Bill & Bobbie Boggess – France
Bill & Bobbie Boggess
1 square Charles Dickens, 78180
Telephone from the USA: 011 33 1 30 57 56 88
Feel free to e-mail us.
The Boggess Story:
For your information I will present ourselves. We are church planters in greater Paris, France, serving with TEAM since 1983. We recently turned our church plant over to French nationals.
I am from Columbus, Mississippi and my wife is from Atlanta, Georgia. I was raised Catholic. I was saved at Mississippi State University my senior year (1972) by the testimony of a KA fraternity brother. During that last year of college, I became active in Emmanuel Baptist Church with Dr. James V. “Nap” Clark. After MSU I went to Florida Bible College and it was there that I met my wife-to-be Bobbie Kollen and decided to go into “full-time Christian work”. After four semesters there I returned to Starkville, Miss. (where MSU is located) and worked in my former church for two years as assistant pastor. Then I went to Dallas Theological Seminary and received a Th.M. in 1980. We attended Grace Bible Church in Dallas as newlyweds until we were invited to intern with Dave Wyrtzen at Midlothian Bible Church in Midlothian, TX, south of Dallas. We served there for 2½ years.
All through seminary I was heading for the pastorate. I did not see where I could fit in on the mission field having the gifts and desire to be a pastor. (Most mission boards were recruiting me to go teach in a seminary or Bible college.) Then a TEAM-France missionary Bob Vajko came to the 1980 DTS missions conference to recruit for the work in France. As he presented the situation in France, he explained that here there are very few national pastors, so I could start a church and then pastor it until we found a French pastor (or more precisely, until I discipled one into being!) That sounded great to me. After a two-year stint as a rural Southern Baptist pastor in Sturgis, Mississippi, (Friendship) we joined TEAM and began deputation. It took ten months to get up our support and one more month to get packed up to go. We arrived in France in November 1983 (and have now been here for 22 years.) We settled into an apartment in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, a suburb 16 miles southwest of Paris near Versailles. We were about 5 miles from the church we were eventually going to work with.
Both Bobbie and I studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris. After two years of language study, we began to increase our ministry load. I was first an intern, then assistant pastor of a church started and pastored by Bob Vajko. We spent our entire first term (4½ years) at this church. The church when we got there was 7 years old and attendance was about 50 per week. The church was meeting in a small hall lent by the city. While we were there (but not primarily due to our ministry), attendance grew to about 125 per week.
Adapting to life in France was not easy. The first two or three years were very difficult! Learning French was a difficult process for both of us. But by the middle of the first term, we were beginning to feel at home in France, etc. The last year of our first term Pastor Vajko went on furlough so I assumed major responsibilities, took the church through its construction project, etc. We got into the building three weeks before our furlough in the summer of 1988. We spent our first furlough based in Starkville, Mississippi.
We came back to France for our second term in the summer of 1989. We located again in Montigny-le-Bretonneux in order to plant a new church here in our town. The city where we live is part of a “new city.” The new city, St. Quentin-en-Yvelines, is made up of 8 towns with a population of about 250,000 people. God answered the prayers of His people for this strategic new work. Our target area (3 of the 8 cities) had a population of about 80,000, mostly young, professional families.
There was no other Protestant work in our target area. This vividly demonstrates the great need here in France. In fact, only eight tenths of one percent of the French population even claims to be evangelical Protestant. This puts France in the “unreached people” missions category. According to the Gideons, most French people (80%) have never seen the inside of a Bible. There are 36,000 towns in France. There being only 1900 evangelical churches in France, (average size 50), more than 34,000 towns have no evangelical church at all! The French mind-set is anti-supernatural. The population group that we are targeting is fairly prosperous, and therefore, does not sense its need for God.
We started services in our home in November of 1989. After a few years of concentrated evangelism, we had a core of solid believers, but many had unsaved spouses. A good number of the people who came were new believers, and several others still need to be converted.
Although growth was slow, God blessed our work. The French people can’t seem to grasp that they are sinners in need of a Savior. Working with the typical non-practicing Catholic over here is difficult. Not only is it difficult to bring them to see their lostness, but also, once they are saved, it is difficult to bring them to make a final break with the Catholic Church. It’s just too much part of their culture. They may never attend mass, but they still consider themselves Catholic. And we have observed that if they never make a conclusive break with the Catholic Church, they never grow much spiritually. This break is, of course, made by baptism. We hold our baptismal services on Sunday afternoons with several churches participating. Usually attendance is excellent as many family members come to see their brother, sister, etc. get baptized. All the candidates give their testimonies before they are immersed. The French evangelicals rarely baptize anyone under the age of 16. We do a lot of singing and try to have a choir too. Then we have an evangelistic sermon.
The first two years my Sunday morning preaching was in the Pentateuch. I wanted to establish a foundational understanding of God, holiness, sin, man, and salvation by preaching through selected portions of the Scriptures in a chronological order. Then a couple of years later I preached through Romans. In Sunday School for the adults we covered all the major soteriological terms such as redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, etc. I also taught the rewards of the Christian, trying to emphasize the freeness of salvation by way of contrast with rewards. This is very important for people coming out of a Roman Catholic background.
We started the church and it met in our home for 5 ½ years. But when attendance hit 60, the situation was no longer workable. The municipal authorities consistently refused to lend or rent us a meeting hall, even though there were municipal halls available. Then God acted on our behalf, and allowed us to purchase two storefronts that we united and transformed into a meeting hall. Since then we have purchased and renovated an additional room at the shopping center where the church is located. Over the years, God added to His church and in August 2005, the church was turned over to the French elders.
Now that the church is stable and in French hands, Bobbie and I will be working in the town immediately to the east of Montingy, Guyancourt to begin a new church. The Montigny church still does not have a pastor, but the elders are doing an excellent job in spite of lacking the time to do the job as they would like to. We have taught the church from the beginning their responsibility to start a satellite church in a neighboring area, and now it is happening. In view of that, leadership training is critical. We are using the Biblical Institute of Leadership Development program (BILD) to help us train up the next generation of spiritual leaders in the local church. It is the best church-based theological curriculum I have ever seen. We are no longer relying on the Bible institutes or seminaries to provide the leaders we need for our churches; we are training them ourselves.
We are very happy with TEAM, The Evangelical Alliance Mission. Here in France TEAM has about 25 couples and several singles who are in various facets of church-planting. One third of TEAM’s work is in the southern suburbs of Paris, and the other two thirds is concentrated in the Rhone-Alps region. Our mission starts churches in a cluster to use our personnel more effectively, to encourage one another, to support one another, etc. We also like to start churches as branch works rather than “cold turkey” if possible. TEAM works closely with Greater Europe Mission in the Paris area. Whenever we or they create a church here, it automatically is joined to the Association des Eglises Evangéliques Independantes, the church association started by the first TEAM missionaries back in the 50’s and 60’s. First and foremost our job is church planting.
To expand a bit on this I will quote from a paper written a while back by our former field administrator Norm Kapp.
There are several things we have found to be helpful on the France field:
1. Cluster churches. Twenty of our twenty eight churches are clustered around Paris. The close proximity of these churches serves as real encouragement and strengthening to each other, especially the smaller ones. Pastors get together frequently for prayer and to share burdens, problems, needs, suggestions and blessings. We work together on evangelistic campaigns. Baptismal services each month bring our churches together, so that those who may normally number 30 to 60 people find themselves part of a group of 200-300 people. It is amazing what that can do for the morale of a small church. There are also our annual Bible conference and church picnic that bring all our churches together. All this is possible because these churches are geographically close to each other. As we expand the work, we seek to move out so that no new church is isolated from fellowship with other churches.
2. Mother-daughter churches. Many of our new churches have come into being as a branch work of an existing church. The value of this is that when a church planter starts a new work, he does not have to start entirely “from scratch”. There will be a nucleus of a dozen adult Christians who will be there to attend the church and help out in the work. This has no doubt enabled the work in France to grow much faster than would otherwise have been the case.
3. Team-work. Frequently our missionaries have joined together in teams to plant churches. These may be a team of two missionaries, two nationals, or one missionary and one national. This has been especially helpful to first-term missionaries who have been encouraged to work with or under another pastor. In recent years a pastoral internship program has been developed, where new workers (whether national or missionary) have worked under an older pastor for a one- year on-the-job training program.
Bobbie and I have found that creating a church is the best way to evangelize. The church service provides worship, teaching and fellowship. Man was created to worship God; worship and adoration is the first goal of the weekly church service. Teaching fills a real need for spiritual food, and fellowship meets the need for community and love. In France, most people are non-religious. They have never worshipped God in spirit and in truth. They have never heard a Bible-based sermon or received good Bible teaching. They have never experienced body life. In creating a new church, all these needs are met. Therefore, the way to reach France is to start new churches. A good music program can really enhance the worship program and is very helpful here in France. One of our missionaries recognized the strategic nature of music here, and has a full time ministry in the music area. Bobbie taught herself to play the piano in order to meet this need in our church.
Bobbie and I have been married 27 years. We have three boys. Our oldest son, Brian, 26, is an engineer in Harrisburg, PA. Bradlee, 22, is a senior at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. Benjamin, 18, is a sophomore at Messiah College. They are all fluent in French and English. Brian speaks German fluently because he studied his last two years of high school in Germany. Bradlee and Benjamin speak Spanish fluently. Bradlee did his first two years of college in Madrid, Spain.
Thank you for your interest in us. If you have other questions, feel free to ask.