The fervent faith and sincere dedication of local leaders to make Christ known among the needy people in Turkey and social work among the Iranian / Syrian refugees is admirable.
In the end of 2019, I, together with Oeds Blok from the Netherlands, organized a conference for church planters in cooperation with local Baptist leaders.
Oeds is an experienced church planter who coaches others; and Jelle van Luipen, a member of the Baptist Church in Leidsche Rijn, joined in.
The conference was started by Pastor Ertan, the chairman of Turkish Baptists, with a Bible reflection from Psalm 126, prayer and welcome. Twenty participants from Turkey were present.
The congregation has a building in Buca in the southern district of Izmir, which used to be an Anglican church. The Baptists work among Syrian refugees, who meet in the same church building.
The second Baptist church has existed for four years in Menemen, which is in the north of Izmir. They also reach out to the Roma people. There are plans to start one other congregation in Pergamon.
Pastor Orhan has ministered in Samsun since 2003. He has established a growing Agape Church, and a new church building was erected a few years ago. Orhan has a vision to influence the numerous coastal cities on the Black Sea.
The gospel mission started with the help of EBF in Amasya and later expanded to Ordu, Sinop and Giresun, where besides Turkish groups there are also many refugees from Iran.
Pastor Sükrü leads the church in Adana (southeast part of the country) and is trying to plant another congregation in this city. They currently meet in a rented hall but have the vision to buy or erect a church building.
Many Syrian refugees are in Adana since the city is near the border with Syria, and the Baptists help them.
One other congregation is in Istanbul, which meets in a rented flat there. The leaders reported that hundreds of people every week contact them via the internet.
The program contained an overview of church planting in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, including also some aspects of work among the refugees in Western Europe.
The second session discussed the important criteria that a church planter should implement.
In other words, accepting a personal call, ability to build a team, having a vision and determining a target group, relationships with mentors / coaches and developing supporting partnerships and avoiding numerous mistakes.
Oeds concentrated on the pioneering aspect of a church planter. Using the example from Acts 10, he emphasized that communication of the gospel requires openness to others and an ability to build bridges.
During the second session, Oeds used the text from Acts 20:17-38 and talked about the importance of personal growth.
He also pointed to the book, “The Undefended Leader,” by Simon Walker in which the author elaborates on different aspects of a personal ego. He finally encouraged listeners to be aware of their temptations and how to properly face them.
Local leaders shared some good advice from their experience. They pointed out that the Christian church is like a family and new people who join in must be cared for.
Preparation for baptism requires time and good teaching; only then the congregation may experience a steady growth. New members ought to be diligently discipled, and leaders need mentors to prosper in ministry.
Personal relationships are indispensable to encourage others and overcome any prejudice against strangers. A leader needs to have knowledge of local laws to function effectively.
The atmosphere of the conference was very good, the participants were active and attentive, the translation was excellent, the breaks offered opportunity for interactions, the timetable was respected, and the meals were tasty.
Ertan, at the end of conference, thanked and invited us to organize a similar one in the future.
After the conference, there was a baptism of one Turkish believer in the Black Sea, and participants were invited to witness. The church is on the seashore so anyone could observe Orhan baptizing a young man.
Later that day, Oeds and I traveled with some others to Sinop, where we met with a group of Iranian refugees. We experienced their warm welcome and sweet fellowship.
In conclusion, the Turkish Baptists are grateful for the cooperation with the EBF as they see much benefit.
They have learned a lot from the cooperation so far, especially with regard to proper management and leadership. They also appreciate a backup of their own efforts.
They recently started the Baptist Foundation, which has the goal of empowering Baptists and can legally own property, which significantly enhances their work.
I, together with my Dutch friends, spent a great time of fellowship and ministry in Turkey.
We admired the fervent faith and sincere dedication of local leaders to make Christ known among the people in Turkey as well as the loving care for the Iranian / Syrian refugees. They virtually embody the gospel, and their attitude is contagious.