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.

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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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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:

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