Why regulation of churches is a ‘thorn in the flesh’

President William Ruto has called for the prosecution of Paul Mackenzie, who instructed his congregants to starve themselves to death in order to meet Jesus. So far, dozens of bodies have been exhumed from Mackenzie’s land, raising the death toll to 67.

“What we are seeing in Shakahola, Kilifi is akin to terrorism,” President Ruto said. “There’s no difference between Mr. Mackenzie who pretends and postures as a pastor when in fact, he is a terrible criminal. Terrorists use religion to advance their heinous acts.”

The president instructed the responsible agencies to take up the matter and get to the bottom of the activities of people who use religion to advance weird unacceptable ideology in Kenya that is causing unnecessary loss of life.

On Sunday, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki called for stricter regulations of religious centers.

He wrote on twitter, “While the State remains respectful of religious freedom, this horrendous blight on our conscience must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls, but tighter regulation (including self-regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward.”

But how really can the church be regulated? And what exactly can be regulated?

Current regulations

In 2022, the government lifted an 8-year moratorium on the registration of churches, introducing more stringent measures in a bid to streamline religious groupings in the country.

In the new requirements, any person identifying as a cleric ought to present a certificate, diploma or degree in theology from a recognised institution, present a certificate of good conduct and among other things a letter of recommendation from a registered umbrella religious society.

The religious society seeking registration must also furnish the registrar of societies with a constitution complete with a statement of their doctrine of faith.

The society must also declare all charitable activities it engages in and furnish the registrar with either a tax compliance or exemption certificate.

Once operational, the religious society should also submit its sources of funding every year.

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Does your church adhere to the regulations above?

Whether they do or not may not matter when it comes to spiritual deception. What has happened at Shakahola is the extreme end of spiritual deception. But a lot of deception is going on in established, fully registered churches where pastors have degrees.

Some people can’t make a simple decision without consulting their ‘pastor/ prophet’. They are under extreme control of their decisions and finances.

People, even Christians are asking; how can people be so deceived? Well, it’s because cults operate under demonic spiritual forces and once you subscribe to them, you are fully under their control. There’s a spiritual angle that’s invisible to many of us but others are aware of.

It’s difficult to regulate spiritual matters. New doctrines are formulated every day. Different churches emphasize on different things. It’s practically impossible to police doctrine. What a cleric teaches every Sunday might be manipulative and not subscribing to what their denomination or umbrella body stands for.

Role of government

What the government can do is regulate churches to a reasonable extent and enforce the law where criminality occurs, like in Mackenzie’s case and others that are yet to be unraveled.

Church leaders, including Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria, have castigated rogue elements hiding behind scripture. “Religion cannot be and should not be the cause of people losing lives radical extremism that people have to do exceptional things to gain blessings from God,” he said on Sunday.

CITAM presiding Bishop Calisto Odede described the cultic events as a bad testimony for Christianity since those people call themselves Christians. He called on the government to take the rightful steps according to the law to bring Makenzie to justice.

Regulations are good when applied the right way. But they can also be used to curtail freedom of worship when in the hands of oppressive regimes.

Bottom line

People will be deceived, not because we did not do anything to stop it, but because the bible says so.

2 Timothy 4:3 – For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Matthew 24: 23-25 – “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false Christ’s and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.

On avoiding deception, Paul urges Christians to know Christ, in whom all wisdom and knowledge are hidden.

Colossians 2: 2-5 – My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.


In times like this people will be emotional and compassionate to the families who have lost loved ones. They will be angry at churches and government for doing nothing. Though justified, it’s important to be rational. Focus on what the bible says about false prophets and spiritual deception. Examine the teaching you subject yourself to. Understand how to guard yourself from deception but also know that these things will happen as they are signs of the end times.


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