How do you find church planters and/or leaders to train?
Over the years, I have worked with both European and AGWM co-workers, encouraging and mentoring men and women in church planting endeavors.
Are your students Europeans? Are they formally trained as pastors?
Just as in the European German speaking national churches, we find and encourage Bible School students to move into the ministry pipeline. Also, church leaders, who already have established professions and a definite call to ministry, undergo intensive training to become ordained ministers. Approximately one third of all ministers today, ordained in the German BFP, have been trained through a intensive Berean type program, which includes certain required block classes at the Bible School in Erzhausen.
In many churches, especially in Germany and Austria, lay leaders pastor churches, without formal pastoral training. Due the size of churches and the high cost of living in Europe, many congregations are not able to support a pastor. Sixty percent of Germany’s 800 BFP churches have 50 members or less. 35% of all BFP churches have 25 members or less.
Who started the works in Austria/Switzerland/Germany?
The European German speaking churches have been indigenous from the beginning. AGWM workers over the years have come alongside these fellowships, at various levels, supporting endeavors in Bible School training, church planting, literature development, university and youth ministry, as well as other initiatives involved in reaching the lost. The SPM in Switzerland, the BFP in Germany, and the FCG in Austria are all members of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
In my case, I have planted six churches in Germany and am now planting a church in Bregenz, Austria, working in close cooperation with the Austrian FCG. As a lead church planting pastor, I always have the goal in sight, at some point, to turn over the work to a European pastor. Along with directly planting 7 churches, I have had the privilege towork at the national and regional level in various capacities encouraging and overseeing various church planting projects. I had the privilege, alongside of my German colleagues to oversee the establishment of the Rhineland-Platinate / Saarland District in West Germany and the Thuringia District in former East Germany. Now in Vorarlberg, the most western Austrian province, I am facilitating AG churches, for the first time, who are now working together at a sectional level.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced?
Due to the fact that church growth is slow in post-Christian Europe, it takes a long time for new church plants to grow strong enough to financially support a European pastor.
How do you measure success?
In Europe we measure success in inches rather than in feet. Having directly planted seven churches, it is exciting to see men and women serving the Lord today, because of our church planting efforts. Also, the churches we have planted, continue to reach the lost and new converts are being baptized and added to these churches.
What are your plans for the future of this ministry?
I would like to turn over the Bregenz, Austria church plant to a German speaking pastor in 2019 or 2020. This would free my wife and I up, to plant another church in our region. This would also allow me more time to mentor and support other church planting pastors and their ministries.
How has being involved in church planter/leadership training affected or changed you?
I tend to always be looking at areas and regions in German speaking Europe where there are few Bible believing churches. This great need always causes me to pray to the Lord of the harvest to raise up workers. Also, I am specifically trying to encourage workers to consider and pray about moving into such unreached areas to plant churches.
I am personally growing and gaining new insight as I coach and mentor church planters.
Church planting being my life’s message, led to doctoral studies focusing on Pentecostal Church Planting in Germany. My doctoral dissertation is available online:http://pmgermany.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Clark-Pentecostal-Church-Planting-Germany-1.pdf
Seeing the need to raise up, as well as encourage church planters and leaders, in 2013 I initiated the Leadership Forum web-based platform (http://www.forumgemeindebau.de/), which provides resources and ministry tools in the German language. Monthly, I send out an inspirational E-Letter, read by over 600 pastors and church workers in German speaking Europe in conjunction with the Leadership Forum. Once or twice a year, since 2011, I host a Leadership Forum for pastors and church workers in Switzerland and Germany.