Category Archives: Working Through Churches

Photo of Dr Alice Kaudia and Ed Brown at Creation Care get together

Creation Care and the Gospel

Extending Creation Care Teaching

This year we are trying to reach out to different churches and challenge them in relation to Creation Care and the Gospel. We have had some useful meetings with significant people in some of the main churches in Nairobi and the Kisumu area.

Ed Brown, who is one of the movers on the Lausanne Creation Care movement, was visiting Nairobi recently. We were able to organise a get together one evening with some church and government representatives. Ed gave the Keynote speech.

    The meeting was designed:

  • to open the eyes of church folks to our Biblical call to care for creation
  • to open the eyes of some government folks to the potential of the church in motivating for change.
Photo of Dr Alice Kaudia and Ed Brown at Creation Care get together

Dr Alice Kaudia and Ed Brown

Photo of Informal Setting of a Creation Care Meeting

Informal Setting of a Creation Care Meeting

The Stewardship of the Environment programme focuses on motivational teaching relating to the environment and sustainable agriculture from a Biblical perspective.

  • It concentrates on motivating Christians to be responsible stewards of the soil and environment that God has given us, through teaching that is relevant to even the smallest farmers who do not have access to cash.
  • It emphasises sustainable and low input approaches that are working with the balance God created in the soil and having a positive view of trees so that they can be incorporated into even the smallest farm.
  • We talk of working with God’s creation rather than against it.

A Biblical Teaching to Motivate Farmers to Maintain a Living Soil

In REAP (Rural Extension with Africa’s Poor) our work is through local churches, emphasising an approach that we believe plays to the potential of the local church.  While there is much potential that we see in the local church, we focus on four main factors in the area that we work, namely eastern Africa.  These are the potential of the existing church structure, the use of the Bible to motivate people, the potential for extending teaching leading to behaviour change, and the potential for teaching that is relevant to the rural poor.

One of the greatest challenges in sustainable approaches to development is motivating people and in eastern Africa we have found the Bible to be a wonderful resource for motivating people to be responsible, and to make best use of the resources available.  We use the Bible to both introduce and back up our technical teaching, and have found this particularly relevant to our Environmental and Sustainable Agriculture teaching.  Once people have been stimulated through motivational teaching they are keen to learn about practical things they can do and we have linked the Biblical teaching with this practical.  For the rural poor we promote teaching which as far as possible does not depend on purchased inputs, but which makes good use of available labour, a resource that is normally abundant for them as they seek to support many people on ever smaller pieces of land.

When talking about the soil, the starting point for our teaching is that God created the world, and everything in it, including the living soil!

Click here to read the entire article.


Working Through the Local Church

NOTE: This analysis relates to evangelical Protestant Churches. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have a very different structure that leads to different potentials.

Relating to the church type

There is a tendency to share models that are successful in one place to a different situation where the model that is good for one area may not relevant for another. By more careful thinking of the circumstance of the church, it should be possible to be more discerning in determining what model will transfer well. Of particular significance in this respect is how well established and influential a denomination is in an area. In Africa, denominations tend to be structured in relation to people groups (tribes, or in some cases smaller or larger groupings), and the degree of influence a particular denomination has in a people group is very significant for thinking on relevant development approaches. The relevant type of development approach must depend on the potential of the denomination while accepting the constraints or limitations that it faces. These, in turn, have a close correlation to the nature of the church in a particular people group.

We may be able to identify four main church situations:

1. Where one denomination is dominant and a majority of the population have allegiance to that denomination, which is therefore respected and has a potentially almost universal influence.

  1. Where the church is very well established with second and third generation Christians. The structure is indigenised. Much in the culture has been Christianised. However, Christians may now be moving towards a model of life that is more conformist rather than distinctive. e.g. Wolaitta Kale Heywet Church, The Episcopal Church of Sudan in Moru and Kakwa areas of Sudan, The Church of Uganda in Kigezi, DCT in Dodoma Region Tanzania.
  2. Where one particular church denomination has spread fast recently but most Christians are the first generation. Rapid growth means that teaching is probably still limited so that Christian values are only beginning to penetrate the culture. However, people are wanting to know what it means to live as a Christian in practical matters. e.g. The Episcopal Church of Sudan in Bor Dinka area of Sudan, The Presbyterian Church of Sudan in Nuer area of Sudan.

2. Where the majority of the population have allegiance to one or other of many denominations, but there are many different denominations competing for allegiance. Most of the people share the same respect for the Bible and the church, but structurally they belong to many different denominations. Identity is often more in being a member of a particular denomination than being a Christian.

  1. Although there are others, one denomination is particularly associated with this people group. It may be well known as the church of this people group by outsiders. e.g. Methodist Church in Meru area of Kenya, Church of God in Bunyore area of western Kenya, United Church of Zambia in some parts of Zambia.
  2. Because there are so many different denominations you cannot predict what denomination a member of this people group is likely to belong to. There may or may not be interdenominational contact and working together. e.g. Much of Anglophone Africa: South Africa, Western Kenya, Central Kenya, Northern Tanzania, Ghana etc.

3. Where the church does not yet spread to the majority of the population but one or only a few denominations are having a significant presence in the area. The church is respected but does not have the allegiance of the majority of the population.

  1. Christians mainly belong to one denomination but not yet reaching a majority of the population. e.g. Presbyterian Church of Sudan in Anuak and Shilluk Kingdoms of Sudan, KHC in some areas of southern Ethiopia.
  2. One evangelical church is dominant in an otherwise Catholic or other non-evangelical church areas in a country that is not predominantly Roman Catholic. e.g. Africa Inland Church in Acholi and Madi areas of Sudan.
  3. One Evangelical church is sharing significance with either Catholics or Muslims in a non-Catholic and non-Muslim country. e.g. Church of Uganda in Lugbara area.
  4. A number of different denominations are competing in the (relatively large) people group but one may be significant in a particular area. This may also be linked with the people group being cross-border e.g. Many Maasai areas in Kenya, The Turkana in Northern Kenya, AIC in North Mara in Tanzania, CEE in CAR and ECS in Sudan among the Azande.

4. The evangelical church is a minority group in a culturally antagonistic environment. There is often persecution. This may be from Muslims, Majority Orthodox or Catholic cultures or where Witchcraft is active. e.g. Some areas of KHC in Ethiopia (e.g. Chencha), the Protestant church in much of Francophone Africa, and EER in Rwanda,

This analysis has many implications on the nature and the most appropriate way of working of the church in a particular people group. Some of these factors have been summarised in the following table:

Click here for table

It is important in any situation that the involvement of the church in development be tailored towards the overall church situation in an area. The church must play to its potentials. For any church, motivation from the Bible must be a significant resource but how this is used in development will depend on the influence of the church locally and the degree of competition or cooperation.

Looking at the significance of the church to the different people groups is entirely relevant in Africa as it is the way that the church is structured, and is the way that spirituality is expressed. Looking at the reality is different from the negative aspects of tribalism that can be xenophobic and competitive. This model is looking at the potential that a church can have in a particular area and basing relationships and interventions on that reality.

Where one denomination is dominant the existing church structure is easy to work through, but when there are many competing denominations a more sensitive approach may be needed in order to be able to share the common message.


PLOT Analysis: Playing to the Potential of Churches in Rural Development

SWOT is a commonly used tool for helping organisations understand themselves in organisational analysis and strategic planning. We look at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that the organisation faces and this helps us to look at its identity, and to decide what needs to be done.

A common way of using SWOT is to try to overcome some of the constraints by addressing weaknesses. This in practice means to some degree changing the nature (and therefore identity) of the organisation to overcome the weaknesses. This is most commonly done through training etc. coming from the opportunities. This is the basis of much Capacity Building. Weaknesses are somehow seen as something to be ashamed of, but we are being strong in facing up to them!

SWOT is often used to try and help an organisation be more acceptable and able to work with outside partners or donors.

Churches do not however work in the same way as NGOs and other similar organisations. In doing a SWOT analysis with churches we often find contradictions and difficulties. The same or related characteristics come up in both the strengths and the weakness section, or characteristics may appear as weaknesses that we feel should be in the strengths. Through using SWOT with both NGOs and churches I have feel that SWOT is not entirely appropriate for churches and have sought to work on a modified tool. In particular I have felt that the aspect of trying to change the nature and identity that results from most implementation of SWOT is not appropriate.

I have taken recently tried to take a different approach with churches, namely looking at Potentials and Limitations rather than Strengths and Weaknesses. This seems to give us a much clearer idea of the realistic situation of the church as a vital body. It is not an organisation like a business or an NGO, though some churches are in this country registered under both categories. It is fundamentally a body with a membership that operates effectively at a number of different informal levels in most cases.

The methodology is not very different but the differences are I believe significant. The resultant analysis may be called a PLOT Analysis!





The analysis can be applied in basically the same way as SWOT. The thinking may need to be on a different level, as potential must look a bit deeper than strengths and weaknesses sometimes do. The resulting picture is however somewhat different from the outcome of a SWOT with different types of characteristics coming up, and no real room for something to come in both the potentials and limitations columns at the same time.

Once the boxes are filled in the way I use this is different from SWOT. In SWOT a lot of emphasis is put on weaknesses as if they are something to be ashamed of. They are not good for our relationship with partners or donors. Looking at them in this way means that you try to overcome weaknesses and do away with them. You focus capacity building mainly on this. In PLOT you use the analysis to face up to reality, and to use the picture of the church to get an understanding together of where the church fits in to the wider scene and what its strategic position is as an imperfect human organisation. It is a tool that is particularly useful for determining which relationships are going to work, and how to develop those relationships in a spirit of true understanding and partnership. You deal with Potential and Limitations in different ways:

  • Potentials are those areas that point to what you can expect to be able to do well. They need to be worked on and developed, not just accepted with a pat on ones own back (as strengths sometimes are). They point to what the church could be doing well and where it has a strategic advantage. In the analysis it is however recognised that potential has not yet been reached. Developing potentials then becomes the focus for capacity building, with the focus being on how to bring the Opportunities to strategically realise the potential. The potentials are what the church brings to a partnership.
  • Limitations are those things that the nature of the church point out as being the reality. Rather than trying to overcome them, and thus try to change the nature of the body, they are accepted as the background for planning and help planning to be realistic. They are also things that you may look to in others to compliment the church in partnership. Partnership of this sort recognises that you don’t have to do everything yourself!

What are the advantages?

  • It does not try to treat the church in the same way as an NGO, as a constituted organisation
  • It becomes less threatening than SWOT
  • It becomes less related to personalities and the resulting confusions can be avoided
  • The church does not get pushed into changing its nature in order to realise some unrealistic OD goals
  • It gives us tools for saying “No” to irrelevant activities, especially when donor driven
  • It is a very positive starting point for real partnership
  • It helps us to decide in strategic planning what is appropriate for the church and what is not

The following two pages are like appendices with thoughts that come out of this basic thinking:

Some thoughts on PLOT and the church in rural development:

What sort of picture does this give for the conventional type of rural development project that most churches get involved in because they are the only ones that they know? Churches are well equipped for certain types of activity and not for others, so why not get involved in the types of activity that they have high potential for, and for which secular and governmental organisations do not?

I would like to briefly focus of four aspects of the potentials and see how these relate to a distinctive model for development. This is a development based on teaching not on projects. These inevitably link to what we are trying to do in REAP because it is this thinking that out teaching is based on.

Biblical Motivation:

One of the most difficult things for development is to motivate people. The Bible motivates, so should be the basis for any church development teaching.

e.g. 1 Stewardship of the Earth for sustainable agriculture.

e.g. 2 The Body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit for Health teaching

e.g. 3 Absolutes in AIDS teaching

A structure that reaches to the grassroots:

This is potential for gaining good understanding and information for planning. It also enables replicable teaching.

e.g. Teaching through women’s fellowships

This being in touch with the reality leads on to:

A concern for the poor:

This means new teaching that is relevant for the poor or marginalised. Should not be based on money in order to benefit.

e.g. 1 LEISA

e.g. 2 Expense substitution – body oil, fuel saving stoves, home gardens, preventive health etc.

(NOTE: Does credit ever help the rural poor? Is it something suitable for churches to be involved in?)


Because of the above the church has enormous potential for achieving what others cannot through replicable teaching that spreads:

e.g. Vetiver & fruit trees through 867 local churches in Wolaitta Kale Heywet Church

(NOTE: With things whatever is given means there is less to give, with teaching there is always potential for more)

Some Characteristics of Churches from my experience

The following table lists some of the issues that I have identified as being fairly common amongst churches:

Potentials Limitations
  • God centred
  • Bible based
  • Motivated and committed membership
  • Teaching valued
  • Holistic
  • Distinctive
  • Absolutes to teach from
  • Reaching to the grassroots
  • Local information
  • Respecting the marginalised
  • Loving
  • Care / Compassion
  • Counselling
  • Weak administrative structure
  • Expertise
  • Management of money
  • Accountability
  • Maintenance of capital
  • Material resources
  • Vehicles
  • Physical Infrastructure
  • Political Power

Guidelines for Teaching on Natural Medicines through the Church

Why are Natural Medicines relevant for the church?

  • They are Biblical.
  • When you are physically sick, your spiritual ministry is affected.
  • The good pastor is concerned about the health of his people. (contrast Ezekiel 34:4)
  • They portray God’s plan for man – working with creation (Genesis 2: 15)
  • They are using what God has given us in creation, and by using them we are also learning to take care of creation.
  • They are practical for serving one another – they help us care and so show love.
  • It is our holistic responsibility – God is concerned about the whole person and whole community. The Bible, as does African culture, sees people as a whole.
  • The approach focuses upon teaching, which is much less divisive in churches than projects are.
  • Their use is a strategy for the poor – the poor can use them for themselves without money and the Bible tells us to be concerned for the poor.
  • They are locally found and the church is strong at the local level .

When is it Appropriate to Use Natural Medicines?

  • When people cannot easily access (afford) conventional medicine.
  • They are particularly relevant for common straightforward complaints.
  • External use is particularly easy because dosage is not very significant
  • They have a particular place in “First Aid” and as medicines for home use
  • They are not second best – they are often the preferred choice (e.g. Frangipani for Herpes Zoster) – so they fit in every situation
  • It is important however to know the limitations available knowledge on natural medicines does not enable us to treat everything – they are appropriate for some conditions and for others referral should be used.
  • They need always to be linked with sharing knowledge, including when other medical help is needed.

Biblical Support for Using Natural Medicines

In the Bible we find some themes that help us use natural medicines with confidence, knowing that we are not going against God’s will:

  • The Bible has a holistic view of health. (Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 17:22; III John v2) )
  • The pastor is expected to have concern for the health of his congregation. (Ezekiel 34:4)
  • Natural medicines are part of creation – God looked at what he created and it was ‘good’. (Genesis 1 :31 )
    • The way that creation is used and the motivation is important. (I Timothy 4:4)
    • God created variety for our use. (Genesis 1 :29)
  • The Bible recognises the healing potential of leaves. (Ezekiel 47:12; Revelation 22:1-2)
  • Natural Medicines were the medicine of Biblical times. (II Kings 20:1-7; Isaiah 38:21; Luke 10:34)
  • Jesus recognised that it is normal and appropriate to be growing herbs, being part of the garden. (Luke 11 :42)
  • We should redeem what the ungodly have taken by basing our use of natural medicines on scripture. (Acts 10:14-15; Romans 8:20-21)

A Biblical approach replaces Spiritual Problems of Traditional Medical Practitioners with Positive Christian Values

  • We must not compromise with the devil. (Genesis 3:5;Daniel; Ezra 10; I Samuel 28; II Kings 18:4)
  • Sharing open Knowledge brings freedom from fear.(Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2; Acts 15; Romans 8:18-21;II Kings 7 :9) But this freedom must be used in the right way for the benefit of others. (Galatians 5: 13)
  • As Christians we should emphasise Service not Power. (John 10:11-12; Matthew 20: 25-28; Isaiah 58:6-7) )
  • The Bible condemns Exploitation. (Mark 5 :26; Proverbs 22:22; II Kings 5 19 forward; Amos 2:7a; Amos 5:11-12; Micah 6:8b; Proverbs 29:7; Zechariah 7:9-10)
  • NB Charging for service is not exploitation: (I Corinthians 9:9; Deuteronomy 25:4)
  • God not money needs to be central. (I Timothy 6: 1 0)
  • Avoiding Syncretism. (Isaiah 56: 1-2)
  • We need to address traditions that are against God’s way. (Mark 7:6-10)
  • Jesus liberates some things that the devil or godless men have bound. (Acts 1 0: 14-15)