Pastor Kelly Tshibaka

About Pastor Kelly Tshibaka

Kelly is a daughter of God and wife to her best friend, Niki. One of her most rewarding adventures has been starting The Lighthouse Fellowship just outside Washington, DC. Niki and Kelly pioneered the church in 2006, after having graduated together from Harvard Law School and moving to DC to be lawyers (hopefully rich and powerful, to be honest…). But God replaced the dream in their heart — instead of being rulers of all, they wanted to be servants of all. And so they opened their hearts to love the people of DC.

Kelly pastors the church along with Niki. She is an ordained minister with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. She also continues to work as an executive for the U.S. government, currently serving as the Chief Data Officer for a 1600-person agency.

Kelly is passionate about making disciples, including raising up leaders and helping others in their discipling efforts. To that end, she writes articles, blogs, and often speaks at conferences and events to equip and release people into ministry leadership ( Kelly and Niki also created the web video This Is Discipling.

On a more personal note, Kelly loves having fun, “singing” (er…performing), being on stage, photography, writing, and collecting Christmas ornaments. She is the mother of six children (one of whom is in Heaven).

Question & Answers

How did you come to know the Lord?

I was raised attending the Methodist church and going to summer Bible camps. I officially accepted Jesus in my heart at summer camp when I was 8 years old. But I didn’t know what I was doing when I said the prayer the other kids wouldn’t say. I already believed I was a Christian because I went to church and didn’t know any different. That night, though, when the camp counselor woke me up and hiked with me up a mountain to carve my name in a tree, I knew something was different. My senior year of high school, I had a significant spiritual awakening and was filled with a profound love for others. And then my first year of law school, I was absolutely walloped with the grace of God. So, Jesus and I met before I was born. He really got my attention when I was 8. He totally transformed my heart when I was in high school. And He totally turned my world(view) upside down in law school.

How did you and Niki meet?

There are two versions to this story, but here’s the real one! I had a hard time finding nice people at Harvard Law. We were nearing the end of that period at the beginning of school where it’s socially acceptable to randomly socialize until you find your friends for the year. My roommate (non-law school) and I were going to dinner and agreed I could invite someone in a last ditch attempt to meet someone nice. I thought of Niki because we sat by each other in class that day. I called him up and asked him if he wanted to join us. He was excited….TOO excited. I was NOT looking for a MRS. degree (like most the other women I met at school) so I desperately tried to back out of the invitation. But Niki was persistent and I begrudgingly ended up on our first date.

What happened during that date?

I was pretty sulky. It was clear this guy was interested in me. And I was NOT interested in dating. Anyone. Ever again. I wanted to live for Jesus and some relationships prior to this really took me off track. So I really resented being on this “date.” Then while Niki was jabbering on about something, trying to win me over, this thought came to mind, “This is the man you’re going to marry.” At this point in my life, I didn’t know about how the Lord speaks so I thought this was MY thought and I became really irritated with myself. What? Are you boy crazy now? The “thought” repeated itself, several times. And each time I became increasingly frustrated until I decided to prove myself wrong. I interrupted Niki with a critical tone, “Are you a Christian?” He stared frozen (“Deny my God? Lose the girl?”). Then cautiously responded, “Yes…” “Well, what kind of Christian are you?” He went on to explain his faith journey as I listened. Then the voice came back, “See, I told you this is the man you’re going to marry.” “We’ll see about that,” I responded.

You said you wanted to serve Jesus. How have you done that?

Before I went to law school, my thought was the best way to serve Jesus was to get the best degree from the best theological institution in the world so I could have the best credibility possible in spiritual matters. So I got accepted into Oxford’s Ph.D. program for Theology. But Niki and I decided it was best for our marriage if I didn’t go, and we moved to D.C. instead. I struggled with this shelved dream for a long time, until one day while praying God showed me that He gave me my heart’s desire – spiritual credibility – through my experiences with Him and pastoring The Lighthouse Fellowship. It reminded me of what Acts said about Peter and John – they were unschooled, ordinary men who were bold and courageous in living out their faith because “they had been with Jesus.” I could do that without going to Oxford.

Since then, I’ve moved by “coincidence” (I don’t believe in coincidences – only godincidences) from one incredible government leadership position to another where I’ve had the chance to take care of people at work. If I had my way, I’d stay home, home school my kids, and work full-time for our church. But I pounded on that door over a decade and the response was the same: keep working. God’s told me, “I’ve made you a Deborah. You’re a mother to a nation.” It continues to surprise me that, in His plan, I’m more valuable to the Kingdom working for the government rather than the church. I want to be like Philip or Onesimus – willing to take the assignments others would pass over because I trust God knows what I’m really called to do and where to place me for that to happen.

And, in your own words, what can you tell me about Niki?

Niki is a man of principle, integrity, loyalty, and awe-inspiring faith. I’ve seen him repeatedly “decrease” so God can increase in his life and the life of others. He’s full of wisdom, humility, and the Holy Spirit. As we’ve journeyed life together, he’s persevered through great pain (often inflicted by me), carried me in dark times, loved me deeply, and increasingly put me and our kids needs and interests far above his own. He challenges me to press forward in areas of my faith journey that are hard—like giving far more than 10%, leading discipling groups when I feel I have very little to offer, or trusting God when life is hard. Niki is my favorite person in the whole world!

Here, Pastor Kelly is featured in an Foursquare article

By Ken Walker, in We Are Foursquare October 27, 2015

Kelly Tshibaka is a Foursquare pastor, but her career in Washington, D.C., is how God is using her to disciple a nation.

KellyTshiba_500x500_082715God keeps wanting me to serve in government,” says Kelly, who started her career at the U.S. Department of Justice in 2002 and later worked as Counsel and Chief Investigator for the Office of Inspector General. “He keeps giving me crazy opportunities in my career. He has told me, ‘I’ve made you a Deborah. I’ve made you a mother to a nation.’ It surprises me that, in His plan, I’m more valuable to His work here than at church. People tell me things they can’t tell their pastor about.”

Despite her impressive job titles the past 13 years, the one she cherishes is co-pastor of Mount Vernon Foursquare Fellowship. She and her husband, Niki, planted the church in 2006 after mentoring from Daniel A. Brown, then supervisor of what was called the Capital District. Daniel had heard of their help with a Foursquare church plant in Cambridge, Mass., while both were attending Harvard Law School. He wanted to know if they would like to plant in the District of Columbia area.

“We were lawyers, not pastors,” Kelly recalls. “But he offered to take us out to dinner, and who can pass up a free dinner? Over the next four years, and many free dinners, Pastor Daniel intentionally discipled us to plant a church.”

Niki does most of the preaching, and handles such duties as overseeing the budget, providing spiritual counseling and coaching leaders through the licensing process. Together, he and Kelly have developed a variety of leaders. Among other things, they have been key in the Foursquare credentialing of 11 new pastors, sponsored seven new church plants and helped an architect become a full-time missionary serving street kids in Haiti.

Kelly has helped lead Mount Vernon’s spiritual formation and developed the church’s operational aspects. Her church duties include preaching, leading discipleship groups and adult Bible studies, and directing the children’s and women’s programs.

Still, her leading spiritual duty comes in the marketplace. Though emphasizing she avoids being obnoxious, she is still vocal about her Christian identity while at work. That includes leading discipleship groups at work, reading the Bible and discipling people. One of her disciples later resigned as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department to become a pastor on staff at a Presbyterian megachurch.

“I’ve led Bible studies and started Christian fellowship networks at work,” Kelly says. “I led two six-week studies at the CIA called ‘How to Study the Bible’ that were largely attended by non-believers.”

Indeed, Kelly feels her leading assignment is to pastor people at the agency where she works. An example is what happened the time she walked through the CIA on a break and made eye contact with a man. Feeling the Holy Spirit’s leading to talk with him, when she walked outside he followed. The man told her he was looking for a chaplain and felt he was supposed to talk to her.
Kelly replied that she had experience talking to God. She suggested they sit down for 10 minutes and make notes of what they sensed the Lord was saying. At the end of that time, their notes matched. That gave him vital direction regarding a work dilemma, which would also affect his marriage.

Kelly sees “divine appointment” written all over such contacts. “One friend who was part of my ‘How to Study the Bible’ course is of another faith tradition and had always thought things about it were lacking,” Kelly says. “I was the first Christian willing to answer his questions about Jesus.”

Such stories show how God has His people everywhere, especially in the marketplace. Kelly thinks more believers should make their presence known.

“One other thing that surprises me is how few Christians at work are open about it,” she says. “That makes me sad. I’ve been attacked pretty brutally, so I understand why they remain silent. But I speak up anyway.” ◼︎


From left to right, Niki Tshibaka, Senator Tom Cotton, Kelly Tshibaka, and their two oldest children.

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