Church Planting

87 Villages.  7 Valleys.  1 Church Plant.

This is complicated terrain.  From 420m to 3298m altitude, this region in the mountains has no evangelical church.  I'm not in the Himalayas or some obscure country in Africa.  This is Europe.  And yet it seems almost surreal to think that there are places in Europe where there is limited access to the Gospel.

 

These 87 villages and 7 valleys have never been considered reached. Not ever.  Rife with sorcery and occultism and with local traditions & beliefs that run deeper than Catholicism ever will, the Pyrenees mountains in France remains a dark place in desperate need of the Light of the Gospel.  

But how does one reach 87 villages and 7 valleys?  "Les Cairns".  Our loving Father gave our team this powerful image as we founded our church here 6 months ago.  A "cairn" is a small pile of stones gathered on the side of a path, to show hikers where to go.  And so we, the church, are called to be gatherings of Living Stones who show that Jesus is the Way.

Each valley needs a cairn, a gathering of believers that live out the Gospel together in their local community.  And then, once a month all the cairns ("Les Cairns"), join together in celebration.

Right now we are one cairn.  But our prayer is that every valley would have a cairn and every village a Gospel witness.

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."  Matthew 9:37.

Trusting the Lord to Open Hearts in Madrid

“I love God and I love the people.  So what can I do?” 

I marveled at Sarah’s faithfulness.  She has been a Pioneer in Madrid for five years and served in North Africa for 20 years prior to that.  When I asked her about the spiritual fruit of her labors, she only had a few converts to report for her decades of work.  When I asked her if she gets discouraged she said, “Yes, sometimes.  It’s lonely work, but God called me to it.  And He has to provide the fruit.” 

After leaving North Africa during a recent expulsion of Christian missionaries, she arrived in Spain in the midst of their Great Recession.  She immediately saw the needs of the North African immigrants and refugees and she moved in amongst them to provide relief and to shine the light of Christ.  While she baptized seven women in her bathtub in North Africa, she has yet to see someone come to Christ in Madrid.

Sarah attends a local Spanish church, but is the only one in her community with a vision for sharing Christ with the local Arabs.  She has had teammates at times, but is currently serving alone, as she often has over the years.  Because she is fluent in Arabic and knows North Africa well, she has had no trouble forming friendships amongst the women.  They are drawn to her kindness, generosity, and cultural familiarity—things not readily extended to them by the Spanish community.  

North African Arabs are kept an arm’s length away from Spanish society.  Because they are not integrated into the local culture, their identities as North African Arabs grows stronger as they reside in Europe.  As they draw into themselves, they form neighborhood enclaves where they have their own shops, their own butchers, their own mosque.  Those who were nominal Muslims back in Africa grow stronger in their religious identity when they get to Spain.  ISIS finds fertile ground from which to recruit, as young men especially feel rejected and then themselves reject Spanish culture. 

Sarah knows the Arab ladies love to gather for parties, so she hosts them often.  She serves tea, provides food, and makes space for moments of levity and enjoyment.  She is diligent in sharing Christ’s love and says that the women are usually very open to conversations about God and the Bible.  Next week she’ll be hosting about 50 ladies for tea and to watch a movie about Christianity.  The film was made by Arabs for Arabs and explains the Gospel message.  Sarah regularly reaches out to the immigrant children, as well, hosting holiday parties and events for the kids. 

While Sarah has had much success forming friendships and even sharing Christ and praying with and studying the Bible with Arabs in Madrid, she has yet to see one surrender to the Lord.  She says that they stick around for awhile, but then she suspects they are persuaded away by the Muslim community.  “It’s a close community,” she says, “they all see where each other goes and what they are doing.” 

Sarah dreams of opening a community center for the Arab immigrants—a place they can go to learn to sew, to learn to read, where kids can get help with homework, where newcomers can gather for refreshment and to hear about the love of Christ.  Pray that God would provide humble and hardworking teammates for this work in Madrid—teammates who, like Sarah, love God and love the people. 

To Whom Much is Given

Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).  One young Pioneers couple serving in Croatia took these words to heart.  Having been born in Switzerland, they say, “Everything in Switzerland was great.  The life, the education, everything was a gift.  And we wanted to use those gifts to serve in a place that doesn’t have the same things.” 

Croatia is experiencing a famine—not of food, but of hope.  With a depressed economy, young people who are able have left their nation in pursuit of a better future.  Those that have stayed behind lack hopeful prospects for the future.  Not only are jobs rare, but so is business know-how, an entrepreneurial spirit, workplace ethics, and—above all—the influence of Christ.  With an evangelical population of 0.38%, Croatia is spiritually dark. 

The Pioneers’ dream is to open a community center for young adults.  They envision a place where students and young professionals gather to drink coffee, study, network, hear workshops given by business people, and experience the care and investment of Christ followers who want to mentor them.  In the meantime, they create events and concerts in the community, where young people can gather for social connection, encouragement, and to build relationships—all with a Gospel intentionality.  The Pioneers say that a night out with people who carry the light of Christ can bear great fruit.   

Are you willing to give your good gifts for the expanse of the Gospel in Croatia? The Pioneers in Zagreb would love to grow their team.  They are looking for short-term or long-term commitments from people who: 

  • Love young adults, have a very positive outlook on life, and value a ministry of presence.
  • Have business skills or the desire to mentor young business people.
  • Have business connections and can provide leads for the digital and online marketplace.
  • Love Christ and are willing to use the good gifts He has given to invest in others.
  • No foreign language required—90% of 16-30 year old Croats speak English very well.

Why Come to the UK and Ireland?

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For those who pursue missions through prayer, support, or going, the United Kingdom and Ireland may not seem, at first glance, like potential mission fields.  They are affluent, there are no wars, and there are (at least in the UK) many churches.  However, while UK churches are currently reaching traditional, white, British communities, a range of diaspora communities (such as Muslim and Chinese people groups) are not being reached with the Gospel.  In Ireland, there are not even enough Evangelical churches to reach traditional Irish people, let alone new diaspora communities. 

For missional go-ers and senders, the UK and Ireland may seem second best, compared to more remote, dangerous, and traditional places.  However, we know that God loves people wherever they are, and that He is committed to all nations hearing the Gospel. The Lord says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”(Psalm 46:10).  If potential missionaries sense that God is drawing them to the British Isles or if they are drawn to a people group represented here, we want to affirm that the UK and Ireland are valid countries to consider.

We have unreached people groups
In Ireland there are a number of areas with insufficient Christians to reach post-Catholic people, as well as growing numbers of Muslim migrants.  In the UK, churches have not engaged sufficiently with Muslims and other migrant communities, leaving millions of people without a credible Gospel witness. 

Freedom
The UK and Ireland provide freedom for migrants coming from countries closed to the Gospel.  Missionaries also have great freedom to preach the Gospel.  One can freely access an incredible amount of Gospel materials in a large variety of languages and distribute them without any risk of arrest.

Access
It is relatively easy to access the UK and Ireland through various long-term visas.  The security situation in both countries is stable and access to affordable health care and education is also excellent.  Because both nations are accessible, a range of different people can serve here.  For example, reaching Afghanis in Afghanistan might well require someone with a particular apostolic calling and strong physical health, but people without those particular giftings can still reach Afghanis in the UK.  Many UK churches in Muslim-majority neighborhoods and church plants in Ireland would be greatly blessed by mature believers, who might not be able to serve in other parts of the world. 

Language
English speakers can minister in Ireland and to many migrants in the UK without needing to learn an additional language.  Ministering effectively to refugees and other recently arrived migrants might require learning an additional language, which can be done here. 

Partnership with local churches
Missionaries have opportunities to partner with local churches, which provides additional resources for evangelism and discipleship to unreached people groups, as well as the joy of local fellowship. Since the local church is present and vibrant in many areas, a wide variety of models of team and ministry can exist in the UK and Ireland, unlike in places where the missionary team needs to be the primary source of fellowship, partnership, and worship. Involvement in the local church and community supplements the team’s role in providing a feeling of connectedness and the offering of pastoral care and spiritual support. 

Identifying with migrants
For those ministering to migrants in the UK, it is often an advantage to be a foreigner. As a fellow foreigner, missionaries have an understanding of what it feels like to be a migrant and the challenges it presents in the UK. 

Variety of ministry opportunities
It is possible to engage in a range of different ministry opportunities, including street evangelism, preaching, English teaching, discipleship, service projects, hospitality, interfaith dialogue, and much more.  Given the variety of ministry opportunities, the UK and Ireland are also excellent places to come and learn for a season, even if missionaries eventually heading to a different location. 

Reaching two countries in one
Given that many migrants in the UK still have significant links to their country of origin, reaching diaspora people here will often also provide an opportunity to influence people back in their home country, thereby reaching two places at once. 

A great multitude from all “tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9) and they will cry out, “’Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10).  Perhaps the Lord is calling you to play a role in gathering the multitude from across the globe to Him in the UK and Ireland. 

 

A British Melting Pot

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By a Pioneers In Europe Field Leader

The phrase ‘melting pot’ has long been used to signify the coming together of diverse cultures. Most often referring to the many strands of immigration which have coalesced to form the American identity, the phrase applies just as well on this side of the Pond.

London. It’s been said that you can find any people group in the world represented in this expansive and diverse city. Zoom in with me, if you will, into West London. In the borough of Ealing you’ll find the town of Acton.

By God’s hand, this was to be the destination for a vision. A denomination of churches in Nigeria had a burden for the UK. They dispatched a family in 2013 with a simple commission: plant a church. Unsure of where to begin, God ordained a simple relationship which would provide a fledgling root in Acton. In time, word of a godly and passionate Nigerian preacher would spread, bringing other Nigerians from clear across London. A simple house meeting eventually moved into a community center. In 2016, a lease agreement with the congregation of an emptying Anglican building would provide a more permanent center for worship.

But this was not just to be a gathering of Nigerians; that was never the heart of the sending denomination in Africa. They recognized God’s heart for all nations, and always desired that God would establish a multiethnic gathering of worshipping Christians.

On his walks in the community, the pastor would soon come across the likes of Jefferson, James, and Julio—Europeans of varying descent who had found their way to London, and fallen upon hard times. Each one was homeless, drunk, and regularly in trouble with the law. But God’s church is a melting pot, with plenty of room to squeeze in these men alongside the vibrant congregation of Nigerians. And not just them, but the friends they regularly bring with them as well.

But God’s vision for a ‘melting pot’ would add in yet another ingredient. Four Iranians would come along too. One man has two wives. Another is eager for baptism.

Perhaps the United States has long been called the melting pot, but I doubt there are few places where one can find Nigerians, Iranians, and a mix of homeless Europeans worshipping together, shoulder to shoulder, united under Christ.

This is God’s vision for His Church, and it’s being lived out in London. Pioneers is eager to continue to partner in what God is doing. Church planting. Unreached people groups. A burden for the local church.

Europe. UK. London. A gateway to realizing the heart of God in Christian mission among the nations. Is He inviting you to jump in?