Hill City Launch – Irresistible

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  •  Want to especially honor pastor Oscar Muriu who God used to call me into ministry and who has believed in me all these years. He has a real father’s heart and I am blessed to have been raised by Him.
  •  Hill City is taken from Matthew 5:14 that says ‘you are the light of the world, a city built on a hill cannot be hidden
  •  THIS IS A SPECIAL OCCASION so we’re taking a break from our sermon series Finders Keepers: we’ll return next week with ‘Mistakes Men Make – what every woman wishes men knew about them’. But for today allow me to tell you a story…

 

Just before I was sent out Pastor Oscar to begin Mavuno Church, I served as a pastor at Nairobi Chapel and one of the things I was responsible for towards the end of that time was for discipleship. My job was to help people who had chosen to become Christ followers to understand the basics of their faith. But I had several problems with what I was doing and the most important one is that it didn’t work! The theory behind it was that if you teach people what it means to be a Christian, then they will automatically become vibrant, passionate and effective Christians. But instead what I was doing was teach people how to act like a Christian. They learnt how to dress like a Christian, to talk like a Christian (not curse, at least in public), how to pray like a Christian and how to attend church like a Christian. But it didn’t really change how they did the most important things! It didn’t change how they ran their business, it didn’t change how they made career decisions; it didn’t change how they spent their money, it didn’t change how they dealt with issues of pain; it didn’t even change how they drove their cars on the highway! I was churning out people who were saved and safe whereas when I looked at the bible I saw people who were vibrant, fearless agents of God’s kingdom who had a positive impact on their society!

So one day I simply stopped! I just couldn’t do it any more! I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing something that just didn’t work! The problem however, was that people at the church were still making the decision to become Christ followers. When they signed up for help, the intern who helped me with discipleship would tell them ‘we’ll call you as soon as the pastor is ready’. One Sunday, the said intern was accosted by several people demanding that he keep his promise. So he did something you should never do to your boss – he signed them up and told them I’d be glad to meet me the next evening after work. Then he came up to me and said, these people signed up and insist on seeing you tomorrow. It was a set up!

So that Monday evening, I show up and to my surprise there were 20 people waiting to see me. The intern even had snacks for them. I had a bit of a bad attitude that day, as I don’t like being pushed to do something. So as soon as we got things going I said to them, ‘the reason we haven’t began anything yet is because I don’t like what I’ve been doing. I’m planning to start something new and am looking for some guinea pigs. People willing to take a risk as there are no guarantees this will work. You will have to commit to read during the week because when we come to class, we’ll be practicing what we learnt. You will also have to pay for it as we don’t have budget for this. And finally, if I’m going to be open and vulnerable, so will you! So here’s a signup sheet; please sign up only if you think you can handle this. If you can’t, then we’ll still be friends.’

How’s that for a sales pitch! I expected maybe 5 to sign up. To my surprise, not only did the 20 people sign up but they even signed up their friends for the class, some of whom were not believers. As a result, the next week we had 30 people show up for the class! I learnt that day an important lesson about discipleship. People are nont looking for the easiest thing to do; they’re looking for real life change – and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it!

Over the next ten weeks, the 30 of us went through an amazing adventure. We saw dramatic miracles happen every week as people became real with each other and with God. One gal who was a chain smoker kept slipping out to smoke looking very guilty and so I said to her, ‘it’s okay, you don’t have to sneak out, just let us know you’re going for a smoke.’ She said, ‘I can say that in church?’ So she did. Within a couple weeks, God took away her smoking addiction. I didn’t even pray for her! Something about being real, and being accepted as she was! One week we had learnt how to listen to God and so I said, ‘ok, now you know how to listen to God so here’s a photocopy of a bible chapter. Everybody sit quietly in a corner for 30 minutes and let’s listen to God and then we’ll come back and share’. After 30 minutes we’re standing in a circle and after one or two people share a girl across the room starts crying so I ask her what’s going on and she says, ‘I didn’t really believe this works but I told God if he exists he needs to speak to me about this one thing’ {I don’t even remember what it was}. The person who just shared said exactly what I asked God to speak about!’ Our hackles went up. Lesson learnt – God shows up when people genuinely expect Him to.

Another fun one was when we did the week where we learn how important it is to share our faith. After we practiced sharing our testimony, I asked the group to go out in twos to the university next door and each share their story with a student or two. At the end, one gal comes up and asks me ‘if I lead someone in prayer to become a Christ follower and I’m not one myself, is that person a real Christian?’ She was the first person I’d ever heard of who led someone to Christ before she became a Christian simply by sharing her journey! And surely, if in the bible God can use a donkey to represent Him, He can use anybody!

At the end of 10 weeks, we had a retreat and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. By that time, all 30 had become Christ followers! We had a baptism party at church the next weekend and at the end, I was handed a list of names. Their friends and girlfriends had signed themselves up for the next class because of the change they had seen in these people!

That experience, which today we call Mizizi, played a huge role in shaping who Mavuno became. And to my amazement, today, over 15,000 people in many different countries across Africa and across the world have experienced this life-change, with the Mizizi manual being translated into Swahili, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and French! Glory be to God!

I had no idea back then that faith and church could become so attractive, so relevant and so irresistible that people just couldn’t get enough of it! But when I looked at Jesus, it was clear that’s exactly what happened when He was around! How had I missed it before? TURN TO MARK 6:32-37 which has some great lessons on how to have an irresistible faith… and as you turn there, let me give some background…

The book of Mark tells us that Jesus’s biggest problem was that people just couldn’t get enough of him! Right from 1:28, ‘news about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee’. 1:37 He couldn’t even have a quiet time in the word without his disciples interrupting him saying, ‘Everyone is looking for you!1:45 tells us ‘Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere’. 3:9 ‘Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him’. 3:20 he enters a house but ‘a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat’! And so Jesus and his disciples sneaked off on a boat to get a little cruise, get a quiet holiday just by themselves to relax, sleep and eat. My, were they glad to finally be alone! Let’s see what happened next!

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them (!) 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. 35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

You’d expect him to say… What’s wrong with these people, can’t they see we’re tired? Or what about OUR needs? Instead, his response is completely different. Three things I see from Jesus response about how to have an irresistible faith…

Jesus Saw People – v.34 ‘Jesus landed and SAW a large crowd’. Jesus actually looked and saw the people. He didn’t see problems, programs, potential tithers or outreach projects – he saw people. Today, Jesus is the same. When he looks at this well dressed crowed, he truly sees. He sees Valerie, a 31-year-old single mom struggling to raise her kids because their father walked out on her. He sees John, the successful and arrogant businessman whose attitude is a mask for the pain of sexual abuse he endured as a child. He sees Halima, the college student, in depression because her lecturer is insisting on sexual favours in exchange for passing her exams. He sees Hawi, the 16-year-old dancer, who fears he might be a homosexual. He sees people as they are.

When we began Mavuno, we felt strongly that God was calling us to reach a generation that is often unseen: I call them ‘the invisible generation’. You see, even thought 80% of people in Kenya consider themselves Christian, only 16% of Nairobi goes to church! In other words, 84% of people feel that church is not important or irrelevant. A huge part of this invisible population is young people (70% under 35). As Christians, many times we don’t notice that we leave most people in our estates asleep on Sun and find them waking up when we return! And the only way that this group will find our faith irresistible is if we will learn to see them – which means to learn their language, understand what’s important to them, where they hang out and why, and then figure out how to deliver God’s word to them in the most relevant way in their situation.

BTW, have you ever asked a non-Christian what the best way to reach them is? I have learnt a lot by asking this question! Doris’ example – how can the church reach someone like you? Three hours later, I was still listening! I kept myself from responding and kept asking her to clarify. At the end I knew a lot more about where she and people like her were, than if I had simply began by telling her my answers.

You see, we DO know the answer (Christ is the answer), but unless we know the QUESTIONS people are asking, our answers even though correct will sound irrelevant to them! I pray that we will always be humble as church in truly seeking to understand the people of our city and the questions that they are asking. Jesus saw people

Jesus Loved People – v.34 ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he HAD COMPASSION on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’. Jesus loved people! Instead of thinking about his interrupted holiday, He put aside his comfort, his rest and even his health for the sake of others. That’s what His ministry was about.  It’s easy to have a very effective ministry and to preach the gospel powerfully to large numbers with signs and miracles, but the bible says without love it is nothing.

One of the dangers we as the church today face is that we can be so focused on who people are meant to be that we fail to love them as they are. We focus on the externals – You need to dress like this, and talk like this etc if you want to be seen as a serious Christian. In doing so, we are making church to be comfortable for us, rather than being a place that is comfortable for those who are seeking. The main danger with this approach is that focusing on external behaviour results in people being conformed to our standards instead of being ‘transformed by the renewal of their minds’. Look at your neighbour – don’t let them intimidate you coz they look so holy!

But if we love people the way they are, are we not giving them permission to remain this way? Not at all! I like to say that Jesus loves us just as we are but He loves us too much to leave us that way! It sounds strange to say but we the church must have more faith in the power of the gospel to bring transformation. We must focus more on bringing people to God and allowing Him room to be the one to address their issues!

But if we’re so busy loving others what about our own needs? Of course we must care for those who already know Christ. But the best way to care for them is to move from being consumers to being those who serve others. Someone once said that the church is the only cooperative society that exists primarily for the needs of non-members! I believe Jesus is teaching us that our needs get met as we serve others. I see this all the time. A person who has been a believer for 20 years joins one of our ministries and begins to interact with non-believers. The next thing you know, something starts to happen to their faith. They experience a newness and a freshness that they have not had for years! They begin to be excited about their church and to bring other people to Christ!

Jesus Fed People – v.36-7 ‘36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

When Jesus realized the people were hungry, He stopped preaching! He directed His disciples to first feed the crowd. He took time to meet their felt needs, even as He met their real need through God’s word.

Let me put it this way… We won’t become attractive to the community around us if all we do is preach! We won’t have our neighbors banging our doors and cutting the roof to come in if all we do is have a great building or nice music. We are God’s plan A to meet the needs of the society around us! And today, Jesus is saying the same words to his people as he said to his disciples many years ago, ‘you give them something to eat’.

When we began Mavuno Church, our prayer was that we would be so useful to our society that if anyone tried to shut us down, the community around us would protest! We determined to raise up thousands of fearless influencers who because of their faith in God would create real solutions for our city and our society.

One of my favorite bible verses is Romans 8:19 which says ‘For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed’. This world is desperate for a gospel that works. For irresistible followers of Christ who are providing real solutions and meeting real needs in their neighborhoods, in the social sector, in the marketplace and in government because of their faith in God. God isn’t asking for what you don’t have. He is simply asking for what He gave you in the first place. Give him who you are/what you have and it will be enough! He turns all our problems into potential, all our obstacles into opportunities, all our shortage into supply. And at the end He receives all the glory!

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8 Responses to “Hill City Launch – Irresistible”

  1. Let me first confess that yesterday i could not hold my tears of joy to understand where Mavuno came from and where it is going. I thank God for one lady whom i shared my story in relation to my son because of the way he was uncontrollable emotionally due to lack of a father figure. She told me, what will help me was LEA class that is done at Mavuno Church. She invited me to Mavuno Church to sign up for a LEA Class. But when i visited, instead of signing up for LEA, i decided to sign up for MIZIZI and the others. The rest is history, because i found a place that i can call home and grow in it to be what God has created me to be.

    I am a proud lady whom the society looked down upon just because of my mistakes that made me a single mum at an early age of 19. Today, i find life so interesting and i cant imagine missing church (MAVUNO) even a single day. When i saw the group that was standing on the stage who are behind Pastor M’s story, i told God in the near future i want to be one of the them. I know God is equipping me for the same. (Amen).

    Pastor M, truly you are a man of God. It takes boldness and courage for someone to do what you do. I am very sure it is because of the true relationship you have with God. What you do is not something that one can fathom but only the Holy Spirit can explain. May the Lord continue using you to change the entire world.

    You are raising up a people who God had a good plan for but the devil wanted to snatch away what he had put in them. He raised you such a time, so that you can see that and bring a change to them. I am one of them and soon you will see your fruits in them and me because you are preparing us for a greater mission in your Dream.

    May the Lord bless you abundantly for seeing the least of all who have value in the presence of God. You are changing us and i agree with Pastor Aggie when she says, we follow you but we are always scared of your moves, because they sound crazy and impossible. But your faith has proved us wrong in relation to our doubts and you are a man worth to be followed by those who are not ashamed to be under your authority. Not because you know so much, but God has anointed you and called you for His glory! (Halleluya!). I say this without fear of anyone because i see your dream coming to pass one day, and i will be a witness of the same.

    God bless MAVUNO! God guide MAVUNO! God protect MAVUNO!

    Amen!

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  2. Can we do something about the road?

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  3. mavunite 3.0 Says:

    Pastor M and the pastoral team of Mavuno:

    May God bless you for your commitment to us. I am so proud of you all and I am excited to be apart of a movement that is seeking God first and committed to being part of the change our country.

    You have all taught me in different ways that God is relevant and real in life in the five years that I have attended Mavuno. I have learned to give, to be honest with God about myself, and the importance of “doing” life in a group.

    I am committed to praying for you all. I envy your purposefulness.

    Baraka.

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  4. Totally Sold Out Says:

    Me, I am grateful for that fearless intern.

    Enough said.

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  5. caro Wagumba Says:

    Awesome

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  6. Size 10 … thank you for your feedback but we are taking it a day at a time, step by step. The road will be sorted out when it will … We just moved into “Canaan” Pr M keeps announcing every Sunday how we need to be patient as a lot of work still needs to be done and is going on already … Maybe what you should have asked is “what can YOU do about the road”??? You can fearlessly influence that aspect on behalf of Mavuno where and how you can … God bless you as you exercise patience and support on the Mavuno story

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  7. Wow, I have been following the finders keepers series and by passed this sermon because I thought, Am so far from Nairobi I cant go to Mavuno church so it does not concern me about their new church. But then I read it and it was just what I needed.
    I attend a pentecostal church in a small town in Kenya and I cannot help but feel weighed down by the routine that seems the same. I look at the youth in my church and no one minds them, they are supposed to figure out the saved life on their own.
    Our pastor’s son impregnated a church elders daughter so when people criticized that poster I assumed they did not know the real situation on the ground.. Yep in a pentecostal church. I have been feeling all along that that the word of God should transform. Reading the book of Acts and noticing that the believers increased in number daily and noticing that in the three years I have been to my church, no new believer has joined us. Surely theres got to be a different way.
    I thank the Lord almighty for the author of this post and for working through you to help us see the light.

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  8. I found what i was looking for, a church where I can seek God and not apologise for it. The story of Mavuno is very inspirational. To the Pastoral team, thank you for giving to the Lord. I worship at Mavuno Mashariki, where I am learning to be a fearless influencer of my generation( this is my 34th year on earth, so my decision to come to Mavuno was urgently timely. And to imagine that what drew me to church was the “scandal” the devil had used to bring this church down.. Congratulations for all we have achieved thus far, may we not tire in doing good.

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