Church planting in the inland villages of Spain.
I decided to write these notes so that they might help other church planters, especially those who will be working in a rural setting.
When I say 'rural' I am not talking about planting a church among farms, fields of crops and mills, although that would also meet the definition of rural church planting land.
What I am talking about is church planting in the inland villages of Spain. Above all, in those that have never had a Protestant/Evangelical church in their history or those that do not have churches or evangelical witness right now.
In order for you to better understand what I am talking about, I am going to explain my context.
I arrived some years ago to Los Santos de Maimona, a village in the province of Badajoz with a population of 8,000 inhabitants. It had never had a protestant/evangelical church in its entire history.
When I arrived in this town in 2014, the lack of knowledge about any church other than the Roman Catholic one was complete, so I had to work much, much harder than I thought.
That is why I have entitled it "reality check", because one, who from the beginning of one's conversion may have a vocation to ministry and missions, thinks of going out as far as possible, but often you can't see the wood for the trees.
Why do I say this? I was born in Villanueva de la Serena, in the same province of Badajoz, year after year I used to go with my parents and brothers along the national road towards the southern coast of Spain, and that road crosses Los Santos de Maimona, it had never caught my attention, I never thought I would end up there.
I wanted to serve the Lord, but I saw myself far away. I don't know why we tend to think like that. It was God, who by his providence and without me wanting it, brought me to this town.
I see myself in 2014 with my wife, newly married, in a village where there was no evangelical church, without knowing other brothers. At that moment all the romanticism of planter and/or pioneer vanished.
Ever since I was converted I wanted to serve the Lord, but perhaps I had a romantic feeling about what it meant to serve.
I admired my pastors, I wanted to be like them, I wanted to love as they love, I wanted to help as they help, I wanted to smile in the midst of trial as they do.
The truth is that God has always allowed me to have excellent pastors who taught me how to serve. But as a neophyte I didn't understand what it was to really serve and the price to pay.
Arriving in a town of 8,000 inhabitants with no evangelical church brought me face to face with reality, that romanticism vanished as I said before. I didn't choose to be a church planter, I didn't choose to be a pioneer, God wanted me to be one.
There is one thing you need to keep in mind: if you want to serve God in a rural setting, you need to put aside the dreaming in the clouds and focus on reality. You must be aware that you are going to face a difficult situation.
But at the same time, in those difficult situations you will see God's hand at work on the front line. You will find yourself in a situation that you may not have anticipated, but that is the situation that God has brought about and He will give you the "how" to walk and work.
When we started the planting, my wife and I discussed how we could reach the villagers more quickly.
We learned to be pragmatic. How can you be pragmatic in this context?
Obviously there is always a strategy, but when I say "goodbye strategies" I am talking about strategies that try to achieve goals in a defined time frame. That is not useful at all in the field of rural planting.
You have to look for priorities. During the first years of our stay here some strategy ministries visited us, for which I am very grateful, but, although they were full of good intentions, we did not see any of them as viable, all very good on paper, but we saw some gaps in practice.
My wife and I came to the conclusion that we had to say goodbye to the human strategies that were flying over our heads. This took us a few years to understand.
We had to stop putting our trust in a project on paper, and put our trust in the Lord and in the real strategy: to do His perfect will.
At that time we began to pray more and to learn the customs of the people, to blend in with them and become part of the local society. Making friends, hanging out with the people, working a more personal evangelism.
So if you are starting a rural planting, or are going to undertake such a great and necessary journey, you must begin by praying, resting in the Lord, focusing on His strategy, not yours.
May you wake up each morning with a willingness to do His will and let Him use you.
Planting a church in a rural area is far from what you may have experienced as a Christian in your life's journey, so when you want to go to a village to plant a church, the only and perhaps the first church, you must consider the price well and see if you are willing to pay it.
Because this experience is far from crowded services, a structured church, fraternal coffees with your brothers and sisters, discipleship and prayer meetings with full rooms.
When you come to the rural planting you will embrace the loneliness of the rural planter. Away from your family members, your church brethren, you will feel that you have fallen into a context that is not yours.
This can undermine your mood, but on the other hand you have to understand and see the times as times prepared by the Lord for our good.
In that loneliness, you can take advantage of a wonderful time, to spend time with your wife and children praying "face to face" with God, to spend time in the presence of God, something that is not often possible with the over-activity of our churches.
It is a perfect time, during which you will learn what the seminary did not teach you, you will learn and grow, it will be a time that over the years, no matter how hard it may have seemed at first, you will thank the Lord and rejoice for those years of loneliness.
If the rural planting camp worked on one thing in me, it is to be sensitive to my relationship with God.
That time of beginning planting teaches you to live with your feet on the ground depending on God, to understand your place in all this and God's place, to remember that God is on His throne and you are at His feet.
This reality check is not for the worse. On the contrary, it is key to understanding who is in charge of the mission, which is none other than God, the Lord of all things, who is above all and who is with you every day until the end of the world.
The reality check of the village will lead you to better understand that mission and God's purpose for you to be there, to get to know the village, your neighbours, their customs, to be one of them, to love that village and those neighbours.
Because if you don't love that village and those neighbours, you will not be able to continue with the planting, because it is that love that you get from God through that reality check that will lead you to plant a church in that village, a church that stands firm and healthy to be a beacon of light in the midst of the town and the region.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”. Matthew 9:37-38.
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