Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective, By Wanjiru M. Gitau alt

Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered

Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective

Missiological Engagements

by Wanjiru M. Gitau
Foreword by Mark R. Shaw

Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered
  • Length: 190 pages
  • Dimensions: 0 × 0 in
  • Published: October 16, 2018
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 7374
  • ISBN: 9780830873746

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Christianity Today 2019 Book of the Year Award, Missions/Global Church

Building from a behind-the-scenes case study of Kenya's Nairobi Chapel and its "daughter" Mavuno Church, Wanjiru M. Gitau expands their story into a narrative that offers analysis of the rise, growth, and place of megachurches worldwide in the new millennium. In contexts experienced as deeply volatile, and on a continent reeling from the structural incoherence imposed in colonial times, megachurches provide a map of reality to navigate by, with the gospel as their primary compass. Gitau shows that recognizing the psychological, spiritual, and social destabilization of modernizing societies is the first step to valuing the place of megachurches in contemporary Christianity.

Through analysis of social demography, theology, philosophy of ministry, leadership development, and strategy, Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered makes integral sense of the historical and social forces that give megachurches their growth opportunity, and reclaims them as a subject of serious theological conversation.

This engaging account centers on the role of millennials in responding to the need for "a home for new generations" amid the dislocating transitions of globalization and postmodernity in postcolonial Africa and around the world. Gitau gleans practical wisdom for postdenominational churches everywhere (mega- and otherwise) from the lessons learned in Kenya's remarkable urban, evangelical renewal movement.

Missiological Engagements charts interdisciplinary and innovative trajectories in the history, theology, and practice of Christian mission, featuring contributions by leading thinkers from both the Euro-American West and the majority world whose missiological scholarship bridges church, academy, and society.

"While plenty of works now speak generally of African Christianity, this book is such a treasure because of its specific detail, its rich and textured account of the growth of a thriving megachurch. This is a smart and thoughtful analysis of an extraordinarily important phenomenon in contemporary Christianity."

Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University

"This beautifully written study is a celebration of a particular church committed to help a dislocated college-educated generation make sense of its own changing world and in the process restore African society to wholeness. The issues raised and the way they are discussed contribute greatly to understanding the current dynamics within African Christianity."

Paul Gifford, emeritus professor, SOAS, University of London

"This is not yet another book on African Pentecostalism. Rather it is a highly original study of a Kenyan megachurch whose roots lie in conservative evangelical traditions of a very different kind. The Victorian mission theorist Henry Venn dreamed of establishing autonomous churches supported by a prosperous middle class, able to take their own mission initiatives throughout the continent. Wanjiru Gitau's engaging account shows how Nairobi's Mavuno Church has remarkably fulfilled those dreams among the millennial generation in Africa."

Brian Stanley, professor of world Christianity, University of Edinburgh

"It is now old news that the demographic center of Christianity has moved to the Majority World. This unusually insightful book goes well beyond the old news to explain how Mavuno Church in Nairobi, Kenya, became a thriving megachurch in a very short time. Besides an awful lot of fascinating ground-up information, Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered is also rich in cultural insight and social-political wisdom. The book is even more important for its deep theological testimony to the potential of holistic Christianity wherever it takes root."

Mark Noll, author of The New Shape of World Christianity

"Most studies about African Christianity focus on how the faith relates to traditional Africa or how it has dealt with colonialism. As Africa becomes more urban and globally interactive, however, so does African Christianity. Megachurches spring up in every metro area on the continent. Where do they come from? Why do they grow? What difference do they make? European and American scholars have argued that African megachurches merely mimic those in the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Gitau makes it clear, however, that these new assemblies are genuinely African responses to their contexts. She combines an insider's knowledge of this movement with the analytic tools of theology and social science to create a lively, refreshing, and original account of urban African Christianity."

Joel Carpenter, Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity, Calvin College

"This is a compelling narrative, analysis, and interpretation of the genesis and development of Nairobi's Mavuno Church, founded in 2005. Based on her first-hand experience in the congregation, case-study research, and postcolonial-missional analysis, Wanjiru Gitau offers a nuanced apologia for a young megachurch whose mission is to turn educated millennials into fearless influencers of Kenya, Africa, and the world. If Gitau is right, Mavuno's integration of dynamic contemporary worship, intensive catechesis and discipleship, and practical social engagement may prove to be a compelling vision for urban millennials beyond Kenya."

Thomas John Hastings, executive director, Overseas Ministries Study Center, and editor of International Bulletin of Mission Research

"I'm not sure there is any analysis out there quite like Wanjiru Gitau's Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered. Somehow Gitau has managed a wide-ranging, global, and multidisciplinary study that stays anchored in the running example of Mavuno Church and its leaders. This study respects historical backgrounds, all the while addressing the contemporary realities of millennials, 'Afropolitans,' and Africa's 'youth bulge.' Gitau has done us all a tremendous service by concretely and adeptly explaining how God is working among worldwide megachurch formations today, as well as leading such movements into tomorrow. Don't miss this unique and groundbreaking story."

J. Nelson Jennings, mission pastor, consultant, international liaison at Onnuri Church

"Dr. Gitau approaches the megachurch story from a neglected angle: the perspective of history and the dynamics of people movements. She takes a few pages from the study of revival and revitalization movements around the world and judiciously uses these insights to probe the meaning of her story."

Mark R. Shaw, from the foreword

"The book is original and well-written, and her findings and observations cry out to be tested and replicated in other settings. This is a provocative example for rising scholars and researchers. For the general reader, it is also a crisp read. You will likely read it in a sitting, and then reread it."

Philip Jenkins, Christian Century, October 24, 2018

"Gitau’s even-handed examination of Mavuno Church in particular (and megachurches in general) is a welcome addition to an ongoing conversation that tends either to glorify or denigrate the megachurch model. Moreover, Gitau provides a poignant example of contextual understanding that Christians around the world would do well to emulate. Her examination of Mavuno Church’s history and growth takes into full account the living, breathing world in which this congregation took root and grew. Sociological and cultural insights are combined with an incisive understanding of theology, politics, and globalization, opening new horizons for understanding how these factors affect the local church. As such, Gitau’s work exemplifies the process of gospel contextualization for churches of every size and in every culture."

Jaclyn Parrish, Christianity Today, December 11, 2018

"Overall, this book provides a practical guide and useful case study for church planters and those concerned about discipleship, megachurches, and ministry to millennials."

Boye-Nelson Kiamu, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, April 2019

Read an Excerpt


List of Figures
Foreword by Mark R. Shaw
1. Oscar Muriu: Bold Leadership in a Liminal Decade
2. Whither African Millennials? Crossroads and Chokepoints
3. Comprehensive Missional Transformation: The Mavuno Marathon
4. Muriithi Wanjau: Leading Change
5. Mavuno Church’s Impact: A Fearless Influence on Society
6. First-World Problems Worth Solving: Christianity's Ambiguity with Modernity
Conclusion: The Cultural-Translation Process
Further Reading
General Index
Scripture Index


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Wanjiru M. Gitau

Wanjiru M. Gitau (PhD, Africa International University) is a research fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, pursuing a multi-year global research project commissioned by the John Templeton World Charity Foundation on contemporary religion. She is a Kenyan educated in Nairobi, Edinburgh, and the United States, with extensive global experience, including research projects from Korea to Kentucky. She formerly served on the staffs of Nairobi Chapel and Mavuno Church.