By Sue Sprenkle
It was the first service as a church and excitement showed on everyone’s faces. They’d been working up to this moment for months with Bible studies, learning to share the gospel and lessons on being a healthy church.
As the opening prayer began, everyone quickly shuffled to their seats — flat rocks excavated from a field and lined up in perfect rows under shade trees. When the praise music started, it would have raised the roof — if there were one. Finally, the pastor stepped behind the rock podium adorned with a cross made of sticks and opened his Bible.
Kimberly Windham, an International Mission Board missionary serving in Zambia, looked around, and her heart leapt with joy. This was church in its purest form — believers gathered to worship God and learn His truths directly from Scripture. It’s something Kimberly and her husband, Randy, never tire of experiencing.
“That first church service…it just touches my heart every time,” Kimberly said. Randy chuckled and added, “Even if sometimes your ‘pew’ might be uncomfortable.”
Teaching Zambians to plant churches and transform lives with the gospel is their passion. It’s only possible, Randy pointed out, because of generous gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions®.
Southern Baptists, through their prayers and faithful giving, helped the Windhams plant 12 churches in and around Lusaka, Zambia. This support allows them to walk alongside local believers as they train nationals in a four-step process.
Randy explained the first step is gospel access or entry into a community. During this entry phase, they pray for God-prepared people — ones whose lives God is already working in — to enter the picture so they can train them to address the lostness around them.
Step two is all about evangelism. The Windhams teach Christians how to share the gospel. Everyone uses this skill immediately for door-to-door evangelism.
“We want everything reproducible,” Randy said. “We teach everyone — including teams from the United States — to draw the plan of salvation using a stick in the dirt. That can be done anywhere in Zambia as a visual aid.”
As people make decisions to follow Christ, the church-planting team moves into the third step: discipleship. In a country where false prophets and cults are common, this is important. New believers grow in their faith by studying Scripture.
As this group grows spiritually and in number, they move seamlessly to the final step — healthy group and healthy church formation. Not every group grows into a church, but those that choose to follow this route learn the characteristics of a healthy church. This step alone can take three to four months.
Churches never look the same from the outside. They might meet under a shade tree, use a room at a school or have their own building. However, at their core, all have biblical teaching, fellowship, worship, service and evangelism.
Now, it’s the new church’s turn to train others and multiply.
“It’s a seamless training,” Randy said, adding that one pastor started four churches and now trains others. Because you give, “We never stop training and planting churches.”
Sue Sprenkle is an International Mission Board staff member from southwest Kansas.