What is the work of a missionary? Depending on who is asking me the question, the answer can vary, but the essence is always the same. Training leaders who will establish the church is the work of a missionary and building a leadership team is a core aspect of our work in expanding the gospel to our cities. This is the model that is left for us, explained in the book of Acts. Paul and his team would share the good news in a city, gather those who responded into a church, and then appoint and train leaders to lead those churches. Recognizing this pattern, our ministry team at BILD International, is working with church-planting networks from all over the world. We are also doing this in Des Moines, Iowa, our home city. We are passionate about Des Moines, and we hope that all churches share this passion for reaching their home city.
About Des Moines, Iowa
Let me share some perspective from our journey in Des Moines and the practical aspects of implementing long-term habits. Here are a few factors that make Des Moines a strategic city for the expansion of the gospel:
- Capital of Iowa
- Home to over 551,000 residents
- 780,000 people live within 60 minutes (=24% of Iowa’s population)
- The greater Des Moines area is composed of 16 cities
- Downtown and East Des Moines are the highest density, low-income zones of the city
- Des Moines is a central hub and there are significant opportunities for “Seek the Welfare” initiatives.
Encouragement From Our Journey
Leaders ask me how their denomination or network of churches can get people established in the faith, while often citing their unique circumstances, challenges and history of using a plethora of church programs. My initial response is: “We use Thursday evenings.” This is surprising to many leaders who are usually looking for another “plug and play” programmatic piece designed for today’s modern church machinery. But this cannot be the starting point. As leaders, if we understand our role in equipping the saints so that our people know the full counsel of God, we must help our people implement long-term habits for growing and developing in their faith.
Our leaders have been meeting on Thursday evenings for 10 years. This habit began when we were initially implementing the Antioch School because Thursday evenings worked best for everyone. When we started, we only intended to meet until we completed our Antioch School degrees. However, as the months passed by, we began to understand the principles for being a New Testament church, and realized that completing our degrees in the context of our church was just the beginning of our development.
During those years of meeting and learning these principles together, we started bringing food to share and slowly became a family that relied on each other. We shared our lives as marriages, occupations, pain and death were always part of someone’s life. In these initial years, our establishment and leadership development was housed and included a single church. After three years together, this church sent us out as church planters to our city, to continue the work to which we had been called.
This habit of meeting together regularly to establish each other in the faith, and be a family that encourages one another still continues today. Now, we have five different churches and we are seeing how each church plays a needed role in our city. Just as individuals are unique and have a role, the same is true for churches; each one is unique and has a role in the city. This ministry is only possible through the one-mindedness that is built through regularly studying and discussing the Bible together.
How It All Happens
We meet in a business owned by one of our benefactors. Our Thursday evenings looks like the following:
- We begin our time together sharing a meal and our lives. Entire families, including children, participate.
- We then move into 4 groups, each following a development track:
- Becoming a Disciple – BILD Institute
- Laying Solid Foundations in the Gospel – BILD Institute
- Acts – Antioch School
- Habits of the Heart – Antioch School
- We end by gathering everyone together to pray and discuss upcoming schedules.
“The Church is not like a family, it is a family and I am thankful that it looks like it too!”
There is much work still to do but it has been an exciting process of growth. We are seeing entire families where parents and children each learn the same principles of the faith, while simultaneously discussing these principles with leaders who sharpen their vision and purpose in the city. Some of these leaders are enrolled in the Antioch School, earning degrees with their work. The church is not like a family, it is a family and I am thankful that it looks like it too!
The Antioch School is an important aspect of our work in reaching our city. It provides a developmental pathway for leaders who need the cultural currency of a degree, but want to learn in the context of their work in the church. This process builds one-mindedness among leaders who seek to reach the city. It is in this context that we can truly begin to see how the church of Jesus Christ can have lasting impacts on our cities.