It was a celebration of what God has done. Our Church Multiplication Network gathered to look back at the journey of the past 3½ years and to look ahead to the future. For us, it felt like a kindergarten graduation, an important foundational stage is past but the new churches still have more maturing and development ahead.
In 2009 we started with 6 pastors and churches who were interested in church planting. Over the course of the network 5 church planting couples have been launched, each leading their own church or home group. These range from a traditional type full-time pastor with a rented facility to lay leaders who are invested in house churches.
Significant highlights include seeing people come to Christ and get baptized. Memorably one new church baptized 7 people in a bathtub during a typhoon.
Fun highlights of the network include a retreat for pastors and wives and a beach bbq for the lay church planters and their families.
It has been exciting to see how involvement in the network challenged pastors and leaders to re-think about church, leadership, evangelism, discipleship and other core issues. One pastor’s whole paradigm of church planting shifted through the comment of a church planting coach from the tsunami disaster zone. This coach shared how he had come to realize that one of the goals of discipleship is to raise up people capable of becoming new church planters and leaders. So as the Okinawan pastor began to invest in the lives of new Christians, he saw them as potential future leaders, pastors and planters, changing his whole approach to doing church.
Though goals and plans were made, each group faced challenges and struggles that God used to bring them to unexpected places. Some potential leaders participated in the network but have not yet reached the point of launching a new church. Experience has shown us that we can expect one or more new church plants out of this group in the next few years. (In the past year we have seen the launch of 2 new churches in Okinawa started by leaders who were involved in and deeply impacted by earlier networks.)
Looking back, we as a couple have served many different roles as we interacted with the churches and plants. We went through various seasons of focusing in a “hands on” way on a church, investing in it for a specific period of time for a defined purpose (i.e. launch a discipleship course, help with an Alpha course, do a short-term English program, etc.) Throughout this whole time we also served as coaches, particularly for the planters. We really enjoy the wide range of ministry and experiences we get to have over the course of a network.
We are confident that God will continue to work through these new church plants and their mother churches to reach Okinawa with the transforming power of the gospel.