Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!

I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

So that you stay connected, getting every new update, please add your email address to receive all updates directly, or follow the RSS feed.

I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tallinn Update - First trip back to Russia and more...

By the end of this week, it would have been quite a ten days for us...

Firstly, looking back;
On Thursday 20th September, I took the coach, making my first trip back to St Petersburg, as planned, for a conference that Hope Church was putting on.  David & Scilla Devenish were coming over for this weekend, and though Dave Henson's back condition did not allow him to be there, Hannah Henson was able to come instead.

Arriving in the city in the afternoon, I was immediately struck as the bus approached the station at the amount of traffic.  The roads were blocked in every direction.  People were walking through the gaps in traffic, going about life. There was no doubt - I was back in the big city!

And I've never 'visited' somewhere before where I am so familiar with the place, and even have the foreign language....I was to get to speak a lot of Russian this weekend, not that we'd got out of practice in Tallinn anyway, with Russian being widely spoken here too.
Descending the metro it was no more unusual than when we lived there.  St Petersburg has the deepest underground (metro) in the world, so you descend and ascend for about 3 minutes each time.  I was not in much of a hurry, and had bags with me anyway.  
What was strange, once at the hostel I was staying at, was being in the city and yet neither (at that point!) being with people, working or at home.  The hostel was very central so while that made getting around easy enough, there was noise from the cars and people moving around in their thousands all day (and all night!)  But it wasn't like I'm not used to it....it's just been 6 months.
On that first evening I made the trip out to where Hansie & Lena live.  It was the end of their home group so I was able to see three of the Russian ladies (plus baby Gleb who was just two months old when we left and I'd just seen once).  I then went out for a chat with Hansie after that to catch up on the news and to see how he was doing really.  
Friday morning again felt strange.  I went down to the church office but at 10am (what was I thinking!) of course it wouldn't be open.....that's still like the early hours in St Petersburg!  (The days do start later and finish later - Tallinn is a little more like Europe regarding office hours).
I then went to a nearby cafe and spent a couple of hours working on next Sunday's notes for our first Vision Sunday (more on that in a bit!).
Though there was a set plan for that evening and then the whole weekend, there was still quite a bit of time on Friday with nothing as yet set.  Realising that I needed (wanted!) to be with some of the folks from Hope Church (the reason I came back after all!) I sent some texts around and soon had back to back meetings that afternoon.  So I met with two home group leaders first and then went onto meet with another two after that.  In the evening was a meal for 10 couples, plus myself and Hannah.  There were two couples from Hope Church, three from All Nations, an Armenian couple from the Newfrontiers church in Tver, plus three other couples representing four local churches, together with David & Scilla.  David would share some things, tell some stories about what has been happening and answer some questions. 
It was a really relational evening and great to chat and meet up with so many wonderful people.  A theme of the weekend, it would again show me just how many people I've had the honour of meeting and getting to know over these last four years.
On Saturday morning there was the start of a two day conference titled "Together on Mission".  The first day was held at the Christian University where I used to study Russian over the last two years.  David did a wonderful job in telling the story of some of Jesus' ministry, before reading back through the scripture to show us that what he said was in the Bible.  I really got a lot out of his teaching and his style was really engaging - I like story-telling too (as an author, that's hardly surprising!) so it was a great experience for me too on that note.  In the lunch break I also got to speak with another two home group leaders.  All in all these conversations had been about encouraging their groups to multiply and releasing new leaders into this.  This is now something I will look to help them do over this next month.
Saturday evening, after the conference, I went back with Hansie & Lena, David & Scilla and Hannah to their flat for a meal.  We were joined by another couple and talked and shared stories.  Later on, I then had some time with David and Scilla to talk about Tallinn and get their advice and input on some things.  It was a very helpful and equipping time - one of the many 'value added' things in being part of a wider family of churches like Newfrontiers.
On Sunday morning it was at the hotel where Hope Church now meet - Hotel October - in the centre of the city. There were two churches together (Hope & All Nations) plus another 8 represented as well.  It was amazing to see the hall packed out, and all available chairs needed.  There was easily over 300 adults.  Worship was passionate and God focused.  It was multicultural, with over a dozen nationalities represented.
I shared an update on Tallinn from the front.  People were so happy to see me again and gave loads of gifts for both Rachel and the girls, who were not able to be with me on this trip.  Faith was stirred and they prayed for us all here.
Not long after that, one of the real highlights of the trip happened.  David welcomed into our Newfrontiers family of churches All Nations church.  These guys have been working really closely with Hope Church for a few years and hearing their African pastor sharing what it meant to him, it was truly humbling to think, that even in a small way, God has involved us in his plans and purposes in St Petersburg.  None of us went to Russia to get other churches to join Newfrontiers, but to plant a church.  This has purely come out of relationship and their desire to be joined with us under the same vision and calling to change the expression of Christianity around the world.
So after four years of first moving to St Petersburg, there are now two vibrant and passionate Newfrontiers churches in that great city.  There is room for dozens more too!
The conference finished at around two and then, once the hall was cleared and chatting with people was finished, I joined the dozens going to a local food court in the neighbouring shopping centre to eat together and continue relationship building.  While here, I saw a young lad with an Estonian scarf on, so I went up to him (I think this seemed odd to him!).  It worked out that he too lives in Tallinn and when he asked what part I lived in, he responded in surprise that he lived 300 metres from there!  Who would have thought, of all the millions in far away St Petersburg, I'd meet someone living so close.
And on Sunday night there was a leaders meeting for those from Hope Church and All Nations.  And this was in the hall where Hope Church first started.  It felt fitting.  It was another encouraging and powerful evening.
On Monday morning I was back on the bus and heading home.  The weekend had shown me what was possible.  To meet with so many and encourage where ever I could.  To bring some fresh faith from outside, with the heart and knowledge of what is going on in Hope Church.  There were invites near and far to come back when I could.  And long term, this is something (in God's wisdom and knowledge) that I feel is part of us being based in Tallinn for.

And Finally, looking forward;
So getting back to Tallinn, faith has been stirred.  This weekend we have our first Vision Sunday for the church plant. Having been gathering socially to invite friends and neighbours, and build community, once a month we are meeting to be reminded of vision, to be encouraged from the word and to worship together, launching us into the next month with faith, passion and vision for all the further gathering we will be doing.
Please pray for us this Sunday.  I will be starting a series talking through the story of Acts, taking a chapter or two each month to draw on encouragement and examples from the life of the early church, into the life of this early church in Tallinn.  The two weekly toddler groups also continue to go well.

The next two months will continue to build forward.  We'll be hosting a special weekend in Tallinn (news on that next time) that will see several other city church planters together here, as well as a couple of trips for me - one being to Riga, where I will be speaking four times over a weekend telling the story of the book of Ruth.  And the other is for a special cities gathering in London that I have been invited too.  Both these trips will happen in November, so more on these nearer the time.  We also continue to have many visitors.  On all these above points, life in Tallinn continues to be very different to what life had been like for us personally in St Petersburg.

Thanks for reading - I hope you have been encouraged as much as we have!

Coming up next;
The Church planting series continues with news from Latvia, Helsinki and even the USA......you don't want to miss it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tallinn Update - Gathering a little momentum

Having taken the last three posts to share a bit about church planting in my new series where I have been interviewing others planting new churches, I wanted to come back and share a catch up with life in Tallinn these last two weeks.

Yesterday summed up a lot really in terms of the wonderful connection with 'random' encounters and God working in his own way through and around us during 'normal' life in Tallinn.  For our gathering event we were going bowling, hiring two lanes at 4pm on the Sunday.  (From the windows down one side, you can see the sea - not your usual bowling alley!).  It just so happened that walking into the place the team recognised another Estonian man and his family, from another local church we'd all been at a few times over the last few months.  Warm greetings followed.  It just so happened they'd booked the same time and were in the next lanes to us.  When we were leaving, the guy mentioned a volleyball match that was happening later on in Tallinn between Estonia and The Netherlands.  Arnoud, being Dutch, was quite up for going, as was I, growing more keen on volleyball since moving to Tallinn. 
Arriving for the volleyball match (which was being shown live on ETV2, one of the main national channels) we just so happened to park immediately behind the car of this same guy we'd met earlier (as we were to find out later, walking back to the cars and realising the coincidence).  Buying the tickets, he came and found us and we took our seats, just after the national anthems were played - and then, sitting just behind the service line, we just so happened to be on Estonian TV all night, the camera's kept picking us out, much to the sheer excitement of Mia and Anya (pictured above right). Rachel took a picture of us on the T.V (right).

And that sums up life in Tallinn - always open to the unexpected.  Never really knowing what the day might entail....and ending up on TV (and not for the first time this year, with our House Hunters International show to be aired this Autumn too!).

So what has been happening when we are not appearing on TV, you might ask....well, this is what;

Taste the Nations in Tallinn - a really successful event that we first launched in the international groups we were overseeing in Russia, was a meal concept called Taste the Nations.  And as part of our gathering strategy here in Tallinn, we are putting on this event twice a month in two venues, with the first event the previous weekend at ours.  
 It was a really fun time, and as well as people represented from Estonia, Russia, Holland, America and the UK, we had food from Italy, Mexico, England, Estonia and Russia!

This coming Sunday is the next meal, this time at the home of Arnoud & Elisabeth, and though that is only about 5 minutes down the road, it represents another gathering area as well as another circle of friends ready to come along and get involved.

I personally will not be in Tallinn for this meal this time, as I make my first trip back to St Petersburg since moving here in March.  So please pray for my trip - part of the vision of being in Tallinn was always to keep contact with Hope Church, our sending church in Russia.  God has not finished with us and Russia.  Having moved on more than six months ago, with so much no doubt changed in Hope Church, it promises to be an exciting, yet emotional, return.  Pray therefore that as I go back and share, faith would be stirred.  That all the new people who have joined in the last six months who I do not know, and of course who do not know me, will feel very much part of what we are doing in Tallinn.  Pray also for Rachel and the girls - it's not my first trip away but at five days, and with Mia now at school and the church plant meeting on the weekends, it will be a busy time on the home front.

These last two weeks have also seen the launching of two children's events.  One is an art group that Laura is running at her home, and the other, which started last week at ours, is an English Conversational toddler group. (Rachel and Elisabeth had met several Mum's who wanted to practice their English and felt this would be a fun way to do it).  As well as the three ladies from the church plant, there were two other mums visiting and joining in - with one helping to do some Estonian nursery rhymes!  Both groups will be happening every week, with the latter alternating between ours and Around & Elisabeth's.  I am so impressed by the missional endeavour that God has put around us!

It's really wonderful to see all that God is starting to do in Tallinn.  We are far from understanding culture here.  We have just started pressing in with regular Estonian language learning, and the early stages are very encouraging!  We do have a long way to go!

Knowing our time is the most valuable thing we have, we are being prayerful about how to use it best, getting that balance between being able to live here and investing in the church plant (which at this stage is such a wide range of things!)  We are still awaiting for our finances to really settle down, having taken quite a hit over these last six months with the moves and everything, but it does seem that we might be several hundred euros a month down from our necessary level of support, factoring in the gift of this car and Mia now starting school, both of these having an impact on our monthly out goings.  So this is something that we are also praying about, and ask that you pray for us as well.  Please pray that we hear God's wisdom for us regarding the correct balance between our own provision (and any extra work I need to do from this end - bearing in mind the time cost involved in this) and the provision we receive from outside, the value of this being the time it provides us to get on with the basic mission here - to plant a city reaching church that replants itself many times through the decades.

One long term hope is that my writing can provide the necessary income to not only provide for our own needs, but also fund many church plants.  And with a small number of film directors and producers starting to follow my books twitter feed, maybe that's not as far off as first thought.....Cherry Picking continues to get great reviews - why not see what all the fuss is about yourself, and in buying the book (which I trust you will enjoy reading) you are also helping us to church plant.  And by recommending this book to your unique circle of friends, you are helping the book to reach a global audience.  You can read some of the 5***** reviews here, and get your own copy too!

Head aega! Ja tänu lugemiseks (Goodbye!  And thanks for reading)

Contact Details;
Address: Helme 16/2, 39, Tallinn, 10614, Estonia
Email: timinrussia@gmail.com
Facebook Group: God Loves Tallinn
For regular or one off gifts please contact our 
UK base church who are administering this for us: 

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Interview with...a Church Planter - 3 - Matt Medd, Riga, Latvia

For these next two parts to this series, we will be hearing from two church planters in Latvia, each in very different circumstances.

First up is my friend Matt Medd, who is in Riga, the Capital of Latvia, which is directly south of where I now live.

I first started speaking to Matt through Skype.  He spent most of his first year in Latvia in a small town called Smiltene (the subject of part 4 of this series) before moving onto Latvia more than a year ago.  I then met up with him in person for the first time at the last Brighton conference in 2011 and have since been down to Riga once, and had Matt come join us in Tallinn for two days as well this summer.  He's also coming up for another weekend in October and I am going down to Riga for a weekend in November.  Until Helsinki is planted, Riga represents the nearest Newfrontiers church to us, as there are no others in Estonia (yet!).  Helsinki will be the nearest when that is started - until we start planting other churches out of Tallinn into rural Estonia, that is!

So this is what Matt had to say;

Tell us a little about the city you meet in?
Riga is the capital city of Latvia, which is sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania. It accommodates nearly half the population of the whole country. It's a really beautiful city - it has the nickname 'Little Paris'. There is always something to do; there is some kind of festival or event nearly every weekend. You are always a short journey away from the beach or the forest-filled countryside. In the winter it is ridiculously cold, but still beautiful especially in the snow.

Some people might look at church planting and feel they have no idea what to do - what would you say to help them?
Don't freak out. God isn't going to call you to plant a church (or any other task) and then leave you lost & confused. He is a good Father. God will guide you, He will put all the right people in your path at the right time. I'd recommend connecting with some other people who are already church-planting. It'll demystify it for you and give you opportunity to check it out. Early on, I visited a church plant in Gdansk, Poland. Not exactly the same as Riga, but really gave me a taster of things to come. We're also running a little event in Riga for people who are feeling called but not sure what to do next. Come along and say hello.

How old were you when you planted your first church?

Are you finished yet?

If you have planted into another culture & language, talk through some of the issues and experiences you've come across so far?
Planting into a different culture and language is challenging. I've really had to be careful that I'm not converting Latvian Christians into English ones. You really have to dig deep and consider what is a cultural difference and what is a sin. I'm also cautious of having the attitude of I've got it all sorted and the Latvians haven't - the reality is I'm learning lots of helpful things from Latvian people. For example, Latvians are much more honest and direct. If they don't like something, they will tell you. At times I found it a bit blunt and sometimes rude, but then I've learned that as an English person I am obsessed with being polite. Maybe I needed to learn to be a bit more direct? Seriously, read the gospels again - Jesus was not English! Sometimes, He was really direct with people. Latvians are also much more spontaneous than the English. If they hosted the Olympics, they'd probably start the week beforehand, and they'd probably pull it off because when it comes to the crunch they are hard workers. Jesus will challenge you no matter what culture you are from.

And what language are you doing your gatherings in?
Mostly in Latvian.

In New Frontiers, we talk about building on an Apostolic and Prophetic foundation - how has that been seen through your situation?
This has been massive for me and amazing how God has orchestrated everything. I really love Mike Betts and his apostolic team. Some people can be really scared off by terms like 'apostle' and 'prophet' because of bad experiences or whacky videos. In my experience, all the apostles and prophets I have met have been normal people who love God and have sought to encourage, stir, challenge and build up the church. The last few years, I have kept a journal of all the prophetic words, pictures and scriptures that people have given to me. I often sit and read it, and it's like listening to God for half an hour - it's amazing how many of the prophetic words are so accurate. It has really shaped the decisions that I make and fuelled my prayers for what God is still yet to do here in Riga. It has often encouraged me to hold onto God's promises.

One example. When I was first feeling called to plant a church, I was working in television. I didn't fancy my chances of getting a job in the media when I moved to Latvia, as it's a much smaller industry and I couldn't speak Latvian fluently. I started thinking that maybe I should consider teaching instead. The following week a young woman at my church in London prophesied that there were two people who are thinking about teaching and God is saying go for it. I knew God was speaking to me. So I applied for a handful of teaching assistant jobs. Within a few weeks I was working in a primary school in urban London. When I moved to Latvia, I visited one of the international schools in Riga and loved it straight away. After three months and a lot of prayer, they gave me a part-time job. Since then, God has given me a lot of favour there. I now work there three days a week and am able to earn enough to support myself financially. I don't have a single qualification in teaching, but that's not a problem for God.

What is the role of internationals (ie non natives) in the life of a new church plant?
I've tried very hard to focus as much as possible on local people. My reasoning was that I looked to the end goal, which was to see a local church with a local male eldership team, and then I worked backwards. I honestly believed that if I came here with a team of internationals, then this would have been counterproductive. I've tried to be a student of the culture. I visited a number of Latvian churches and noticed that in many of them, they expect the pastor to do everything. If an English or American missionary came, people flocked towards them, but they didn't really get involved in church themselves. As much as possible I want to serve the Latvians by releasing them into their gifts.

Having said that, I'm not getting in the way if God brings internationals to us. God's kingdom is much bigger than one language, one culture. In Riga, there are a large number of Russians, so next year I will probably start learning Russian language. As a capital city, Riga is also full of international people. I've had opportunity to share the gospel with a number of Scandinavians, went clubbing with some Germans and had a Christmas dinner at the British embassy. God loves the nations and I do too.

Last year, one of my English friends, Kathryn, came to support the church plant for a year. She did a great job and I'd welcome anyone else if they want to come and help. I'd simply stress that the best way to get involved is in the local culture. Try learning the language, try working here and build relationships with locals. Get alongside local believers and encourage them. Of course it's much harder, but I hope long term it will produce good fruit. 

What challenges have you had to over come?
Disappointments, doubts, demonic attacks, discouragements and distractions. Basically, anything beginning with the letter 'd'. And loneliness.

Can people still move to join you?

How can someone pray for you and your church?
Please pray for us as we seek to reach out to our friends and family with the good news about Jesus. Latvia can sometimes be a depressing place, the culture can be quite negative, so pray that we would be a light that shines in dark places. We'd love to see the lost saved and added to our church plant. Personally, please pray for my language skills. Currently, I'm trying to preach once a month in Latvian, working through the most famous Old Testament stories. It's quite a challenge, but I really believe God will speak to us through it.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone feeling called to plant a church somewhere?
Listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He says.

Thank you Matt for your helpful answers and examples!

Matt is part of the Riga Church Plant, Latvia

Matt's blog: http://mattmedd.tumblr.com/
Twitter: @matthewmedd
the NEW event: http://neweuropeconference.eu/

Series so far:

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Interview...with a Church Planter - 2 - Phil Whittall, Stockholm, Sweden

In the second part of this Church Planting series we're hearing from Phil Whittall, who now lives with his family in Stockholm, the Capital of Sweden, having moved from the UK last year.

Our link to this church plant actually started through Phil's mother-in-law, Kate Duncan, who is also now out in Stockholm.  While based in Oxford for the birth of Anya in 2010, I was given use of a desk in the office of Emmanuel Church Oxford, where Kate was then working part time.  Returning to St Petersburg, several months later we heard back from Kate that she would be moving to Stockholm in 2012, and would therefore be a Baltic neighbour with us in St Pete's - by then, we had heard God speaking to us about Tallinn, so I was able to reply to her with a yes, we were to be neighbours - but even closer than she thought!  Tallinn is wonderfully located between some awesome cities - west of St Petersburg, our sending church.  East of Stockholm, just south of Helsinki and north of Riga.  In this series I will be sharing answers from guys in Riga and St Petersburg, and hopefully from Helsinki in the future as well.

At the last Brighton conference in 2011, we had a little time with Phil and some of his team in a local pub one night.  And through emails since, we've managed to chat a little.  Being a largely unchurched part of the world, relationships with other like-minded people in neighbouring capital cities at the same stage as us, brings strength and encouragement, which is extremely valuable.

Phil has also been a great help so far with my novel Cherry Picking (shameless plug I know, but this is how Phil has encouraged me!)  His background has been in publishing, so in this area too he has a lot of helpful advice, which I've been so grateful for.

So, that's the intro over - let's see what he has to say;

Tell us a little about the city you meet in?
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and with around 2 million people is the largest city in Scandinavia and only St Petersburg is bigger in the Baltic region. It's a very highly developed, well run and beautiful city, with a currently healthy and growing economy. It's a joy to live here but it is also a city largely without God. Only around 1-1.5% of the population attend church on any given Sunday (compared to around 4-5% nationally). In terms of a mission field that puts it in the same category as countries like Japan, North Korea, Thailand, Mongolia and Iraq (according to Operation World).

Some people might look at church planting and feel they have no idea what to do - what would you say to help them?
I would say that was normal but not to get paralysed into inaction. Speak to leaders, investigate a place (if you know that), training (if you need that) and begin to orient your life now around the fact that one day it will be different. So save money, change the sorts of books you read...anything really

When did you know you were called to be a church planter?
About 12 years ago when I was asked by Martin Charlesworth who was leading the church I attended. He asked me 'would I lead a church plant?' and after praying about it, concluded that God was behind the question. 
How old were you when you planted your first church?
28 by the time we got as far as our first public Sunday meeting. But around 26 when that journey started.

Are you finished yet? 
No. Currently in Stockholm and fully expect that to be a church that raises up church planters for Sweden and the Scandinavian/Baltic region.

Called to just church plant, or called to a specific city - or both?  And does it matter?
No I don't think it matters. Some are called to lead, others are called to join in. The important thing is gaining the backing of those leading you so you can be equipped, released and sent out on mission. 

Having planted into another culture & language, talk through some of the issues and experiences you've come across so far? 
I think one of the big things is that it takes time so patience and a long-term perspective is crucial. Learning a language is one reason for that; even here in Stockholm where there are a high proportion of people able to speak English we want to be able to pray and communicate about Jesus in the heart language of this nation and that's Swedish not English. 
And what language are you doing your gatherings in? 
Swedish and English. We're not fluent yet so we're doing what we can and translating the rest. It's a bit of mish-mash right now.

In New Frontiers, we talk about building on an Apostolic and Prophetic foundation - how has that been seen through your situation?  
God has been gracious in speaking promises over us as a church and that gives us confidence in the future even if the interim steps are not yet crystal clear. The prophetic among us builds up, strengthens and helps equip us for the future reality God has for us. The apostolic helps provide the determination, perseverance and wisdom to break through the inevitable battles in whatever shape they come.

Calling verses Gifting - where do you stand?
Both would be great. God uses all sorts of people but church planting can be just hard work so gifting without the calling is probably more vulnerable than the other way around.
What is the role of internationals (ie non natives) in the life of a new church plant? 
Well, we're internationals so I hope it's a useful one! If you're planting into a city the chances are that will be a very multi-cultural context and part of the promise of the kingdom of God is to see people from north, south, east and west participate in the feast of the King. So there's a role for every native and non-native.
What challenges have you had to over come?
All of them! There are challenges of trusting God for provision for homes, finances, your children, a team, for salvation, for friendships, for new languages. You can arrive in a new place with all of those things up in the air and you have to trust God for everything, that's why the calling is key. 
What challenges remain?
We're not fluent in Swedish yet so we need to keep working hard at that. We want to see the lost saved, leaders equipped and released. We're only just beginning so there are plenty of challenges ahead of us. 
Can people still move to join you?
Of course!
How can someone pray for you and your church?
Pray for friendships and relationships. Churches start there both inside the church family and with others in the neighbourhood. We want our relationships to be fruitful for the kingdom of God.
Do you need a team to go church planting?
No but it helps. Sooner or later a team needs to be built that is essential, but you don't have to have a team to get going. 
How has moving to church plant with young children been?
So far it's been fun. Our eldest is 4 and youngest is 2, so they're at an age where they can pick up the language in a way that makes their parents jealous. Taking time to make sure your family move well is important, and so far it's gone well and we're grateful for that.
What challenges do you face with raise children in a 'foreign' setting?
Sweden is quite well known for it's liberal attitudes to pretty much everything and is like many developed nations highly consumeristic and individualistic. The gospel speaks against both those attitudes so that's very counter-cultural. Swedes are also quick to think people who are enthusiastic about their faith are cultish and no kid needs that label round their neck. But every culture poses challenges to Christian parents and this one is no different, the trick is to figure out where. 
Is outside financial support vital for church planting?  What other ways are there that you've come across?
It can obviously be a great advantage because moving countries can be expensive and language learning can eat into your work time. But in our area, for example there are over 500 IT companies from giants like Microsoft, Samsung and Ericsson to small start-ups so working and being in business is key for most people being able to move to a city.
What advantages does having financial support for at least the first year have in the life of a church plant?
The big one is the space it gives you to sort out the fundamental basics of life - accommodation, bank accounts, transport, doctors and to invest time into learning a language.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone feeling called to plant a church somewhere?
Go for it! Get yourself equipped in character and trained in gifts and make plans to get out of the boat.

Huge thanks Phil for so thoroughly answering these questions.

Phil is a part of the Stockholm Church Plant, Sweden.

Twitter: @simplepastor

Series so far:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

An Interview...with a Church Planter - 1 - Chris Taylor, The Hague, Netherlands

So welcome to a brand new series on this blog that will come through the next few months, sometimes in between my usual updates on life in Tallinn.

I felt some time ago that I really wanted to put together a series of blogs looking at the area of church planting, and to actually get to hear from others doing that very thing, or about to start doing it!  And especially those doing it in a culture different from their own.

And over the last few years, since moving away myself to church plant first into St Petersburg, Russia, and now again in Tallinn, Estonia, I've had the honour of meeting quite a few men and women who themselves are on this exciting life adventure.

So last week I wrote to maybe a dozen or so of these guys.  I sent them a long list of questions and asked them to answer maybe 5, or more, talking from their experience in order to encourage and help others, help people pray for their situation, and maybe stir people to join them, or move to plant or join where God has called them to.

And though I won't necessarily publish them in the order I receive their replies, Chris Taylor was the first to reply, so well done Chris!

In this series I will give a little intro to the person and situation, for example how I met them, and may sometimes make comments if I see similar things being mentioned, and then will pull this series together with my own answers in the final post, when ever that will be!  So here we go!

I met Chris in what was a season of waiting, an 'in between' moment, for us both.  We were in the UK for the birth of Anya in the first half of 2010.  Chris, a South African, and his family were in Sidcup, England, working a year in the church before moving on to plant into The Hague.  So with some of my family also a part of New Community Church in Sidcup, we had a little bit of time together and have stayed in touch ever since.

So this is what he had to say;

Tell us a little about the city you meet in?
The Hague is a hugely diverse European city. Roughly half of the population is of 'foreign ethnicity'. It has some of the poorest neighbourhoods, and some of the richest neighbourhoods of any city in The Netherlands.

How old were you when you planted your first church?

When did you know you were called to be a church planter?
In my 20s. I began to get a passion for the local church in my early 20s. This grew to a desire to lead a church as I hit my mid 20s. Massively important though was the timing of when it actually happened being led by Apostolic leadership (I would have chosen to plant a couple of years earlier than I did but in hindsight,  I am so glad that the extra time that leadership over me recommended).

What language are you doing your gatherings in?
Predominantly in English, but with regular Dutch singing, welcoming and praying out in Sunday meetings, and Dutch in certain life groups. Because we want to reflect the demographic of the city, English has been a 'unifying' language. Roughly half of the church is Dutch, and half is of 'foreign ethnicity'!

Do you need a team to go church planting?
No...but it will be much, much, much more difficult (without team). Team supports, encourages, spreads the load, gives more diversity to gifting, and helps to attract more people. Great team is attractive, and gives a community nucleus.

Is outside financial support vital for church planting?
It depends on the context. We had a good size team of super quality people from the beginning so we were quite viable as a small church from the beginning. Also we wanted to plant a 'city church' (rather than something reaching a particular neighbourhood). Both of these reasons meant that giving us a grant was both a pretty good idea, and was something that was MASSIVELY helpful. The grant enabled me not to have to find a full time job, and meant that we could gain more speedy momentum. A different context, vision, and strategy could totally mean that financial support is less 'necessary'. Ultimately it is God who provides for church plants and not people, organisations, or grants!

Thank you again Chris for your answers!  Really helpful!

Chris is part of Redeemer International Church - The Hague

Twitter: @ChrisTaylor10 
Facebook Page: Click Here

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tallinn Update: The Gathering Phase

The weeks have raced by already and so much has happened!  Like I've said many times, when the most is happening, you tend to have the least time to share about it with others!  
And that's part of church plant life, and life in a new culture really.  Sometimes you are on top of things - other times (which seem like the majority, especially in the first year) you are just taken along by life, doing what needs to be done, going from one place to the next....

It's now September.  School has started.  This happened on the 1st September, which like in Russia, is the start of the school year, and even though that was a Saturday this year, that didn't change things!  
In the short video you can see Mia being called up, where she received her Estonian language school book and her cap...she was just a little nervous, she told us after!
She then had her first lesson, which gave us time to meet some parents.  September 1st was also our 11th wedding anniversary, but like the previous four years, it does get a little swallowed by school (oh, and the fact that September 2nd is also Mia's birthday!).  We actually went back to the home of one of Mia's class mates after the events on Saturday.  They are an American family, very new to Tallinn, and also here to church plant.  You can see four more photo's from Mia's first day, including her answer to prayer uniform, by clicking here.

As mentioned in my last post, we had a few days exploring some of Estonia in August.  One day we went about 45km west along a coastal area that has stunning cliffs (picture 1), beaches (5) and a waterfall (2), as well as stumbling across a great Spa hotel that just happened to be on 'Happy Hour' at the time we arrived, which meant we could go swimming for half the price!  I couldn't help notice the conference facilities (that could host more than 400 people) and think "One day, we'll fill this..."

We also went a little east of Tallinn on another day and found (we think) the highest waterfall in Estonia, that actually freezes in winter (Pictures 3 & 4).

We also had Kev Jones over for the day from Helsinki.  Kev and his family had been in the Finnish capital for the month of August getting to know the place.  They are now aiming to move there permanently sometime in Spring 2013 to plant a church.  As well as being a prophetic call over Hope Church in St Petersburg, personally the nearby capital cities were part of what God impressed upon me when He spoke about us moving to Tallinn

So it's on the back of the prophetic that I've been building relationships, with the view to encouraging what God is about to do in these nearby cities.
So it was a great day showing Kev around, talking about how things have gone for us here, praying together.  We are excited to see what happens through them all in Helsinki in the years to come.

We also had Dave & Hannah Henson with us for a long weekend, actually arriving the day after Kev Jones was here (which was then followed by our friends Chip & Helen with their two children arriving on the plane the Henson's flew back on!).  
Dave's mobility issues following the serious back operation he'd had, meant we did less rushing around and more talking about things, which was also a real blessing.
Gathering together on the Sunday afternoon with those already involved, it was great to be released into this season of gathering others.  Taking the lead from Jesus, who gathered and taught to crowds before calling out from those same crowds his disciples, we are now setting out to do the same, with a emphasis on gathering, and not a 'religious' meeting.  So using meals (Taste the Nations starts this Sunday!) twice a month plus another gathering event (eg we played volleyball last week), we'll end the month with a Vision Sunday, which will give some teaching and come back to the big thing we are called to.  
Midweek we'll be praying together (with the first prayer meeting happening tonight!).

Elena arrived at ours early on Sunday morning from St Petersburg - she is looking to join the church plant and is here finding out about a job - she should hear today so please pray that something comes through.  She doesn't yet speak English (she will work in a Russian kindergarten) but has a great heart for Tallinn.

The Gathering Season - so with thoughts of this new season fresh in our mind, we hit the busy school weekend and new school week, and have been struck by how many people we are meeting!  Rachel especially, who has been picking Mia up, has had some great conversations at the school with a number of parents.  There are about two or three international and Estonian families who have expressed an interest in church.   
At our local bus stop as well, she met another mum with her daughter.  Mia pointed out she was wearing the same uniform, so Mia showed the girl her logo and they became friends just like that.  This girl has started in the other class in her year (there are two classes each year that take children from 7 years old all the way up to graduation age!).  This is a Russian speaking girl and mother, and having met them again today (Mia holding hands with this girl and chatting away in Russian) they are already talking about taking it in turns to take the girls in.
Jesus said "Put down your nets" and in just doing so, the act of obedience, they caught a great catch.  And so it seems, just positioning ourselves to start gathering, God is already gathering people to be caught up in the crowd, from which a church will emerge.....it's going to be an exciting season.

 It has been an intense week already, even if it's only Wednesday.  Getting Mia ready for school (which included an evening of double covering all her books!) we've had to very quickly work out what we need to do.  
With Estonia being a very cyber country, it means the school has it's own e-school, where as parents we need to register and once signed in it shows us homework for Mia, the teacher sends us messages as well as getting other notifications.
There is also the contact information for all the other parents and access to enroll in after school clubs and sports.   
The academic day is relatively short at the moment, with Mia's latest class finishing at around two, but yesterday, having done her swimming and ballet trial, she didn't leave until gone 5 - needless to say, both Mia and Anya, not to mention Rachel, have been very tired!

Please pray for them - Mia does love school now (despite the tears on Monday morning stating she didn't want to leave us - this was contrasted by moans that same evening saying she wish she was still at school as she loved it so much!)  Anya has also been 'difficult' this week....but she is making great progress with her potty training.  It's impossible to know the effect all this change is having on their behaviour, and what is just bad behaviour!  Much grace needed at times - thankfully much grace is always available, when we remember to ask for it!

Much more to come soon!

Also coming up;
Church planting series - hear from friends around the world also planting churches (at various phases).  First up, Chris Taylor in The Hague, Holland.