The Alliance


A Journey to the Czech Republic, January 2004

"I look at her beautiful face but then she opens her mouth and I see that she has an ugly soul...and no one can change her soul." His navy blue conductor's hat in hand, Milan poked his head into our train compartment then plopped eagerly into a vacant seat. He was our ticket collector on our four hour train ride to Prague. Tim had just asked him "So you're single! Would you ever want to get married?" Milan was more than a cheery Czech practicing his English. Milan was a divine exclamation point, ending our journey with a flourish.

The Czech Republic is hardened soil. Less than one fifth of one percent of the ten million sized population is an evangelical believer. Located in the bull's-eye of central Europe the Czech Republic is cradled by Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Poland. The Czech people were fused to the Slovakians following the first world war, then squirmed under the heel of communism for the 45 years following the second, until they could finally fill their lungs with freedom...and their bellies with materialism.

The nation has its share of Europe's grand cathedrals silhouetted against the sky - stone mausoleums where the remains of a corrupt, irrelevant institution are entombed. Ironically, these massive structures which were erected to exclaim the permanency of God and the church have become long lasting monuments to a dead faith.

Milan stabbed his finger towards the window behind him in to the blackness of night. "Over there are two churches with towering steeples." He told us this story. "A pair a wealthy men decided to finance and build a church but could not agree on where. One wanted it built on one side of the street and the second on the other side. The first went ahead and built his church. When it was finished the second man build a church right across the street with a larger steeple to eclipse and mock the first." Milan punctuated his point to the story with a dismissive wave of his hand, "Silly, silly!" This is the way the average Czech sees the church - archaic, self-centered...and silly.

The Czech Republic is the ultimate postmodern society where logical defense of absolute truth was once the accepted norm but has now given way to full blown relativism; pushing any proclamation of theological and gospel facts into the drawer of the absurd. The old colorless buildings and communist customs have given way to strikingly bold hues painted on the sides of office complexes. This land of Bohemia and Moravia has awakened to a new world.

Yet I could not let Milan's soul comment dissipate into the wintry air. Having already identified ourselves as being connected to a local church in the USA, I felt an instinctive twinge of shame at the deserved reputation of the church in Czech. How tragic that the only flame of hope in this dark land should have shown itself to be a place of exploitation. "Milan," I gently challenged, "I must disagree with you. There IS someone who can change the soul! We have seen God transform angry, bitter, despairing individuals. He has changed us. God alone can change the human soul."

Tim, Glenn, and I had journeyed to the Czech Republic in the dead of winter on a quest to see if Grace Fellowship Church could have a viable role in an effective church planting effort in this land. We came with big questions and grave reservations. What could a bible-belt congregation bring to the table to help reach such a spiritually indifferent culture? More than that, our experience thus far with global church planting had left us wondering how it can be accomplished without creating western-financed and western-dependent churches. A typical church planting model requires western church planters to spearhead an evangelistic effort in a country, establish a congregation, train national leadership, then transition out of that church to start another. This is church planting by addition. By God's grace, in our exploring other options we came across a different model - church planting by multiplication. This approach champions national church planters from the very start. The western missionary takes on a facilitating role to equip, motivate, vision-cast, and encourage that nation's "John Knoxers" to plant churches which are themselves committed to planting churches. The goal is to saturate that entire nation with viable local congregations.

All this sounded great, but how does it work in reality? That is what we came to find out. What we discovered was a healthy network - small but growing - of Czechs who had caught the vision for reaching their country. From what we saw, the emerging church in Czech is being fueled by the movement of God's Spirit on the college campus and amongst the young people. In their short experience with materialism many are owning up to the fact that things don't satisfy. Milan volunteered his own assessment of his generation as our train was pulling up into Prague, "They keep buying things and more things, but they are still hungry!"

A snowy-sleet was sticking to the sidewalks as our journey came to an end. Milan's words gripped our hearts and imaginations - for we distinctly heard that plea which stirred the heart of the Apostle Paul, "Come over and help us." (Acts 16:9)

Larry Nees
Grace Fellowship Church
Johnson City, TN




To the Top


Homepage | Who We Are | What We Believe | Where We Work | Prayer Requests
Upcoming Events | Resources | Partners | Contact Info