Three Case Studies of People You Might Not Expect to Make Great Church Planters

One of my favorite things to say about church planters is that almost anyone who knows and loves God, people and appropriately loves self can start a church of some kind. Here are a few people whose stories come to mind. There all named Bill.

Bill Wagner: Racquetball and Iran

Bill Wagner has planted ten churches in four countries: the United States, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. The church he is planting right now is among Iranian immigrants to the United States. Recently, I visited their New Years festival, always celebrated at the start of spring. What a joyous, hospitable fellowship! There are a number of new Christians among the group, some having converted from Islam.
Outreach to this community began when Bill met an Iranian woman on the racquetball court. They played racquetball together, and as he got to know her, he shared his faith in Christ. She became a follower of Jesus and introduced Bill to a wider Iranian community among whom he started a new church. Now Bill is hoping to raise up an indigenous, Farsi speaking leader and is working towards launching another Iranian church in a nearby city. He has already started a Bible study to move in that direction. Incidentally, Bill #1 is 79 years old.

Bil Losasso: Plant Manager to Church Planter

When I met Bill Losasso, he was a 45-year-old plant manager at a firm in California that makes windows. He was continually leading people to Christ, inviting them to church, and bringing them together to study the Bible. Observing his fruitfulness, I asked him if he sensed a call to ministry in his life.
Tearfully, Bill confessed that he had at one time sensed that calling, but been divorced and in jail five times, and felt unqualified to minister. We helped him acknowledge that God uses broken people and set about to train Bill to start a church.
During lunch hour, several days a week, various church leaders ate with Bill at a nearby restaurant to plan towards a new church. A few months later, he launched a new church with 260+ people present. Bill remained bivocational, and everything seemed to be going great, but six months later, he was transferred to a new work site 3,000 miles away. A new leader was commissioned, Bill left, and a few months later, he called to say he was going to start a church in his new city. That church has been in existence for twenty years now and has churches among Asians, African Americans, Hispanics plus Mayan peoples in Guatemala. Way to go, Bill #2!

Bill Breunle: Framed for Murder

I had known Bill Breunle before he went to prison. He was an avid minister of the gospel, who, through some difficult circumstances, became disenchanted with the church and began to deconstruct some of the traditional patterns he encountered. It seemed that at the turn of the millennium, many church leaders were staggering around, trying to find Jesus in the midst of significant societal and worldview shifts. Bill began to feel more comfortable and more called with the disenfranchised and marginalized around him than he did with most church people.
Eventually, however, that backfired, and he was framed him for murder and kidnapping. Bill #3 spent the next four years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. With nobody else around to befriend, Bill fell wholeheartedly in love with Jesus all over again, depending only on Him for his strength. When he was finally acquitted of the charges, Bill immediately returned to ministry. He has been catalytically starting churches and raising up leaders and training them to start churches.
It seems like he can start a church anywhere with anyone. Amazing.
I started this post with the claim that almost anyone who knows and loves God, people and appropriately loves self can start some kind of church. Are you starting to believe that claim?
Maybe God even wants to use you, even if your name is not Bill.
“Learn from Linda at The Praxis Gathering!”
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About the Author

Linda Bergquist

Linda has been involved in church planting for 38 years, 36 of which have been in urban areas. She is currently a church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board and has served as an adjunct professor in several seminaries. She co-authored the books Church Turned Inside Out, The Wholehearted Church Planter, and City Shaped Churches and authored the Exponential ebook: The Great Commission and the Rest of Creation.

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