It's easy for people to get so used to the way we do things here in the USA that we forget that other places in the world do it differently. We even might know that things are done differently elsewhere but, because of our past experiences and preconceptions, we think that certain things are a given across everywhere.
When we started our journey toward France we weren't really sure what we would be doing. We felt a gentle pull in the direction of France but didn't know where, when, or what we would be doing. Coming from an American megachurch paradigm, we assumed that we would probably go as church planters in some form or another, so that's what we started off saying. It seems like right now, in general, "church planting" is the most popular way to do any kind of external multiplication ministry, especially internationally. Is there anything wrong with this? No. But sometimes focusing specifically on one form of ministry fails to take into account the cultural realities of a specific country or region.
After we first met Didier and the leaders of Assemblée Chrétienne Mulhouse (ACM), we started learning about what they do as a church and how they do ministry. We talked about how ministry works best in France and what would be the best way for us to make an impact for Christ in the country. We started off assuming church planting would be the approach we would take, but as we talked to the leadership of ACM we learned that we might want to take a different approach.
As many have heard, the French are particularly proud of their culture and language. This manifests itself in many different ways. Did you know, there's actually an organization in France dedicated to retaining the purity of the French language? They actually come up with French words to avoid integrating other languages, especially English, into the common vocabulary. So instead of saying "computer" they say "ordinateur", "email" becomes "courrier electronique", and other fun words. This deep pride in the French also means that they are especially wary of "outsiders" coming in and trying to take things over.
One thing that was stated to us very clearly was that "the French need to be led by the French". If we, as Americans, wanted to come in and start a church ourselves, we might be able to get people to show up, but it wouldn't be filled with the French. If our goal was an international, multilingual congregation in a major, international metropolis, we probably could start something and be very successful. But our primary goal is not to reach the international community, it's to reach the French. So to be effective in this, we need to be willing to step down from the "glory" role of leading a church planting team and instead be willing to be the "hands and feet" of a French national who's already working on the ground.
We know that person is Didier and his team leading ACM.
The cool thing, though, is that we still get to be working to plant churches! ACM has a goal of raising up and sending out church planters throughout France and we're excited to be a part of that effort.
By being willing to serve those who will be the most effective at reaching the French nationals, we hope to build up their efforts and their effectiveness to be able to do more for the Kingdom than what they, or we, could do on our own.
So while this might not technically qualify as church planting, which does make it more difficult to raise support from churches who primarily focus on that area, we believe that this is the best approach for us and the way that God will use us to make the greatest impact on the nation of France.