Church Planting in France

Those true Christians who have ever traveled in Europe will know that the evidence of past Christian faith is everywhere. Place names, existing buildings, and ruins—once symbolic of a lived faith, and used in direct support of that faith—are scattered all over the continent, but the living communities that built and named them are gone.

Here in France, about 1% of the population will attend a Christian service this Sunday, and only God know what percentage of that small number are truly his. To rekindle the faith in this land is a daunting challenge.

To this challenge, Matt & Katie Riley have given themselves. They are living, and raising their four children, in one of the most difficult places on the face of the earth to be boldly follow and serve Christ Jesus. Why?

The short answer is simple: they believe God has called them to do it. They would serve him wherever they lived, but they believe their Lord wants and needs them in France. He has work there for them to walk in. After nearly six years, they are well integrated into French life, are very fluent in the language, and have just taken possession of a new home in their assigned village. How do they do their work?

First, they build relationships with their neighbors. They are constantly open to the possibility that the next person may be a “person of peace.” They are building webs of relational connectivity – at the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store, and on the playground.

Second, they make opportunities to break bread with those they meet. Tomorrow night there is a concert in the square behind their home, and they are cooking out with a few of their newest acquaintances. They are trying to honestly and lovingly get to know them as people.

Third, they have established a simple entry path for those interested in exploring the Christian faith. They call it Discovery Bible Study. What does the bible really teach about God, about human beings, about the purpose and meaning of life? No one has to believe to participate, but the prayer of the Rileys is that—in time—some will.

Fourth, Katie has specifically begun to meet with other young mothers, to share the joys and challenges of motherhood. She is the gospel leaven in the lump.

To this date Matt has not begun regular public Sunday worship in Pontivy. That will be added when the time is right. But there is daily prayer that the kingdom will come in Pontivy, as it is in heaven.

Will you join them as intercessors for the arrival of that glorious day?

— Rev. Jon Shuler
NAMS Servant General

 

Church Planting in France

Global Mission Stories (IV)  —The Challenge of France

When I first met Matt, I asked him where he thought God wanted him to serve, and he said France. That was nearly ten years ago. I believed him almost instantly, and began to pray with him for the day to come when he would move to France with his wife Katie and family to spread the gospel of Jesus, again, in one of the hardest places on earth.

Apprenticing in a small startup church in the panhandle of Florida was God’s training ground for Matt. He showed the stamina, the grit, the evangelistic heart, and the tenacity that it would take to move his young family overseas to a land that thinks it has no need of God.

We tried for several years to find official church partners in the Anglican Family who would help support them, but failed. Eventually a partnership between the French Reformed Church, a Presbyterian missionary alliance on America’s West Coast, a small handful of churches and supporters, and NAMS, was formed to send the Rileys to France. Our role may have seemed small—prayer and regular coaching—but our heart to see them succeed was great.

Placed in a small town in the heart of a terribly ravaged (by WWI) corner of France near Verdun, they dug in and served for three years. Learning the language, adjusting to the culture, and preaching the gospel of grace in Jesus. Their little family grew. There are now six Rileys where there were only four. And the fellowship of believers grew as well. Especially touching was their impact on the lives of Muslim immigrants from North Africa.

When they were asked by the French Reformed Church to pray about relocating to an area of France without any Protestant Church, Matt & Katie came to believe it was the Lord, and so they relocated their family to Brittany this past July. They are in a completely unreached section of the country, and have a charge to evangelize a sizable region and plant new churches as God opens the doors. If God gives favor, they will serve as a NAMS Base Community in time, for new church planting throughout France and Europe.

A small NAMS team will join them for three months in 2017, to assist in the early work of finding those God is calling to join them. They have already been approached to work in partnership with the Roman Catholic church and Alpha/France, and there is a sizable year-round English speaking community along the coast of Brittany that seems open to as well.

If we had fifty couples like the Rileys, we would still have more places in the world crying out for them to “come over and help us.” We pray every day for God to raise up laborers like them, to go where the fields are ripe for the harvest but the laborers are few. Will you help us? Can you pray and give a monthly amount to spread the kingdom of God in partnership with people like the Rileys? In France or elsewhere?

Global Mission Stories (IV)  —The Challenge of France