Nation Builders: Church Building in Central Europe

23 August 2017

Steve and Maylin Wyndham are ACC ministers leading a local church plant in the UK and church-planting and leadership development initiatives across Central Europe. We asked them a few questions to learn more about their amazing work building the church in this unique context.

Where are you based? 

We live in Southport in the North West of England. We have lived in the UK for five and a half years. Prior to that, Melbourne was our home where we were senior pastors of a church in Melbourne’s outer north-east for 17 years.

What’s your ‘day job’/profession? 

We are ordained ministers with ACC and we have Associate Missionary status with ACC International Missions, so we alternate between calling ourselves missionaries and pastors. I also refer to myself as a leadership trainer and mentor, depending on the audience.

What does your day-to-day look like? 

For Maylin, day-to-day involves planting Glasshouse Church and all that is involved with leading and running a church i.e. vision formation, vision casting, leadership development and mentoring, community engagement, preaching and teaching, discipleship, admin, etc.

For me, approximately 40% of my time is spent ministering in nations in Central Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia). My time in Central Europe involves preaching and teaching, leadership development and mentoring, hosting and arranging training events for church planters, church leaders and their teams, and networking with key national leaders. Approximately 50% of my time is spent in the UK where I attend to admin tasks associated with our church planting and leadership development vision in Europe, assist Maylin with Glasshouse Church, network with UK leaders, and try to be a good husband and father! Around 10% of my time is spent developing partnerships and networking in Australia.

How long have you had a connection to Hillsong Church and Nation Builders?

Our church in Melbourne, (which has been called Eltham AOG, Yarra Plenty Christian Centre and Yarra Plenty Church at various times) had a long and profitable association with Hillsong Church. We were among the small group of leaders able to put our hands up to say that we had attended virtually every Hillsong Conference since its inception. I was sitting in the very first ‘leadership stream’ in a school classroom with about 20-30 other senior pastors. Every year anywhere from six to sixty members of our church would attend Hillsong Conference.

Why did you leave home and ‘go into all the world’?

In 1992, Maylin and I lived in Europe at which time we became aware of the massive need for church planting right across the continent. As part of this realisation, we became aware that without the training of new leaders, new churches would never be planted. Upon our return to Australia in 1993 we became involved in church planting and leadership development projects across various nations in Europe, mostly in what was referred to as Eastern Europe. As time passed, we realised that for us to effectively train and mobilise new leaders to plant churches we would need to make the move from Australia to Europe. We made this decision 2011 and moved at the beginning of 2012.

What does preaching the gospel look like in your context and what role do you play?

In our context (Central Europe), preaching the Gospel, practically speaking, looks pretty similar to how it does in Australia. The difference is more about the environment rather than the methodology. We more strongly emphasise community engagement and a contextual, missional approach to church planting. This is necessary for the following reasons:

1) Most of the church planters that we are working with are pioneering in towns where there are no (or few) known Christians and no existing Bible-believing, life-giving church of any description. Literally, many of the towns where we work have had no Bible-believing church for the 700-800 years of its existence. People have lived and died in towns without any access to the Gospel. Of Europe’s approximately 45 nations, almost half of them have an evangelical Christian population of less than 1%.

2) Though there are unique cultural and socio-economic differences in the nations where we work, there are two factors that significantly effect our ‘on the ground’ efforts – strong religious systems and traditions, and growing secularism and atheism.

3) The church that does exist has often lost its ability to speak the language of its society, thus irrelevance and redundancy are major issues. Therefore, we emphasise strongly the need to build and lead missional and contemporary churches that are positioned to reach into the very heart of the community in a voice that makes sense.

The role we play is to establish church planting and leadership development projects that train and release leaders to pioneer new churches. Most of these leaders are young in years and/or young in their faith. We also provide mentoring and encouragement for the project coordinators and the church planters.

Maylin is the senior pastor of Glasshouse Church in Southport and I assist and support her as requested. We are planting this church specifically because there is a dearth of contemporary churches in our region. Our vision is a church that reaches youth, young adults and young families.

Why do you do what you do?

The need for more, different and stronger churches in Europe screams out. We have ears to hear this cry and a heart to respond. We are committed to working with those who have similar convictions whether they are European themselves, or from somewhere else in the world. We have a particular heart to connect Aussies to the need.

What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Firstly, the sheer size of the need with tens of thousands of towns without access to life-giving churches. For example in Poland there are approximately 900 towns (population centres of 5,000-50,000 people) of which 700 have no Bible-believing church of any description, not to mention the 43,000 villages (population centres of under 5000 people) without Bible-believing churches.

Secondly, the age-old cry of missionaries, a lack of resources. We need more people on board with the task and more financial resources to make the vision possible. We are not complaining in this regard, it is just our reality and lines up with Brian’s often quoted truth that vision will always outstrip available resources.

What is the most rewarding thing about what you do? 

Seeing leaders empowered to do what God has called them to do and seeing life-giving churches planted that bring transformation and hope to communities.

How do you relax and unwind? 

Exploring the UK and other beautiful parts of Europe; good food and coffee; quality friends; a good box set.

What is your favourite food?

Australian food!! The food in Australia is so good, which makes us pretty fussy and a bit painful at times as we try and seek out cuisine of similar quality and variety. When it comes to Central Europe, my weakness is the cakes and pastries… it’s hard to go past a good German bakery or cake shop. The ham and sausages in Poland are pretty outstanding. Cheeses in Europe are pretty outstanding too.

What is your favourite Bible verse/passage? 

I have a few ‘life passages’: Jeremiah 1:4-19; 1 Timothy 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28-29.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

We are incredibly grateful to Hillsong Church for their support and for the example that Hillsong is to the church globally. We feel incredibly proud and blessed to have the backing of such an incredible church. A huge thanks to Tim Michael and Hillsong Melbourne West for the encouragement that they are to us and to the leaders from Europe that we bring through from time to time.

 

Nation Builders supports the Wyndhams and others faithfully working to establish and support local churches in nations around the world.

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For more information on Nation Builders visit hillsong.com/nationbuilders