The Akorino started appearing in the middle of the 1920s. They grew strictly out of indigenous leadership. Its first generation membership came out various missions as well as the unchurched population that followed Kikuyu traditional religion. Kenyatta provides the earliest study of Akorino in his book 'Facing Mount Kenya’ which was published in 1938. In a chapter entitled 'The New Religion in East Africa', Kenyatta noted that the group was in its infancy and was functioning in various parts of Gikuyu country, but had little influence with the general population, its appeal being to such individuals as had been pronounced 'sinners' by missionaries, and to others who had been cured of diseases (Kenyatta 1938:279).
Since their first appearance, different names and titles have been used to refer to Akorino. Kenyatta spoke of a religious sect known as watu wa mungu (People of God) or arathi (prophets). The term watu wa mungu or arathi implies that they were men and women who relayed God’s message to their people. The colonial administrative files of 1931 refer to them as false prophets. Another name used to refer to Akorino is Aroti. The name first appeared in the administrative files in February 1934. The name indicates the movement's emphasis on dreams 'iroto' and auditions 'migambo'. The name by which the adherents are to the present day commonly known is Akorino.
According to Waigwa (2017), the meaning of the name Akorino is not clear even among the Akorino themselves. Most Akorino maintain that the name was formed from the question "Mũkũri nũũ?" (Who is the Redeemer?) which was popular among the early Akorino in their crowd-pulling evangelistic meetings. A preacher would ask the crowd, "Mũkũri nũũ?" and they would answer, “Nĩ Jesũ,” it is Jesus.
By the time Akorino emerged in 19920s, the country was going through a very difficult moment politically, culturally and economically. Some of the difficulties that the country was going through include land alienation, forced labour requirements, carrying of kipande, paying taxes and cultural impositions. At the same time, Kenyans started gaining political consciousness and started agitating for independence. This was given impetus by the return of soldiers from WWI who told the people what violence meant. It also saw the birth of many anti-mission and anti-government movements that focused on liberating the country from their colonial masters.
By 1927, Akorino had increased in number and could easily be noticed by colonial governments. They had also started receiving a lot of attention from the general public and could be seen moving around in groups preaching and praying for the country.
1927 is a significant year in the Akorino calenda. According to an unpublished document entitled Rũgano Rwa Gĩthomo Kĩa Aroti, “The Story of the Aroti Church,” four prophets from Murang’a, Jason Kanini, Philip M’Mukubwa, Henry Maina and Lilian Njeri said that they had heard the voice of God asking them to go for a prayer retreat in Mount Kenya, On their way up the mountain, as they approached river Nyamindi, God spoke to Lilian Njeri about traditional adornments which they had on their bodies. God impressed on her that for a servant of God, the acceptable adornment was that of the inner person, and excessive jewelry was an indication of worldliness. Lilian told the group that God had instructed them to discard all their jewelry into Nyamindi River, which they promptly did. They had to leave all worldliness behind before they cross Nyamindi River on their ascent to the Holy mountain to hear the voice of God. Waigwa (2007) notes that the removal of their cultural ornaments and adornments represented a turning away from their earlier traditional life in order to cross over into a new life in the Spirit. Following that instruction, personal ornaments, such as necklaces, rings, bracelets, jewelry and other adornments of precious metal were forbidden among the Akorino.
While still at the mountain, the group received more instructions. This included instructions regarding the kind of vestments that were to be used by all Akorino during religious services, order to be observed during prayers, the posture of prayer (e.g. lifting hands for men in the air kũoya moko na igũrũ, and cupping both hands, kwara moko, as if to receive something for women) among others (Waigwa, 2007).
By 1931, Akorino movement had become a household name in the Agikuyu land. Their rapid growth and spread made the colonial government fear that they may become a subversive force and may lead a rebellion against the government. As a consequent, the colonial administration began exploring ways to control its spread. That control took the form of arrests and imprisonments, repatriation to the tribal reserves and murders. Many Akorino churches, offices, and other establishments were closed down (Kenyatta 1938: 268; Waigwa, 2007).
In February 2nd 1934, Joseph Ng’ang’a and his two assistants, Johana Mungara Karoka and Samuel Muinami Njuguna were shot dead by colonial soldiers at a cave in Ndarugu forest in a moment of prayer. What followed was a period of suspicion and persecution till the close of the State of Emergency. However, the Akorino preachers were not deterred. They continued to meet as usual, and to hold evangelistic meetings in the villages and trading centers.
According to Waigwa (2007), the official harassment of the Akorino did not yield the results the colonial government desired: to minimize or stop completely the growth of the movement. Instead it became even stronger in the face of those persecutions. The result was that colonial administrators who had watched the Akorino for some time came to respect them as an exemplary people. One such administrator was Mr. Campbell, then District Officer, (henceforth DO) of Limuru Division in Kiambu district. Mr. Campbell had come to know the Akorino of the area for some time sympathized with their plight. Campbell advised the Akorino at Limuru on how to go about registering their religious organization in order to receive official recognition. Consequently, the Aroti Church was registered in 1959 under the name Holy Ghost Church of Kenya. With the lifting of the state of emergency and the attainment of Independence in Kenya in 1963, the Akorino Church took advantage of the cessation of official hostilities and embarked on a program of building permanent churches and spreading out to non-Gikuyu areas.