Church Planting Collaboration
RENTON, Washington — Assemblies of God world missionary Ben P. Struss believes Christians need to be starting congregations in difficult and unsafe places. Struss, an ordained AG minister who is back in the U.S. itinerating before returning to Indonesia, served as a table coach at the recent Church Multiplication Network Launch Training in Renton, Washington. He sought to connect with would-be church launchers, as prospective pioneers from 14 states attended the event.
“As a missionary, I feel I can make a contribution to the U.S. Church by getting to know other planters,” says Struss, who seems wise beyond his 33 years. “I want to equip more missionaries, even if that takes years before a church might be planted. We need more healthy churches and I believe in CMN.”
In 2013, at the age of 24, Struss, and his wife, Kathleen, moved to Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, with over 220 unreached people groups as AG world missionaries. For a couple of years, they worked with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, interacting with university students at an English center in Yogyakarta.
In 2019, Struss planted International Church Bogor, which draws attendees from 25 nations. Bogor is a city of 1 millions residents in West Java province, just south of the national capital Jakarta.
Struss sensed a missionary calling at the age of 12, when he went on a missions trip to Mexico, his first time outside the U.S.
“When I shared my faith I came to the realization that millions of people don’t know the Lord,” recalls Struss, whose dulcet voice is reminiscent of a radio announcer. “I wanted to go where the gospel had not been preached, where people had never been to church, and where people had never even heard the name of Jesus. I want to win people to Jesus.”
In Chicago, Ben graduated from Moody Bible Institute, where he met Kathleen. They attended Chicago Tabernacle, pioneered by Al Toledo and his wife, Chrissy.
Although he had never been to Indonesia, Struss knew Illinois AG world missionaries Jamison and Tasha Kemp who lived in the Asian nation. The Strusses moved and began building relationships, eventually joining an AG Indonesian church staff.
With a launch team of 25, some from Bethlehem Assembly of God in Bogor, Struss started International Church Bogor as an English-language Bible study. Although it is an international congregation, 80% of the congregants are Indonesian. Bogor has become home to 6,000 refugees, many of them Afghans. Expatriates from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Canada, Brazil, and the U.S. also are part of the church. Some are in Indonesia for business, others working at international schools.
Although 200 showed up for the first meeting in 2019, COVID-19 restrictions shuttered the church for nine months during 2020. When services resumed in January 2021, only 38 returned. However, by the end of last year, attendance had rebounded to 150, and it’s held steady. Missionary associates Jordan and Katie Anderson of Chicago plus Claudia Suciu from Romania are part of the church staff team.
Although his yearlong itineration schedule is taking him to 15 states through next June, Struss isn’t like the typical church planter. He is accustomed to reaching out to immigrants and working with businesspeople. Ben and Kathleen have two sons, 8-year-old Caleb and 6-year-old Levi.
Stephen A. Turley, AGWM U.S. Relations liaison based in Springfield, Missouri, also attended the CMN conference in Renton. He looks forward to future partnerships.
“CMN and AGWM are from the same lineage,” says Turley, 58. “Harkening back to the 1914 commitment of forming the greatest evangelism movement ever known is embedded in both our cultures.”
Turley and his wife, Deanne, have been involved with AGWM since 1991, serving in Belgium and Croatia. He believes there is tremendous potential for CMN-AGWM cross-pollination.
“We would like collaboration to happen more often, more overtly, and more intentionally,” Turley says. “We hope this is the dawn of a new day in missionary activity at home and abroad.”