How can you effectively reach your community by planting a church?
David and Esther Allen are returning from missionary work in Cambodia determined to plant churches here.
As I write this article I can’t quite believe that my wife Esther and I are about to leave our home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to return to local church life in the UK. It was never on our radar to leave: why would it be? We have built a family here. Everything we love: being part of church planting, helping restore broken lives through the Be Free programme, providing early education to underprivileged children.
But really what we want is not important, God asked us eight-and-a-half years ago to go, to leave all that was precious to us and go! So we went. Nothing complicated; we heard the call and went.
You might think ‘well, that wasn’t difficult!’ For us, it wasn’t, but it seems to be one of the hardest things for Christians to do, simply to trust God and go. God did the rest and as we prepare to return we again have heard God’s voice.
The Cambodian team are ready to shine; they are ready to see great things and we need to release them and let them fly. We are so thankful that we decided to trust God and we now return with a much deeper understanding of Jesus and a much deeper love for and relationship with him.
Over the last few years, along with the National Leader of Cambodia Elim, Pastor Chamnap, we have been planting churches. We have seen church plants start in 13 villages, teaching people to lead groups in small communities after they have found Jesus.
It has burned such a desire in me to see us reach every different culture group in our cities and towns in the UK. This has made me think and pray about how we, and I say ‘we’, can start reaching the people in our communities through planting churches. Friends, these are the things that may be obvious but I believe we need to start to put into our daily living the things that we have learnt over the last number of years in Cambodia.
Bringing Jesus to our generation, to our cities, to our communities, is the responsibility of all of us. None of us has a ‘get-out clause’. It is our calling to go into the world and make disciples. The call we had to go to Cambodia is exactly the same as you have, to go to those who are lost where you live. This is not negotiable; we all need to be available to do whatever God needs us to do.
But how do we win a city, a town, a community? The local church is so important but it will not win a city, a town or a community by just being in one place on one day!
Think about it; a church opens its doors on a Sunday morning and expects people from all different cultures, communities and religions to want to come into it. Even though it might not be in their first language or anything like what they have experienced before. Many of these people-groups feel foreign to all we are doing and saying. Also many have been racially abused or victimised, not by us, hopefully, but by the society we live in.
With all this in mind, we need new strategies, we need to think outside the box. So what is the church? To me, it is when a group of people come together to worship and learn about God. It can be a safe place that can be anywhere at any time, and that’s the beauty of it. We can take the gospel into any community and any culture without being threatening or causing controversy.
Think about the communities within your church you can reach. If you have Polish or Chinese Christians, send them into the Polish or Chinese communities.
You can be as flexible as you want as long as the message of the cross does not change. Esther and I have no qualifications, we were the last people you would want help from, yet God used us in so many ways.
It’s time to stop making excuses, it’s time to step out and step up into God’s perfect plan.
Remember Jesus died for all the earth – not just you and me – but we can tell the world so much more easily when people trust us, respect us and value what we say. We earn that by going, caring and sharing. We don’t need PhDs or to be an ordained minister; we just need to be willing to share our faith and the way to the cross.
Here’s the challenge I leave you: pray about who God wants you to reach, then go to your pastor or church leaders and share your heart. Go with a plan of how to reach them. Be bold, be brave and know that God is with you at all times.
Let’s get busy church planting, taking the church to the people rather than expecting the people to come to the church!
A SPECIAL BAPTISM: “This man was not a Christian when we started holding an Elim Kids’ Club at his house,” explains David Allen. “His son is one of our staff and asked his parents if they would allow us to hold a club there. His father spent a year observing and when the church plant started at the same location he gave his life to the Lord and is now leading others to Christ!”
Inset: one of the girls graduating from the Be Free programme in early 2019.
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