Finding A Mission Agency, Part 2

OK, so let’s pick up where we left off! Our friends who’ve worked in mission for a while will probably have looked at our “What were we looking for in an agency?” list from the Part 1 post and thought “Hmmm, they are maybe a bit over-optimistic!” Well, quite possibly we were: we know that mission agencies are incredibly stretched nowadays and in some cases at least they can’t provide the help to their workers which they’d ideally like to.shops01

As you will know or have guessed, we didn’t make a tie-up with a mission agency. Actually, we do believe this was God’s plan all along. However, if He’d said that to us right at the start, we may just have run away in fear!

Why do we think being without an agency tie-up is God’s plan? We believe very strongly that training of French Christians is a vital part of the Church planting vision God is unfolding to us. In this context, we feel it is better that our organisational link (and we do think it is important to have one!) is with a truly French organisation, not an international mission agency. In addition, the vision God has been sharing with us (more about this in future posts) is ideally suited to being worked out within the context of a French evangelical denomination.

So what was our experience of checking out mission agencies, and what conclusions can we draw? My intention here is to help others who feel called to mission work. Also it may be that people involved in mission agency leadership may find useful ideas. I don’t want to “bash” anyone and won’t be naming names!


Communicate! Mostly we were able to make useful contact with agencies. With the one agency which we had thought was the “go-to agency” for Church planting in France we were unable to establish any useful contact, after a lot of trying. Please, make it easy for potential workers to contact the right person…

Talking Before Forms. Typically we were asked to complete what were to us fairly detailed forms at a very early stage. What we wanted to do was talk face-to-face with someone “in the know.” The forms could then follow if relevant. I understand the desire to collect information, but would make a plea for putting talking before form-filling!

Mature Workers. Although agencies may say they are happy to accept candidates of any age, in practice younger people are likely to find it a lot easier. Mature people will have work, family, home and other stuff to sort out, and a reasonable degree of flexibility is needed on the part of the agency. A 21-year-old who’s just finished college, with no ties, can much more easily fit in with an agency’s ways of doing things. I would make a plea for more flexibility and more mature worker-focussed thinking.

Training. This was a biggie for us. Some agencies said “You must do our training of x months, no exceptions.” This is often around a year. Whilst we don’t at all feel we have nothing to learn (entirely the opposite!), we want to make use of the experience we have gained over many years. A year’s training eats significantly into the time we have available (not being youngsters…). More importantly, our heart is to see French Christians trained on-the-job in a very practical, approachable, hands-on way, not in an academic college-style way. We feel that it would be hypocritical of us to say “We think it’s best that you learn this way, but actually we didn’t.” This is a subject for deeper discussion at another time, but I would make a plea for a fresh look at training, with a more flexible and practical approach.

Church Planting? Although a number of agencies may say “Church planting” on the tin, it seems to us that few (maybe only two) are actually actively planting new Churches year-on-year (as opposed to developing Churches that were begun some years ago, which is a perfectly valid ministry, of course!). We believe God is calling us to be planters, not developers. I would make a plea for agencies to look again at involvement in planting new Churches, not just helping the ones which exist.

Distinctives. Some agencies have doctrinal distinctives, which is fine. But not all agencies are good at making these clear! I have no problem with an agency saying “Actually, we specifically believe X” or “We do not agree with Y” but it’s frustrating when you have to read between the lines of a subtly written doctrinal basis to try and guess. I don’t want to get into discussions of specifics, but you will I am sure know the issues that evangelical Christians may disagree on. When signing up for a multi-year commitment you need to know if you are truly in sympathy with your colleagues (it matters a whole lot less for short-term work, when there is every reason to put our distinctives on one side and all work together). I would make a plea for complete clarity on these distinctives in doctrinal statements.

Strategies. Mission agencies need strategies and need to plan forwards. We are unusual (it seems!) in that we feel God has given us at least the beginnings of a specific vision and outline for our work. The downside is that it’s hard to find an agency with the flexibility to consider altering their plans to incorporate a new vision. I would make a plea for more flexibility and openness to new ideas, even if they come from outside the organisation. Some very well-known agencies started because existing organisations did not accommodate what God wanted to do…

Infrastructure. A significant part of the usefulness of an international agency tie-up is help with logistical things in the worker’s target country, such as healthcare, tax, finding and renting accommodation, moving finances from the home country and so on. Most agencies are very good at this. At least one does not provide any infrastructure support at all, which makes no sense to me, in all honesty.

Working Together. We believe passionately in team Church planting: much more to say about this in later posts! But a team has to come from somewhere, so we had hoped that a mission agency would provide significant help in recruiting a team. Even though someone else’s work may not be so team-focussed, it is still very important to know you are part of a bigger picture. There didn’t seem to be an agency which was able to provide the team-finding help we wanted (and maybe our desires were over-optimistic in that respect), but there appears to be less working together than we thought there would be.village02



Events in Paris

Regarding the horrific attack in Paris yesterday, I can find no better words than those of my friend Alan Davey, serving Christ in Bordeaux (see here):

“Pray for the families who have lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters.

Pray for there to be no islamophobic reaction.

Pray for many to seek the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.

Pray for wisdom and restraint on the part of those in authority.

Pray for words of grace and love from the lips of those who know the Living God.

Pray for violent men to be brought to justice, and to repentance and faith.”

Please, keep praying for France.

Going Around The Wood, Or Into It?

A couple of days ago I went for a walk in the Kent countryside. My favourite walk: starting at Ide Hill, then East along the Greensand ridge before plunging into the woods to the North. I often find a walk in the woods brings peace, an opportunity to reflect, time for God and me to communicate with each other, sometimes through spoken prayers, but more often through just being together.

Walking along the ridge and catching glimpses of Kent stretching away South through the gaps in the trees, I stopped for a rest and closed my eyes. As I did I saw in my mind a very clear picture of fairly dense woodland with very thick undergrowth. The undergrowth was mostly brambles, tangled and twisted together.

The place I was walking does not have undergrowth like this: the woods are much more open. So it was interesting that the picture in my mind was quite different to what I’d been looking at.

Over the course of my walk God spoke to me about the woodland picture and how it related to the way that we, as Christians and as Churches, relate to our communities.

ImpenetrableWood4The dense woodland was a picture of a community of people who do not yet know Jesus as Saviour, Friend and Lord.

Around the edge of the woodland was a fairly broad, muddy path. People were walking along the path, some hurriedly, some more slowly; individually and in groups. The people were jostling and pushing each other: there wasn’t really enough space for everyone.

In some places the undergrowth at the edge of the woodland had been worn away by the crowd, opening up the trees a little. In other places the brambles had begun to push into the path: some of the hurrying crowd got snared in the brambles and tripped up.

This is a picture of what the Church usually does: follows the same path, the well-worn, muddy path, that most other groups of Christians are following. Pushing and jostling and arguing over the same small piece of territory. It has virtually no impact on the woodland as a whole (the community).

What Churches do best is reach the people on the fringe of the Church: they are not yet Christians, but come along to the odd Sunday morning service, or an event in our religious building. They may or may not identify themselves as Christian in some way. What they have is religion. We’re fairly good at helping these people to understand that being a Christian is not about religion, but about having a relationship with Jesus.

But once the “fringe” is exhausted, in many cases our “evangelism” is exhausted too.

Only a very very few people were trying to get into the heart of the woodland. There were no paths, at all. Not even a faint track used by deer, badgers or foxes. Just those nasty, snagging, tangled brambles.

It was impossible to make headway into the heart of the woodland by just forcing a route through the undergrowth: all that would happen is that the person would get snarled in the brambles, fall over and have an awful time trying to escape. Some did not escape. Some pushed further, by sheer individual determination, but then got hopelessly lost.


The only way to make progress was to decide a direction and then patiently snip away at the brambles with secateurs to clear a pathway. Everyone in the group took brief turns at the front, snipping away, whilst others carried the bramble cuttings away, and others kept checking that the pathway was still going in the right direction.

Little by little, light came into the dark centre of the wood. Little by little the brambles were cleared. Little by little, more and more trees had an opportunity to grow properly, without being choked by the brambles.

The rest of the people on the muddy path at the edge of the woodland never really noticed what was going on in the middle.

So, what about us, our group, our Church? Are we rushing along that muddy path, jostling and pushing and arguing for position? Or are we patiently clearing a path through the brambles into the heart of the woodland; bringing real light, real hope, real change, where before there was only darkness and chaos?

The God Of The Breakthrough

You are the God of the breakthrough
You are the God of the breakthrough
You are the God of the breakthrough

You are the God Who can
You are the God Who can
You are the God Who can


Finding A Mission Agency, Part 1

Having prayed, researched and sought advice, we reached the conclusion that God was calling us to be involved in Church planting in France. A logical thing for us to do now was look for a mission agency to “go” with.

A bit of background… Between us, we’d had contact with mission agencies in various ways over many years. We’d been praying for and supporting mission workers connected with various agencies. In a previous Church, I was a member, and then the chair, of the mission committee. In our current Church I had in the past had responsibility for our mission partners.

So we knew a reasonable amount from the “other side of the fence” so to speak. Our advice would always be “find a good agency to go with.”


That was our background. What were we looking for in an agency?

In no particular order… We wanted an organisation with some infrastructure in France that we could fit into. We hoped that the right agency would know exactly what to do with stuff like health care, taxes, finding accommodation, etc. All the logistical stuff that we didn’t really know much about in France.

We wanted a team that would encourage us and counsel us, shepherd us and help us. We hoped that the right agency would provide an easy way to funnel finance from our support partners to the work we would be doing.

By this time we knew a bit about the type of Church planting that God was calling us into: that it would involve working in a planting team, with as many of the team as possible being French Christians, and that training French Christians would be a very important part of the work.

So we were looking for an agency who had a Church planting vision compatible with what God was talking to us about and that could help us recruit the right people for planting team(s).


We basically researched every mission agency we could find with a base in the UK which worked in France, looking for those involved in Church planting. We sought contacts from websites and through friends, then started emailing.

In Part 2 I’ll try and summarise what we discovered. I’ll warn you that for us this was a difficult time with not a little discouragement. I’ve chewed over whether to discuss our experiences in this blog: it would be easier not to, but I wanted this to be honest enough to help those who come after us and might find this.

So, to be continued…


Gazing Out…

We went down to Dover today and walked along the cliffs. Despite it being a sort of greyish day, France was clearly visible, just 22 short miles away, as a line of cliffs.

We sat on a bench and gazed out, longing for the time when we will be there. We prayed, and wept, and prayed some more, and wept some more.

We prayed for our dear, wonderful French brothers and sisters. For those who are weary from so much hard work for the Gospel, frustrated at so little fruit: that they would receive refreshing and encouragement and revival. For those who are afraid to talk of their Friend, because of what people will think: that they would be emboldened and helped.

We prayed for the empty spaces where there are no Churches: surprisingly large empty spaces even just that short hop over the water. That God would send people to plant Churches in those spaces.

We prayed for a couple of Churches we know a bit about not so very far from those cliffs, that their light would spread further and give birth to other lights in other towns and villages.

We prayed that God would send more brothers and sisters to plant Churches, from Britain, from the Netherlands, from other places, to plant and to train and encourage our friends in France.

This evening I compared Dover and Calais. Dover with around 28,000 people and at least 10 evangelical Churches, probably more. Calais with 74,000 people and just 3 evangelical Churches.

Tomorrow we’ll be meeting with some friends to pray and seek God for revival in SE London, revival that is sorely needed in the Church and in our communities: so many, many people without Christ and without hope in their lives. How much more, how very much more, does France need revival? If we weep, how much more, how very much more, does God weep?

Please, pray!

Dieu de Justice / God of Justice


This is the official French version of Tim Hughes’ song God of Justice.

I actually prefer this French  version, partly because the words are more positive, more definite. Here’s the chorus, in French then a (rough!) English translation from the French:

Nous irons nourrir les affamés
Soutenir les blessés
En ton nom
Nous avançons plus loin que nos chansons
Conduis-nous dans l’action
En ton nom

We will go to feed the hungry
To support the wounded
In your name
We are moving further than our songs
Lead us into action
In your name

See what I mean? “We will go…,“We are moving…”

France is full of the spiritually hungry, of those who are wounded by sin and by life. We have to go, we cannot ignore the call.

Because God loves every person in France