One of the realities of church planting is that there are cities and regions that seem primed and ready to explode with the proclamation of the Gospel. They are cities where there is an almost palpable sense that God is doing something great and that He is just about ready to set it all off. All He is looking for are those who will respond in obedience to the question of, “Whom shall I send?” These are cities that are easy to “sell” when it comes to church planting. Who doesn’t want to be a part of something that can have ripple effects across both a region and eternity? This is what international church planters live for!
And then there are cities where the need of faithful, Jesus-loving men and women is so desperately needed but the reality on the ground is that this is going to be a hard slog; a venture that will require a church planter and his team to plant his flag firmly into the ground and declare that through the good times and the bad, this church plant will be faithful to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a hurting and dying city, even if the payoff is never seen on this side of Heaven, and even if the cost of doing so is great.
A Hard City
Mannheim, Germany, by all accounts, falls into the latter of those two categories. It is a place with a great need for an English-speaking church presence, but one filled with a lot of obstacles to what most would define as church planting success. First, Mannheim is an intellectual and educational center within Germany. The main university in Mannheim is one of the most prestigious universities in the country, with most students attending going on to be the future leaders in their chosen fields. There is also a good percentage of international students that attend the university and a good grasp of the English language is a requirement for anyone who attends.
What this leads to is a native and international population with a high percentage of English speakers. However, what has been found is that the demands and rigors of university life lead many students to have very little time to engage in the traditional church structures and activities. Many church planters and other religious organizations have tried and been burnt out by their efforts to reach this population that seems so ripe but in reality has been hard soil to till.
Another reality of Mannheim is that while there is a large number of international English speakers present in the city for work they are not congregated in one or two areas like most other major international cities in Europe. This makes targeting a geographical location for church planting much more difficult since even finding the international residents can be a challenge.
What does all of this mean? Turning again to Luke 14 for wisdom and encouragement is necessary. Verses 28-30 read, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”
Worth the Effort
Many people have tried and failed to plant English-speaking churches in Mannheim. The temptation is there to want to write off this city as too difficult and to turn our attention to another, easier city. However, even in the midst of all the challenges that lie ahead in a church planting venture within Mannheim, our LEAD Team still believes that the need is so great that we cannot turn our hearts and attention away from this great city. Instead, what we must do is plant our flag firmly upon the promises and power of our God who loves these people with a love we cannot understand. What we must do is press forward into the challenge and boldly proclaim the Gospel to a city that needs a church planter that will not give up when things get hard (and they will).
Prayer focus: What we are asking you to do now is pray for Mannheim; pray that God will loosen the hard soil that is currently present within the city. Pray that God will prepare the hearts and minds of those within the city for a great work that can only be attributed to the will and grace of our Heavenly Father. And pray that God will plant within the heart of a team He is already preparing to take on this hard work of planting an English-speaking church in Mannheim.