The European Baptist Federation celebrates the 21st anniversary of the Mission Partnerships (MP). The MP facilitates evangelism and the planting of new Baptist churches in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia by supporting suitably gifted indigenous leaders.
The EBF Mission Partnerships was launched in April 2002 in Moldova as a pilot project. In 2003 the MP was extended to several other countries of Eastern Europe: Armenia, Belarus, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine. In 2004 it was possible to expand to the Middle East and later to the Baltic countries. In the following years another group of indigenous church planters were involved from Iraq and Tajikistan. The MP Program has focused on the nations which are responsive to the Gospel.
In 2023 the EBF with its mission partners are jointly supporting about 40 church planters in 22 different nations. The detailed list is on the EBF website www.ebf.org/mp. Thanks to this Partnership many new congregations are being regularly planted but most important is that changed lives and transformed communities are the tangible fruit of this work!
12 Conclusion after 21 years...
During the past 21 years the EBF has helped at least 230 church starters and thanks to their dedicated work at least 8 thousand persons are currently active members of new planted congregations, while about a similar number aspire to become members. Moreover, according to the reports, over 50 thousand have been positively influenced by the gospel. The research showed that 220 (95%) of the church plants continue their work and many have multiplied. The table below shows basic statistical results:
Started during above period
Sustained until today
Multiplied into new churches
Remain still as house groups
Failed during above period
Total existing church plants
1. The EBF Mission Partnerships has provided training and greater awareness about church planting. The total number of people who have been influenced indicates that there are segments of societies where the “gospel seed” may bring much greater results in future.
2. The 2/3 of the 230 new started congregations have continued and 38 have reproduced giving birth to other congregations (daughter and granddaughter churches). Some stopped their ministry for various reasons, like emigration abroad, burn out or poor leadership.
3. Many talented and able leaders stayed in their countries resisting the current of migration abroad. They stated that the EBF support motivated them for such decisions. These people have influenced positively hundreds and even thousands of their peers.
4. Most of MP church planters have grown and become pastors of existing congregations, although the majority are bi-vocational. Church planters express appreciation for this cooperation and value attention from the mission partners.
5. The MP reporting system has prompted unions’ leaders to assess their candidates, especially in those unions which didn’t earlier have mission departments. Some unions, like Slovakia or Turkey, had no experience in church planting and they had to learn from scratch.
6. A change of paradigm has been noticed with regard to the pace of growth. It has been slowing down in the 2nd decade of cooperation when compared to the 1st decade. Until 2010 one-time events, like inviting random persons to concerts or films, drew significant number and they were ready to return. But the 2nd decade after 2010 showed a decreasing effectiveness of this method. The church planters had to switch to regular activities, like clubs or series of meetings in order to build trust of newcomers.
7. The connection between social ministry and church planting is evident. Social projects are diverse, depending on a country. For instance, in Egypt it is delivering food parcels to the poorest and providing education to the illiterate. In Turkey it is basically help to the Iranian and Syrian refugees. In Ukraine it is rehabilitation centers for former addicts and distribution of aid to the displaced by war.
8. Migration has been a very serious challenge. Some new started churches in Moldova or Ukraine became depopulated, as the people moved to other countries looking for safety and a better life, leaving empty buildings behind. The unions that own such buildings are concerned about revitalizing the mission work in such places. However, the migration created also some opportunities as new congregations were started in new locations by migrants, like in Austria, Czech Rep, Hungary, Poland etc.
9. The church plants that have not been successful, usually merged with the stronger congregations or joined existing churches that are nearby.
10. Another interesting development has been noticed as the unions which once were the recipients of help, like unions from Hungary, Poland or Romania have become sponsors to provide funding for the church planters in poorer than their own countries.
11. The religious conflicts were reported, especially in the Orthodox countries like Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Serbia, particularly in rural settings where Orthodox priests used hate language against Baptists and instigated their people against others. Some paternalistically oriented mission organizations interfered in the already existing work.
12. The MP experience shows that the church planters implement similar principles and overcome many alike problems, whether they work in the East or West. They must know how to select appropriate persons who will be able to build teams and provide good leadership to their followers. But also some differences were discovered with regard to various cultures and mentality. For example, leadership in the East belongs to men and the traditional model of church is more valued than it is in the West.
Through the EBF Mission Partnerships all participants have learned many new lessons, hundreds of leaders have been trained, numerous avenues of cooperation have been explored and an excellent synergy between different unions, churches and individuals have been developed.
The EBF has a good reason to celebrate during the Mission Summit 2023 in Stavanger, Norway on July 5-9, 2023. All are welcome!
Rev. Daniel Trusiewicz — EBF Mission Partnerships Coordinator
Planting new churches together! For the glory of God!