Female church planters are sharing the gospel despite fear of persecution. Photo courtesy of Annette Ellard.
By Sue H. Poss, CBF Communications
She gets up early, traveling all day to teach Bible studies and lead worship services. She gets no financial support. She must remain unknown and keep the churches she works with safe and unknown. She does her work quietly, fearing persecution – or worse – if government officials learn what she is doing.
This is a woman who had by chance heard a message of hope through Jesus and decided to become a Christian. She is an indigenous church planter who now shares the same message she heard where she lives, a predominately Muslim country in the Middle East. She has no assurance when she begins her day that she will not be killed by the end of it for the work she is doing. For her, the risk she takes is worth letting others know about the hope in Jesus that she has found.
This year, a portion of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Offering for Religious Liberty and Human Rights will support this woman and dozens more who work through an international organization that trains new believers to build house churches.
“We are so excited [that this project] is included in the Carter Offering,” said Lita Sample, one of CBF’s field personnel. Sample and her husband, Rick, are based in Fremont, Calif., where they work with internationals in the Bay Area and partner with various groups to support work in the Middle East.
“There is no religious liberty outside of Islam in this country,” Sample said. “However, people are hungry for Christ and so very open to the gospel. But the laws and the punishments for converting are getting more strict.”
Currently 135 women have been formally trained as church planters. The Carter Offering will provide financial support for some of these women. A salary of $400 a month would provide for one woman's basic needs and would be just above the poverty level.
“These women need support so they can continue to do what they do,” Sample said. “It is a great need for a great work. What we do here in the U.S. with prayer and financial support helps indigenous women to share the gospel – we share in reaching this part of the world.”
Each qualifying recipient of the funds has already planted at least three churches and is actively leading them, as well as actively witnessing and tithing. Each woman also has demonstrated that her priority is to do the work of her ministry; has completed foundational classes in Christianity, baptism and kingdom living; and has completed three basic leadership classes. The church planters are all associated with a particular international organization to which they are accountable through monthly reports and supervision.
Many Muslims find their way to these churches through indigenous language Christian broadcasts, but more and more also come through word of mouth as believers increase and share Christ throughout the Middle East.
“There are those that come to know Christ through this ministry,” she said. “When they come to know Christ, a local believer disciples and encourages them. After a time, they are introduced to a local church, or if there is none, a new church is planted."
The Carter Offering will be collected during this year’s General Assembly in Houston, Texas, July 2-3. To learn more or contribute, go to www.thefellowship.info/carteroffering.
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.