Missionary Dave Brown looks back on what the Lord has taught him
Over the summer, Dave handed over to Jonathan Vaughan as the new pastor of the Perspectives church in Paris-Cardinet and stepped into “retirement” after 44 years of ministry in France. The quotation marks around “retirement” are very appropriate in Dave’s case, as he will remain very active in gospel work. Here he looks back on God’s faithfulness…
I joined France-Mission in 1976. While still working as a young teacher, we’d created a small church in our home in Nancy and I was looking for a mission to support me and provide wise counsel. My wife and I moved to nearby Vandœuvre and saw the Lord’s hand from the outset. When I’d asked a developer I knew if he had any suggestions about housing, it only took him a few minutes to offer us not only a flat but also room to rent in a shopping centre to start church services open to the public, and the possibility of setting up a Bible stand in the same centre every Saturday!
1977 started well, meeting up with the other FM missionaries – there were only 12 of us in the whole of France at the time, including the committee! But then, in May, came a terrible shock: my wife, Jan,lost her life in a car accident on the way back from the FM congress. I was left alone with our two-year-old daughter and son of just two months. Nevertheless, the church in Vandœuvre was born and started to grow.
The Lord was watching over me and, the next year, I married Mary. She is still very much at my side after 40 years of ministry together.
I felt that 10 years was about right to plant a church and then hand the role of pastor onto somebody else before moving on. 10 years to go from a small core to a mature church, with its own premises and leadership team. For each step of our ministry, the Lord has blessed these aspirations: in Vandœuvre (1976-86), Villers-lès-Nancy (1986-97), Le Blanc-Mesnil (1997-2008), and Paris-Cardinet (2008-20). And, in each of these locations, God miraculously provided accommodation that we could afford on our limited budget.
From 1983-2008 I was part of France-Mission’s national leadership and helped setup the Department of Relationships with Partner Churches which enabled France-Mission (and now Perspectives) to become Des Églises, une mission (“Many churches, one mission”). Previously, once churches planted by FM reached the “mature” level, they would join another denomination.
From 2003-12, alongside my church ministry, I also served as General Secretary to the GBU (supporting student Christian unions). It was wonderful to see the GBU develop a truly French identity during this period thanks to several new young co-workers.
Our 12 years at Paris-Cardinet have been a church revitalisation project. People have often told us that, if we hadn’t responded to God’s call, the church would have closed. And revitalisation has since become the main focus of my ministry. Yes, I’m stepping down as a pastor with France-Mission/Perspectives after 44years, but I don’t see the word “retirement” in the Bible and I’ll be continuing to serve the Lord through my writing (nine books published to date) and through offering training in relation to church revitalisation, especially within the context of the European Leadership Forum (see revitalisation.fr).
What I’ve learned…
· God is faithful and provides for all our needs,whether material or spiritual.
· The importance of joy in ministry: it’s a real privilege to serve Jesus Christ!
· The necessity of passing on the baton: one of the reasons why spending one’s entire life in the same church may not always be ideal.
· Being able to trust God in relation to funding for projects: if the Lord wants us to do something, He will provide the means.
· A pastor needs to cast a vision for his team and/or church. That said, listening to others is essential for making improvements!