Wanted: Church Planters
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Across Ukraine, a nation just slightly smaller than the state of Texas, 28,000 villages exist. Large and small, most of them need churches.
Most urgently, they need qualified men and women to serve as leaders of newly built ministry centers. The Pentecostal Union has a prayer-driven goal of planting 400 new churches by the year 2020. Those churches will need pastors.
Without adequate witness, discipleship, and training from believers who have themselves been adequately discipled and trained, the unreached in Ukraine and around the world will have little or no chance of hearing about Jesus.
Those who do hear, but are not discipled and trained, may give up on a lifelong relationship with the Lord. Even as Christ-followers, if they do not grow in their own faith and biblical understanding, they will be unable to witness to, disciple, and train those around them.
AGWM is committed to creating indigenous, self-propagating/replicating bodies of believers worldwide. This calls for every individual to be given the chance to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus and receive adequate training to lead others into the same kind of relationship. Missionaries on the ground begin the process, with the goal of turning leadership over to well-trained and equipped indigenous believers as quickly as possible.
Each nation’s church must be able to survive even during seasons when the country’s borders are closed to outside missionary influence. Cuba is one example of that principle. During many years of isolation, through the brave leadership of Cuban pastors, its church survived. Now, propelled by miracles and the deep generosity of Cuban believers, the Cuba Assemblies of God is sending its first missionaries to other parts of the world.
OLD FOUNDATIONS AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN COLOMBIA
AGWM’s church planting movement operates in various stages. In some nations, certain areas are home to flourishing churches and missionary activity, while other areas are or have been inaccessible. The nation of Colombia illustrates how a changing environment can give rise to new opportunities.
For decades, violence simmering between the Colombian government, crime syndicates, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has displaced at least 7 million people and killed hundreds of thousands.
Late in 2016, the Colombian government and FARC met in Havana, Cuba, to sign a peace treaty. As FARC forces began to disarm, travel around the country became safer and easier.
“The new peace treaty has opened the door to many rural communities that before were completely inaccessible because of violence, and that therefore have zero gospel witness,” AGWM missionary Mike Lawrence explains. “The Colombia AG plans to plant 1,000 new churches in those communities. But that requires 1,000 trained pastors and a huge infrastructure that we don’t have.”
It also requires courage. Rural Colombian Christians have long been viewed by armed groups as a threat to their ability to control a region. Pastors are often key players in civil life, and many take courageous stands against both guerillas and vigilantes. AGWM missionaries and Colombia AG pastors are partnering to plant new churches in recently opened areas of the country.
PIONEERING IN MONTENEGRO
Thanks to missionary partnership and indigenous leadership in Ukraine and many other nations, church planting is burgeoning. In Colombia, years of previous missions work has laid the foundation for current missionaries and indigenous leaders to begin responding to new church planting opportunities. But some nations have little or no previous missions history.
The Balkan nation of Montenegro is one such place. In 2017, Ben and Jessi Bock became the first AGWM missionaries to establish a presence there.
“Spiritual darkness has reigned here for thousands of years,” Ben states. “It is said that the Reformation did not begin in Montenegro until the 1990s. For a few decades the light has been breaking through, but overcoming the darkness is difficult.”
Many Montenegrins, Ben and Jessi are discovering, have no concept of reaching out to God personally. Working with some of the Montenegrin believers they know, the Bocks dream of establishing a team and a ministry center in the northern part of the country for prayer, training and outreach. Jessi hopes that one day team members will be so known for carrying the message of Jesus that when they drive into a new area, residents will come running, eager to have more of the gospel explained to them.
CHURCHES: KEYS TO CONTINUED HARVEST
Worldwide, AGWM continues to endeavor to carry out “the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen” as pledged by Assemblies of God founders in 1914. Needs and methods differ, but one common denominator remains: For the light of Christ to continue reaching around the world, thriving groups of believers must be established, sustained and perpetuated through individual and collective discipleship. Churches are keys to continued harvest.
The call and commitment to the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen still rings in the hearts of our pastors, teachers, and global partners. Churches must be planted to serve as life-saving stations in all corners of the globe.
The world’s unreached await.
To read AGWM’s 2019 State of the Mission, from which this article is excerpted, click here. To read more about church planting in the following countries, click the country’s name: Ukraine, Cuba, Colombia 1, Colombia 2, Montenegro.