When I say that I am a part of a church plant in Boston, most people look at me a little funny. A church plant is Christianese for a brand new church…the church is called Journey Church, and it’s a great little community right outside of Harvard Square. It’s been just about three years since we had our very first service – you can check us out here:
Maybe you too aren’t familiar with the term “church plant” or have wondered how churches start. This month, it’s been fascinating for me to take part in Harvesters International’s ministry here in Malawi, whose vision is to plant churches all over Africa
Their strategy is simple:
1. Work with local pastors to determine a location where there are no existing local Christian churches
2. Share Jesus’ love to people in that community. This could involve going hut-to-hut offering prayer, or actually physically preaching on the streets. Another World Race team on my squad this month spent three days where they stood on street corners, played worship songs, and then preached the gospel. As they did this, the Holy Spirit touched people’s hearts and people responded by giving their lives to Christ. In fact, our ministry contact said that the way people responded showed that the blessing of the Lord was among our teams.
3. Determine a location and meeting time locally for the new believers to meet…most of the time this means meeting outside under trees!
4. Establish church leadership – treasurer, secretary and pastor. This is done simply by gathering everyone in the room and asking, “Who do you think should be the pastor of this church?” and encouraging them to make this decision based on what they know about one another. With Harvesters, theological training is not required prior to becoming a pastor; rather, after being appointed, local leaders come and train leaders one-on-one by going through a training manual prepared by Harvesters.
5. A new church is born!
Churches like this have been multiplying throughout Malawi – Pastor Harvey said within the past two months, he has helped to plant five churches!
This month, while my team was up in northern Malawi, Ashley’s team was in Lilongway preaching the gospel and planting this church. I had the honor of visiting them and distributing some bibles that had been donated by one of my squadmates. Check out these photos of a seven-day old church:
When we arrived, everyone gathered together within the small schoolhouse building which they had recently established as their new church. About half of them had become Christians in the past week!
I was able to share a word of encouragement about God’s faithfulness. Afterwards, fifteen more men, women, and children prayed to become a follower of Jesus!
Here are the three local leaders that are being raised up to pastor this church. The two young men on the right had just become Christians within the past week and are so on fire for God! A few days ago, one of their friends was sick, and so they prayed and she was healed. Then that lady led them to another friend who was sick and after prayer was healed. If that wasn’t all, she referred them to another guy who couldn’t walk, and he was healed as well. Praise God for how He is already working in this African village!
Below, Pastor Harvey distributes the beautiful brand new bibles!
There is a scarcity of bibles in Malawi – at a youth conference we preached at, only one in ten Christian youth owned a bible. These young men and women were so happy to receive their very own bible so they can study the word of God anytime, anywhere!
The new church! Isn’t it beautiful?
Visiting this church and distributing their bibles was honestly one of my favorite moments on the World Race so far. I think that one thing that I appreciated most was the sense of vibrancy and life in the room – people were so excited and hungry to learn about following Jesus. This was very refreshing and is something that can unfortunately be lost within established churches.
As I reflect on my church planting experiences in America and Africa, the major difference that I see is the simplicity. In America, there are seemingly dozens of hoops that you must jump through before you can plant a church – finding money to rent a meeting room, buying equipment, etc. But here in Africa, you can plant a church anytime, anywhere – all you need is people who are hungry for God. And here in Africa, the harvest is ready – when the gospel is shared, people are ready to jump “all in” for Christ. I wonder what we Americans can do to become less distracted by the “stuff” involved in planting a church…
Another thing I really appreciated about this experience was to see the fruit of the seeds of the gospel that had been planted within our teams. It can be draining to continually go to new places and cultures and then leave before we see the fruit of it…Ashley’s team was so excited to hear about how this church was doing after only one week in Christ!
Speaking of seeds, it’s rainy season here in Malawi, which means it’s also time for planting crops. Here Pastor Eddie is holding maize seeds, which are coated to ensure they will sprout in the ground:
Here I am, planting maize in the ground:
After seven days, here is how they look! Amazing how much they grow in only one week…reminds me of church plants
Last, here is our team’s highlight video from this month: