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This month’s Pastoral letter comes from

Rev Louis Ndekha, Member at St Andrew’s


Dear Friends

One of the challenges the church faces today is the question of relevance. By "relevance," I mean the church's capacity to meet the expectations of both the world outside its four walls and those of its membership. Interestingly, while the problem of relevance is often associated with the experience of the church in the west, the problem is more universal than is sometimes considered. Most churches established through western mission today are also having to negotiate the question of relevance. This problem has become more significant with the emergence of new churches and new ways of doing church especially associated with the Pentecostal and charismatic movement.

I grew up in a village where the church was the rallying point of the community. The school, the clinic and community life revolved around the church with Sunday as the highpoint in the life of the community when almost everyone came to the worship service. In those days the priest’s brief case did not only contain liturgical equipment but also medicine which he could dispense even on the road. I remember my aunt who had a perennial problem of lip herpes, was treated by a priest on the road and she has since then been a Christian. Church was relevant to both its membership and to those around it. The context reminds me of Acts 2:47 where the church was internally cohesive and had social graces that had evangelistic implications: those who were to be saved were added to the church daily.

Flipping forward twenty years, the context of the church has significantly changed. I recently visited the village of my younger days. The church is no longer the centre of the community. Its membership has significantly gone down as the village population is distributed among the new churches. It would seem the community has a new definition of relevance for church, and my old church is yet to come to grips with this new reality. This reality reminded me of the perennial challenge the church faces as it negotiates changing tastes across generations. It also reminded me that even the new churches will not always be new, unless they constantly seek ways to be relevant to their context.

Louis Ndekha



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