From the minute they began serving on a church-planting team in the Middle East in 2008, Abe and Noel* wanted to leave. They loved the people. They felt called by God to minister among them and help. But their goal was that the fledging church in the community would mature, and that they would no longer be needed.
When Christar workers first arrived in this community in 1992, they came with a vision that God would establish a church—and they and their supporters asked Him to make this goal a reality. Very few people in the community had even heard the gospel, much less accepted it. The overwhelming majority were Muslims. But the workers began building relationships and sharing the gospel, trusting God to build a fellowship of believers that would not only become independent, but that would plant additional churches.
God blessed their faithfulness! By the late 1990s, some of their local friends embraced Christ, and by 2000, believers were meeting to worship together in homes.
Emir* was among the first in the community to place his faith in Christ. Originally an atheist, he first took an interest in the New Testament to find its flaws. However, God used His word in Emir’s heart, and instead of finding errors, he found the truth. He accepted Christ in 1999, and his wife soon became a follower of Jesus as well.
Within a few months, Emir met Christar workers in the area. One of the workers, Samuel, began discipling him, and within a few months Emir was sharing from God’s Word at house church meetings. Over the course of a year, Emir’s role as a preacher and leader grew—and the church-planting team saw a hint of how the small house fellowship would one day thrive under local leadership.
Beginning in 2002, at Samuel’s prompting, Emir completed two years of study at a small Bible school run by national believers. Then, he and his family returned to the community to minister. In 2005, Emir was installed as pastor of the church plant.
By the time Abe and Noel joined the church-planting team, approximately six believers were meeting together. While they were grateful for all that God had already done, the couple also felt discouraged by the apathy they saw in the church members.
Fear was the biggest challenge facing the church plant. Abe recalls, “Many of the early believers kept their faith secret from their friends and family for fear of being ostracized. … It took years to overcome this obstacle.” Since church members were reluctant to share their faith, the fellowship struggled to grow.
But as the team prayed, God worked in the hearts of these believers. The team saw church members grow bolder in their faith. Emir, who had been open about his conversion to Christianity from the start, faithfully encouraged those who believed to share the good news they had received with others.
Year after year, the team witnessed answered prayers. In 2009, Abe and Noel began a strategic prayer initiative, asking their prayer partners to lift up the biggest needs facing the fellowship. Abe explains, “The idea was to pray strategically for the greatest needs the work here faced, broken down into four requests. God then answered each of these requests in a powerful manner. Flushed with excitement over what God did in 2009, we have since then, every year, published four big things we would like to see God do in the upcoming year. God has continued to answer in amazingly consistent fashion each year.”
By the end of 2014, 25 people were regularly attending Sunday services. As 2015 dawned, Abe and Noel once again shared their “big four” requests, asking their supporters to pray that the church would grow and that members would begin serving within the fellowship.
Once again, God answered! By the end of the year, 35-40 people were attending each Sunday, and their worship space was beginning to feel crowded. Record numbers came to both Easter and Christmas outreaches, and numerous believers had stepped up to lead worship, preach and teach. The church’s outreach in surrounding communities was expanding.
As 2015 drew to a close, it became clear that what was once just a prayer and a far-off goal had become a reality: The church was not only planted, but was reproducing! While they hated to say goodbye, Abe and Noel knew that their job at the church was done. A few months later, they left with plans to begin serving in a new community.
In their absence, the church continues to thrive. On an average Sunday, 40-50 people attend, and on special occasions the church has welcomed up to 90. In addition, the fellowship is now the primary conduit for refugee work in the area. It serves approximately a thousand refugee families a month in partnership with Voice of the Martyrs, and is seeking to expand its ministry among the displaced with the goal of seeing more churches established. Like the church-planting team that entered the community nearly 25 years before, this church is asking God to use them to plant fellowships of believers that will multiply and transform their communities.
How can I get involved?
- Praise God for the churches planted by Christar workers that are now functioning under local leadership.
- Ask God to use these churches to establish more fellowships of believers in places where few people know Christ.
- Lift up the local leaders of Christar church plants, asking God to give them wisdom as they lead.
- Pray that fellowships established in least-reached communities will plant additional churches.
Your gift to the Christar Church Planting and Evangelism fund enables workers to share the hope of Christ through a wide range of creative outreaches. And it allows them to plant local fellowships where none currently exist.