Confessions of a Church Planter

BETEL is a WEC ministry that has seen thousands healed of addiction and come into a relationship with Jesus.  After a while, it was no longer a surprise to see people from the audience expressing interest and wanting to know more. Why? Their testimony of God is amazing and pulls no punches about themselves or their ministry.


What on earth is church planting?


Having completed a diploma in Mission, Lindsay and Myk set off to Madrid, Spain to plant churches in the early 1980s. As part of a CP team, they were going to implement an “approach” to evangelise and gather together new believers into a church, and then replicate the process over and over again. The team spent two years evangelising university students, as this approach had worked in Mexico. They also tried to plant a church in a needy low income area. Problem was, no one cared. Exasperated, they began to question their methodology. Naturally, God had his own agenda.


One day a drug addict named Raul convinced Lindsay, against his better judgment, to give him a bed in his small flat. Like Raul, many addicts saw these WEC missionaries as a soft touch and duly bothered them. Annoyed, Lindsay would often lament that God was not sending him “normal people” to start a church.  After attending a poorly organised evangelistic event, Raul began asking about God. Too busy with disappointment and only half hearing, Lindsay heard a voice “will you just listen to him!” Startled by this, he paid attention and later that evening, against all expectations, Raul believed in Jesus. Cue high fives right? Nope. Although glad, Lindsay was still looking for “normal people.” But they didn’t come. Instead, when Raul’s druggie friends saw the change in him, they wanted the same – much to Lindsay’s consternation. After all, he wasn’t in Madrid to do “social work, we are here to plant churches!” That’s what WEC is about. Nevertheless, these were the not-so-normal people that God was leading to Lindsay and Myk, and has continued to do so for over 30 years. From humble beginnings, Betel has now helped over 160,000 people with addiction, establishing 90 communities and 40 churches in 22 nations – and still counting.


What’s the secret? What’s the strategy?


A quote adopted by Betel from one of WEC’s early leaders, Norman Grubb, gives us a clue. He began each day with this simple but profound prayer: “Good morning God. What are you up to today? I want to be part of it. May I? Thank you, Amen.” In other words, there was no strategy, other than to follow the lead of God.  This became the strategy of Betel, though, according to the McKenzies, “this could only be discerned 10 years after the fact.” From their experience, “God doesn’t give a formula or a methodology in the moment.” One simply has to realise when God has clearly intervened and get onboard. This was the defence that Jesus gave the Pharisees when he dared to heal a blind man on the Sabbath:

“I assure you, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and tells him everything he is doing…” (Jn 5:19-20a).

Though Jesus was strategic in his ministry, he did not adhere to a single, unbending strategy. He knew His father wanted to intervene in this blind man’s life and obeyed. There was no guess work in the matter. Not as eagerly, but to their credit, the McKenzies, and the other co-founders, the Teppers, realised a God intervention in the life of Raul and other addicts and changed their plans accordingly. The rest is His-story.


Lessons to heed for the would-be church planter


What can be learnt from the Betel experience? Hold lightly to any plans or theory. God doesn’t need you to conjure up something to rubber stamp for blessing. Remember, he is the one who’ll lead and build his church – not us!  Instead, expect God’s clear intervention and be ready to change, even if it doesn’t make sense. Once He has shown His Glory, as He did with Raul and others, then get busy with planning, activity, structure etc to support God’s agenda.  Very simply: avoid jumping the gun on God. Christ wants us to seek Him, day-by-day, moment-by-moment and follow – only then can we know and be part of His mind-blowing designs.


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