Ryan and I are church planters in Paris, France with the international organization World Team. God began working in our hearts back in 2007 and showing us the need for people to work in Europe to help the existing Protestant churches here, and after years of prayer and preparation, we have been here since the Fall of 2013. France is one of the most secular countries in the world and the Christian population is small and struggling. Even with the long Catholic history here, churches are dying everyday, and a lot of these beautiful Cathedrals feel more like museums than vibrant communities. The Protestant population, which we serve, is somewhere between 1-3% (but many studies reveal it is really less than 1%). Studies show just to survive, that percentage must be closer to 10%. So we are here to partner with existing leaders and churches, but specifically with the goal of starting new churches in communities that have none or not enough. The only way to be successful is if these and other churches don’t just grow themselves, but they learn to actually multiply. We want to start new churches that start new churches and so on.
But why are we doing this anyway, why plant churches?
From the very beginning of the Bible, God wanted to create a people for himself through which he would work in the world. In Genesis 12 God called Abraham and said to him, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God chose Abraham so that through Abraham’s descendants God could bless all the peoples on earth. Abraham’s descendants become the nation of Israel, and their entire history is the up and down journey of God attempting to fulfill his promise to Abraham.
At the end of the Old Testament these promises looked stalled. The prophets had been predicting great things for the people of Israel, but the reality was that they had just recently come back to their ancestral home-land and were facing a host of challenges and set backs. It’s into this world that Jesus steps. His mission is to carry out God’s will by taking the plan of blessing forward. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the climax of the story that started back in Genesis. Through his death and resurrection Jesus defeated sin and death allowing God’s blessing to move out into the wider world. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his followers so that they could carry on the mission that he began, which was to bring God’s reign and rule to bear on earth, extending his blessing to the nations.
In Matthew 28 Jesus tells his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus gives his mission over to his followers and continues to work through them by his Spirit even now.
Planting churches is about establishing communities of people who follow Jesus. We plant churches because in so doing we multiply the people who are working to accomplish Jesus’ mission. We multiply people who can share the good news with others, care for the poor, and live out the lifestyle that Jesus lived. We plant churches because in so doing we plant “colonies of heaven” that can extend God’s love, grace and care to the world around them.
This is why we do what we do. And it’s fun, you could join us!