South Asia: The first church in 1500 years

“What do you mean I’m not preaching Christ?” I had just preached a sermon and was feeling good. I applied the principles I learned in seminary — a seminary in the U.S. known for its preaching — and had no idea what this person was talking about. It was an Old Testament text. There was no Christ in the passage.

This individual’s final words to me — “You’ve got to preach Christ” — both bothered and confused me. But in God’s providence, after my wife and I returned to South Asia to plant a church, I learned about CTC. I attended the Asia Pacific Intensive in 2014 and started hearing a lot that was new to me. And I struggled through it at first. I knew theology. I knew the Bible, but pointing to Christ from every passage and applying the gospel to my own heart was new. But God put me on a journey of understanding the gospel that changed my own relationship with him and the way I minister to others.

Then in 2017, my wife and I felt God calling us to start a new church in a particular neighborhood in our city. It is a very busy area known for its restaurants and late-night party scene. This area has been around for 1500 years, but never had a Christ-worshiping community.

So we gathered a core team and started meeting with anybody who wanted to hear about the gospel. We held parties and Bible studies at our apartment. We thought we’d continue to meet there after we launched, but thirty people expressed interest in attending! This was overwhelming. Our apartment can’t hold thirty people, and we didn’t have the money to rent a space.

One day, I was driving and saw a phone number for a building for rent in the neighborhood. This space was right in the middle of our target neighborhood, right in the middle of the hub of activity. Real estate there is not cheap and often not available. But this building had been empty for six years. Typically landlords don’t rent to churches, but when the owner — a Hindu businessman — found out we were a church, he said, “A lot of people need what you’re doing. You’re going to grow.” He then lowered the rent by 50 percent. I’ve never seen anything like this.

But we still didn’t have enough money. We were nearing the deadline to sign the lease and praying about what to do when I received a call from a man that I’ve still never met. (I have invited him to church, but he hasn’t come — yet .) When I told him about the lease, he said, “That’s a great place for a church, I want to pay for one year’s rent.”

When I hung up, I was so nervous. Did he understand what I just said? Did he mean one month? One year? But he called back the day before we signed the lease and said, “Don’t worry about the money. You sign the lease. I’ll provide the first year’s rent.”

We’ve now grown from 30 to 120 attendants, and we recently baptized six people. We don’t advertise (except for the nightclub bouncers down the street who point everyone our way!) and are not on social media. We want people to grow in the gospel as a community. Those who attend are experiencing something beautiful, and they invite their friends because they want them to experience this too.

So far, we have used the space for different community events like stand-up comedy and music nights. We have a co-working space to connect with young professionals. We also host CTC meetings and trainings.

But there are challenges. My wife and I have experienced significant health issues. I’ve been in and out of the hospital. We also have three kids who need our time and attention. We’re praying that God will provide more leaders. We’re also asking God how we can use our building strategically to be a gospel influence in the community.

This neighborhood has been here for more than a millennium, but for the first time in its history, there is a community coming together to praise our Creator. God has provided the physical space, and he really prepared us in the gospel through CTC’s trainings. There’s no way we could have orchestrated this. It has clearly been God all along.

Prayer Requests, South Asia:

For health. Both my wife and I deal with some chronic physical issues which flare up when there’s a lot of stress.

For more leaders and people who will open their home. We always have people staying in our home, and we often have an extra 20-25 people eating at our house every week. Our home is really a base for a lot of church activities. And with our health and the needs of our children, we could use more help.

For wisdom for the use of our space. We cannot say publicly that we are a church, but we want our space to be used in strategic ways in the city. We’re asking God how we can leverage our space for the sake of the gospel.

This article was originally published in the City to City Fall Snapshot ( Names and location have been withheld for security reasons.

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