Madisyn Raguz recognized two years ago that Wellspring Church had momentum for relentlessly loving their New Jersey neighbors. She had worshiped there twice with her new husband, Brandon, when rumblings of a possible partnership with church planters in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina stirred her heart.
The 25-year-old embraced Wellspring’s journey as it explored how it could ignite a craving for Jesus beyond the Garden State.
The church’s ambition to send global workers advanced this past April. Raguz, her husband and two pastors flew to southern Brazil to meet with church planters and Jonathan Matthews, who leads Converge International Ministries’ Southern Cone Initiative to make disciples among millions of the world’s least-reached people.
Leading up to the trip, Raguz applied her missions passion and experience as Wellspring’s point person during the 2:10 FOCUS process. The process equips churches to discover, develop and deploy God’s people into works the Lord prepared, as Ephesians 2:10 teaches. Since last October, Jimmy Smith of Converge’s U.S. Engagement team has coached Raguz and a Wellspring team as their congregation builds a solid foundation for global work.
“Of course, you want to focus on your community and your neighbors, but there’s a bigger picture,” she said. “The 2:10 process helps you define your passions and who you are as a church. It’s making sure you’re set up for success and not having to backtrack.”
A church’s identity is vital when engaging in international opportunities.
Alongside Smith, Wellspring discovered they were a church with many young families who would connect well with the young families at two particular churches in Brazil. This similarity can be the foundation of shared life and ministry. Wellspring has a three-to-five-year plan formed with Matthews, the southern Brazil church planters and Wellspring’s congregation.
Such a plan, Raguz explained, means Wellspring, Matthews and the Brazilian church leaders know what they are trying to do together.
For example, one church planter needs a building renovation, so Raguz said Wellspring would participate in fundraising for that project. Secondly, Raguz said a team from New Jersey would help the other church planter start a new congregation.Both sides see the partnership as a two-way street. Plus, financial contributions, the number of short-term trips and other expectations for everyone have been discussed and agreed upon in advance. The partners even discussed how often they would exchange newsletters and videos.
“We’re doing this together,” Raguz said. “Wellspring sees how we can get involved for the long-term vitality of the Southern Cone initiative.”
This May, Wellspring gathered so that its lead pastor, Jason Coache, and Raguz could share news about how God worked on the April trip. She said it is encouraging for the church to know they’re part of building relationships so that more people can know Jesus.
“Once you communicate that, the people get excited,” she said. “They start to see themselves participating in it, whether it’s going (on a missions trip) or something they do at home.”
God’s word grows people until they’re ready to be sent
Tania Martin served in Ukraine for 11 years before Converge hired her as director of mobilization in 2020. Her sending church, First Baptist in Glenarden, Maryland, formed her convictions and competencies for international ministry. That helped her grow as God’s servant at home and eventually in eastern Europe.
“When I started going to that church, God began to use the word to radically transform my life, my thinking, my worldview,” Martin said. “That was the first step to my being open to missions.”
The next step for Martin, which is also reflected at Wellspring Church, was an opportunity to go briefly. She said short-term trips are a vital component of a church’s sending culture. Therefore, First Baptist Glenarden sent Martin on several short-term trips to Ukraine before she deployed full-time.
“There needs to be a bridge between local service and long-term foreign service,” Martin added. “That bridge is short-term service.”
On her third trip to Ukraine, God called her to go full-time. So, her local church rallied around her again with mentoring, recommendation letters for Converge’s assessment for international ministry and eventually a job with the salary, benefits and flexibility she needed until deployment. The church continued to be generous as she served in Ukraine.
Martin said leaders of every activity at First Baptist Glenarden strive to make dynamic disciples who do what God is doing or wants to do.
“If leaders don’t believe sending is important, it won’t happen,” she added.
A sending culture depends upon a listening community
For Martin, the people of her church also listened to one another and observed each other’s passions and interests.
“In the process, you can hear people’s hearts and see what God is doing in their hearts,” she said.
First Baptist Glenarden nurtured Martin’s competency in cross-cultural interactions within those close relationships. She was born outside the United States and assimilated into another culture when her parents moved to New York City. While in school there, Martin sharpened her skills since her friends represented multiple nationalities and cultures.
Converge sends people according to their gifts, passions and availability. But no global worker goes alone.
For example, a Colorado church sent Beth Ann Erickson to Estonia as a Converge global worker.
At one point, she and an Estonian ministry recognized that purchasing an apartment would increase their opportunities to serve God and people. First, however, the parties needed a contract attorney to ensure the property was deeded correctly.
Therefore, Erickson reached out to her team, including a contract attorney who worships at Erickson’s sending church and stays informed of Erickson’s ministry. Given her vocation, the attorney was able to help Erickson and the Estonian ministry structure the contract, ask relevant questions and use include proper language in the contract.
Seeing other ways develop for people to engage in gospel work undergirds the teams who sustain Converge’s initiatives among least-reached peoples.
Daniel Warren, executive pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, explained that a team-based approach to global work has tremendous support from his congregation. A Converge coach started assisting Trinity Baptist this April. Warren said implementing their updated missions efforts should begin this fall.
“I would highly recommend the team-based process,” Warren said. “It’s brought some alignment for us among our leadership about what missions will look like in the future. This is allowing us to set up our missions for long-term health.”
Some disciples from this 107-year-old church, such as Converge global worker JJ Alderman, moved abroad for long-term international service. Meanwhile, other believers became teammates but stayed in the United States. According to Warren, a team-based approach creates options beyond the pioneer missionary who invests a lifetime in another country.
“It broadened the kind of people we can send and the people who are attracted to it,” he said.
Out of one people can come many ministries
Even in the Christian church’s earliest days, few people filled the roles now described as global workers. The apostle Paul was one. So was Titus, who went to Crete. St. Patrick in Ireland and Hudson Taylor in China were among others who came along later.
At the same time, the apostles Peter, James and John all stayed in Jerusalem for most of their lives and ministries. So, they had that in common with most people Paul evangelized, such as Timothy in Ephesus and others in Colosse, Galatia, Philippi and Corinth.
All the more, God can mobilize the billions of believers today. Disciples can grow and go through a local church that invests the time to find their focused partnership with global workers.
As Paul said to the Corinthians in chapter 12 of his first letter, “There are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects but the same God who works all things in all persons. To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
The motivation remains at Wellspring and many other Converge churches to keep honoring the Lord who sends workers into the harvest field. Through the 2:10 FOCUS process, churches can creatively partner locally and internationally so that more people know how high and wide the love of Christ is.
“People are starting to see the bigger picture,” Raguz said. “We aren’t just put on this earth for Tom’s River, New Jersey.
“That’s part of it, and we don’t want to lose sight of that. But our partnership with someone outside the U.S. has made people excited. It makes us more excited to see what God is going to do through that partnership.”
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.