In this blog Philip Kirkland shares nine lessons he had learned in Southern Europe. Some of these lessons will be relevant to you, it depends on which stage you are in the process of planting a church.

Be prepared for upheaval and setbacks.

You cannot control an intercultural church. That is OK. Sometimes it comes out in a positive way, sometimes it feels negative. However, in everything, God is at work. Just be prepared for that and I think that these expectations will help you in darker days.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Just move forward step by step and focus on disciple-making.

If you are imagining this angle: how to have a church, were to put all the people… I do not have musicians. How to do all this work? My advice is to make disciples. The disciples will help you figuring out how you should do the work. Move forward little by little as a community.

Invest in your leaders first, and let your team connect to visitors and seekers.

You will get overwhelmed. Meeting with five people is great. Leading one Alpha small group is doable. It won’t take long before things begin to scale up. The process will do what it is supposed to do: other people will come to Christ. You will have more people than you can shepherd yourself. Invest in your first level of teachers and leaders heavily. Let them do the work of connecting, welcoming and using their homes. You do not have the capacity to go all the way to the edges. That is why you should invest in people around you.

Pray and depend on God to build his church.

It is God’s activity. You are not going to have the best idea for how to plant a church. You are not going to have a brilliant idea that is going to work in your city. But God does! God is exactly knowing how he is going to do this. And that is why we pray and rest in his work.  

Build a team – you cannot carry this on your own. Keep building.

Keep investing in those people around you. If some of them leave, that is great. The church in Antioch sent out Saul and Barnabas. What a loss for the church, right? Imagine that you have five leaders in Acts 13 and you are supposed to send out Saul and Barnabas. That is how it goes. Just keep building. I am sure the church in Antioch did not give up, they kept investing in other people.

Invest in people and their movement towards Christ and the church will come together more easily.

Do not overexaggerate what you have to do to get a church build. Invest in people. That is the way of building a church. You build up from the ground.  

Keep processes simple.

Bible studies and service and events. Beware of things that take disproportionate time to their value.

There will be a lot of rabbit trails: there are a lot of places where you can run. There are many things which take your time. In our church we were designing a paper bulletin and translated the content in a lot of languages. We introduced the songs in multiple languages. We had a translation team. It was too much. All I could ask in my church was to put the bulletin together. I thought: “do you know what, let’s scrap the bulletin, put stuff up on the screen and the guys, who are working on all of that, go and make disciples”.  

Be patient. Do not sprint. You cannot afford to burn out and your team needs you to be healthy.

This is more a pastoral concern that I have for everyone who wants to follow after Jesus. Jesus was going into the mountains to rest. This is slow-paid. He got three years and what he does looks so slow. He is just eating with people, he is doing all these non-time pressured things, and that seems to be effective! Don’t let yourselves be overwhelmed by the pressure to perform or to be productive. Take care of yourself. Life is too long to sprint. Go slow and steady.

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