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Church plants don’t happen by accident

A strategic decision to employ specialist discipleship coaches in Scandinavia and the Balkan regions of south east Europe is bearing fruit. An intensive four-day workshop in Serbia means 20 pastors from seven countries are now equipped and energized to plant churches in their local areas.

Nikolaus Satelmajer and Simon Martin were appointed as Discipleship Coaches in October last year and, since taking office, have both been involved in a careful listening and mentoring exercise.

For those in the Adriatic, Hungarian and South-East European Unions this then led to a Church Planting & Re-Planting Workshop, held at the Adventist seminary in Belgrade, Serbia, 10-14 September 2018. Satelmajer led the program stating that “the church has always grown even under difficult circumstances. We face many challenges, but with God's blessings the church will grow.”

He was joined by Martin who is now based in Norway but has vast experience as a planter in the UK. Two other leaders shared their expertise: Steve Leddy who is planting a church in New York city, and Will Robinson who is currently working in Asia. This variety of speakers with extensive experience from different backgrounds, ensured that there was a balance of information and training that could help pastors in cities that seem hard to reach for Christ.

“It was inspirational and practical,” states Gentian Thomollari, a pastor from Albania.  “I am taking home a three-year plan to re-plant a church where I am serving.”  He purposefully adds, “I am also taking home the conviction that God is going to lead us in every step.”

Martin noted that “there are many different models of planting churches today, through discipling people, small groups, urban centres of influence, house churches and launching new kinds of churches.”  He strongly emphasised that creativity and innovation are important.

This helped Aleksandar Macura who is planning a planting project in Serbia. “The seminar itself gave me a better sense, a practical purpose, where we have not only got the theory, but we can immediately try to apply it to our reality,” he said.

Pastors prepared an action plan, working on practical mission activities that would benefit their city. Time was scheduled into the worship to work on their plans and to speak to others in attendance for help, ideas and encouragement. By the end of the workshop, each attendee presented a project for a city in their own country. 

The exercise proved to be very helpful for Marko Zeko from Croatia. “I have learnt the great value of planning and I can take back home good memories from the atmosphere. The enthusiasm that we all shared for mission was a blessing and an inspiration.”

Will it make a difference? Dejan Rajić from Serbia thinks so.  “We got some serious tools for church planting. The whole topic was new for me, challenging but also encouraging and inspiring.”

It is not just the tools. Caleb Quispe is an enthusiastic Peruvian pastor who has chosen to serve in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is still learning the language but found networking to be a key component of success.

“For me the best part was to be able to hear, learn, share and just spend time with other colleagues who are also planting churches in their countries,” he said. “Being able to pray for and with them, knowing that they are also facing the same and even more difficult challenges where they are working, this network of church planters was needed. Now we know who we are, and we are in contact with each other. We get the sense of a team now, and that is the best part of all.”

That is what Satelmajer hoped for as he reflected that there are major cities in these three Unions that do not have a single Adventist congregation. He sees the workshop as a vital part of addressing that issue – as well as adding new congregations in cities that already have some Adventist presence.

Plans are developing to hold other similar events in the future, inviting additional pastors along with church members who are involved in church planting projects.  Martin concludes, “There were many plans that I hope will be followed up so that the church will continue to move forward despite the challenges and that new churches will be planted.”