This is a question that I have been asked many times? In this article, I would like to describe the process and steps that led to the planting our first church in Austria in the city of Bregenz.
Mechthild and I have planted various churches in Germany since 1984. Every church plant was very unique, due to the city and region where we worked. Also, each church plant was very unique, due to the team of men and women who God raised up to build the kingdom.
In the Spring of 2014 Mechthild and I sensed that it was time to turn over the church in Bad Dürkheim that we planted in 2008 to another pastor. We sensed that God was leading us to plant a church in a new city. In November of 2014, we officially turned the church over to a German couple, who still pastor the church today.
A few weeks later, I met with Edwin Jung the Superintendent of the FCG (AG) Austria in Bregenz. Also, we met with Werner and Gabi who pastored an FCG church about 20 miles away in the Bregenz Mountains. We talked about many different things during our meal together, but at one-point Edwin stated specifically, “Paul, you should seriously think about planting a church in Bregenz.” Bregenz, the state capital of Vorarlberg with a population of 30,000 had only two small Evangelical churches with total attendance of 70. At the end of our time together, I told Edwin I would pray about this possibility.
On a cold rainy Saturday in January 2015 I spent a day walking around Bregenz and praying for God’s direction. On that same day I met with Christoph Kipping pastor of the church in Lindau, Germany 6 miles across the border from Bregenz. I asked him to pray we would clearly know God’s will concerning a church plant in Bregenz. Christoph indicated that the FCG Lindau would be open to supporting a church plant in Bregenz due to the fact that his church had done very little in the last few years concerning evangelistic outreaches. Also, on that week-end I preached at the church, pastored by Werner and Gabi. There I met a couple from Bregenz, who expressed interest in a new church in Bregenz.
For the next several months in 2015 we itinerated in various AG churches in the USA that support our ministry, always asking for pray concerning planting a new church in Bregenz. In June of 2015 Mechthild and I spent several days in Lindau and Bregenz getting to know the area. During this time, I met with the leadership of the FCG Lindau church and they officially decided to support, with their means, a church plant in Bregenz. After this visit to Bregenz and Lindau Mechthild and I sensed God’s peace to plant a new church in Bregenz.
In December of 2015 we moved to Lindau. At the beginning of January 2016 Mechthild had surgery to remove a cancerous lump in her breast which thank the Lord, was discovered in the early stages. After surgery and six successful weeks of radiation treatment, Mechthild has been cancer free.
During the first months of 2016 we attended the FCG Lindau, getting to know the church there. By April we had a website up and running, letting everyone know we were a “Start-up Church” in Bregenz. Also, through the FCG Austria, we opened a bank account so donations could be made to the new church. The church in Lindau committed to supporting us with 200 Euro ($235) per month.
At the end of April 2016, we hosted an informational meeting in a Restaurant in Bregenz informing all who were interested about the next steps that would be taken. Also, in April, I met with the mayor of Bregenz informing him about our intention to do a church plant.
At the beginning of May 2016, I sent out an official letter to several of many the churches in the Bregenz area, including the Catholic church, explaining who we were as a church and presented our plans to launch. Also, in this letter I invited everyone to our Kick-Off Concert at the end of May featuring the Evangel University Orchestra which was on tour in Europe at that time. We rented an auditorium and 180 people attended our very first public meeting in Bregenz.
I should also mention that the Lindau church had one couple and two women who lived in Bregenz. Both women, with the support of the FCG Lindau joined our launch team. Other members of the Lindau church helped us in the beginning doing media, worship music, children’s church and baking cakes.
From June until October 2016 we met with a small group of people every two weeks or so on a Sunday afternoon. We were able to rent a conference room with a fully equipped kitchen in a community center that belonged to the city of Bregenz. Our ‘Come Together’ gathering always started with a time of fellowship, enjoying coffee and cake together, followed by a time of worship and a short message. In these first gatherings we were able to make contacts in the community as well discover those who wanted to work with us. Already during those first gatherings, two individuals gave their lives to Christ and we baptized them in 2017. Our ‘Come Together’ had an attendance of anywhere from 12 to 20 people each time we met.
In November 2016 we moved into a store front that we rented for about 1300 Euros ($1700) per month. In our facility of 1,000 square feet we set up 40 chairs with a coffee bar in our meeting room. Also, we had a small room for children’s church and a mini kitchen. Interestingly enough, our location was three doors down from the Low Life Bar.
At the beginning of December 2016, we officially dedicated our new church home with standing room only. Edwin Jung, Superintendent of the FCG (Aog) Austria, was our guest speaker, and the Catholic priest whose church is located only a block away shared a word of encouragement, welcoming us to the neighborhood. Since November of 2016 until we rented a larger facility in our office complex in February 2018, regular Sunday attendance was about 35 – 40.
Right from the beginning of our church plant we were able to develop a great relationship with city officials in our part of the city. I initiated a choir that sang mostly American spirituals, and from 2017 to 2019 we were always on stage at our local city festival. Also, for the local festival our church workers offered face painting for children and sold bake goods for world missions. Right from the beginning and continuing, the Bregenz church supports FCG Austrian missionaries working in various parts of the world.
Mechthild and I turned over the Bregenz church plant to our son Mike and his wife Laura in March 2020. We are excited that Mike and a team of three couples are planning to initiate a new campus in 2021 about 30 minutes outside of Bregenz.
As always, I continue to be heavily involved in mentoring pastors and coaching other church plants in Germany and Switzerland. Also, as many of you know I have developed a web platform for pastors and church workers in German speaking Europe with about 10,000 hits per month. It also a great joy for me to send out monthly an E-Letter as E-mail encouraging pastors and workers as well as providing resources for their local church ministry. My web platform is also on Facebook.
There is so much more I could write about planting the Bregenz church, but time does not permit. If you have any specific questions, please contact me. Or maybe, you simply have questions concerning the other churches we planted in Germany.