Last year, I had the privilege of spending two days in Slovenia, a country located just above Italy in Southern Europe. I went for the purpose of meeting with a group of pastors there, and although they asked if I could come talk about discipleship and church structure, the time was really spent just learning about who they are, and what God is doing through them.
Slovenia is a country of more than two million people, with a history of Roman Catholicism. The country is full of people burned out on trying to earn their salvation, and the Christian faith in Slovenia is about as alive as their relics, cathedrals, and shrines. This small group of pastors told me of their desire to spread the gospel of grace, to plant more churches, their need for resources (there are less than five Christian books written in Slovene!), and their need for fellowship, encouragement, and training. I left feeling excited about the potential of what God is going to do in Slovenia; it’s a country ripe with possibility! Those pastors know the gospel and their churches are united in the work they are doing.
After leaving Slovenia, I went directly to Acts 29 European Conference in Manchester, England, at the invitation of Acts 29 US West. At the conference, we met with one of the global partners we support, Conor McNammee, who planted a church in the Ukraine. I was also introduced to another planter from Moldova named Steve Yates. After dinner one night, myself and another elder from my church, Redeemer in Modesto, CA, started to dream about the prospect of our church beginning to support churches in Southern Europe — just north of the Mediterranean. If we partnered churches in the same geographic region, it would make it easier for us to build community with them, but also for them to build community with each other.
I realized that many of the needs and requests expressed by the Slovenian pastors could be met by joining Acts 29, even though Acts 29 has no presence in Slovenia yet. At the Acts 29 Europe conference, it was announced that the next conference in May 2018 would be held in Belgrade, Serbia, a neighboring country to Slovenia in Southern Europe, and I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. Our church committed to helping pastors from Southern Europe attend the 2018 conference in Belgrade.
A year later, that idea of building relationships in Southern Europe is coming to fruition in a big way. So far, sixteen Slovenian pastors have registered to attend this year’s conference in Belgrade, and a few of us from our church are planning to attend as well. Both Conor and Steve (mentioned above) are in the candidate process for joining Acts 29 and will also join us in Belgrade.
I am so thankful that the leadership of Acts 29 US West has encouraged the vision of supporting Acts 29 Europe, even through smaller churches like ours. We do this as a network, but it is also encouraged at a church level. God is doing amazing work in Europe, and with very little effort or financial resources, our church in Central Valley California has been able to help support and grow this work. It has been meaningful for us as leaders, but also a great ministry for our whole church to get behind. It’s easy to become inwardly focused at our churches, and we’ve seen this global partnership and focus have a dramatic impact on the members of our church and their care for the work God is doing all over the world, not just in our area.
My prayer is that with the assistance of Acts 29, there would be a massive growth of gospel-centered churches across southern Europe and that before long, we’ll see our first Acts 29 church in Slovenia. Please pray for these relationships across Southern Europe, and particularly in Slovenia. Pray for unity among the churches and for the pastors to catch the vision of gospel-centered church planting.