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The Sheep-Stealing Dilemma

The Sheep-Stealing Dilemma Among Kenyan Christians, the distinction between the terms ‘church member’ and ‘visitor’ is widely used, and occasional visits to non-membership churches are a common practice. In our ethnographic research in urban Kenya (Nairobi and Kisumu), we observed how, across denominations, church visits abide by similar, formalized, and ritualized codes. Through an analysis of the subtleties of this institutionalized practice, we expose a fundamental tension in which even as church leaders are expected to act in the spirit of Christian unity and avoid proselytizing visitors from other churches, they also seek to maximize the use of church visits as an effective instrument for recruiting new members. Investigating how churches manage this ‘sheep-stealing dilemma’, we analyze some institutional strategies that favour membership retention and attraction without formally undermining the social legitimacy of church visits. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Religion in Africa Brill

The Sheep-Stealing Dilemma

Journal of Religion in Africa , Volume 47 (2): 27 – Jan 16, 2017

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References (34)

Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0022-4200
eISSN
1570-0666
DOI
10.1163/15700666-12340103
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Among Kenyan Christians, the distinction between the terms ‘church member’ and ‘visitor’ is widely used, and occasional visits to non-membership churches are a common practice. In our ethnographic research in urban Kenya (Nairobi and Kisumu), we observed how, across denominations, church visits abide by similar, formalized, and ritualized codes. Through an analysis of the subtleties of this institutionalized practice, we expose a fundamental tension in which even as church leaders are expected to act in the spirit of Christian unity and avoid proselytizing visitors from other churches, they also seek to maximize the use of church visits as an effective instrument for recruiting new members. Investigating how churches manage this ‘sheep-stealing dilemma’, we analyze some institutional strategies that favour membership retention and attraction without formally undermining the social legitimacy of church visits.

Journal

Journal of Religion in AfricaBrill

Published: Jan 16, 2017

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