Church planters around the world share a passion for making disciples.
“Any way that Christians share the life and love of Christ with those around them is evangelization—sharing the good news in any way possible,” says Gretchen Schoon Tanis, a church planter in Hannover, Germany. “It means helping people see a connection between the life they live on a daily basis and our understanding of who God is in the person of Jesus Christ and as experienced through the power of the Holy Spirit. That looks unique no matter where you are in the world.”
That goal rings true for church planters whether they are in North America or around the globe. As they plant churches, many of them in simple formats or “fresh expressions,” they continually share God’s love, inviting people in their contexts to also claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Here, six church planters from around the globe share their heart for making disciples of all nations. Each has followed God’s call into mission, enduring challenges and seeing beauty as they till rich fields for the harvest.
Maasai Outreach Mission
His calling: I just wanted to obey. [The light of Christ] was so strong. I want to go to every village. I want to tell any person walking by who God is in my life and what Christianity means in my life.
The response: The people cherish Christianity because they have tasted Christianity [through wells, schools, and the generosity of donors.] They say, “When are you coming? Come and tell us about Jesus.” So we thank God for that.
On challenges: Romans 10:14 crinkles my life wherever I go—how will they know if somebody doesn’t tell them? That is our mega challenge. We want to go to every village where they are. We don’t call them challenges, just privileges for us to grow. We want to see people progressing.
United World Mission
Why Bangkok? It’s really a tale of two cities in my heart. I grew up in New York City, where about 10 percent of the population is Christian and there are 6,000 churches. Bangkok also has 12 million people, but only 400 churches. And only 0.6 percent of the population confesses Christ as Lord. There are more people who are working in or are victims of human trafficking than there are Christians in the whole country. This country needs to know Jesus and be transformed.
His comfort: It’s not me that goes, but Christ goes before me. We tend to focus on the “therefore go and make disciples” part, but after experiencing more puffs of dust than I’d have ever expected, I’m looking at Christ who says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me … and lo, I am with you until the end of the age.”
Jibit Asha International
Nepal and North America
The demographics: In Nepal, there are 29 million people and less than 2 percent are Christians. The majority of them haven’t yet been reached. And now, there are 90,000 Nepali-speaking refugees in the United States. Our goal is to reach out to them as well. We want to plant 50 churches in 5 years and start a Reformed church movement in Nepal.
Open doors: In 2012, God gave us a way to plant churches among Nepali-speaking people groups in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also, God opened the door to help plant another church in Lansing, Michigan. In 2018, God opened the door to go back to Nepal and plant some churches where there are people who do not know Christ yet—very strong Hindus or Buddhists—and they are sacrificing buffaloes, chickens, and goats to please their gods and goddesses.
The context: Hungary is maybe behind the U.S. economically, but ahead in terms of atheism, agnosticism, and a post-Christian world. Europe is now a mission field. As the scientists say, Europe is the second hardest mission field of the world, right after the Middle East.
What he’s doing: I started with a group of former students, and asked, “What does it look like to start a church for these young people who are now adults?” What we do in Debrecen is to try to use experiences and put it into a new expression. It’s church planting—not yet a movement, but we are praying for that—and working with existing churches to help them be renewed.
Gretchen Schoon Tanis
RELISH (Reformed English Language International Service in Hannover)
Saying yes: Initially, I said, “No, thank you” to church planting. My kids were four and eight when we moved [to Germany], none of us spoke any German, and it seemed really overwhelming to me. It’s amazing to see how God has transformed my “no, thank you” into something that’s truly beautiful. … He led me to a place where my wildest dreams could be fulfilled right there in front of my face. If you’re up for an adventure, say yes to God and follow where Jesus leads.
Thoughts on the global church: We met for the first time on Pentecost, and I thought, “Here is all the world in one place.” Having people from all these different cultures and backgrounds is such a gift. This could be a snapshot of what heaven looks like. … I think our call as the church is to be adept at being versatile and speaking the languages. It adds this sense of really seeking God’s heart for people coming from all these different backgrounds.
Francisco Chaves dos Santos
Presbyterian Church of Manaus
The context: There are 4 million people living in the Amazon State in North Brazil: 2 million in the capital, Manaus, and 2 million in the countryside. Half of the population lives under the poverty line. There are 622 citizen towns and more than 7,000 riverside communities, only 1,300 of which have evangelical presence. Transportation is all about boats and rivers, so we proclaim the gospel using the boats and rivers.
His calling—and ours: I think of Isaiah 6, where Isaiah is contemplating the throne and glory of God. He has a great encounter with the Spirit of God, and God asks, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah, full of the Holy Spirit, says, “Here I am. Send me.” We can dream like that. You can be sent. Anyone can be sent to pray for us, to support us, and to be here church planting with us.
A version of this article originally appeared in the spring 2021 edition of RCA Today magazine.