Malath Baythoon has been in full-time ministry since 2003. But it wasn’t until 2006, while studying theology in South Korea, that he first heard of the Purpose Driven Church. This transferable model for church health was something he hoped to someday implement in his home country of Iraq.
In 2009, God called Malath and his wife, Nour to plant the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) in Erbil, Iraq. What started out as a small group of friends meeting in a home, turned into a community of 50 gathering in a conference room.
Within a few months, they experienced exponential growth — going from 50 to 200 for a reason that most churches will never face . . . ISIS. When the terrorist organization took control of Mosul and surrounding areas in 2014, thousands were forced to flee their hometowns. As Christians, their only chance of survival was to abandon their homes and run for safety. Many fled with less than an hour’s notice and have never returned.
Word spread that Christian Missionary Alliance was more than a house of worship; it was also a refuge for displaced families. While church growth was never a problem, it was church health that Pastor Baythoon was seeking.
In 2015, the committed pastor received an email from PEACE Plan Pastor, Mike Constantz and Pastor of Missions, Andrew Lossau. Both were traveling to the Middle East in response to the refugee crisis. Their goal was to partner with local churches in Northern Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan.
“Our church had plateaued in growth,” says Pastor Baythoon. “I was a pastor in need of a system. Although I knew about the Purpose Driven Church, I didn’t know how to implement the principles.”
Over the course of several visits, Pastor Baythoon was trained by Saddleback’s PD and PEACE teams. Five months later, Christian Missionary Alliance introduced its members to the PD movement by focusing on one purpose at a time — starting with Worship, Fellowship, and Discipleship. They launched a Children’s Ministry, and started over a dozen small groups in the community.
Throughout the process, Pastor Baythoon utilized PD resources including videos and teaching materials, together with hands-on coaching from Pastor Mike. Most recently, Pastor Baythoon and his team rolled out the fifth purpose of Missions, with plans to serve in Turkey and Jordan.
A major turning point for Pastor Baythoon took place in June 2018 when he attended the Purpose Driven Church Conference at Saddleback. He walked away with inspiration and encouragement on how to thrive in ministry and avoid burnout.
“In Iraq, there are a lot of expectations and pressures surrounding pastors,” he explains. “I know I can’t do everything. I must share share the responsibilities, not only with the ministry team, but also with our members. The conference really opened my eyes to the importance of committed members and the concept that everyone can be a minister.”
Pastor Baythoon says he felt the PD model came at the perfect time. After attending the June conference, he was able to see Saddleback Church as a living example of church health. After several years of stagnant growth at CMA, attendance now remains steady and healthy at 300 members.
“We’re on the right track,” he says. “Right now we’re absorbing the PD vision and working toward applying the principles throughout the Middle East.”
To learn more about starting a Purpose Driven Church, visit pd.church/start.