“Are you sure you’re going to get a lot of people coming to your church?”
This was the question posed to Matt when he was sharing with someone we met while we were out one day and sharing about what we will be doing in Thailand. And it’s a good question when you take into consideration that Thailand is only 0.6% Christian. Yes, you read that right. Thailand is not even 1% Christian. Many folks have an idea of what church planting looks like that comes from the way things are done here in the US. When someone is wanting to plant a church in the US, they might gather a team of other believers who will help lead the church, work to develop their mission and values, secure a building, set a target launch date, and send out invitations to the entire community announcing the new church. And while nothing is wrong with that model and in fact it works well for many churches here in the US, it doesn’t work the same way in countries where there isn’t a Christian background or heritage.
In unreached nations, church planting begins with reaching the lost (as there may not be any believers in a particular area), making disciples, and then beginning to gather the believers together for a corporate time of teaching the word of God and worship, and then developing leaders. We are very blessed in that there is already a small group of about 10-15 Thai believers in our town of Map Ammarit who are longing to plant a church in their town and have invited us to come and help them do so. However, the main focus of our church planting efforts will be evangelizing the lost and discipling the saved… in other words, making disciples. The emphasis of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is to “make disciples”. And what is a disciple? It is someone who follows and loves Christ, seeking to obey all He has commanded. As the believers are discipled and maturing in their faith we will be seeking to develop leaders who can help us in these efforts. Our heart is to raise up disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples unto planting churches that plant churches that plant churches. We believe this is the apostolic model that the Apostle Paul followed in the book of Acts and ultimately how making disciples of all nations happens, one person at a time, who reaches another person, who reaches another… We agree with C. Peter Wagner, who said, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.” At least it is if the new church plants do evangelism.
So if we are so convinced about church planting being effective, why bother with the educational component, you may wonder. Our Thai counterparts who will be partnering with us to plant the church are the managers of the school. So the school Amy will be teaching at is a Christian school in that it is managed by believers and they use a Christian curriculum. However, only about a third of the teachers at the school are Christians and 90% or so of the student body is Buddhist. Pook and Dtong are passionate about reaching the students for Christ through the school and see providing the students with a quality Christian education as an opportunity to make disciples. Additionally, in Thai culture, there are two professions which are highly esteemed and when someone in that profession tells you to do something, you do it: doctors and teachers. The school gives us a place of influence to reach the students, faculty and their families for Christ.
We believe that the Lord in His wisdom has divinely paired these two unique but complimentary ministries together and are looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use the two together to reach our community.