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Summer 2003 Rapport: Church Planting

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Planting by Multiplication: Great Sacrifice, Great Reward

by Brian Thomas

Pastor Etienne Zongo had recently been appointed as the senior pastor of the largest church in Burkina Faso, Africa. The Assemblies of God church dominated the religious landscape of the city, but Etienne was dissatisfied. God was stirring his heart to make a bold move. His people would not be happy. Since the American missionaries had established the church, it had remained the only church in Koudougou. Three thousand members made a large congregation, but tens of thousands resided in the city untouched by the gospel. It was time to decentralize the church; it was time to give birth. When Pastor Etienne began to discuss decentralization, some of the deacons were angry. "Why are you trying to scatter the people? The church is healthy and growing. Leave it alone!"

One day, as he was praying, he received a vision. A large plate rested on the ground. Many people surrounded it, fighting and struggling for control. Suddenly, a massive hand reached down, lifted the plate, and dashed it to the ground. The plate shattered; pieces flung in every direction. Those who had encircled the edge rushed to the pieces, each possessing their own fragment. The pieces lay on the ground until, suddenly, they began to grow. They grew larger and larger until the ground was full of plates that looked just like the first.

A few days later, Pastor Etienne walked confidently into the church board meeting. "Brethren, today we are going to decentralize the church. We can do it peacefully, or we can fight one another. But the church will be decentralized."

Pastor Etienne lost hundreds of members from his church. Within a few weeks, his church of 3,000 had dwindled to less than half of its membership. The church looked empty and dead. Some people began to wonder if God had truly spoken. Others began to criticize, but the church had conceived—soon it would give birth.

Within the next six months, eighteen new Assemblies of God churches sprang up in the city. In another one and a half years, there were twenty-three churches. By 1997, the total membership in all the Koudougou churches had soared from the original 3,000 to more than 11,000. The vision was true. The broken pieces had become whole. Then an amazing thing began to happen. The mother church, which had given so much, began to grow again, and the empty pews of the old church were filled with new members.

(Etienne Zongo graduated from AGTS this past spring with a doctor of ministry degree.)

Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 2:17 PM

 

 
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