The Sri Lanka Church network is built on the vision, prayers and labour of different people. They have paid a price to see the network develop to where it is at present. The Network is still in early days. We praise God for the ‘Kingdom-Seed’ that has been planted in the hearts of Sri Lankan leaders and for how it is growing.
To understand the present we need to look at the past. Here are some key things that have shaped the network. Different people have been involved over the years but there are some people who have been integral to what is happening.
Several Sri Lankan pastors had been attending CCMN Summits for several years. In 2005 Ben Wong was invited to Sri Lanka to speak to senior pastors about CCMN and the vision for church and missions. Christo Siriwardena helped to co-ordinate the meetings. There was resistance from the senior pastors who could not understand the values and ethos of CCMN. They felt that their position was being threatened by what was being shared. But Christo’s heart was touched by what was shared, the call to work together in Kingdom work and mission.
God placed a dream in his heart that no pastor should be alone in the ministry, a dream for a network for pastors across Sri Lanka. Over the following years, Christo invited Ben to return several times and speak to other pastors who came from persecuted areas. Others came who were isolated and lacked support in their ministry. Over the years Alan George from Ireland has also been visiting Sri Lanka, encouraging local pastors and supporting Christo and his wife Menaka. Christo and Menaka have paid a high price for following their dream. The resistance experienced in 2005 did not go away but resulted in Christo having to leave his church, planting a new church in a majority Buddhist area in Colombo. Menaka experienced life threatening health issues as well. Through all this they held onto the dream. For Christo, Menaka has become his true partner in the ministry.
Some powerful keys to building the Network
A powerful key: To build something, someone has to have a vision and pay a price.
Ben asked a couple of pastors in CCMN to focus on Sri Lanka and help Christo build the network. In June 2013, 3 pastors visited and held a seminar for pastors on the 7 Essences of Church: Tony Chan and Harold Tam from Hong Kong and Michael Mackerell from Australia.
In November 2013 they returned and met with many of the same pastors again. Looking back at the June gathering, it became obvious that the seminar style was not effective. So instead of lectures, we spent the time sitting around a large table talking about life, ministry, marriage and family. The atmosphere had changed.
We had discovered another powerful key: Seminar information fills the head but experience and wisdom shared in an environment of genuine, open and trusting relationships changes the heart.
We also discovered that for most of the pastors, their private life was unhealthy. They had seriously neglected their marriage and family to serve the church. It was decided that we needed to invite and include the wives as equal members of the network.
We had discovered another powerful key: As much as possible include the wives in the network and strengthen marriage and family life.
At the next gathering in 2014, most of the pastors brought their wives. Harold’s wife Rima attended as well as Michael’s wife Karen. We focused on personal life, marriage and family. We wanted to build a safe space where we could trust one another enough to be able to share openly and honestly. We continued with a format of dialogue and discussion. People sharing their experiences, others allowed to comment and share from their own life. Some sessions were split, husbands and wives seperate. Opportunity was given for couples to spend time together, talking about themselves, their family and ministry together. Relationships deepened amongst the pastors and also amongst the wives.
We had discovered another powerful key: For people in ministry their need is not more information, they need friends, genuine caring relationships with others who understand them and know what they are going through.
In 2015 Ben returned to Sri Lanka with 2 pastors came from the Japanese Network one of which was the leader of JCMN, Shigeru Tsukura. They talked about their experiences as coaches in the Coaching Network and of implementing the 7 Essences of Church in Japanese churches. As the brothers from Japan shared, there was an immediate connection between them and the locals. They understood one another. Japan and Sri Lanka have strong Buddhist influences that have shaped their societies. Coaching other pastors and wives needed to become an integral part of the network. In 2015 and Shigeru returned again with others from JCMN to encourage, support and input into the Network in developing coaches. Ben also spoke about the need for the churches in Sri Lanka to raise up Missionaries. The vision for Churches in the network to send missionaries needed to be pursued.
Several other powerful keys:
While relationships are the foundation of the network and build the pastors and wives, strategic partnerships [coaching and missionary sending] build their churches and missions vision.
As much is possible coaches are couples.
The Network covers 4 areas: Kandy-Hill Country, North Region, South Region and Colombo. There is a core team of committed and motivated local pastors and wives who are working together to see the Network grow to its full potential.
There are 7 couples who are coaching 15 other couples in different locations across the country.
Missions: After a Short Term Mission Trip to Bangladesh by several pastors, their vision is to work together and send someone long term in the very near future.
Final Key: The Network is built by locals but needs the support of the global family: A movement beyond boundaries and borders.