Ruby and I recently visited Great Britain (England) where we trained a group of pastors and church planters to launch churches from within their own congregations.
The group leader is Surekha Hulugale, a missionary to England from Sri Lanka.
Several decades ago war in Sri Lanka drove immigrants from that country to seek refuge in England. Surekha and his wife Chrishiana, originally arrived as missionaries to those refugees, but the ministry soon expanded to touch people of many backgrounds. Today they lead second-generation pastors from Africa, (particularly Nigeria) as well as Anglo-Saxon pastors who we normally see as the English people. The cool thing about all of this is that these churches cross lines, touching people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
As you might expect, with any new group, the churches lack a strong financial base. For this reason most of the pastors are “bivocational.” That means that they work a regular job in addition to pastoring a church. Their jobs range from menial positions in hotels to professional occupations. Each one pays a great price in order to serve the Lord. These are hardy people and heroes in the faith.
God Works Despite Difficulties
The last time I was with this group was just one year ago. Their jobs made the seminars tough to operate—and to teach. We started on Thursday night, running into Saturday afternoon with people strangling in at all hours. Each time someone new showed up, the others rejoiced to see them which disrupted the flow of teaching. I thought the whole thing would turn out to be a bust. The good news is that they planted six churches in the past 12 months. Surekha told me that all of them grew out of last year’s seminars. The group now numbers 27 churches.
This year things were different. Surekha asked everyone to take a day off from work on Friday. This allowed everybody to arrive Friday night at the same time. We worked together that night and all day Saturday. The new schedule provided the pastors with a much richer learning experience. It also left me feeling much better about my ability to teach “brick upon brick.” Whenever you teach you what to build one truth on top of another. That felt nearly impossible a year ago and yet the Holy Spirit caused the teaching to bear fruit. I was thrilled to hear last year’s results.
More In The Pipeline
During this year’s seminars I asked how many thought they might be able to launch a new church during next 12 months. Thirteen hands shot up, immediately.
One of the nice things that happened this year was that they invited Ruby to teach for one session. It was a test to see how would respond to something designed for pastor’s spouses. The results for strong and they will to host breakout groups for pastor’s spouses next year. Ruby will teach them about the intricacies of supporting pastor, especially in a startup church. We’re hoping that this will open doors to more ongoing support for pastors and their families as the movement matures.
Hope For The West
The presence of all these pastors proves that God is not through with England. Other groups, there, are beginning to plant churches and it seems that there is a small groundswell of evangelism that has not yet made the news. I’m in touch with a couple of the leaders and their very presence gives me hope for the future.
Shortly after the trip, I met a pastor who is planting a church in my own neighborhood in Hawaii. He is the 49th missionary from his church to the United States. The interesting thing about him is that his denomination is headquartered in the African nation of Ghana.
God is sending missionaries to the two countries that once provided more missionaries than any others. Though England and the United States may have largely turned their backs on God, he has not forgotten either country.
People like these motivate me to keep traveling and teaching disciplemaking and church multiplication. We know that the gospel is spread faster find new congregation than by anything else we do in our churches.
Thanks again for supporting this ministry. Together we are changing history in many lands. This is the gospel in action! I still focus my travels on places where A. A church is morphing into a church planting movement. B. They can’t afford the airfare. Your donations make this possible.