Paul Klawitter, Director of Encompass’ Church Planting Network and a church planter serving in France explains it this way, based on the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:
“Imagine being led into a dark room and then someone flips on the lights, and you are surrounded by treasures you could never afford. And then you’re introduced to the owner of the treasure house—Jesus. That’s what we’re doing as church planters—introducing people to Jesus, giving them his Word, teaching them how beautiful it is, how rich it is—the extraordinary life we can have with him.”
Encompass church planters have a common desire and vision to share the precious gift of the gospel with people around the world in compelling and creative ways. The Church Planting Network offers a space for these workers to exchange ideas, share resources, and support each other through prayer and encouragement.
The network’s mission is to mobilize workers to create communities of disciples. That takes different forms depending on the people they’re reaching and the culture in which they’re serving.
“We have to make sure that in the church, God and his Word are central, but from there, we really want to enrobe it, present it in a way that is understood more than just intellectually,” Paul says. “You need different approaches to reach different kinds of people in different places. It has to mean something to people.”
Here are some of the ways the Church Planting Network is sending workers to share the Good News about Jesus and create communities of disciples around the world:
Artistic expressions of worship
Church planters in France face the challenge of reaching people who are immersed in a culture that largely views faith with skepticism and indifference, if not outright hostility.
For many French people, Paul Klawitter says, “feeling is believing.” He and his North Dijon church planting team hold a creative worship service in a former wine cellar, now the basement of the Fair Trade Café the church operates.
In this non-traditional atmosphere and through expressions like music, painting, theater, dialogue, and a shared meal, the service offers an engaging way to articulate the gospel to those who would never otherwise enter a church. This welcoming environment is redefining skeptics’ definition of church and allowing them to experience the beauty of worship and friendship with believers.
Intentional community: pub style
Life in the bustling urban center of Dublin, Ireland, has taught Roy Angle that becoming part of existing Irish social networks is the key to building trust with locals. He and his wife, Holly, are engaged in church planting in a country where spiritual practice is declining while atheism and agnosticism are on the rise.
And in a culture where pubs are the common gathering place, Roy has discovered a niche for starting a “church” unlike any other.
Crowds gather for Socrates Café, a new kind of pub discussion group that provides a space for ideas and dialogue to flourish over pints of beer. The group is open to everyone and fills a need to discuss significant topics that go deeper than typical bar-side conversation. Past topics have stirred discussion around questions such as Can there be certainty in human knowledge? and Is marriage a pertinent institution for the 21st century?
The success of Socrates Café comes from its novelty, inclusive nature, and encouragement of Irish leadership. Roy ensures that Irish leaders take a greater role in facilitating the groups than he does as an American.
God has blessed this creative work. Socrates Café has grown in size to 600 members, but the dialogue doesn’t end there. It’s purposefully designed as a relational bridge to lead to more discussion groups and opportunities to introduce the gospel.
On the road to making disciples
In Chad, located in north-central Africa, least-reached people groups and villages are widely scattered and experiencing the growing influence of Islam.
Through the work of the Summer School of Evangelism, started by regional director Frank Puhl in 1998, Chadian believers are being trained to use their giftedness to plant churches. The school provides 10 weeks of intensive training for these men followed by 10 months of evangelistic work.
“The strategy is making disciples,” Frank says. “That was Christ’s strategy.”
But these church planters and evangelists need a way to reach the least reached, especially in a part of the world where traveling by car can be difficult. So Frank developed The Bicycle Project to get these workers on the road. The goal of The Bicycle Project is to give a bike to every pastor, evangelist, and church planter so they can get to more villages quickly and easily.
This creative strategy is working. Many more people are being reached and there are currently 180 church plants in Chad.
Grace to more and more people
While the countries, cultures, and approaches may be different, the priceless treasure of the gospel—and the urgency to reach those who need to hear it—remains the same. And the Church Planting Network continues to prayerfully imagine what new forms the church could take in the years ahead, “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
How are you creatively fostering conversations and sharing the treasure of the gospel with those around you?
Adapted from Within Reach magazine, Issue 1, February/March 2015 (no longer in print)
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