Building Relational Communities

As Mike and Cara Tyler, missionaries to Germany, began to explore ministry needs in their region, they heard the same thing over and over again: “We need more churches in Weil am Rhein.” A town of about 30,000 people, Weil am Rhein (also known as simply Weil) is an ethnically diverse suburb of Basel, Switzerland, and is situated on the Rhein River at the juncture of Germany, Switzerland, and France.

When Mike and Cara began to pray about planting a church in Weil, they discovered a few alarming things. Not only was there no church in Weil, but five attempted church plants had failed in 10 years. Also, city government historically was opposed to “free churches,” or churches independent of the government. Regardless, the Tylers began to pursue the possibility of starting a work in Weil.

As they continued to pray and seek God’s direction, Mike and Cara felt the Lord leading them to do two things—pray through every street in the city, and seek favor with someone in city government. They began doing prayer walks and invested a significant amount of time walking every street in the city, covering it in prayer. As they continued to pray, God began to open doors, and Mike found himself with an opportunity to meet with the vice-mayor of Weil. During that meeting, the vice-mayor explained some of the city’s challenges and even suggested ways a church might be able to help. Rather than experiencing opposition to their church plant, Mike said, “I left that meeting knowing I had gained an ally, and I knew there was an open door with the city leadership.”

Mike had already spent nearly three years studying about New Testament church-planting models and praying; he knew it was time to put his research into action. The Tylers once again took to the streets—this time to conduct an informal survey—and they found their biggest challenge yet. Surprisingly, almost 90 percent of the people surveyed were positive toward Jesus, but 98 percent had extremely negative feelings toward the church. Young Germans especially are disillusioned about the church, not trusting public figures on a stage, but craving personal connection and a safe environment in which they can ask questions. Mike and Cara knew their church-planting strategy was going to have to deal with these issues in some creative ways.

As the Tylers get closer to launching Church on the Rhein, they are working on a bold new model to bring together the many linguistic and cultural groups represented in Weil, many of whom are ignored by other churches. They plan to develop small, relational, Christ-centered communities that will engage secular people who largely are opposed to the form of church they believe they know. “Jesus calls us to make disciples,” concluded Mike, “and we want our communities to be very focused on making disciples who can then make more disciples in their own relational network.”

This, they believe, will begin to change the face of the church in Weil am Rhein and make a significant impact for the Kingdom.