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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Church Planting — the Key to Effectiveness

By Omar Beiler
Jan. 6, 2013

Church planting brings to mind many different images. Most people think of it as a mother church starting a new congregation in a nearby city or area. But in the world today there are thousands of places where the church doesn’t exist. In those places, church planting is a particularly daunting task.

How do missionaries plant a church from nothing, especially in an unfamiliar culture? In Eurasia, we say we must either find believers or make them.

A place with no organized church may have believers who have not connected with each other for fear of secret informers. In cases like this, we see our role as helping these people come together and form a faith community. As they do, their courage and boldness increase, and they begin winning others to Jesus. Soon a strong church develops that can expand into a church planting movement.

This type of church planting took place in Russia during the early 1990s. Years before, missionary Ivan Voronaev planted 350 congregations across the Russia/Ukraine area. During the Stalin era, the church went underground. Voronaev was arrested and sent to die in a Siberian prison.

Shortly after the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, small groups of believers resurfaced. For years they had worshipped in the woods or in cellars. They began to come together to form healthy congregations with a passion for souls. Today, Russia’s Pentecostal Union is a powerful, robust Fellowship that is actively sharing the gospel across the nation.

In other areas of the world, the message of Christ is unknown and there are no believers. Among these unreached peoples, the Assemblies of God is sending missionary teams that model Christian community.

The majority of these unreached people groups are culturally oriented to community rather than individualism. With the team approach, missionaries form a Christian community that prays, worships and studies the Word together. As spiritually seeking people are identified and won to Christ, they become part of the community. Over time, national leadership is raised up, and the church becomes indigenous.

Another advantage to the team approach is being able to draw from the specific talents and abilities of each team member. Access is a critical issue in today’s world. Since missionaries often cannot gain entry in a country, teams are formed to open legitimate businesses that are profitable, sustainable and model Christian principles.

These teams need people with a variety of skills. One person may have a business background; another has an organizational background; still another has a pastoral or evangelism background. The team approach in church planting provides ministry opportunities for people from all walks of life who are called by God and have a passion for the lost.

About five years ago, my wife, Pat, and I traveled around the Eurasia region, listening to and exchanging ideas with missionaries. We came away from that time convinced of the need to refocus our efforts on pioneer church planting. Since then God has brought together more than 15 church planting teams that are currently on the ground or in some stage of formation. Their method of ministry may be different but their goal is the same: planting the church where it doesn’t exist.

Bringing people to Jesus in any country involves planting a Bible-centered, Jesus-focused church. Missionaries can do all sorts of well-meaning ministry, but unless people are brought together in a community of faith that is connected to the culture, their work is incomplete.

In Assemblies of God World Missions, we are committed to establishing a foundation through which people in any culture can connect with and grow in Christ. The church is the key that opens the way to long-term effectiveness.

OMAR BEILER is Eurasia regional director for Assemblies of God World Missions.


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