4 Churches Built / None Planted

without-lan-we-are-not-shuarA recent conversation reminded me of a unique situation in the Jungle’s of Ecuador.  I went to work with the Shuar people in a very remote village.  Hours of driving and as much walking led us to a village of about 25 families.  “Shuar,” in the Shuar language, means “people.”  They are fiercely tribal, humble, and simple people.  I was not their long enough to get a deep understanding of their culture and world-view, but I did discover something interesting.


Walking around the village with one of the elders, I noticed 4 small buildings at various stages of completion, but as yet, all still unfinished.  I ask him what they were.  He told me this story:

Many many years ago, I can not remember exactly, the Lutherans came and started that building.  They were here for a short time and had to leave for one reason or another, I can’t say…  After that came the Episcopalians.  They built the second building and again were with us here for a short time and had to leave.  I can’t recall the reason they left either.  Then came the Church of God.  They started the third building and were here with us for a bit longer than the other two, but again they had to leave.  

Looking at the fourth building my heart became heavy…  he continued:

Finally, came a group of non-denominational Christians.  They started the fourth building.  They claimed to be part of no specific group and were very interesting to us, but they, for some reason, had to leave as well.  

I had two questions in my head while contemplating this situation.  First, “Why didn’t any of the other organizations build on or finish the previous churches?”  And, “Why didn’t the Shuar people complete any of these 4 buildings and use them for other things?”  I decided to ask the elder only the latter.

Here’s what he told me:

“My friend, the Shuar people believe that until a building is finished, it belongs to the person or group that is building it.”  

I had asked a question which led me into a deeper understanding of their culture and made a friend.  I still think about this from time to time and wonder…

What are the implications for modern-day church planting efforts? 

0 thoughts on “4 Churches Built / None Planted

  1. Rob Kampen says:

    Start with building people, not buildings. So sad and probably repeated many times around the planet.
    Invest into people, equip them for the work of the ministry.
    Also ensure we demonstrate that in all we do, it is worship to an audience of One.

  2. Tom Schultz says:

    It sounds like it has to be a parable, but I have to assume it is factual. The scary thing is to wonder what the reports to the supporters ‘back home’ claimed.

  3. Jim Wright says:

    I guess it depends on one’s concept of church. It seems to me they “built churches” but didn’t bother to “plant a church”.

  4. […] God Directed Deviations-4 Churches Built/ None Planted […]

  5. Claudia says:

    This reminds me of a more recent story I dare to share. In a small community that seemed to grow quickly in great interest to hearing more about Christ, a plan had been put in motion to buy a piece of land to build a church building. I was troubled in spirit by the haste, and I recall one man said to me in as few words that my discernment essentially couldn’t be trusted because the rest of the “counselors” voting had all been in agreement with one another, (turning to Scripture to affirm their desire), thus the plan to move forward was voted for and hastily continued. The local town’s folks began scrambling and competing with one another for whose piece of land would best suit the buyers, while another local leader felt the growing pressure of trying to satisfy the buyer. Soon ill feelings began to stir. Within a short time plans became difficult and fell apart. In the meantime, what was slightly obvious before became even more clear as events unfolded. There were many family units, but most uninterested to come together as a united community in one location to visit with us, much less to be the Church. Many fell away from interest in hearing the Good News we were sharing from the local mission front because the bigger picture for them was what they could personally gain from others with bigger intentions. It was a DISASTER in the making.

    Nearly a year and a half has passed since then, and the community has calmed down and all but forgotten about the possibility of financial gain from the sale of a small piece of land. We still faithfully visit once a week. A few of those initially interested have remained distant with no interest at all, and others who were minimally or uninvolved initially have been added to the few who remain faithful to come and hear the Good News. In essence, a Church has been born and we meet weekly in the home of a husband/wife team that the Lord is building up in the faith to be guiding examples for their community. Sometimes there are 4 people there. Sometimes there are 10. But there is always a familiar sense that HERE is where the Church is when we are with them, and THIS is what the LORD intended all along–no land! No building! Just humble, faithful people coming together for a time such as this, having been baptized, and learning and living what Christ taught, while being made ready to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES in and out of their community. I think if all could be humbled to learn by examples such as this, how much differently we could come to recognize that The Church is a living organism, NOT wood and steel………

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