed to our clients as hereunder”
“As your client is aware it is the Church policy that all its staff who are employed full time Church ministry work side by side with their spouses.”
“Our client DENIES that it entered into a contract with your client (Joseph) to pay the sum of US$3,800 to USIU-A on your client’s behalf. Our client contends that it merely offered to assist your client with the payment of his tuition fees”
“However, despite this assistance your client was ungrateful and did not hesitate his engaging in activities in which he slandered and defamed our client by making false and unjustified accusations against our client and its leadership to the press”
I could go on giving evidence for days of how the NCC mistreats and deceives the public and its own disciples, but ultimately I’m content to express whatever I’m convicted about from time to time and trust God to do the rest. I pray that this message will help all those who wish to understand more about why the ICC has earned its notorious reputation world-wide.
I also hope that this will help those souls that have been tortured in the ICC to realise that they are not alone in their suffering and encourage them to give voice to whatever disturbs them, and in so doing, help free others from the paranoia, the unjustified guilt and other psychological disorders that often plague those who leave the ICC. [ The Discipling Dilemma, Flavil Yeakley]
To date the NCC continues to meet in the neighbourhoods (house Churches) as me and others continue to speak to the press and disciples about our experiences.
In his book titled “So You Want To Disciple Someone” [1995 DPI Books], Michael Taliaferro (the African sector leader and lead evangelist for the Johannesburg Church of Christ) begins with the adulation of his discipler Steve Johnson in his dedication (lead evangelist, New York Church of Christ), and ends with these words:
“In my heart, Steve Johnson is the standard by which EXCELLENCE is measured”.
©1997 by Lucas Mboya. All rights reserved. Republished with permission. This article was originally published on the REVEAL website.