Feature

At the End of Me

It’s all about Him

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Four years ago we came back to Berlin from home assignment with a clear vision for planting a German church on the eastern side of the city. God had blessed the growth of the Berlin International Church (BIC), and we were convinced it was time to launch a daughter church.

To make a long story short—it didn’t work as we had planned. BIC had gone through some challenges during the year we were gone and wasn’t ready to send out a group of people with us. Talk about discouragement! We went back and forth in our minds—should we give up? Should we wait? Was God really behind this, or had we conjured this vision in our own minds?

A REAL CHALLENGE

Convinced that it really was the Lord who had planted this dream in our hearts, we decided to step out in faith and just go for it! Our colleagues, Chuck and Jenny Rentz, along with three other adults, joined with us and started Open Door Church in October 2003.

Church planting is rarely easy, but in the former Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany), it seems especially tough going. In a survey taken here shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 90% of the population described themselves as atheists. The communist government had done its job well and convinced almost an entire nation that God is merely a concept that weak people need to make it through life. Even today, 18 years after the communist government fell, less than 1 percent of East Germans attend church on a typical Sunday. And of that 1 percent, a signifi- cant number don’t really know the Lord as their Savior.

Despite these obstacles, God showed His faithfulness and grew Open Door Church. After a year of meeting in our living room, the congregation moved to a former restaurant. God continued to bless, and the church grew slowly but steadily. There are now about 40 adults and 20 children who are a regular part of worship services and home groups.

WE NEED HIM

Recently we noticed that the church had hit a plateau. It seemed healthy and the fellowship was still great, but we were starting to spin our wheels a little bit. This was frustrating for me as its leader! We had launchted a couple of new outreach ministries and began working on restructuring the leadership to become more effective, but I experienced a growing sense of inadequacy. What can I do to help the church keep going and growing? Who are the people I should be investing in the most? What is hindering our growth? How can I make things better? Am I the right person to lead? Is this really worth all the effort?

When commenting on Christianity, nonbelievers usually say, “That’s fine for you, but I don’t need God. I can make is through life just fine without Him—if there even is a Him.” As a follower of Jesus Christ I sometimes want to scream, “Can’t you see that you desperately need God? You can’t make it without Him!”

Interestingly, God has used this attitude among nonbelievers to bring me to the realization that I sometimes think the same thing! Maybe I’m expecting the people I encounter to believe a truth I still have not fully embraced. I tend to slip into the mode of “save the church on my own,” when the fact is, I also desperately need God. I need Him just as much as my atheist friends and neighbors need Him.

God spoke to me through His Word to show me what I really need: “Let your roots grow down into Him and let your lives be built on Him” (Col. 2:7). Maybe this is the secret to effective church planting—realizing that we can’t do it. When we plant ourselves firmly into Him and build our lives and ministries on Him, we can trust Him to lead, to guide and to build His Church.

I am not sure if I am at the end of me yet. There are still times when I find myself struggling hard with my own energy instead of relying on His. But I hope God will continue to gently (and sometimes not so gently) bring me to a place of complete dependence on Him and to the end of me.

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