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Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity once again to attend the Calvary Chapel Western European Pastors/Leaders conference. This year we met at Schloss Heroldeck in Milstatt, Austria. It is one of my favorite places in the entire world to go to. Not only because the location is absolutely amazing, but it has been there, at the “White Castle” (as my kids call it), that the Lord has often spoken to me at critical times in my walk with Him. During the conference, they gave an opportunity for guys to get up and share what the Lord has been doing within the past year or so and they started with new church plants. Since we are only 1 1/2 years old, I raised my hand and was able to share what God has been doing here in Hamburg, Germany. I had no idea what I was to say, but when I got up to the podium and looked out into this crowd of men that I have grown to love and respect over these past 6+ years here in Europe, I could not help but simply say, “Thank you.” You see, I have had the advantage to come behind many of these men, listen to them, learn from them, and ask many questions of them that has in turn helped me out in our current church plant. In this post I thought I would share some important truths to those of you who are in the process of church planting or considering it.

1.      Sit and Listen

As I write this now, I can still remember my first conference here in Europe. The group was not as large as it is now. We were small enough that each of the guys were able to share who they were, where they were serving, and what the Lord had been doing. I was fresh on the mission field, having just left a very large church in Southern California. As I sat there and listened to those men, I could not help but think of how I wish I could record what they were sharing and then play it aloud to all of those whom I knew in Southern California. I believed it would be great for many to hear of the need for laborers here in Europe.

Although I can distinctly remember that first conference, one thing that I have learned over the years is to simply sit and listen to those who have gone before you. There are many things that you can learn from them. No, these men are not perfect, but their lessons may be able to help you with your current situation or help you avoid others.

2.      Ask Questions and Learn

We had been here for three years now and I found myself at the “White Castle” once again, seeking the Lord for our next steps. There I was at the missions conference and I wasn’t going to leave until the Lord had spoken to me. During the conference, I sat down with many pastors and other missionaries, asking them questions and taking notes. One conversation particularly comes to mind that I had with a friend of mine. He had already helped out in a few church plants and had now planted his own church. As is always the case, he was still in the learning process as well, but there is one statement that he told me that I never forgot. “Joey, if there is one thing that you do in church planting, learn this lesson at the very beginning, don’t start without a team.” Was that gospel? Is that the only way it can be done? No, but here was a long term missionary and church planter who had gone before me, who was speaking some “gold nuggets” and I was catching what he was putting down. My dear friends, listen to those who have gone before. Ask the questions. Ask the hard ones and then learn from them.

listen to those who have gone before. Ask the questions. Ask the hard ones and then learn from them.

3.      Get connected to a Trailblazer

Most of you have probably been connected with a “trainer.” How thankful I am for the one whom the Lord put in my life. You see when I started in the process of church planting, this Calvary Church Planting Network was beginning at the same time. So at the time, I was not directly connected with a trainer through CCPN, but the Lord was completely faithful to me and He was already at work well before I saw the need myself. The Lord connected me not only to another pastor/church planter, but one who had also done it on the foreign mission field as I am. Although he served in a different country, with a different people and language than I am currently serving, it has been very important to not only be connected to a trainer (trailblazer), but vitally important to be connected to someone who knows what it is like to raise a family and plant a church in a foreign mission field. All this to say, be praying that the Lord provides for you a trainer that will take the time to invest into you and to the work that the Lord has called you to. Don’t try to be a Superman and do it on your own. Allow God to place someone in your life that will help you through the process.

be praying that the Lord provides for you a trainer that will take the time to invest into you and to the work that the Lord has called you to. Don’t try to be a Superman and do it on your own.

4.      Learn the lesson and Step Out

There is going to come a time that no matter how much you may know or think you know, no matter how many questions you have asked, no matter what trainer the Lord has placed in your life, there will come the time for you to take the steps of faith and step out. Has God called you? Has He made the location clear? Is your wife on board? Then receive this word from the Lord. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Joey Roper is the lead and planting pastor of CityLight Hamburg, which you can also follow on Twitter at @CityLightHH.

Lessons In The Garden

Joey Roper pastors City Light Church in Hamburg, Germany. For more info, go to their website at citylighthamburg.de.

As we work in our garden, I cannot help but notice how rich the soil is. I am not a professional in gardening, but I have done a little in my life time and I have never dealt with such beautiful soil. I will never need to buy fertilizer because the soil here is so rich. The problem is the old weeds, deep roots, and worthless shrubs that are intertwined within it. That is why we need to go through it all to prepare the soil for the seeds we are planting.

While working in the soil, I could not help but think of the hearts of the people here in Hamburg and how they need to be prepared to receive the seed of the Word. In Mark 4:3-20 we read about the Parable of the Sower. We are told that the seed is the Word of God and as the seed is sown, there are different responses to the seed.

Some fall by the wayside, but Satan immediately comes and takes away the seed that was sown.

Some fall on stony ground. They are those that hear the word and immediately receive it with joy, but because of tribulation and persecution, they fall away.

Others fall among the thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Still others fall among the good soil. They are those who hear the word, receive it, and bear fruit. Some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundredfold.

Statistically, only one in four will actually receive the word and bear fruit. That immediately reminded me of how powerful the word of God is and how Satan will stop at nothing to keep the word of God from people’s lives. Every time the word of God goes forth, there is a battle that is going on over each individual life.

Every time the word of God goes forth, there is a battle that is going on over each individual life.

So what are we to do? How can things change? How can we get a better response?

In the physical realm, I need to get back into the soil and remove all of the things that would hinder the seed from growing and producing fruit. This will be a constant work, but if I really care about my garden and I want it to produce fruit, then I will be a faithful gardner and do the necessary work.

But what does that look like in the spiritual realm? As we are making the steps to plant a new church in this city, we are seeking to spiritually go through the soil and prepare it for the seed of the word. Just as we go through the soil in our garden and identify the weeds, old roots, etc. we have been going through the city to identify the deeply rooted sins, the strongholds, the false views about God, the idolatry within the city, etc. We have also been studying some of the history to get to know the “soil” that we are dealing with. The more that we are doing this, the more we are learning which things are “deeply rooted” within this city and which things are simply on the surface. We still have a lot to learn, but one thing we know is this: PRAYER CHANGES THINGS.

As we continue to pray over the people of Hamburg, we are recognizing to a greater extent what needs to be done here and how it is not a quick and easy work. This will be an ongoing spiritual battle. Praise God that this is not our battle, but His!

Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’”– 2 Chron. 20:15

Church Planting: Trusting God’s Word

This is Part 3 of a blog series by Pastor Joey Roper about his journey through the church planting process. Make sure to read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3, as well.

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It was five days before we would be boarding the plane to make our way back to Germany. On that morning I would be teaching the missions chapel at CCBC. As I was waking up, there was a battle that was going on in my mind and it needed to be dealt with. We were moving to Hamburg, the second most expensive city in all of Germany. We are missionaries and entirely supported through donations. Our previous month’s support was a total of $200. My thoughts, as you can imagine, were, “Lord, how are we going to do this?” That morning as I woke up, the Lord spoke four simple words into my mind a few times. “Have faith in Me.” In Philippians 4:6-7, it says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” At that moment, the peace of God came upon me, I put my hand to the plow, and didn’t look back. He knew what He was doing and would be faithful.

the Lord spoke four simple words into my mind a few times. “Have faith in Me.”

On September 19, 2012 we landed at the Düsseldorf airport. We were back in Germany! We drove back to the Herborn area, where we previously lived, to live with some friends until we could find an apartment in Hamburg, which is 5-6 hours north. Our next question was, “Lord, how are we going to make our steps into Hamburg? We don’t know anyone.” Upon arrival at our friend’s house, the husband asked me a question. “Joey, did you know that Daniel moved back to Hamburg? I believe he knows someone that can help you with finding a place to live.” Our first day back in Germany and God was at work! The next day I emailed our friend Daniel, who in turn put us in contact with some family friends of his (the Jahn family), who would become our second contact in Hamburg.

A month later, my wife and I would be staying at the Jahn’s house for a week so that we could spy out the city. There was an excitement and expectation within us. We were moving forward in faith and had no idea what was ahead of us. On our first full day, the husband invited us to meet with him for lunch in the city. He was born and raised in Hamburg and so we were excited to get to know him and to learn from him. During the lunch he asked us a few honest questions that he had, (none of which he meant in a negative way):

  • What is your goal here in Hamburg? To make Jesus known. To make disciples of Jesus. To plant a church.
  • Do you know anyone here in the city? No.
  • Do you have an area in the city you are looking at to plant the church? Not yet.
  • Do you have a team to help you? Not yet, but praying for them.
  • Does this future church have financial support yet? No.
  • So you are in a city that you have never been to, don’t know anyone, don’t have a team, not sure yet where you want to start this new church, and not sure where you are going to get the finances for your support. Yes.

As you can imagine, the enemy used those statements for the next few hours to bring in fear, discouragement, and questions in our minds. After walking around the city for a few hours, we needed to sit down and let our feet rest. I took this opportunity to write all of these things down. After writing all his questions down, I then wrote down, BUT GOD

You and I will have a choice in the midst of following the Lord in the work that He has called us to. We can either move forward in faith, trusting God’s Word, or we can allow our own thoughts or the thoughts of others keep us from His work. May I encourage you today, move forward in faith, trust in His word that He has been speaking to you. It is His work and He will be faithful to finish what He has initiated.

move forward in faith, trust in His word that He has been speaking to you. It is His work and He will be faithful to finish what He has initiated.

Church Planting: Trusting His Timing

This is Part 3 of a blog series by Pastor Joey Roper about his journey through the church planting process. Make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 as well.

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All throughout the Scriptures we see that God is at work and yet somehow in His grace He decides to include us to be a part of His work. This was something that He was teaching me in a fresh way as we began to live on the conference center/bible college campus. God was at work and before He would send us back to Germany to plant a new church, there were still many things that He would need to do in us.

Within the first few weeks of living on the campus, the Lord opened up two part-time jobs for me. One would be working with the conference center in the house cleaning department (which my wife loved by the way) and the other would be teaching through the Minor Prophets with the bible college. Through these new open doors, God once again began to teach me about service (through housecleaning) and His sovereignty (through teaching the minor prophets). Another deep work that the Lord did in our lives while living in Murrieta, was in the area of faith. We were not going anywhere, we were not on the foreign mission field, and yet our faith was being stretched more than any other time in our lives. He was calling us to trust Him in many different areas of our lives. Looking back at that time now, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

As time went on, we began to seek the Lord for His timing and His location for us in Germany. In April of 2012 my wife and I went back to Germany for one week to renew our visas and to pray over a city in Southern Germany. Through this trip one of our questions was answered. When would we be going back? We would all need to be back in Germany by October 2012, but where would we be going?

To make the story short, we began to pray over four different cities in Germany. Out of the four, three of them were cities where people were asking us to pray over and consider to either plant a new church or take over an existing church. The fourth city was a location that we had never been to, knew no one there, and no one was asking us to start a church there. But as time went on and we continued to pray the Lord began to constantly bring up this city all over the place in Southern California. Believing that the Lord was calling us there, I prayed one final prayer. “Lord, if it is You, bid us to come.” Within the next few days the Lord answered that prayer and said, “Come.” Hamburg, Germany would be it! Although we had never been there and didn’t know one person in the city, we knew that the Lord was inviting us to His work in the city of Hamburg. In September of 2012 we, as a family, flew back to Germany making our steps to Hamburg.

If you are in the process of waiting upon the Lord, be reminded of this: where He currently has you is exactly where He wants you. As you continue to seek Him for the next steps, know that He is using your current situation to prepare you for the work that He is calling you to. Trust Him in His timing.

As you continue to seek Him for the next steps, know that He is using your current situation to prepare you for the work that He is calling you to.

 

Joey Roper

www.ropersingermany.com

www.citylighthamburg.de

Church Planting: Continual Surrender

This is Part 2 of series of blogs from Joey Roper, a church planter in Germany. Make sure to read Part 1 of this blog series as well.

In my previous post, I shared with you with you about letting go of church planting. This is the work that the Lord was doing in my life. Once I surrendered it to the Lord, He began to move us on. But now that He was moving us on, where would we go? It was during this time that I went to the European Missions Conference in August of 2011, to get away for a week and to seek the Lord for His direction. To be honest, I was desperate. I went to the conference with expectation and God was faithful to meet with me as I drew near to Him. By the end of the conference, the Lord had clearly spoken to me that we would be planting a church in Germany, but the timing and the location were still not determined, which the Lord gave us peace about. I knew that the timing was not right away and so we began to make our next steps of faith.

We packed up all of our possessions into a storage room at the church in Herborn, believing that God was calling us back, and moved back to California in November of 2011. Without any open doors of a job or a place to live, we stayed with our family for the first couple of months. Although it was a blessing to stay with them, this began to wear on us. Our kids needed to get into school and I needed to find some kind of job so that we could somehow live in our own place. People were constantly asking us what we were doing and the enemy was using everything he could to try to destroy us. I will never forget that New Year’s Eve as I drove to a local hill where I grew up, crying out to the Lord, as the end of 2011 was coming to an end and the new year began. I once again surrendered everything at His feet, asking Him to open up a door for us. A few days later was the Missions Conference that was hosted at the CC Conference Center. My wife and I went to the conference with surrendered wills asking the Lord to unify our hearts with His. The Lord was once again faithful to meet us exactly where we were at. At the beginning of the conference the Lord spoke to us out of Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

During this conference, God poured out His grace upon us and we were completely overwhelmed. He confirmed our call to plant a church in Germany and at the end of the conference; He opened up a door for us to live on the bible college/conference center. What grace!

I am not sure where you are at in the church planting process. Maybe you are years into it or maybe you are praying for the Lord’s timing in it all. Can I simply encourage you and I to surrender everything to Him once again? I do believe that no matter where we are in the process, a continual surrender will be needed.

…no matter where we are in the process, a continual surrender will be needed.

Church Planting: Letting Go

Letting go. This is where it all started for us. Hello, my name is Joey Roper. My family and I are missionaries in Hamburg, Germany. We previously assisted the work at Calvary Chapel Herborn, Germany for three years before the Lord called us here to Hamburg. It was toward the end of the second year there that I really began to become interested in all things concerning church planting. I was listening to teachings, reading blogs, watching some friends of mine be raised up and sent out to start new churches, and my heart was being stirred. The more I followed along, the more I desired to step out and plant a church as well. But let me first rewind…

Assisting in a work first

Back in 2006, while I was serving as the Jr. High pastor at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, I led a team on a short-term mission trip to Herborn, Germany. During that trip, the Lord began to stir my heart in regards to moving to Germany with my family as missionaries. So I began to share these things with one of my best friends who was also on the mission field. He began to share with me that if the Lord was truly leading us to move to another country and to plant a new church, it would be best to first come alongside an existing work before starting out on our own. This way we would have the chance to not only assist in the work, but we would also have the time to learn the language, the culture, the mindset of the people, and so much more before leading a work. Looking back, I am so grateful that he shared these words of wisdom with me as they have proved to be true. So in turn, I would share these words of wisdom with you as well. Especially if you are considering going to a country that you do not fluently speak the language. Take the time to come and learn the language, culture, and the mindset of the people first – this will help you in the long run. We did just that and moved to Germany in September of 2008.

Take the time to come and learn the language, culture, and the mindset of the people first.

Letting go of it

We had been serving alongside the work at CC Herborn, learning the language, developing friendships, and learning many important lessons. We had hit many “walls” that many missionaries hit in the first few years. Through these difficult times we would constantly seek the Lord if we were to remain or if He was calling us on. Time after time, He would tell us that we were to remain and to be faithful. It was after 2 ½ years of serving at CCH, that I prayed something that changed the course of our future. I surrendered church planting to the Lord. I let go of it. I put it in His hands and let Him decide if He would even call us to it or not. Once I did that, this huge “weight” was lifted from my shoulders. I can honestly say that the “weight” was not something that God had put upon me, but it was something that I did to myself. Shortly after that time, my wife and I began to pray once again if we were to remain or if He was calling us on. This time He began to speak to us that it was time to move on. After finishing three years of serving the precious people at CCH the Lord began to move us on. But where to? This will be in our next post.

May I end this post by encouraging you today? If you sense the Lord calling you to church planting and it continues to burn more and more in your heart, it may be that you need to do as I did – surrender it. Let go of it and let His will be done.

Remember that He is good and trust Him!

God Bless you!

If you sense the Lord calling you to church planting and it continues to burn more and more in your heart, it may be that you need to do as I did – surrender it. Let go of it and let His will be done.