Finding Encouragement In Church Planting Failures!!

Finding Encouragement In Church Planting Failures!!

Today, I would like to introduce you to Andrew Scott, a church planter I recently contacted online and have met through our Porterbrook Scotland training scheme in the city.

From time to time I like to interview church planters to see where we can learn and how we can be a help and encouragement to one another. What struck me about Andrew’s story is that he was part of a failed church planting team in Indonesia. This is exciting because this type of experience brings with it not only pain but also immense opportunities for learning and developing.

Tell us something about yourself and family?

I was born and raised in East Kilbride and moved to Ireland in my teens. After a time in Ireland I went to Indonesia as part of a church planting team from a church in Singapore. I was in Indonesia for 6 years, there I met my lovely wife Susan, and we have a son, Daniel who will be 5 this year.

How and why did you get into church planting?

In 2000 I was in Bible college in Texas and I had a map of the world on my wall and I would pray for all the nations… then over time I began to pray a lot for Indonesia. After praying for Indonesia for almost 3 years I met a pastor at a BBQ and I was sharing my heart for Indonesia and how I had being learning about the country and praying for it.  He listened and smiled though out our conversation, and then let me know that his church in Singapore had a church planting team scheduled to go to Indonesia but they were one member short for a 6 member team.

I prayed, was blessed and released by my church leadership, quit my job and headed off to Singapore for a 3 months training before heading to Indonesia.

What was your plan or strategy?

The strategy was formed by the leadership from the church in Singapore.  We were to target the working class people as funding would only come from Singapore for the 1st year. The thought behind this would be that initial (working class) members would tithe, then once financially independent, the church could start reaching out into the poor and rich people groups.

We did a lot of community helps, and going around our neighbourhood talking, drinking and eating with them.  It wasn’t easy as 4 of us couldn’t speak Indonesian, only the mission pastor and one other team member could speak Malaysian, which is somewhat close to the Indonesian language.

Our goal was to build up contacts to have community Bible groups in homes across the city and then once these grew to bring them together to form a Sunday worship service.

We were also targeting the unchurched, so we were looking for new converts.

Also the goal would be to eventually pass the leadership of the church plant to a local.

What type of area were you planting in?

We were planting in a town called Pontianak; West Kalimantan – the Indonesian side of Borneo – Malaysia owns the Northern part of Borneo. Pontianak has a population of about 700,000, it runs right through the equator.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation with a population well over 300 million but a normal worldview of it’s population would have it at 250 million.

Indonesia is an archipelago which is made up of over 17,000 islands.

Did you have a team? If so, how and when did you pick them?

Yes, the church planting team consisted of; 1 Singaporean, 2 Malaysian, 2 Tongans & 1 Jock 🙂 The mission pastor’s wife and 3 children also came with us, so with them included there were 10 of us.

The team members were all chosen from previous church plants with which the Singapore church had been involved. Apart from myself, my church in Ireland was not connected to the Singapore church.

What were some of the blessings of your work there?

Gosh, where to start… I found it very humbling even before getting to Indonesia, seeing the people from the Singapore church, their hearts and dedication for the gospel at home and abroad was powerful and relentless.

To talk about all the blessings I could go on for weeks, but definitely seeing people come to the Lord and making life-long relationships.

You see poverty on TV but when you live in it alongside the people it leaves a life print on your soul.

And of course the blessing that I wake up to every morning, my lovely wife whom I met in Indonesia 🙂

What were some of the difficulties?

One of the main difficulties was our visa status, we were trying to get a missionary visa, but found out that it only existed on paper.  Eventually, we were able to come under another local church that sponsored us and we were able to get visas.

While in Singapore for 3 months we should have been going through intensive language learning but the teacher had to suddenly go back to Indonesia as they had a death in the family.  This meant we arrived in Indonesia with a lot of communication difficulties.

Why do you think the plant failed?

There was a lot of different things that played up to the plant failing;

Out of the 6 of us on the team only the mission pastor and myself had committed for the long-term, and after 1 year four of the members had left.  This was also tough as out of this 1 year it took us 6 months to be able to hold a conversation in Indonesian.

The plan to target the working class, from community groups, start a Sunday service, spot future leaders, etc  – there was just too much for the time we had.

Also there was a little issue when Malaysia decided to revoke working visas and deport over 1,000 Indonesian’s from Malaysia.  After this Indonesia did likewise and revoked many visas for Malaysians who were working in Indonesia and the mission pastor and his family where among these.

So I was kind of the only one left there.  And the people that we had I brought them to a local church.

What lessons did you learn through the failure? What would you do differently?

The biggest lessons were PREPARATION and TIME.

Being able to speak the language before going and also the team having more time to do what we had gone to do.

Evangelism takes time. Living out the gospel, showing the relationship we have with Christ… with our time restraints we were probably doing more talking about the relationship than showing it.

What three top tips would you give to any thinking about church planting?

1.     BE PREPARED; even if you have to put things on hold for a year or more. For the sake of the people you are reaching go prepared.

2.     DON’T RUSH; be in it for the long haul. Taking a quote from Tim Chester (I think?) “The bedrock of the gospel ministry is this: long-term, low-key and intentional relationships.”

3.     HUMILITY TOWARDS CULTURE; on arriving in Indonesia I said something and then it became a daily quote to myself, I said – “It’s not wrong, it’s just different” – if you are going to another culture which is vastly different from your own don’t think that some things they do are wrong, just because we would do them differently.  Really pray and ask God to keep you humble in stepping into another culture because I think the root to culture shock is also pride.

How did you do discipleship?

This was difficult because for 6 – 7 months the discipleship was left to two people on our team until the rest of us could speak enough Indonesian to teach.  This was the basis of our house groups which met weekly.

What are the best resources you have come across?

Best resources while on the mission… it would have to be the people that God puts in your path along the way.  They are also the most valuable resources.

How important is training leaders for church planting?

This is something we learned the hard way. Training leaders for church planting is vital because the last thing you want is to go start ‘something’ and then not be able to leave it strong; because these ‘somethings’ are people’s lives.

How can we best pray for you and your family?

After three years in Pontianak, Susan and I moved to Surabaya (East Java) where we worked alongside various Christian orphanages. We did this for 3 years and then on a holiday back to Scotland we began to feel a heavy burden for Scotland.

After me being a bit of a Jonah and resisting this at first we submitted and moved back to Scotland.

Currently, we are looking for a church plant to team up with here in Scotland to pour ourselves into and also to be trained and moulded, with a future hope to be sent out to plant a church here in Scotland.

We would be most grateful if you could keep this in prayer for us.

Thanks Andrew for your time and honesty.