Healthy Churches . . . Locally Led and Sustained
“And this is my church.” Esteban pointed to the car port next to where we were sitting and chatting on his front porch. In May of this year, I visited leaders in Honduras and Pastor Esteban Zapata, pastor in Tela, Honduras, and secretary for the Interamerican Conference of the Church of God (CIID) was my first stop. The church he pastors meets in his garage. It’s a church plant that he and his family started when he moved his family to Tela. He runs a business to provide for his family while the church he pastors grows and connects in its community.
The church that sent Esteban to plant this new church is just a few hours away, depending on traffic and road conditions, in the city of La Ceiba. Worshipers there meet in a large sanctuary with a balcony. The sanctuary seats hundreds, and Sundays are often filled with joyful music, dance, and theatrical lighting. The congregation reaches out into their community in many different ways. Among them are a school that serves students from elementary to high school, a school that teaches students to become entrepreneurs, a counseling center, and a dance studio. This church models what is means to understand their community and work to meet the real needs of their neighbors.
These two churches look very different, even though they are in the same country and were started by the same community. The work we at Global Strategy do of walking alongside the local church means understanding all kinds of churches. If two churches in the same country can be so different, imagine the differences we experience as we cross borders. But also imagine what we can learn from partnering with such varied church communities!
The Church of God in Honduras is a great example of a place that is raising up local leaders. They are planting churches and dreaming about what God may have for their country. We know that churches are healthy when they are developing new leaders as part of the day in and day out life of the church. Our goal at Global Strategy is not to initiate and lead local ministries but to support local churches around the globe as they raise up men and women to lead ministries that emerge out of their context and community.
We also want to help churches create local ways of supporting themselves. Some have been doing this for years, like Pastor Esteban who runs his own business. In other places, we partner with local leaders, thinking creatively about how to find local solutions for financial stability.
Why? Because we can learn from one another, and we should be. And because we never know when our ability to support and serve will change. In our changing global geopolitical environment, Christian work is being challenged in many corners of the world, including restrictions on the flow of people and funds for a variety of reasons. We believe that churches that are connected to each other (see the next article on regional connectivity), but that are not dependent on outside funding and leadership, will thrive in the days ahead.
Posted 23 November 2021