Breaking Down Barriers

John   Profile

From John Birnie, Field Director

Christian believers know well that churches are not built of ‘bricks and mortar’ but of forgiven, transformed sinners, who by God’s grace have become the ‘living stones’ which are being ‘built up as a spiritual house’. 1 Peter 2:5.

Why then has SGA committed significant financial resources to the provision of ‘Houses of Prayer’ in Eastern European countries? If people are of paramount importance in our ministry, what is the rationale for directing funds towards the purchase and renovation of church buildings?

There was a great need for a House of Prayer. People from the village did not want to come to someone’s home.
Peter Maga speaking about the early days in Ghiliceni, Moldova.

The chief reason is related to evangelism and outreach. That may seem strange to us in the west where often we need to get out of our buildings to reach others, and where churches can operate effectively in ‘neutral’ school or community buildings. However, a traditional Orthodox mindset which is profoundly ‘building-orientated’, prevails in many countries of SGA’s ministry, especially in village communities. For most Orthodox people it is unacceptable to worship in buildings used for other purposes. Home meetings are regarded with suspicion as characteristic of false cults. Church planters are immediately confronted by this ‘barrier’ when they try to reach into communities where there is no recognized building for worship.

Cosmesti 3

SGA’s financial support helped to demolish the ‘building barrier’ in villagers' minds and Peter was able to plant a church in that previously unreached village. The same could be related of other places where provision of a House of Prayer greatly helped to dispel ingrained suspicion and opposition to Gospel workers attempting to plant new churches.

There are other dimensions also to the provision of meeting places for believers. Establishing a House of Prayer makes a statement of commitment. Believers are seen to be serious about witnessing for Christ in the local community. It is a declaration that the Gospel is no passing religious fad, but that Christ’s followers are committed in the long term to sharing the Good News. They are ‘here to stay’!

Over the years SGA’s Houses of Prayer project has financed scores of purchases, renovations, and newly built meeting places. In some cases the total cost has been underwritten, in others part of the cost has been met. Church leaders in Eastern Europe see clearly that local believers must undertake responsibility for the sustainability of their witness. They do not want to encourage a ‘dependency culture’ whereby funds always come from ‘outside’. Recently SGA has introduced a loan arrangement whereby a church borrows funding interest free, and commits to repay that loan over an agreed period of time. This has been welcomed and already accessed by some, for it enables forward movement in a project and yet encourages local churches to fulfil their responsibility to give to the Lord’s work.

Praise God that in many communities barriers to the Gospel are dismantled as believers effectively reach out from their House of Prayer – ‘a home of their own’ - to those around them in spiritual need.

Pastor Roma
Cuccieni Church