"What do you like about this church?"
I asked the question of Marco, a new believer from northern Italy. He was the first person who greeted me at Christ Church Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, Germany.
"First, I can understand the language," Marco replied. As an Italian working in Germany, and married to an Indonesian, the language he speaks when away from Italy is English. That's the power of the international church.
Christ Church Wiesbaden was planted by Phil and Nora Gelston in 2011. Phil is a young, energetic pastor from Central Florida with a love for the gospel fueled by deep theological roots in reformation theology. Nora was born and raised near Bonn, Germany, and came to faith while living in Spokane, Washington. Her heart longs for her beloved Germany to hear the good news. Their family has grown to six during the five years since they began the church.
"Why Wiesbaden?" I asked Phil, as we sipped coffee after church in his home in the Taunus hills outside of the city.
"It's the headquarters for the U.S. Military in Europe." So the church began with a vision to minister to military personnel. Sure enough, I met several people serving with our armed forces: Megan, from Virginia, who serves with Army Operations and "found a church home;" Jason, a Major who speaks fluent Russian and is an aide to a General; and Sam, a Microsoft engineer who works as a civilian and assists the army with technology.
But the church has expanded to include people from six countries, so the vision is now international. For example, Annika is from Berlin and is married to a Frenchman. Hee-Jae is from Korea.
One ex-pat family from Atlanta found the church they were seeking at CCW. "Attendance has doubled in the last six months," the wife said as we met during the greeting time.
In fact, Christ Church Wiesbaden has outgrown their current facility, so they will soon be moving to a larger worship space. And though Phil and Nora have raised financial support, the work is now 70% self-funding.
Phil is not ashamed to say that the strenuous entrepreneurial work of church planting has stretched him. But he likes how his leadership mettle has been tested and developed. God is refining his faith, and no day goes by without needing to depend on God's grace.
As I write this post, I'm on a train to Zurich, Switzerland, where leading pastors will be praying for pastors like Phil, and for the spread of flourishing, gospel-centered international churches in all of the 100 principal cities of Europe. This is the vision of International Christian Community, a growing network that is a partner of Lake Baldwin Church.
We all can rejoice in the progress of the gospel through churches like Christ Church Wiesbaden.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6)
Mike Tilley is the senior pastor of Lake Baldwin Church, and has lived in Orlando since 1994. He and his wife, Molly, worked with a core group from the Baldwin Park community to plant Lake Baldwin Church in 2006. Mike loves teaching the Bible in a way that relates to real life. In his spare time, Mike enjoys good movies, long dinner with friends, snow skiing, hanging out with his kids and two granddaughters, and travel.