Last year at our Pastors Conference we shared that God has opened a door for Sovereign Grace Ministries to plant a church in North Africa. We are currently in the process of giving additional training to the men who are leading this effort, as well as giving them an opportunity to visit Sovereign Grace churches to build a prayer support network and potentially recruit members to join the planting team. This is the final of three blog posts to answer some of the most frequent questions asked of team members during these visits. Previous topics: "Is this plan a shift in our missiology?" and "Why are we planting a church there, and why now?"
Who is going and how does someone apply to join the team?
I wish you could personally meet each member of the team and spend some time getting to know them—it’s a godly crew who love the gospel. For most of them, joining this team represents serious sacrifice—leaving family, uprooting from an otherwise comfortable life for a more risky one, career shifts, and the list goes on. And while the team is already formed, we are still in the process of securing visas and processing other necessary paperwork for their relocation. Sharing information about these members could endanger their safety and require a major shift in the timing of the church plant. Not only that, but it could also have serious consequences for the safety of the Christians in the region to whom they’ve previously ministered. Please pray for this team even though you don’t know their names!
What I can tell you is that we are still looking for one to two more families or singles to join the team. If you want to explore this possibility, contact the senior pastor at your church and ask him for the team profile (which describes some of the things we are looking for in candidates) and the application forms. With those documents in hand, you can begin the process:
- Examine the profile and invite others to do this on your behalf as well
- Fill out the application
- Ask your pastor to fill out the pastoral recommendation
- Contact us for instructions on submitting the completed application documents
If you have questions about the application process, or if you're not a member of an SGM church but want to apply for the team, please contact us.
What will ongoing care look like for the church-planting team?
A primary reason the team is taking time to build a partnership with SGM is because they wanted to deepen the care they receive as they work there. By developing a larger church-planting team, they will be able to more effectively care for each other. There are also some local believers in North Africa who will extend fellowship and care to those on the church planting team. The prayers and support of SGM churches will also play an important role in the team’s care. Finally, Kenneth Maresco is responsible for providing the team with care and counsel after they launch.
Ultimately, of course, our greatest comfort is found in knowing that God himself will care for the team. The Savior has promised that he is with us in our going, so as we labor to make disciples in North Africa, we have the promise that he will be with us always, to the end of the age. With confidence in the unrelenting faithfulness and goodness of God, we eagerly entrust those we send to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among all those who believe.
How can I pray for the team?
For the church in North Africa: that the Lord will strengthen the faith of believers, increase their hunger for his Word and fellowship, and use the present turmoil in that region for the building of the church. And pray for the work of the gospel: that the team would be completed and assembled, that God would strengthen them with faith and courage, protect them, and raise an army of prayer warriors who long to see God glorified in North Africa and among the nations.
If you want to get more regular prayer requests, please contact us.
Last year at our Pastors Conference we shared that God has opened a door for Sovereign Grace Ministries to plant a church in North Africa. We are currently in the process of giving additional training to the men who are leading this effort, as well as giving them an opportunity to visit Sovereign Grace churches to build a prayer support network and potentially recruit members to join the planting team. This is the second of three blog posts to answer some of the most frequent questions asked of team members during these visits.
Does this plan represent a shift in our missiology, and will we be recruiting other missionaries to send to unreached people groups?
Is it a shift? Well, yes and no. "Yes" in that it represents an additional shift of resources and attention to unreached people based upon our relationship with this team. But "no" in the sense that we have already taken other encouraging steps toward unreached people groups. We have done this through our financial support of certain ministries, our training and support of church planters in certain parts of India, and our work among unreached people in Burma through a Pastors College graduate named David.
Yes, it is a shift for us to take men without a history of leadership in our churches and send them to foreign soil. It is also a shift to send an American team into another country to plant a church, but it appears to us that God has ordained this relationship for a time such as this. And this venture doesn't represent a fundamental shift in our missiology; our missions strategy continues to emphasize these principles:
- Identifying and sending men who appear to have a proven gift in apostolic-type ministry
- Planting churches rather than sending individuals
- When possible, training indigenous leaders rather than transplanting those who don't know the language, would be perceived as cultural outsiders, and may face greater geographic, cultural, or linguistic barriers than an indigenous leader
- Maintaining association with a specific denomination or family of churches (in our case, Sovereign Grace Ministries), rather than interdenominational mission work
These same principles have informed our planned involvement in North Africa:
- The team leader appears to have a proven track record of planting and supporting churches in Asia and North Africa
- The existing team has requested a larger church-planting team than what they previously had in North Africa, so that they are not alone
- Certain team members are in many ways established in the culture and language of the country to which they're going
- These men have expressed their deep desire to be trained doctrinally, sent, and supported by Sovereign Grace Ministries
At the same time, we also want to be quick to acknowledge that having a primary strategy for missions does not mean we rule out everything that falls outside this strategy. Our primary strategy will be carried out most effectively with methodological flexibility, not methodological snobbery. If Christ is proclaimed, in that we rejoice. This is all the more true when it comes to working among unreached peoples and other situations where the ideal methodology cannot be perfectly maintained. When gifted leaders with years of experience and proven effectiveness in other nations are interested in partnering with us to plant churches in those nations, we are always interested in exploring the possibilities. (Spread the word!)
Last year at our Pastors Conference we shared that God has opened a door for Sovereign Grace Ministries to plant a church in North Africa. We are currently in the process of giving additional training to the men who are leading this effort, as well as giving them an opportunity to visit Sovereign Grace churches to build a prayer support network and potentially recruit members to join the planting team. This is the first of three blog posts to answer some of the most frequent questions asked of team members during these visits.
Why are we planting a church in North Africa?
As a family of churches, we love the gospel and want to see the name of Jesus Christ honored among those who do not know him. We also want to see churches planted and nations reached for the glory of God. We want to make his saving power known. And, yes, there are many places that need churches! So, why North Africa?
Primarily it's because it appears God has opened a door to reach that region. Most of our international work involves equipping indigenous pastors to build local church planting movements. Over the years, though, we've sought to also be sensitive to where God is establishing relationships that position us to serve unreached areas and people groups. God has provided us with just such an opportunity in a part of North Africa. We're excited about a developing partnership with a few qualified men who will lead the mission. And, it's been incredible to watch our family of churches come together to provide training, financial support, and prayer for the North Africa team—this partnership gives us confidence to move forward with the endeavor and trust God with the results.
Given the instability of North Africa, is this really a good time to plant a church there?
Great question! Thanks for asking this particular one since I think it reveals a heart to care for the people we are sending to North Africa. We have carefully followed current events abroad and in North Africa in particular. We have not only prayerfully considered whether the location is right, but if the timing is right. Of course, our goal isn't to intentionally seek danger and we certainly don't want to put anyone in harm's way. At the same time, spreading the gospel is inherently dangerous, and church planting among Muslims in North Africa will, inevitably, involve heightened risk. As a result, we've concluded that it does not seem best to allow the cultural and political stability of a region to determine whether we take the gospel to that place. We also don't see waiting for peaceful times as a pattern in the New Testament. With that said, we do move forward cautiously, trusting God that he is leading us according to his plan and timing.
We don't know how long instability will remain in North Africa and whether things will get better or worse in the future. We do know there are brothers and sisters there who need care and spiritual leadership. And we know there are many men and women in North Africa who have never heard the saving message of Jesus Christ. We believe we can help by sending the church planting team to this troubled region sooner rather than later.
As the man leading the North Africa church planting team said, "Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations, not just the ones that are safe. Unreached nations are unreached for a reason: they are inherently hostile to the gospel. They will never welcome us. We don't just lower our shoulders and go in blindly. But if we allow our evaluation of a favorable political climate and a craving for security to have authority over Scripture we will never go. Jesus promises us a hostile reception. He also promises to be with us. That is all we get. And that is enough."