Paul Olver

Paul Olver

Some 10 years ago Christ Community Church in Columbus, GA entered into a strategic partnership with a conference in Latin America to plant a church in the capital city. They contributed funding, prayer support – and Pastor Keith Cowart personally mentored the church planter.  (Because of security issues we cannot publicly name the country.)

A church was established but after several years the church planter got into difficulty and had to leave. Nevertheless, Christ Community Church continued their support, a new pastor was appointed, and the church continued to thrive.

The new pastor, Simon, was saved out of a background of rock music. God not only redeemed him, but his music also. The church has a worship band that has become well known and through Christian rock they have reached many musicians – and music fans – for Christ.

 Several years ago the conference officially adopted Community Church Planting (CCP) as their ministry model. Pastor Simon voiced his sense that CCP would not work in the city where people are more sophisticated and busy – and where people are afraid to open their homes because of a context of violence and fear.  The superintendent told Pastor Simon that if he tried it and it didn’t work they could have a further conversation, but that he couldn’t say it wouldn’t work unless/until he tried it.

So Pastor Simon and his leadership team went back to the drawing board, studied the material, prayed and sought God’s direction for where they should go to find persons of peace. In less than two years since then they have started more than 35 house churches.

Other church plants in the central and western parts of the country have also started through Free Methodist contacts using CCP. At their recent Annual Conference a new Mission District was officially formed with this network of new churches in the capital and beyond. Pastor Simon was designated as the Mission District Leader.

Many of the leaders of the new district voiced their gratitude to God and to Christ Community Church in Columbus GA. All that we are seeing today is a direct result of their faithful prayers, guidance, and financial investment over a 10-year period. From a distance they not only mothered a new church, but a whole new district!

written by Paul Olver

We got in the car at 6:00am Sunday for a three-hour drive to a church in the interior of Paraguay where I was to preach. Pastor Ceferino said, “Let’s pray before we set off.” He prayed fervently for safety on the trip. Later, as he was passing a long line of traffic on a narrow two-lane highway with no side berm, I was really glad we had prayed!

Travel in other countries is a real trip! Although some places in Latin America have good highway systems – at least in and around the capital city – many roads are poorly designed and poorly maintained. Even international routes can be just two lanes. Roads are clogged with bicycles, motor scooters, pedestrians, and the occasional horse cart. Cars break down more often; accidents are frequent.

When requests are shared in church, people often ask prayer for friends or family members who are traveling. Drivers often pause to pray when they get behind the wheel before starting the car. It is a habit something like asking the blessing before eating a meal. The sense of danger heightens a sense of dependence on God. We really need His help and protection to get where we are going. I admit that some taxi rides in Latin America have been good for my prayer life!

The thing is I’m old enough to remember when people used to pray before driving in the U.S. Even though our transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul, the U.S. has made great advances in the quality and safety of our highways. There are many fewer old cars on the road; the reliability of cars has improved; breakdowns and accidents are not as frequent. The upshot is that we no longer need to depend on God for our safety. So we no longer pray before starting to drive.

The issue is not the design of the highway, but our sense of reliance on God. In our comfortable culture how many other things do we now take for granted that people used to ask God for? Let’s pause to pray before we set off on whatever we are about to do.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. While you are at it, pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.... Pray that we will proclaim it clearly, as we should.” (Paraphrase of Colossians 4:2-4)

written by Paul Olver

 

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“Dios proveerá. Eso es todo.” “God will provide. That’s all there is to it.” It was a simple, straightforward answer to a big question. Pastor Casto had just been telling us about the shortages of food and other basic necessities.