The unknown drives church planting in Thailand

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Missions


Dustin Leland has met with pastor Paisan Pratumrut every other month in parts of Thailand for a couple of years. But the Converge global worker seldom knew where the Thai native was taking him. 


“I would literally have no idea where we were going,” Dustin said.  


Which mattered, since Dustin did most of the driving. 


“I didn’t know when we were getting home or when we were eating or what we were eating,” Dustin said. “We just went for it.” 


What was ‘it’?

Dustin had plenty of unanswered questions, but he knew the answer that mattered most was the motivation behind their trips. 


“Our goal is to train leaders,” the global worker on Converge’s Thailand Initiative team said. 


Paisan’s heart for seeing Christ revealed to his hometown people has stayed strong since he converted from Buddhism in his teenage years. Dustin said Paisan has a lifetime of connections, which has been an answer to prayer for Converge’s ministry there. 


Related: Converge pursues introducing Jesus, discipling Thai believers and training leaders. 



From conference to car rides to starting churches


Dustin met Paisan in the fall of 2022 at a conference in Udon Thani, near where the Lelands live and serve. Paisan had brought four leaders from a small rural church in his hometown so they could grow stronger in evangelism. 


After the conference, these four leaders began sharing the gospel with their neighbors and relatives. Their efforts bore fruit. However, Paisan lived far away in Chiang Rai and was limited in his ability to support them. So he asked Dustin, who lives closer, to visit and encourage them.  


As Dustin and Paisan deepened their initial connection, they began to partner in ministry. Along the way, they sorted out various methods, strategies and approaches to church planting and multiplication. 


Since deciding on a method and beginning training sessions in March 2023, six new cell groups have formed around Paisan’s hometown. The four leaders Paisan brought to the conference started these multiplicative gatherings of disciples. 


Related: Converge values empowering indigenous leaders to start gospel movements. 


Since Paisan and Dustin started training believers in March 2023, the two men have had six cell groups. All six cell groups are intentionally moving toward becoming churches. 


For Thai people, starting any kind of Christian witness often means entering a new village that is an empty field, meaning there is no church and no believers. Thai people believe that being Thai means being Buddhist. 


But the Thai Christians love Christ and want more and more Buddhists to know the king of kings. While many believers wait for Christ’s second coming, most Thais haven’t heard of his first coming. 


“They’re sharing their faith with their neighbors, their coworkers or whoever will listen to them,” Dustin said. “There’s new believers.” 



Time to start taking longer trips

As Paisan and Dustin saw the training take root in ordinary believers’ lives, Paisan felt even more excited. So he wanted to start driving more and more and farther and farther.  


That’s alright with Dustin, whose wife, Melissa, sees a valuable trait in her husband’s service in a country where advancing Christ’s mission is hard. 


“Discomfort leads to disciple-making,” she said, noting how Dustin sits on the floor for hours or eats what’s in front of him to build deep relationships with Thai believers.  


All those meals and moments on the floor sustain relationships and training for leaders of house churches and cell groups.  


These trainings now happen in Chiang Rai, Nong Bua Lamphu, Amnat Charoen, Ubon Rachatthani and the Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand intersect. These cell group leaders are 16 hours apart, with one group in Thailand’s northernmost region and another in the country’s southeast.  


In those groups, Christians have a brief time in a home before going through the village in small groups and sharing the gospel with neighbors. Once that trip is complete, believers gather for worship, Bible study, prayer and a meal. 


“They are intentionally reaching out to unsaved family members and neighbors,” Dustin said.  


Related: American believers, inspired by foreign disciples, have started acting like them. 


He said pastor Paisan has many contacts in other provinces where he and Dustin want to cast vision for this movement training. 


“It has the potential to explode,” Dustin said. “It’s amazing what God has brought to us.” 


It sounds like Dustin has more trips with pastor Paisan in the future.  


Although, where they’re going, only Paisan knows. 


Converge is asking God for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group – in our generation. Learn how we are playing a role in accomplishing the Great Commission and how you can be involved. 

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene