Acts 6.7a – ‘The word of God continued to spread’
The Evangelism & Church Growth Initiative Newsletter
The August 2012 edition of Witness6.7 focuses on Church Planting. It features interesting articles and stories from Canada, Chile, England, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Togo and Zambia.
That was many years ago. We are in a very different situation where denominational loyalty has given way to a common mission. I am delighted that church planting in this new atmosphere generated so much energy around the Communion! Rather than chasing after people, we have seen contributions pouring in and have needed to hold back some articles for future issues.
In this edition you will find personal stories from church planters, reflection from researchers, and general overview from officers responsible for strategy. They are from South America, Asia, Africa, North American and the United Kingdom. Just as important is the variety of contexts. Some plant churches in villages that have never heard the name of Jesus, others in cities where churches have long declined, and yet others in places where evangelization is legally restricted. Whatever your own context, I trust that you will find some part of this newsletter that will inform and inspire you. More important, these articles will move you to prayer.
Church planting is the most effective way to evangelize and grow the church. Thank God that He has continued to send labourers into the field, evidently in all sorts and conditions!
Bishop Patrick Yu is the Area Bishop of York Scarborough in the Diocese of Toronto, Canada and is also the convenor of Anglican Witness:ECGI
Togo: Like a corridor, the West African nation of Togo is sandwiched between Bénin and Ghana. Although one of the world’s poorest nations, the land is rich in phosphate, used in manufacturing fertilizers; it also produces cotton, corn, yam, and rice. The World Bank recently annulled its debts, and Togo is reconstructing major roads in all its cities. There has been a measure of peace, freedom and democracy since the reign of President Faure, but the political thermometer rises around election times.
Animism is very popular and Togo remains one of the last strongholds of voodoo worship in West Africa. There is also a steady growth of Islam which is the religion of nine Togolese tribes. Although the first church, (Methodist) came to Togo in 1843, the land remained largely unreached until the nineteen-nineties. With the coming of democracy, many evangelical churches sprung up but as many as fifteen tribes can still be said to be unreached (ten seriously) with the gospel and many villages without any churches. ‘The nations are hungry and thirsty and they are crying for the Word of God.‘ There are places where the village chiefs are literally calling for us to come with the good news.
Church planting: We came to Togo in March 2011 from Nigeria through the support of Diocese On The Niger (Anglican Communion). We started a Church in Kara – Northern Togo where I live but finding the language, culture and attitude of the people to the mission/Church a challenge, we changed our strategy. Some Togo Christians were trained in missions and church, and then sent to the mission fields in the major cities. We have seen success in sixteen different areas scattered through the length and breadth of Togo. As these missionaries combined Church planting with discipleship, new disciples are now planting more Churches in the surrounding hamlets and villages.
Healthcare and mission: Josephine is a nurse and midwife by profession, recruited as the Anglican Church medical missionary in May 2011 and sent to Adeleme village in Blitta region. We raised money and bought drugs for malaria, infections, pains, worms and wounds. After one month of her work, God had already done many things and the villagers were giving their lives to the Lord. She sends this testimony.
One day around five o’clock in the morning some people knocked at my door. A young man was dying. He was foaming from the mouth and his heartbeat was slow and irregular. I did not know what to do but the family members were looking up to me to save the young man. The hospital was 53 km away. I prayed before them and injected him with an analgesic and promised them that he would be alright. We looked for someone to transport him to the hospital, but no one would do it. They all said that it was of no use, that he was already dead and would not survive the trip to the hospital. I persuaded them and one motorbike rider accepted to take him. They tied him to the rider with cloth since he was unconscious, and a third person sat behind him to support him. All day the whole village waited for the news. Towards evening, a phone call announced that the young man had been revived and was now talking. They also said that the hospital nurses said he would have died, were it not for the injection that I gave him. The whole village and the young man’s family members gathered in my house to thank me for his healing. I knew I did not do anything serious, apart from the prayer I made. I used the opportunity to preach the gospel to them. His family members and some villagers received the Lord. On the first Sunday of July 2011, he and his family came to church service.
Future plans: In strongly animist and/or Muslim communities, we intend to use medical missions through mobile clinics and building well furnished clinics as well as literacy programs, schools and/or other Community Development projects to support the Church planting operations.
Revd Oliver Ozoekwe Ofoegbu, Mission Team Leader
Background: Of 2.6 million Christians (9.2% out of 28 million) in Malaysia, 70% are non-Malay native people living in the two eastern states of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, representing 28% and 42% of the state population respectively. Belonging to more than 30 different tribes, many of the native Christians either use Bahasa Melayu, the national language, or their native languages. Only 30% of Christians (about 800,000) live in the remaining 11 states in the peninsular part of Malaysia, constituting only 3.6% of the total population of 22 millions. In Peninsular Malaysia, the majority of Bahasa-speaking Christians are collectively known as the Orang Asli, comprising about 150,000, many of whom used to live in isolated villagers in the jungle and on the fringes of towns. Comprised of several tribes they speak several native languages, which are different from the Malay language but incorporate many Malay words. None of the tribal languages has a written script. There is hardly any Christian literature in their native language. Neither has any bible book been translated. The Orang Asli people used to practice traditional animistic beliefs but as many as 20% have turned to Christ over the last 30 years and there are several villages, ‘kampungs’, which are completely Christian. However as their villages can be distant, often with no proper roads or basic amenities, there is an urgency to train leaders so that sharing the gospel with their own people can be continued.
Anglican Village Ministry (AVM): For the last 15 years, the Anglican Church in West Malaysia, led by Bishop Ng Moon Hing, who was then the Vicar of St Peter’s Church in Ipoh, has been involved in the mission to the Orang Asli especially in the State of Perak. The native language is quite difficult to learn but fortunately most of them are proficient in the Malay language, especially the younger ones. In fact they prefer to use this language in church as there are many Christian songs and materials, as well as those from Indonesia, whose language is very similar. This Village Ministry has reached out to 25 villages with a total Christian membership of about a 1500; about 1000 have been baptized during this period. Twelve villages have weekly chapel services, another eight have weekly home fellowship meetings, and others have regular fortnightly or monthly gatherings. Our mission has expanded to another four villages in the neighbouring State of Kelantan.
Occasionally, under the guise of ‘protecting them from outside influences’, the authorities tell us to stop work on constructing chapels. Another challenge is that the government department for Native Affairs works closely with the Islamic Affairs department and villages which become Muslim tend to have better facilities such as roads, electricity and water supply. As the indigenous people are quite marginalised economically, our mission has to be wholistic including chicken and goat rearing, fish farming; medical visits; kindergartens and tuition classes are ongoing.
Leadership Training: The Malaysian mission organization of ICM has translated its three Bible studies modules into Bahasa Melayu. It is a simple yet comprehensive series of teaching materials adequate for rural church leaders and evangelists. With the ICM books, AVM has reached out to more that ten per cent of the adult members who in turn are expected and ready to equip and teach their own members. Workshops and seminars on worship, prayers, evangelism and discipleship are regular features as training tools. Teams from other churches and mission bodies visit the villages frequently to teach and encourage. Conferences and training camps are also organized for all the different age categories, such as men, women, youth and children.
With the help from the Malaysia Bible Seminary, we started the Malaysia Bible School 9 years ago. Classes are held in the evenings to cater for the many working adults who cannot afford to leave their jobs for full-time studies. Fees are kept at a minimum. Each module consists of 24 hours teaching with essays and examinations. After completing 12 modules, the student is awarded with the Certificate in Biblical Studies by the Seminary. During the last 9 years, about 80 students have taken the courses, 40 completing the Certificate and 12 proceeding to diploma and some to degree studies. In the last five years, four have been awarded the B.Th., two being ordained in the Anglican Church. Seven leaders have been appointed as Lay Pastors.
Such achievements would not be possible without the partnership of many other churches and individuals, both Anglican and non-Anglican, locally and overseas. It is hoped that soon, the tribal Orang Asli churches will become mature and begin to be self-theologising, self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. Our aim is for a 30-year goal in transforming the next generation to be leaders and servants of the Almighty God. Please continue to pray for this mission.
Canon Dr Teoh SK email@example.com Coordinator of Orang Asli Ministry
Since November, 2011 I have been working with the Diocese of Toronto to lead the development of a new church in Ajax, a growing suburb near Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We committed to planning, launching and sustaining a community of new disciples appropriately shaped for mission in its context. To understand that context, we spent six months in prayer, research and planning to learn as much as possible about life in Ajax and where the gospel could best take hold. Our temptation would be to implement forms of church we know and love, but that are incompatible with a changing context, or that might attract only those from other churches already following Jesus. This is a brief summary of our missional listening and research methods, and the plan that is forming in response.
We began by commissioning a study of the entire community, with typical age, education, income and other data, but also learned about common values, buying habits and responses to specific statements. This study helped us to locate a suitable home. I familiarized myself with the community by walking, driving, shopping and enjoying community spaces, and reading about the history, official plans and news of the community. I interviewed local civic and church leaders, as well as regular residents in more casual conversations.
After observing and listening as much as possible, I began to interpret and look for common threads. It quickly became clear that Ajax has an extremely high percentage of young, multi-ethnic families whose adults commute long hours to work. They spend little time at home, have high demand jobs, and experience stress as a result. They long to reprioritize their lives, but feel stuck.
In times of prayer, I would ask God to reveal needs that were not being served by existing churches in the area. We know the gospel sparks the kind of life transformation and reprioritizing that this group longs to experience, but because of their limited free time at home, it became apparent that any church events, no matter what the time or theme, were unlikely venues for such overcommitted people to learn about Jesus for the first time. How could we reach commuters with the good news of Jesus Christ, even while on the move? An idea emerged in a moment of inspiration, so we conducted an online survey to test its potential, and decided to go ahead.
Later this year we are launching Redeem the Commute (http://www.redeemthecommute.com/), a mobile app and web site for commuters in our area. Smartphones are everywhere among commuting young professionals, and the commute is often seen as lost time; in need of “redemption”. To help people redeem that lost time and make positive changes, we’ll deliver good quality content that serves the needs of busy, commuting people, beginning with marriage and parenting courses. We’ll introduce the Redeemer himself with a Christian Basics course, and then fresh, daily discipleship content for those growing as followers of Jesus.
Our aim is not to start a virtual church, but to bring people together in a dispersed form of cell church. Participants who start a course alone will be encouraged to start or join a discussion group, meeting weekly in places like trains, buses, workplaces and homes. We will ‘seed’ groups by using area churchgoers, but new groups will be organic and self-organizing, centered around gospel content, and with coaching, oversight and regular visits from staff.
By the end of 2013, we hope to see enough groups running and growing in faith that we can gather them all together for a great celebration in worship – our first of many times worshipping together as one community named Redeemer Church (http://www.redeemerajax.ca/)
This is the very early shape of a church plant intentionally focused on the discipleship of a particular people in a particular place and time. It arose after a time of careful research, interpretation, planning, but especially prayer, asking God to reveal needs, and where a new church could help. I trust that through this process of missional listening, interpretation and creative response, God will reveal to missional leaders new people groups and new forms of church for any context, and transform our neighbourhoods, communities and world.
The Church of England needs hard facts about fresh expressions of Church. Stories rightly inspire, but cannot give an accurate bigger picture. Sheffield Centre was set up as Church Army’s research unit in 1997 to discern patterns and trends. We have set out to plug this gap, working diocese by diocese, researching their fresh expressions. Liverpool gladly co-operated and this is our first report. Data from 132 of 134 known examples was gathered then analysed.
Some headlines - With 202 parishes, 78 fresh expressions of Church comprises 38.6%; a sizeable aspect of diocesan life. This counters the perception that they are peripheral to the life of the Church of England. 54 were begun between 2006 and 2011, whereas only 19 between 1999 and 2005, showing a clear increase in the trend.
Type of area - They were not mainly focused on suburban middle England. Virtually half occurred in social settings that the Church has historically deemed more demanding, in the City Centre and in Rural contexts. The percentage of suburban cases is slowly diminishing, while those in Urban and Urban Priority Areas continue as numerous as before.
Christians De-churched or Nonchurched? - We asked who each church intended to reach: Christians, De-churched or Non Churched and what the result was. There were stories of welcome surprises and significant disappointment, with some aspirations never met.
The overall picture is of drawing significantly more Christians than they aimed for, slightly more de-churched than they tried for and a fifth less non churched than they hoped for. The Christians figures include team members sent to begin the work, and is most of that grouping. The de-churched are a third of the overall number and the non churched make up two in five. The data, in this diocese, contradicts an impression that fresh expressions of Church overwhelmingly attract the de-churched and existing Christians.
Who attends? - They recorded 2706, being 1679 adults and 1027 children, from 481 adults and 91 children sent out. This four-fold return bears noticing. However it must be born in mind that 54% of cases meet weekly, 12% fortnightly and 35% monthly. Liverpool’s average weekly attendance of all ages in 2010 was listed as 27,800. (Church Statistics 2010/11 p. 12). Thus the fresh expressions of Church attendance figure is just under 10% of the whole diocese. The number of children and high proportion of cases intended to be all age communities indicates that the movement has succeeded in attracting families.
The Sacraments - The sacraments rightly demand inclusion, at some stage in the maturing of fresh expressions of Church. 46% of the 78 cases have had communion services. 20.5% have held baptisms. It appears that the different kinds of fresh expression either set a different value on this, or it may be that they mature ecclesially at different rates, depending on the people and age group they work with.
Team sizes - Most church plant teams were small, with 3-13 members being true in 70% of cases. Only 5% had more than 20 team members. The stereotype of the large planting team sent out from a larger church to begin a transplant does not apply in this diocese.
By which traditions? - Traditions are no longer in neat distinction, but are often combined. Here those owning an evangelical tradition were 44% of the total, Charismatic Evangelical 19%, with 19% owning Central, often combined with either evangelical or charismatic. Catholic examples, combined with other traditions, make up 8%. Thus all are represented to some degree.
Locations and days used - 39% of cases used an existing church, 23% a church hall and 37% a secular venue. Thus 60% of fxC are not in the parish church, but at some distance, culturally or geographically, from it. Only 29% met on Sunday. 66% were midweek, with 5% on Saturday. It reflects a desire to fit with local and cultural realties and recognizing social factors against meeting on Sunday.
Steps in discipleship - Leaders were asked if they mentored people 1-1, provided courses, ran groups, or drew people into teams. Only 20% did none of these and some were very recent starts. It indicates that fresh expressions of Church are not merely interested in attendance and are trying to form disciples.
George Lings, The Sheffield Centre
Church Army’s Sheffield Centre is repeating this exercise with other dioceses; (further information at http://www.churcharmy.org.uk/ms/sc/sfc_researchbulletin.aspx ). Only then will similarities and differences appear between them. Now that fresh expressions plants are being analysed, we will be able for the first time to give a better indication of the nature of their contribution to overall diocesan growth and decline and the part they play within the ‘mixed economy’.
Tung Chung, a sleepy little rural village on the north-western coast of Lantau Island, whose heritage can be traced to the Song Dynasty 960–1279 AD, is the first new town on an outlying island of Hong Kong developed in the mid-1997s’ to support the new Chek Lap Kok airport. The whole development will be completed in four phases with a target population of 250,000.
As soon as the first phase of the new town was completed in January 1997, the Rt Revd Peter Kwong (who in 1998 became the first Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui - HKSKH), established a mission church in the new town. The population of 15,000 came from divergent backgrounds, both socially and religiously, and in some cases even culturally; many were new immigrants from Mainland China. Many were working parents spending much time travelling back and forth between work places and home. The Diocese felt compassion for them, acknowledging the desperate need for family services to support them and their children’s education needs in the vicinity of their home.
Based on the belief that the proclaiming of the word of God and witnessing to the world can best be done by following the example of Jesus, the Word incarnate, who wanted to build up a new society of sharing, forgiving, loving, witnessing, serving and praying, the Diocese came up with a triumvirate missionary model. It lost no time getting in touch with the HKSKH Welfare Council to lobby the government to set up the HKSKH run Home Help Service Unit, Integrated Services Centre, and Nursery School in the commercial arcade of a public housing estate, in the town centre. To enable people to feel that all these services came from God’s love, the mission church, the Church of The Ascension, was purposely situated at the premises of the integrated service centre and of the nursery school, instead of having a free-standing church building.
This missionary model provided a seamless and holistic approach to the mission in worship, serving and education. It emphasizes the importance of both mission and the Gospel principle of love for all people. Spreading the Good News cannot be separated from serving others, just like Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. Thus, the Church of The Ascension, the integrated service centre and the nursery school are three in one, and not three separate and unrelated entities. Together, they bring God’s love, service and education to Tung Chung residents under one roof.
Witnessing with this model means mission belongs to the very being of the church, helping others to witness God’s love in life so to affect other people’s life. It also means we may know God better through our personal experiences and witnessing.
This model means we are not only called to witness God, but also called to serve others. Our service is not to convert others because we are commanded by God to love and serve whole-heartedly just like our Lord Jesus Christ. Worship in this model means worshipping God is an important element of God’s mission because human beings are created to thank and praise God for His love and gifts. Within a very brief period of preparation, including negotiations with relevant government departments, the Church of The Ascension held its first Sunday Eucharist on 21 September 1997.
What has been learned from this missionary model? Firstly, if we want to be true witnesses to Christ we must be docile and open to the actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives and actions. Then we will radiate Christ by an integral faith, patient and loving charity and unfailing hope. This witnessing to Christ in our day-to-day life and action will also generate numerous missionary vocations in our midst, be it ecclesial, social serving, or educational.
Secondly, we must be light of the world and salt of the earth. We may not be able to transform the whole world but our little acts of kindness can make a big difference to the person to whom we are kind and, without any ulterior motive, show what Christianity stands for. Then, every single member of the Church makes his or her contribution to the growth, development, and welfare of the Church’s missions.
Finally, our desire to make Christ known and loved is an accurate indicator of the depth of our faith. Faith and mission go hand in hand.
The Most Revd Paul Kwong, Archbishop and Primate, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
The Anglican Diocese of Lusaka through it's mission department and the Anglican Evangelical Ministry of the Lusaka Diocese have been keen for more than 20 years now to participate in God's mission field and do church planting. It has not been that smooth, as we would have loved it to be, as challenges such as resources and enough information about our mission destination have not been readily available.
The Church I am pastoring in Luangwa is one great testimony of what we have done. About 5 years ago there was no Anglican Church in this part of Zambia. A team was put together to do outreach in this area. On the first Sunday we began a church with only 10 people yet today, 5 years later, the congregation has 120 on its register. Our strategy was to begin with the locals and then visitors and those who are not indigenous, but have come to work here. This approach works when it comes to the stability of the congregation. The locals will always be there and they will not move away because this is their land and habitation.
We are now going into phase two where we intend to reach those who have come here to work. I quote Fr. Frank Hakoola who once said, "Works of mission that does not promote church growth and church planting are not welcome." The Truth about this statement is that everything we are to do as The Church should be for the growth of God's Kingdom. We do add to our evangelism healing and deeds of charity.
Rev Fr. Zacchaeus Zulu, Mission Priest for Luangwa, Zambia
We have seen a rather extraordinary example of how God works despite human weaknesses. Our church, La Trinidad, planted a new church in Calera de Tango come five years back. It began a small house church with lay leaders from La Trinidad who move to the out of town residential area in the comfortable countryside; big housing estates with lots of land. Soon the Bible Study grew to the point where they wanted to do services on a Sunday. The congregation was housed in a school and grew and grew to over 80 adults. Finally a pastor was brought on board but it never quite worked out. The strong lay leadership did not find it easy, nor the pastor. There were tensions and sadness. The pastor left to another calling but the work has never stopped. From this small church now three new Bible Study/potential churches are starting up in homes; in Ciudad del Valle, Algarrobo and nearby Talagante. The power of lay leadership is here seen throughout, even though the process has been painful. God has been faithful through faithful though imperfect workers.
The Venerable Alf Cooper, Santiago, Chile
Do thank God for the exciting way that He has led and guided in the different stories featured in this edition and pray for the people involved.
We have also been asked to pray for:
Prayer requests for the October 2012 edition should be sent by1 September 2012
The Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative now has more than 340 registered participants based in at least forty different countries. We also have over five hundred friends in our Facebook group. The majority of the facebook friends are not registered, so we are confident that we are in touch with between 650 and 700 different participants around the Anglican Communion; 650 - 700 people with different stories to tell from being involved in evangelism and church growth within their different contexts; 650 - 700 participants that we can learn from and share with.
The Initiative is you, the participants, so we encourage you to use the Initiative as a way of keeping in touch, supporting and encouraging each other. You can:
Participate by registering - if you have not already done so, the online form is available on http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi — we will inform the core group person responsible for your region about you and make sure you are sent this newsletter six times a year;
Become a facebook friend – once you have joined facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/anglicanwitness/ the facebook page provides an interactive forum so that you can share stories, prayer requests, resources and questions with each other
Explore the website – at www.aco.org/ministry/mission/ecgi you will find back copies of the newsletter, lists of evangelism resources and various resources that others have produced to help with their work;
Encourage others – who are involved in evangelism and church growth to register, join the facebook page and explore the website
Share your stories – so that we can include these within the newsletter; stories of how God is working through your church or organisation to grow his church; stories to encourage others; stories so that we can learn from your experience. Stories (300—700 words) and photos to arrive a month before the publication date to firstname.lastname@example.org
Send articles for the October 2012 edition, on Prayer & Spiritual Formation, by 1 September 2012
Tell us - about resources: books; websites; courses, good practice; prayers, forthcoming events etc that we can include in future newsletters or on the website
Post – stories, helpful web-links, resources, prayer requests, questions, information etc on the Facebook page
Translate - this newsletter, and other material, into the languages of those who cannot read in English; at this stage we do not have the resources to do this ourselves
Pray - for the work featured in the newsletters and Facebook page and give thanks for God’s faithfulness
The Mission Department
Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew’s House
16 Tavistock Crescent
London W11 1AP, UK