#35-Seeing the Gospel Bear Fruit ft. Johann Matthies

 In

God is on the Move

 

Johann Matthies speaks about his past and present experiences with God, and how even through the toughest conditions, the Holy Spirit is still moving and remains faithful. Our job as Christians is to reach and speak to those who do not know God and show them life with him on a personal level. One of the ways that Johann does this, is through church planting.

 

“Church planting is the thing I believe in, and that we live into not to abandon any existing church but allowing the church to take new shape and new places where the church is no longer or where the church has never been, because we now have a part in our community that are even from unreached nations.” – Johann Matthies

 

Topics Covered Include

  • Church Planting
  • God is always at work
  • Reaching and witnessing to those who do not know God
  • God is faithful

 

Show Notes

 

 

BCMB Pastor to Pastor
BCMB Pastor to Pastor
#35-Seeing the Gospel Bear Fruit ft. Johann Matthies
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Transcription

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BCMB 035 - Seeing the Gospel Bear Fruit.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

BCMB 035 - Seeing the Gospel Bear Fruit.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Johann Matthies:
Church planting is the thing I believe in, and uhh that we live into not to abandon any existing church, but allowing the church to take new shape and new places where the church is no longer or whether where the church has never been, because we now have a part in our community that are even from unreached nations, like hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and some area, we have seen innovation not because we have a new studio or we're a new flier or a new way of preventing our message. But because things have turned around beyond our own making. And there is a whole new piece of me.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 35 Seeing The Gospel Bear Fruit with Johann Matthies.

Rob Thiessen:
Ok. Hi, everyone is Rob Thiessen, this is the BCMB pastor to pastor podcast, and as I always say, everyone is welcome if you're not a pastor and you're listening. We're so glad you're with us. And I am very excited today to welcome from Germany special guest Johann Matthies. And it's it's evening over there. I don't know. How late is it over there for you, Johann?

Johann Matthies:
Almost nine p.m. But it's a good time.

Rob Thiessen:
Good, good. I Johann's an evening guy. And so maybe the distance in the Internet explains, if I'm not quite sure on this recording how the voices are. But we're doing this via Zoom. So, yeah, we're really looking forward to a conversation together. And Johann, so tell us a little bit, maybe first of all, what you do. Introduce yourself to to our listeners here in B.C. and across Canada and maybe other parts of the world. You know, by the Internet, anybody could be listening. But give us a little orientation to to your role. And then I also want you to jump right into your face story. Tell us a little bit about the community that shaped you and how the Lord shaped you through through people, through others.

Johann Matthies:
Yeah, thank you for the invitation and the privilege of being in conversation with you and the church that you represent. Well, I have now been for somewhat over 12 years with Multiply and MB Mission leading the work, developing it in Europe. So my current title is Regional Team Leader, and I have the privilege of working with some forty five people and local partners in Europe, Central Asia, Mongolia and Turkey.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow, that's a pretty broad, broad geographic area and a wide responsibility. Amazing. We'll look forward to hearing stories of how God's at work, but start up telling us a little bit about your journey and the community that shaped you.

Johann Matthies:
I was born in a country that no longer exists, the Soviet Union. The place where I grew up, would today be smack in the center of the country of Kazakhstan, not too far from the current new capital and the birth, my birthplace is Karaganda, kaa·ruh·gaan·duh would be the correct pronunciation. And it's a remarkable place, not really fit for human living, almost like Winnipeg.

Rob Thiessen:
Winnipeg right now is minus 50, I think, or something. So.

Johann Matthies:
Yeah, you can compare notes with Karaganda, not too far off because in the winter elementary school students would often have the privilege of being at home because the frost were so bad that with with the wind we had the chill factor which allowed the kids to stay home. So that was the repeat experience in my early childhood that I didn't have to go to school in the winter. But why I said it's not really fit for a human living, the ecological conditions there are just to feel sorry about it. It's a coal mining area, but also uranium and then steel production and everything. And it's an artificial city. There was no indigenous population in the area other than nomads in the south. And then the coal was discovered, and then the whole 20th century. This was populated mostly by groups that in the Soviet Union were called enemies of the people. And it was not just individuals, but collective people groups. And so when the Second World War began. The Germans that lived in the European part of the Soviet Union were forcibly put to Central Asia, to Kazakhstan, and we started living in Kazakhstan. Well, this was by deportation, not by choice. Over a million Germans were deported there later. Other groups like Chechen, Crimea, Tatars, Balkars, all kinds of people groups to long list to name here. So I lived in a community that had no indigenous population. And when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, a lot of these, lot of these groups left to their historical home. And that was the desire of my parents to to go back to Europe, go back to Germany. And of course, that connected to many stories of family life, migration and also church. But when you say what was the community like? My neighbors were mostly German and what today's Kazakhstan and a lot of them were also believers attending and Mennonite Brethren Church.

Rob Thiessen:
In Kazakhstan?

Johann Matthies:
In Kazakhstan. It was, as far as I know, the first individually recognized pre church and the newer history of the Soviet Union, independent of the registered Baptist or the unregistered Baptists. This was an amazing achievement. And there I have a leadership model in my own family, my grandfather, supposedly, I don't know the history, but he went 17 times to Moscow to push through the church community the registration. My wife's grandfather was also involved. We were with my wife, Hedi. I am familiar (inaudible). And she's from a family Bergman. So the two families and other neighbors were believers in the end, this Mennonite Brethren Church had almost twelve hundred members.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow.

Johann Matthies:
And worship services were conducted in German. And my brother was one of the preachers. So this is where I grew up. I had the stark contrast between the German speaking faith community. That's the way from all communist organizations like Workers Union, Party, children organizations, whatever, paid a high price for it. But we had a public life that was Russian, Atheistic, anything with uniform was an enemy to our to our values, to our system, to our faith. So I was I was a foreigner in the place of my birth.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow. How old are you, Johann?

Johann Matthies:
I'm fifty six.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow. Fifty six. And you have that lived experience of like being in a country Atheistic opposed to Christianity and the church really on the outside like a like a very separate identity and life for the Christian community.

Johann Matthies:
If I look back to my family history, I, I belong to the first generation that had choices. Like freedom, like it, and every generation that I count backward, there are fewer choices to the point where both my grandfathers, they were classmates, classmates and a Mennonite colony going to a German Mennonite school as children. But one didn't survive the gulag system of forced labor and the prison camp and the other one survived. But he was in jail three times, in total, 11 years. So how many choices did he, did my grandfather that my father at got an education and he relocated within the country by choice, but, but, but life of faith and family values only began after we migrated to Germany in seventy eight when I was 13.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So tell us about, you know, how how you you've ended up being Christian leadership. At what point in in your faith journey did your faith really become your own, and you felt like and now this is what God is calling me to?

Johann Matthies:
There were attempts by my parents and others to convert me earlier than the Holy Spirit would. And so I grew up in Christian circles. But then there was a day in which I, I was led to repent by the Holy Spirit. There was a little a small event prior to that, I was caught in a store stealing a little bit of ink for my pen, not out of necessity, but I just peeled it out of the plastic in the supermarket and took it with me when I was 15, when something really dumb to do. And but I got on record as a shoplifter and my father had to pick me up in the headquarters of the local police. And he was in that he was a city council employee. That was, and he was a preacher. That was a huge embarrassment when he had to pick me up there. And if God showed me that this is just a marker of the trajectory I'm on, that it will get worse from here. No one had to tell me that I had this conviction that this was just, I was sliding. I was already sliding. And then there was a classical evangelistic event in our church when people were asked to come forward and submit their life to Jesus. And I saw my cousin go and I joined and I I gave my life to Jesus.

Johann Matthies:
Unfortunately, if that is a Christian word, maybe it's not. I was not blessed by good counseling at that time. Like, I needed help to someone to invest in me, work with me and give me give me an assurance of salvation. So for four years, I hang on to my faith without any assurance that I've accepted by Jesus until God sent me a comedian. It was Jacob (inaudiable) . He is known to some of the older listeners, I'm sure he was a remarkable preacher in Germany and one of the blessings in which and yeah, he's pastored churches in Germany helping the Mennonite movement to take root and to the churches to be planted. And then I felt drawn to the preacher I went to to his place and he pointed, he said the Bible is full of good scriptures, but you still have to hang your life in the wardrobe, but you still have to hang your feet on something. So he said for me, this works. Here in John where he said, "he came to his own, but his own did not accept him. But to everyone who did, he gave their right to be a child of God." And I didn't have to read the scripture to the end of what my life was filled with conviction. And so I was probably 18 at the time. Then I got baptized and I I was on the creative side of things and planned to become an automotive designer. I was totally enthused about how this mobility, freedom, beauty, technology, everything, because you're.

Rob Thiessen:
Sure you're in Germany, you're in the land of Mercedes Benz and BMW and autobahn.

Johann Matthies:
And autobahn. And and I was in my childhood, we were exceedingly poor. We did not even have the bicycle. We had the bicycle maybe for one week. And we had we're a family with grandmother of 11. And I mentioned the bicycle here and this and this part because my father bought the bicycle to take my oldest brother to a secret baptism event. Out on it, on the, irrigation canals and the farming. And that was back in Kazakhstan still.

Johann Matthies:
And those baptisms took place at night somewhere 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., but invariably, you know, no matter how secretive it was, the police was always there right with the first believers arriving because they were also spies in the communities and whatnot. My father bought a bicycle, put my older brother on the frame, and they drove at night and took to the to the baptism. But they, coming, rolling off a bridge, they hit that open manhole. And then they carried the broken bicycle home. It would be like me buying a Mercedes (inaudible). You know, like like I would be totally outside of my budget, but I say, yeah, if I really wanted, I can get it. (inaudible) This was as little, this little mobility that we were being able to afford so that. But then I was totally, and I was already going to a technical high school and I wanted to study automotive design. And this is maybe the biggest turning event in my life when in one evening I had to this was my grandfather's birthday.

Johann Matthies:
He must have prayed for his grandchildren and he put a tape up on a stereo little recorder. And it was a presentation by the preacher from Germany who visited the underground churches of the Soviet Union. And he came back with a message to the recently immigrated Germans, Russians, like myself, the Germans from Russia, we were called. And he said you could spend the rest of your life trying to catch up on the things you missed out in material blessings in the Soviet Union. But I've seen the spiritual life of your church up there. This is what Germany needs most. And we need all of you to be a missionary here carrying this, the spiritual heart that I've seen there and that was my team. And God so grab me that I'm in a completely classical way just went to my room one on one with the Lord saying, "Here I am. Take me to wherever you want." And I, I was in my own room and around me was like shelves of automotive literature. I had over four thousand fliers and brochures of different car types and everything, and I was sorry to let it go. It was a dream. And maybe that night, maybe some other night, the Lord had a conversation with me. I honestly had to admit something, it got out of me. Johann, would you become, what could you achieve as an automotive designer? And I said, like, would you be a star? Like (inaudible) or Pininfarina, big names in design, and I said, no probably not. So what could you hope for? And at that time I told the board I could probably see one of the (inaudible) that I designed in that production. And then it was quiet and the Lord said, "But there are four billion people who have never heard of me in this world."

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm.

Johann Matthies:
So I, to this day, marvel with design, marvel the courage of entrepreneurship and value every trade. I would go to any of my friends and colleagues when they have a big open door in the school, in the administration and the production line in the hospital. Like I have interest in all the trades. So I value all of that. But in my own life, God pointed me to people. Away from technology and away from design, pointing to people to the average people. What I live now .

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's beautiful. And pastors, that's an encouraging word for all of our listeners and people who are in vocational ministry to just confirm, because sometimes we, you know, we wonder about the choices of what we're doing. But but every person is of infinite value and every tail light will end up in a junkyard someday. And a beautiful thing, too, is that God calls some of those people who work on tail lights to be also touching the lives of other people in those places right everywhere and every job. It's the people that matter. And one of the things you just said was, you know, how God called you here in Germany and and, you know, you felt the call to say, oh, this is this country here needs me as a missionary. Which segues into a question that I wanted to talk about. I know our leaders are curious about this kind of jumps ahead in the topics we want to tackle. But you, Germany and the rest of Western Europe, whatever, you know, it's we we consider it ahead of us in terms of becoming more of a secular society. So talk to us about how the how the church is, how the church what kind of churches are thriving there in Germany. How do you see the Lord at work? And what are the challenges of and opportunities of being a witness in in Europe the way it is now?

Johann Matthies:
I thought, I appreciate so much the German constitution, it touches me deeply because it begins with the word dignity. The dignity of a person cannot be taken away. There's probably more honed way of saying it in English, but when dignity is referred to, dignity like authority cannot be taken. It can only be granted. And when we say dignity in Germany, it means from outside our certain race, outside of our society, we have a lot of respect for the person. And in an environment in which, to which I came as the, from a (inaudible) family of conscientious objectors, for example, we are told no, no one can be forced to serve with a weapon against ones conscience. In many ways, our free society is guaranteeing.

Johann Matthies:
Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and, of course, having a faith and sharing the faith and changing your faith. So our separation in the secular society of faith and faith and societal matters does not prevent us from living fully Christian life and the Holy Spirit with wonder. So I'm hugely grateful for the environment in which I am able to operate. And I am on the board of the German Evangelical Alliance. I have joined on that board, the committee, the political committee. There would be other options like prayer or Islam or disability or, we have in total, I think we have 24 committees or board members and volunteers and other organizations work on this platform. So I joined the politics part and we intersect with Christian politicians. Those who shape policy. Someone was in the Salvation Army before a Baptist church with confessing Christ, a Lutheran Catholic, and it's not, we are ahead of you in terms of what, how many people are still informed by religious choices. And but it doesn't mean that others are limited in their choices or that persecution is imminent. At the same time, when the question is being asked, do you believe in a personal God, like a god who is actually interested in your faith in everyday life? I think if East Germany would be a country of its own, it would be number one in the world by saying, no, there is no personal god.

Johann Matthies:
That means that Christian witness to East Germans, Eastern, or church planting in Eastern Germany is a very difficult task because people don't even have a religious antenna anymore. They would not even know where in their life they could build in some faith or religious experience. So that is very difficult. And when but when we look at reasons why it's so secularized, we would have to go decades, centuries, even millennia back to the borders of the Roman Empire, not to the Middle Ages. What the Reformation like, which part because it became Protestant and the Protestant part, for example, lacked the religious infrastructure of the Catholic South. But the king and the and the principalities, they became head of the reformed church without a personal reformation. So religion had lost its meaning and the more Protestant freer Northern European countries or the Scandinavian countries, just the Scandinavian countries as well. And then Poland, Lithuania and other countries who used to be Protestant have, in the counter reformation because it becomes Catholic again. And when we go to a place like East Germany and I would say, we're saying, how is the church doing and how are Christian feeling? We will say for it, like with the bishop of Magdeburg, we will say the people in Magdeburg have forgotten that they have forgotten God. This has happened for generations.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, and so what you're describing is that Europe is not there's not a consensus. It's every region has a different history and it affects how the gospel or what it's like to live there as a Christian or try to plant a church. What are some of the, like, bright lights to you? Things that where you say, oh, this is where I'm seeing God at work and and seeing churches that are thriving? What kind of churches are thriving like? Tell us a little bit about that.

Johann Matthies:
We have a church in every city and village of Germany and most of Europe, if you count for a church, a building with the steeple.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Johann Matthies:
And at the same time, many of them are empty or useless. Most of the time, and I would say over the centuries, Europe has overinvested in infrastructure and building and underinvested in discipleship and people. So there is the presence of a church when we talk about our architecture, but there is an absence of the church when we talk society. So which churches are a thriving? Church planting is the thing I believe in and that we live into. Not to abandon any existing church. But allowing the church to take new shape and new places where the church is no longer or whether, where the church has never been, because we now have (inaudible) in our communities that have, are even from unreached nations, like hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East. So the church has never been in their midst, not in the Orient and not here. But we have, the church planting the direction we go. And our most recent church plant is in the city of Dortmund. And the city of Dortmund was chosen or got put up to our awareness by the fact that for twenty four thousand people in the city of Dortmund, there was one evangelical fellowship. We had the chance that you would bump into a evangelically believer in a store, in the pharmacy, or in your school class was just minimal. Almost like in East Germany, like for a, for a, for a Christ follower child in East Germany to have a classmate who also followed Christ complete exception.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. Right. And so and if there was one church there, it was probably very small.

Johann Matthies:
Yes. So in Dortmund, when we discerned Dortmund for church planting, there was a new spirit evident in the Church of Dortmund. They were not saying, hey, why plant a church? We exist here. You can, anyone could join us. No, they said we are, the Evangelical Alliance of Dortmund are praying for 10, 10 church plants. You are the fifth, you can join us now to pray for five more with us. So there, and if interdenomination like the church plant are from different denominations. But in this day, the church is so marginalized in society that denominations will celebrate each other's church plants and support each other if anyone can make any difference. And despite covid and despite the difficulties of 2020, which was the most unusual year in Canada, it is in Germany. We still were able to begin with services. And when I attended a service, I celebrated because it already looked like Dortmund. Two people had first in prayer and one was Italian and the other one was Kurdish and that's the beauty of Northern Dortmund. So I, which churches are thriving? I would say, if we could find space churches so called faith churches, Lutheran, Reformed Catholic and which they are Jesus' disciples as priests, as pastors, as teachers, and wherever they are the persons filled with the Holy Spirit and living life with Jesus. There are followers of Jesus gathering. And I, of course we, I'm in Detmold attending a church in Detmold, and we might be one of the most reached or the most saturated with churches in the city. In Europe, we have in our environment about 20 churches and Bielefeld is nearby. But (inaudible) area would be what, there are some area that have filled a lot of church expressions. so in the city of Detmold, every fourth child goes to a private Christian school.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow.

Johann Matthies:
So they are still impact and a level of presence that will surprise you that this is still Europe.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. Tell us about some of the other countries, maybe former Soviet countries or something. How is, what sort of innovation is happening there? How do you see the Lord at work?

Johann Matthies:
I was a church planter with my wife and my family first in Kazakhstan and later in the Northern Caucasus, which is kind of the Muslim belt in the south of Russia. There have never been national churches there. I've seen churches being planted. And ethnic groups being met, oh sorry, being reached, I meant to say. When I look at Central Asia, it was the countries of Central Asia still belong to the least richest country on Earth. As far as the indigenous populations.

Johann Matthies:
So the Church of the Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, that those churches that were in Central Asia were there, the churches of the deportees or the or the Russians, but these minorities have left largely left the area. And so we have nations who have very little witness. When you talk about innovation, then, of course, we could say media. We've seen turnarounds of situations with a with a with a church from California. We did want something that was the first in our area in Kyrgyzstan a couple of years ago. A baseball camp was introduced to a small town and some 40 black kids attended. It was amazing how many were really open and excited. And my daughter and her husband were present and I joined. But we were gathering in a space that belonged to a local (inaudible). And he came to our leader, let's call him, Hassan. So he came, the (inaudible) to Hassan and said, "Hassan, during Friday's prayer, I was given a hard time by my (inaudible). Why do I give space to the missionary effort? What am I to do?"

Johann Matthies:
So Hassan said, "You need to accept Christ." And the (inaudible) said, "What if I don't accept Christ?" Hassan said, "OK, then you will have to pack it up." And so this is how the conversation went. But, a week after we left, the place was ransacked.

Johann Matthies:
And there are writings on all the walls. "We will murder you," it said. "Don't teach our children." Claims about Islam, claims about Christianity really detrimental. And the police was called the police did never search for those who violated the space and stole all the equipment and any valuable. They fingerprinted all the church members. Why are you attending this, who pays for this, and on and on? And then this fellowship had no place to go to, and because it was now in the eye of the public, other churches were afraid to accept our young church plant with this vigorous witness in the community. So the gatherings fell apart into house churches and then covid hit. And and the person I named Hassan volunteered when asked by the city council, we need volunteers to bridge between the security forces, police, ambulances, firefighters and so on, guarding the covid regime, the corona measures and the civic society. So Hassan got a badge and ID and the permission to go between houses and deliver help and food, but also talk to the population about the measures, kind of helping them trust the government. So, Hassan got five of those. So every car we had available and that location was now distributed, distributing gift of love given by our churches in the West, in Europe and North America. And gained so much favour in some of the police that persecuted happens just in the season before, now we're riding with him, hearing all these prayers and his testimony when he was on the checkpoint.

Johann Matthies:
And going to use this so we could, of course, say covid in our western country. Some churches believe covid has been invented as an instrument of persecuting the church, but all mosques are closed as well as our synagogue. And in the some area, we have seen innovation not because we have a new studio or or a new flier or a new way of presenting our message. But because things have turned around beyond our own making and there's a whole new season and God opens doors through, I will just mention one case from a different country, Turkey. And our leader, his name is Hakan he is not hiding his identity. And one day I think it was May, Hakan told me if this would be a normal Sunday, I would probably preach to about 30 people. In our little fellowship, new church plant. But today I recorded my sermon in my living room on my iPhone and iPad, 4,600 people watch it. And then about a month later, he told me 11,600 people. So we could see what has changed and the way the church is witnessing.

Johann Matthies:
Covid turned it around in some places, for the better, and the church already did not bank on being celebrated by society, but had all the forces of (inaudible) that we didn't stand to lose much by corona measures because we didn't need to be gathering places in the big program. And we actually had ways of networking and relating to each other and also what we now got a better hearing for the message. So in Hakan's place, in Hakan's case, or example, he said there are two new believers. One is a professor, just recently retired. One week into his new faith, he already presented a printable flier about the Jesus faith. And then he said, but there was also a pilot who gave his life to Jesus because the airlines were grounded. So we celebrate them to see what God is doing, and this is not, I could not tell you of something, a promising technological breakthrough or any or any innovation, and that is changing our, the shape of our weakness across borders. But I think in some of the more repressed places, we actually have gained momentum.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. Well, our churches here, too, like the the move to the online, you know, a lot of our pastors have moved to online out of concern initially just to care for their people and not lose everyone. But clearly, there's a there's a mission opportunity that's much larger than just maintaining because all of a sudden there they are. They have a global platform. Churches also here have used Alpha during this season. Is is Alpha, a thing that some of our churches in Germany are offering online.

Johann Matthies:
Yeah, most churches will have something like that. And we do it in our church in Detmold. And I am reminded of a church plant we have in Lithuania, which has a percentage of Evangelical life that is almost not measurable. There was once a (inaudible) maybe six, seven years ago. They counted attendees of all Protestant denominations, including Reformed Lutheran, like all Protestant denominations, and they couldn't find 5000 people attending Protestant churches in Lithuania. But in this context, with our mission started a church plant and the church planters local Lithuanians, they called their church 180 degrees.

Rob Thiessen:
I've heard of that, the 180, yeah.

Johann Matthies:
Yeah, the church 180, so what when the church 180 you decided, look, let's try an Alpha course, of course they tried to advertise for it, but the expectations were very low that someone would actually sign up and they did it with their friends from other churches. But on their first try, over 80 people signed up.

Rob Thiessen:
That's tremendous.

Johann Matthies:
Way beyond any of the wildest dreams. And then, like we were privileged to have a track team there, that helped with preparation and yeah, conducting this all. But yeah, Alpha proved to be quite, quite the instrument.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Johann, let me ask you, maybe maybe it's a crazy idea, but just for exploration, like if a if a church or pastor here listening to the podcast or an individual, maybe a business person or whatever, listening said, oh, I would like to get in contact. How could we have a partnership with a with a church or the work over there? I mean, of course, one obvious way is to, through multiply in the website and the projects, et cetera, are there are opportunities for for churches? You mentioned a church in California that made a connection over there in did you say in Kazakhstan? You know, what sort of, well, how would a how would a listener go about that? You want to give up your email address or what would be the good channel for them to say? Well, we'd like to explore what would a partnership with a church in Lithuania. Like a couple of years ago in Mexico I met uh, Arturo, I think is his name there that's in Lithuania. What an awesome leader. What a you know, I just thought, well, I would love to go and, you know, see what's going on in these church plant. And last year at our convention, we featured a couple in the Ukraine. Their name slips my mind there. They they were following up the work that John,

Johann Matthies:
And Evelyn Wiens.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, John and Evelyn Wiens did there. And they shared their testimony. I did an interview with them that was so encouraging about their work there.

Johann Matthies:
(inaudible)

Rob Thiessen:
Yes.

Johann Matthies:
The Ukrainian leader.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So what what opportunities and how would a leader go about that or an individual.

Johann Matthies:
Rob, before I joined MB Mission Multiply, I worked with other organizations and they were a nondenominational. At, the thing I am about to share, I would have to share even if I would be Adventist or Pentecostal or better something else. But we have a wonderful feature in the MB denomination that we believe in a family of faith, not individuals and not individual churches, but churches that work together, live together and share life and through the denominationally owned mission that is now over 120 years old. We have an extended family in many more countries. Multiply MB Mission right now working in over 60 countries. So what we create is much more than, we do not only present the gospel so that people are saved, we also extend an invitation to become a part of a family. That family globally is called international community of Mennonite Brethren, MB, oh sorry, ICOMB. And then, we have regional expressions of ICOMB. So when when we when our (inaudible) and you meet in Mexico, that is one of those intersections in which we experience the global family. But not not one of the churches overseas, other countries have come up without having ascending church in Canada, the U.S. or Germany or elsewhere. So. And leading the work in the one geographical area, I see myself with my mission always as an episode in the life of churches that exist and are about to begin to exist. And we bridge it. So that standing church, needs to be in a relationship with the emerging church from the beginning.

Johann Matthies:
And then because the churches that we are planting elsewhere, they lack everything the established church has. But some of. Like no structures, no clear theology, no trained leaders, no facilities, no resources, sometimes no strategy, no vision, only the love of Christ, the forgiveness of sin and the love for the lost. But, the existing churches sometimes are so poor, someone said they only have money. And they have not been the first generation believers for a long time. I I'm totally with you on bridging the young churches and mission places which could be in Canada or elsewhere, but then like for us it would be the most natural thing, the most organic thing if the existing churches would relate early on with the Church God is bringing about. And we have the Partnership for (inaudible) Church from Saskatchewan. And I'm helping with Northview Church relating to other churches (inaudible) the Abbotsford Northview church. And I would be totally happy if one of the leaders from your cohort would show interest in the churches of Europe or Central Asia, those being planned, those who are led into the second generation by now, maybe like in Berlin or (inaudible), but that we could actually establish those relationships. If it was random, then of course the outcome are also random. If we can bring it together in some organized way, it would carry, I would think, more from it. And we would have also the chance of mentoring each other in these relationships as we bridge back and forth.

Rob Thiessen:
I should probably I should probably mention here the name Greg Lang, who a lot of our listeners will know he works here in B.C. and he would be a contact person also. Right. To to begin exploring that kind of a partnership.

Johann Matthies:
Yeah. And we do already have partnerships. I have tried and I think it partly succeeded in getting the Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Germany relate to the M.B Church of Lithuania that brings exchange of invitations to each other's convention and retreats, speakers that go both ways. So there's a lot of resources that the young church has now that the established churches of Canada would would also be grown by.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Oh, this has been such a such an awesome time to to connect. And here a little bit from from Europe and obviously the wider area where God has allowed you to work, Johann. We're so blessed and encouraged by your story and and encouraged by the news of God's faithfulness. And I'm reminded of that little cliche, but you know, the good leadership thing and you illustrated that fella says, you know, "Rather than curse the darkness, light a candle." And and so instead of complaining about Covid, think about the opportunities that that are before and where we try to encourage each other in that, too, because this is a long season for us. And and I think, like you mentioned here, the churches here who have so much they feel the loss of what what they haven't. But rather than focus on that, think we're trying to think, well, but what is God teaching us? How is he preparing us? Because he's always at work during and even during times of hardship and maybe especially then. So it's good. Good message from across the sea for us today. Thank you for giving us time this evening, Johann.

Johann Matthies:
Happy, and I would like to still remind my friends who are listening that God is not judging the population of this earth, he is actually still wanting everyone to hear the truth and be safe. He sent plagues to Egypt. He explicitly said that he is not judging the Egyptians, but the gods of Egypt.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm.

Johann Matthies:
So let's trust God that he is giving the church a window of opportunity. We are to steward, we are to we are to be recalibrated. We are to be retooled. We are to be prepared for the 21st century witnessed in our communities. The church is not losing and God is not out of control.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, man. Well, that's a powerful word. Good word for us as listeners. So thank you, everyone, for giving giving us this last hour to be together. Johann, I look forward to the day when you're back here and in Canada for a visit and see each other and and hopefully good connections can come through this conversation. So plus you have a good rest and we'll talk to you again soon.

Johann Matthies:
Thank you.

Rob Thiessen:
Bye bye, everyone, and thanks for this time. Look forward to seeing you or being with you next on on our BCMB podcast. Bye bye for now.

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