PCEA is Kikuyu, Adventists are Kisiis and Luos. Methodists are Meru. The African Inland Church has Kambas and Kalenjins. Mavuno was ‘corporate!
By Shifa Mwihaki
How Mavuno Church in Nairobi turned gospel into a multi-million shilling business proposal, is something Catholic and the Presbyterians should eye with the envy of Cain.
The founders, or shall we say original investors in Mavuno Incorporated, opened their biblical eyes onto a few secular secrets: One, that young Kenyans in the money were not scared of hell-a laughable, distant punishment. Stuff like ‘the poor shall inherit the earth’ was not the kind of vibe they bought.
Two, individual freedom in mainstream churches was restricted with dreadlocks and mini skirts frowned at. Preaching was Oldskul and not rooted in the apparent needs of their faithful.
Those who found mainstream churches boring yearned for modern preaching and not wailings from Old Testament Prophets
Three, many Kenyans decamped to ‘prosperity gospel’ churches as the God of Abundance was a perceived ticket to the good life, here and now.
Four, that those ‘lefting’ mainstream churches were single, searching-and below 30 years. Most also perceived some churches as the preserve of certain communities: PCEA so predominantly Kikuyu, the Adventists are likely to be Kisiis and Luos while Methodists are invariably Meru. The African Inland Church has majority Kambas and Kalenjin members.
Five, that those who found mainstream churches boring yearned for modern preaching and not wailings from Old Testament Prophets.
It is these ‘gaps in the market’ that Mavuno Church moved to fill around 2005 as a ‘gospel subsidiary’ of the Nairobi Chapel=which in turn, was heavily influenced by the Ply Mouth Brethren Church which pitched tent in Kenya in 1952.
The Mamlaka Hill Chapel once had an in-house DJ, for instance
Mavuno spread rapidly in line with new converts whose herd mentality found a home in group solidarity and thus social identity through religion. Unlike their parents, these new recruits lived in multi-cultural urban settings devoid of tribal tags as Miriam Wambui Njoroge found out in her 2014 research titled, ‘A Study of Mavuno Church and its Response to Concerns of Young Adults in Nairobi.’
Wambui discovered that Mavuno employed several tactics: innovative church services to reach the unchurched. Its Mamlaka Hill Chapel once had an in-house DJ, for instance. The tailor-made sermons were made attractive, interactive, well-researched and arranged in monthly themes “influenced by day to day concerns the young adults face and offer practical ways of dealing with their respective challenges from debts, relationships, work related challenged, family issues, and personal challenges,” notes Wambui.
The above coupled with fun days increased church attendance, formation of church groups and mass migration to new movement churches which “repackaged the gospel, maintained the principles, but change the methods.”
Mavuno hardly force new members to “get save and accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior
Those facing hidden personal and family issues such as generational curses, rebellion and un-forgiveness joined Simama. Being inter-denominational, Mavuno Churches hardly force new members to “get save and accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior.” And when you miss church, worry not. Mavuno Sunday services are streamed live on the Internet.
Mavuno was also helped via harvesting ready customers as a 2010 research by Josphat M Musili titled ‘competitive strategies adopted by mainstream churches in Nairobi’ showed that many young people found mainstream churches “irrelevant and does not address their needs”.
Many thus went for popular churches which were spontaneous, informal and thus hippy. Being inter-denominational made them even more appealing. Their pastors did not wear robes but luminous screaming blue suits. They made gospel sexy.
Their pastors did not wear robes but luminous screaming blue suits. They made gospel sexy
The disintegration of the extended family, individualism and changing social mores led to identity crisis among those in the cusp of callow youth. Most found home in Mavuno Church-which was ideal as it addressed cultural, domestic, personal and societal needs of those alienated by the vagaries of urban life.
But Mavuno has had its challenges. It is such a ‘corporate church’ Wambui found that 75 percent of members have first degrees and over 90 are either employed or hustling. Members from poor backgrounds find the many cars at the parking lot a reminder of their lower social class.
Greenhouses have been turned into Day Care Centres by parents lost in fun church activities. The many different Mavunos with their differing doctrines and approaches encourage ‘religious tourism’ depleting memberships and thus donations and tithe!