When Church Planting Doesn’t go to Plan
What are you supposed to do when you find yourself in a new city, in a new nation, planting a new church, and things don’t seem to be going to plan? In this blog article, Nathan Adams shares the story of his experience in Munich – how success looks different, how simplicity builds community, and how living for the Kingdom rather than the dream changes everything.
In September 2016 we moved from Grace Church Wolverhampton to Munich – a modern Catholic city of technically competent football, tight-fitting lederhosen and the world-famous Oktoberfest.
Our purpose was to join and lead a team of believers in the city who had a desire to see a church planted. Even to get to this point had been a long journey for us, but you are never prepared for what actually happens in these pioneering contexts…or for what happens in life in general I guess!
Short story – things didn’t work out as planned.
Two years after the move, we were still slogging away trying to plant a church. However, through various repeated conversations, a deeply embedded memory of Andrew Wilson’s Mustard Seed preach at Catalyst Festival 2017, and with a bit of work on my own narrow-minded thinking, we had completely simplified our vision. Our new aim: to simply live the best Kingdom Building lives that we could. We were working full time, trying to parent two children, and holding together the remnants of a small group that had not grown since we’d arrived. But the reality of simply taking one day at a time and loving those in front of us as well as we could was incredibly liberating.
Of course, it’s not that you make a change to your mindset like that and suddenly the world becomes rosy, or that you start seeing kingdom fruit all around you. But, for one thing, you do actually feel deeply that you are being obedient to God’s basic call to a Christian to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Furthermore, you live in a greater sense of assuredness that even if this church you dream of doesn’t ever get planted, you are still living lives that will bless God, bless His people and that you are proclaiming His gospel to the lost through words and actions.
Eighteen months on from that point – months that as you can imagine were neither smooth nor filled with non-stop encouragement – and we suddenly found ourselves at the beginning of this year with our home full of people time and time again. A few of the many highlights….
– The school parents we had known for two years turning up at an Advent Breakfast Service and one month later asking how they become members.
– Our non believing language teacher from 2016 bringing along a young Nigerian man to two of our services.
– A ‘Men’s Curry Night’ with contacts from work, the local park run, school parents, neighbours all coming together and having a fantastic evening with amazing conversations.
– Consistently sharing childcare and meals with one of our neighbours, always in and out of each others’ homes – finally the reality of ‘doing life together’ that we’d always talked about.
Outside the home, we were confident of the work we had set our hands to, and between Rada and myself have also begun to see a few seedlings start to grow…
– Receiving huge favour at work alongside stories of being a constant support to colleagues.
– Serving a local ministry to women in the sex industry, visiting brothels and seeing miracles and conversions.
– Helping to establish a new park run in the city.
-Supporting a group of young men in their attempts to set up a works council for their minimum wage jobs.
Very few of the activities we were involved in would be described as your typical church planting strategy but we are of the conviction that it is Jesus who builds his Church. We simply seek His kingdom and watch as, slowly, His church grows around these activities. Maybe we have learnt not to look for vain, self-made visions of success but we love the life that we can see growing around us and we make the bold decision each morning to go again, to seek His Kingdom first.
Written by Nathan Adams