The life and ministry of a missionary is varied, but the ultimate goal of any missionary should be the same. To establish or plant churches of born again, baptized believers led by a national pastor so that they can continue reaching their community with the gospel. My wife and I have had the awesome privilege of being missionaries in both Honduras and Nicaragua. In both of these countries, God has used us to, so far, establish three local churches. The one in Honduras was planted in 1991 and was completely turned over to Honduran leadership in 1995. Since that time, that particular church has not only grown numerically, but they have also started three other churches. We are currently serving in Nicaragua and the Lord has used us to establish two churches. Both of these churches have strong congregations and very good lay leadership. We boast not in our abilities, but in the hand of God working in a marvelous way. Our mission strategy for planting churches has been directed by three principles. By using these principles, we have seen the Lord working to bring about the goal of establishing a church.
Principle one: We live as close as possible to the area where we feel the Lord wants us to establish a church.
We do not want to live in one location and the church be in another location so our only interaction with the people was when we had church services. We have wanted to establish a connection with the people more than just at church. This makes it easier for personal evangelism as well as establishing a relationship beyond church with the people. We have wanted the people in that particular location to feel a connection with us and have a comfortableness with us that extended their view of us more than just the missionary.
Principle two: Start small, start humble.
In all the churches that the Lord has used us to start, we either started on the porch of a house or under a tree. We did not have sound equipment, hymnals, or other items that required upfront cost before holding the first church service. We started with the basics. The people sat on benches that were already there or asked the neighbors to loan us a chair. We did have Bibles for those who attended and a guitar for singing. As the church grew, the people would express the need for either hymnals or sound equipment and we would teach them that they, through the church offerings, could purchase what was needed. If they did not feel it necessary, then the church did not buy it.
Principle three: Be patient, God will grow the church.
In our first church, it was an entire year before the first person accepted the Lord as their Savior. Yet in the churches in Nicaragua, God has blessed beyond our imagination in how many people have been saved and how quickly the churches have grown. Planting a church requires understanding that we do what we can in connecting with the people, visiting the people to share the gospel and preaching the gospel, but ultimately, it is the Lord who will grow the work in His time and who will bless our efforts as He sees fit. When we understand this, then it is easy to say as the Psalmist,
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes. Psalms 118:23
Planting a church is a work that requires sacrifice but it is a work that requires complete dependency on the Lord. However, the reward of seeing others receiving Christ as their Savior, makes every sacrifice, every moment of evangelizing, every moment spent in prayer asking God to bless the work, worth it all.