Overcoming Difficulties in Church Planting

Joy- Welcome to Asked and Answered,” the podcast series that answers all your mission related questions. With me in the studio today are Ron and Charis Pearce. 

Ron- Hello, Joy.

Joy- Hello, welcome back. Okay, are you ready for today’s question?

Ron- Yes.

Joy- It’s all about the national church workers which we hear a lot about in everything that Empower is doing and my question today is can you tell our listeners why they are so effective at planting all these churches? Sometimes with the reports, we hear they are planting dozens, in some cases hundreds of churches, which sounds really incredible!

Ron- Well, first you have to back up and say how can they do this with people and what is the situation surrounding the people they are preaching to. We have to then go back and say there is a spiritual hunger in many of these countries today, not all, but in many countries, which is unparalleled in history and their worlds are falling apart either through fear: Covid or war or whatever is striking right now and at the same time their world religions are falling apart. So that means that where they used to go to find answers to life or peace in their heart is no longer viable for them as an option. They are giving up on the Hinduism of this world and the communism of this world. 

Joy- Why are they? They just aren’t finding the answers?

Ron- It’s just that they are dry. Some of it is a new generation and also a lot of it is that their eyes are being opened to the fact that there are alternatives in religion. Remember that until the internet and modern travel with airplanes came about, people were locked in their countries, and they would not know that there was another world out there. And now all of a sudden, well I’m going to say since 1991-ish but really into the 2000s, that’s when people really started to get online and have their eyes opened. That is when a new generation grew up that had a better idea of what was going on around the world. They heard things and they saw things and they read things on the internet, other religions, other ideas. Therefore, all of a sudden they are saying hmmm, maybe my traditional religion of my ancestors from my mom and dad going backwards wasn’t the only option here, I don’t know, and they were asking these questions, God says come let us reason together, cause God loves a good question and He’s got all the answers. And therefore, they started to look, they started to ask questions, they’ve grown up, it’s spread to their children, now we’re there.

Joy- And you’re seeing this in all the spiritual hotspots? You’re saying they” so it’s really all-encompassing.

Ron- It’s all-encompassing but not every part of the world that has the internet is on fire for God. I don’t know why some are and some aren’t, I have no idea. But at the same time, we just identify the ones that are hungry. That is where the pastors, the indigenous pastors, evangelists, are very effective, because they are walking in and saying, Have you considered Jesus?” and they say, Well, tell us about Him.” They explain it and God shows up sometimes in worship services, you know, there is the odd miracle that happens etcetera. And then this new generation and the older generation too will say this is what we’ve been looking for. That’s why on that end of things it’s working well. Then you get to, okay, what about the preachers? You can look at those young pastors that are out there, primarily, they have a ton of energy supplied by the Holy Spirit.

They are giving up on the Hinduism of this world and the communism of this world.

Joy- And your’re seeing this in all the spiritual hotspots? You’re saying they” so it’s really all emcompassing. Ron- It’s all encompassing but not every part of the world that has the internet is on fire for God. I don’t know why some are and some aren’t, I have no idea. But at the same time we just identify the ones that are hungry. That is where the pastors, the indigenous pastors, evangelists, are very effective, because they are walking in and saying have you considered Jesus?’ and they say well, tell us about Him. They explain it and God shows up sometimes in worship services, you know, there is the odd miracle that happens etcetera. And then this new generation and the older generation too will say this is what we’ve been looking for. That’s why on that end of things it’s working well. Then you get to, ok what about the preachers? You can look at those young pastors that are out there, primarily, they have a ton of energy supplied by the Holy Spirit.

Joy- I was going to say, it has to be supernatural energy because they are constantly working. Ron- Exactly, and they’re out there walking, they are out there preaching, they go without sleep they go without food Joy- And they are under duress as well right? Persecuted. 

Ron- People will criticize me if I say they work seven days a week because you’re not supposed to do that. 

Joy- The day of rest 

Ron- Yes the day of rest etcetera, they work 6 and a half days a week, alright? In other words, get my drift here, they don’t carve it out. Do they have good families? Yes. Do they spend time with their children? Yes. They are not workaholics but they have a really good work ethic for the Kingdom. That is the thing we’ve got to remember here. Sometimes we are looking in ministry in North America and around the world, we ask the question when being hired, what are the benefits that I’m going to receive? They don’t ask that overseas. They say can I please go out and share the Gospel? They say yeah but you might not have any money up front for this or you might have to do these hardships, you’re going to be preaching a lot and travelling. That’s fine! They are eager to go out and work. 

Joy- That actually reminds me of a story you told once about an Ethiopian church planter who was trained and ready to go but he wanted to go to an area that the elders in his area didn’t think he was ready for, didn’t want him to go and he kept asking, kept asking and they would say not yet. Finally he went to them and said I’m going! I’m using my own money because this is where I’m called to go. He went and that is a whole other story. 

Ron- He said to me that he told them give me your blessing or not, it doesn’t matter, I’ve waited long enough, they are dying without Jesus.” And he started a church and do you remember how he did? 

Joy- Yeah I do! He went into this area and it was very challenging at first but he ended up with great success. I was going to say, it has to be supernatural energy because they are constantly working.

Ron- Exactly, and they’re out there walking, they are out there preaching, they go without sleep, they go without food.

Joy- And they are under duress as well, right? Persecuted.

Ron- People will criticize me if I say they work seven days a week because you’re not supposed to do that.

Joy- The day of rest.

Ron- Yes, the day of rest etcetera, they work six and a half days a week, alright? In other words, get my drift here, they don’t carve it out. Do they have good families? Yes. Do they spend time with their children? Yes. They are not workaholics but they have a really good work ethic for the Kingdom. That is the thing we’ve got to remember here. Sometimes we are looking in ministry in North America and around the world, we ask the question when being hired, what are the benefits that I’m going to receive? They don’t ask that overseas. They say can I please go out and share the Gospel? They say yeah but you might not have any money upfront for this or you might have to do these hardships, you’re going to be preaching a lot and traveling. That’s fine! They are eager to go out and work.

Joy- That actually reminds me of a story you told once about an Ethiopian church planter who was trained and ready to go but he wanted to go to an area that the elders in his area didn’t think he was ready for, didn’t want him to go and he kept asking, kept asking, and they would say not yet. Finally, he went to them and said I’m going! I’m using my own money because this is where I’m called to go. He went and that is a whole other story.

Ron- He said to me that he told them, Give me your blessing or not, it doesn’t matter, I’ve waited long enough, they are dying without Jesus.” And he started a church, and do you remember how he did?

Joy- Yeah, I do! He went into this area and it was very challenging at first but he ended up with great success because he walked into this village and it was such a good story because he just started sharing about Jesus and like you said, they listened, they were immediately intrigued because they had yet to hear about this and I believe a big church started up there, so much so that then those elders came and visited and then it grew from there. It’s a great story.

Ron-Exactly! He actually went to a worship leader of another religion and he confronted him and walked around after him and prayed for him and he was like his shadow because God said follow this guy, and then this guy turned around and said, Why are you following me?” And he says, I’m praying for you.” Then he explained the Gospel and he became his sidekick. He became the assistant pastor in the church that he started.

Joy- And that is always usually effective in some of these countries because if someone of influence accepts the Lord then they have the power to transform other people.

Ron- So getting back to it, you’ve got the field that is ripe because of world conditions and the situation and then you’ve got these fellas that are working hard and they are out there preaching. Now there is a third factor, and that is the fact that it is intangible. You can say, well, it’s through hard work. No, it’s more than that. This is a burden that they have and they have read the word of God, they see the lost-ness of people for eternity and, therefore, they know very well that there is another dynamic and that is the convincing power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we do our part, God has prepared the field, they work hard, they go in, they preach, they preach, they preach, they tell the story and then they pray. They pray and they say Lord please melt their hearts, open their ears, open their eyes, let them see the truth. And they start to, and then it grows, and then it becomes almost like a disease that spreads, a good disease this time. And it is something that is going and it picks up speed with the people. Then the pastor has to run to catch up to the Gospel and this is a whole new thing. So it’s not just energy to get it started, but once the Spirit of God moves in them, then these guys have got to run faster bringing in the harvest. Explaining what it means, doing water baptisms, all of these things. So, there is a lot of reasons for this. Then there is another factor on top of that the community, after this church gets started, starts looking and saying wow! This thing has really grown fast, these people are different. They love this and they are different people! You know Joe down the road? He became one of these Jesus people and now this guy is totally a different man. He’s given up on the evils of life, the gambling, and the swearing, and the beating of family, and all of this. He’s given up on that and this guy is really good now. Therefore, the pastor has to be drawn in to explain what this good is. This is why it’s working so well.

<p>Ethiopian man worshipping</p>
That actually reminds me of a story you told once about an Ethiopian church planter who was trained and ready to go but he wanted to go to an area that the elders in his area didn’t think he was ready for, didn’t want him to go and he kept asking, kept asking, and they would say not yet.

Joy- It’s a snowball!

Ron- We have gone from a 4‑cylinder engine to an 8‑cylinder engine overnight and everybody is in there working and God is just really moving in these areas. That is why they are successful.

Charis- It makes me think of the village in Vietnam where the church planter went in and the village accepted the Lord and he was going to the next village and they came out and escorted him in because they were waiting. He was trying to keep up with what the Lord was doing because He had gone before him.

Ron- Well, the rumors had spread and messengers were sent and they said this is happening here and we have always wanted this. Make sure they get here, okay, because this might be our last chance.

Joy- So it’s a whole new ballgame when it comes to the way it’s spreading so quickly.

Ron- It’s an eagerness to hear, whereas Westerners, our situation over here is much more difficult. We don’t have ears, sometimes, to hear, we are more captivated with the toys of life, there is all sorts of things going on here that causes confusion of the mind.

Joy- We have been saturated with a watered-down version that we are somewhat content with as well. So then when something more real is presented we think we have heard it before.

Charis- And we get distracted too. We have so many distractions in life.

Ron- Busyness. Busy, busy, busy little bees over here. Over there they have a more simplified life. Therefore, it means that they go into the fields, they raise a crop, they come home, they cook their food, they are with family, and there is a lot of relationship building, friends and everything like that. Now we haven’t mentioned another vital factor. When you throw in the Bible shall we say, into the mix of this whole thing, and the people all of a sudden get to read the pathway to eternal life, all the promises of God, all the ways that he’s worked things out throughout history. Everything they have wanted to hear, they are reading now and their pastor is walking in and he says see, I told you so! Therefore, these people are just reading and reading voraciously, incorporating the Word of God into their lives and into their societies and that is another factor that fuels the spread.

Joy- Which is why Empower focuses so heavily on Scripture because that is what’s essential.

Ron- That’s exactly it and the thing is Joy, that people will come to us from these various areas, in fact, I just got off the phone with one situation before walking into the studio here, and it’s somebody that desperately needed the Word of God because the people were hungry, and so it’s a matter of, you have to feed that hunger. It’s something that people want. We get more requests now for the Word of God as the primary contact with Empower, than anything else. It’s not a person who phones us up and says, you know, I’d really like a new church building or I’d really like some new clothes and have you got a car for me? No, they are desperate and they say Ron, we are overwhelmed with people that have accepted Christ or that are hungry for the Lord, we need Bibles, New testaments, what have you got? Anything! And, therefore, that is why it is so primary to our operation. 

Joy- Would you be able to pick a single country, I know this will be difficult for you, where the church planters are more effective or working harder. Let’s say, because I know you do tell stories from Vietnam, now the church planters in Vietnam for instance, they traverse through jungles, they are going through mountains, just the landscape alone that they have to travel over just to get to the churches. And you have said in the past that some of these, most of these guys, they do more than one church in a day. But then again, when you go to Ethiopia you have these church planters who are planting dozens, sometimes hundreds, so while the country may be different, really the work remains the same. Even through the difficulties.

Ron- Okay, I’m going to use that last word, difficulties. For a Western overseer who gets in a car and drives, stays at night in a Holiday Inn, goes to fast food, that’s a real tough trip, alright? 

Joy- Especially if it’s McDonald’s or something.

Ron- Right, and therefore, I would say that from our eyes, their lifestyle over there is difficult in comparison to us. But to them, it’s normal. They do this anyway. They walk through the jungle, it’s a total different approach to life. They look at us and they tell us stories about going through the jungles of Vietnam, traversing the rivers, all this sort of stuff, but to them it’s like, that’s normal, isn’t it? It’s us who can compare, they don’t know what to compare to. One time I was in Vietnam, to pick up on your point though, and there was a brother there, I nicknamed him Goldtooth, and he was a little evangelist like you wouldn’t believe, starting churches all over the place. He had to move to a more rural area in Vietnam because everybody for 25km around had accepted the Lord. He started 45 churches and so he was only a young guy, young family, I remember his little kids, I visited him one time in a jungle village, and he probably had little ones that were about four or five years of age and he started when he was 17 years of age in ministry. He had to move and when he was doing that he would run across the border in Laos and at times into Cambodia, and he would be starting churches. So I said, How do you start those churches?” He said, Oh, a friend of mine and I, we go for a run, sometimes the border guards are shooting at us with guns but we run through the trees in the jungles, we’ve got food buried on route that we dig up and spend the night sleeping, we swing through the vines in the trees sometimes to elude the police.” It’s like a little Tarzan movie going on here! And they are running in there like that and he says, We get to the destination in the country, we’ll preach, we’ll start churches,” etcetera. We are there for maybe a week or two and then we come back home running the whole way.” So I said, What do you consider that to be? Is that church planting?” And he says, No, that’s my holiday, I take a break to do that.” So I said, You only spend a week or two in that other area?” And he says, We’ve got to get home.” And I said, Yeah, I’m surprised you can do it!” And he says, Well, we do spend that time too because it’s a long run you know, Ron! It takes us a week or so to get our energy back to run back home!” So that is a perspective issue.

He said, Oh, a friend of mine and I, we go for a run, sometimes the border guards are shooting at us with guns but we run through the trees in the jungles, we’ve got food buried on route that we dig up and spend the night sleeping, we swing through the vines in the trees sometimes to elude the police.”

Joy- Now did Goldtooth, not to digress…

Ron- Yeah, it was about the only one he had too! I nickname him for security situations. But this guy was on fire, he had a burden for the lost, he ran, he did whatever was necessary, to him that was normal life. So, I can’t answer your question basically.

Joy- Okay, so to jump to Ethiopia, you mentioned the different styles of church planting, now I know for a fact in Ethiopia it’s very conversational because they have that coffee ceremony because it’s part of their tradition, it’s what they do. So for them to plant churches it starts with a genuine conversation over coffee, over those hours of discussion.

Ron- Yeah, that is part of it. Part of it is going into a village and God has warned, opened the ears and eyes of the leadership of that village, that a pastor is coming, sometimes that is through dreams or visions, sometimes it is, as you say, through relationships. I know a little lady there that I met and she accepted the Lord through her whole family and she was being trained for six weeks on how to share her faith. She was going to be walking for the next six months to her relatives in all the villages around, sharing the Gospel, opening doors, so that was the relationship, the husband and little boys and her family cut her loose to do it, therefore, she was going to walk. I said to her, Why are you doing this?” and she said, Well, we found the answer finally to life and I have to go. I love them. It’s my responsibility to go.” So therefore, there is the social factor, there is the opportunity around coffee, which is true. That is when they get to share a lot, everybody relaxes. Then you go to another level of mass preaching then you go to the limitless points of contact that you can make in any society, not just Ethiopia. There is always a way God has designed. There was a guy I remember in Ethiopia who said one time I was walking along the road and he says they were having a funeral, somebody had died, he walked up and just stood there and just mourned with the mourners shall we say. Then when they were walking away from the funeral he started to share the Gospel with them. He says, I started to share about Jesus Christ being the one who says I can give you eternal life.” And he got to share with people on their way home. They invited him back to the village, he shared in the village about it. It was just an opportunity. He says, there’s people over there, I’m going to go and stand with them. He didn’t know really what was going on. So this is the difference of taking every opportunity for the Gospel.

Joy- And to hop to another country, let’s say Cuba, we have lots of church planters in Cuba and this will be my final thing, because I know Cuba is a communist country and I know that they are struggling with food and hunger and to end this podcast, do the church planters in Cuba, when they are planting their churches, and they are just as effective in doing that and the church is growing in Cuba as well. Are they driven by the persecution happening in the country as much the people accepting the Lord? Is that a factor?

Ron- It’s harder now because so many people are hungry. The primary this is trying to find food. It’s like in a war. In a war, when you are being bombed, you’re not thinking so much about the Gospel, you’re thinking about staying alive. Same thing is true in Cuba when there is a famine, you’re staying alive. But there’s a point in time when those things become secondary or normalized and then you get a chance to share about Jesus and eternal life, who gives you abundant life etcetera. So in Cuba, it would be more at this stage, the doors are still open, they are still winning people to the Lord etcetera, but it’s tougher to get an audience when you are scrounging in the fields for food. So you go through these good times and bad times in an area. You want a balance between where there is enough safety and there is enough food for the people to relax a bit but there is also an emptiness in their souls that you can fill with the truth of the Gospel. You’ve got to find that balance. Sometimes you lean one way or the other too much, you’ve got problems. But overall, around the world, it’s working well.

Joy- Okay, well thank you, that was excellent.

Related Podcasts

Modern Revivals VS. The First Century Church

Ron and Charis discuss how modern revivals today compare to the 1st Century Church. Ron's reflection on the apostle's efforts in spreading the Gospel and why there is such a massive turning to the Lord today will both inspire and encourage you. Listen now...

A New Day in Missions

Join Ron and Charis as they discuss how indigenous national workers in the spiritual hotspots operate. This is a new era in missions, and Ron explains how national church planting ministries function in a way that makes sense to them culturally. Listen now...

The Power of God's Word

Join Ron and Charis as they discuss the importance of studying the Bible. Is there significance to missions? Can we learn from the national church? You won't want to this episode of Asked and Answered! Listen now...

Latest Posts

SIT REPORT: Desperation

Desperation is one of the telltale signs of an authentic, “world class” turning to God. Such a turning to God happens when an overwhelming number of people come to the stark realization of their dire situation, and then cry out to God for help in a state of urgency and helplessness. Read more...

The Back-Slider in Heart Edited and paraphrased by Keith Green By Charles G. Finney

This is an edited and paraphrased version of the 21st chapter from "Revival Lectures" by Charles Grandison Finney. This message is as much for the Church today as when it was first brought forth in a series of lectures in the 1830s. We earnestly pray that you'll "read it and weep!" I cannot conclude any teaching on revival without warning converts against backsliding. In discussing this subject, I will show: 1) What backsliding in heart is not, 2) What backsliding in heart is, 3) What are the evidences of a backslidden heart, 4) What are the consequences of backsliding in heart, and 5) How to recover. Read more...

SIT REPORT: Ukrainian Jewish Refugees

This is an update on the refugee situation in Israel. Ron shares how the national church in Israel has responded to this tragic crisis. Read more...

Latest Videos