Global Partner Interview: Michael Dionne

London, UK

Posted by Faith Bible Church on June 7, 2023
Global Partner Interview: Michael Dionne
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On a recent trip to England, pastor Nathan Thiry had the chance to sit down and interview one of our Global Outreach Partners, Michael Dionne. In this episode we have the opportunity to listen in and learn about ministry in London and how we can pray for the church there.

  • Automated Transcription
  • Dan Jarms 0:00
    Today on faith matters we have another Nathan Thiry's interviews with one of our global partners assignments with Michael Dionne.

    Dan Jarms 0:13
    I'm Dan Jarms. And you're listening to faith matters a podcast to help update you on matters of faith Bible Church, as well as equip you in matters of the Christian faith.

    Dan Jarms 0:32
    Last week we heard from Nathan Thiry as he was interviewing Marcus and Amie Denny, one of our global partners in Czech. On that same trip, he also got to sit down with Michael Dionne. And so here is the update from the Dionne family.

    Nathan Thiry 0:52
    Hey Faith Bible Church, this is Nathan Thiry pastor of global outreach. And I get to be here in London with Michael Dionne.

    Nathan Thiry 1:09
    Hey Mike, we're excited to hear a little bit from you about what God's doing here with you guys. And we just want to be informed and aware of what's going on here and just get to know you guys better via this, this conversation. So why don't you start out? Just tell us for those of those who don't know you very well, tell us about yourself? How to God lead you and your wife Vanessa to London.

    Michael Dionne 1:30
    Yeah, thanks, Nathan. Well, yeah, I was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. And I'm actually was have been a member of FBC. For as long as I can remember, my parents are there and grew up at FBC. And so grew up seeing the importance of church and of family life and fellowship and ministry, and had always had a heart to be a part of God's Church, whether personally as a minister or just as a church member. And so, Vanessa, and I met and got married in college and had thought about ministry, but pursued, lay ministry and had an opportunity to work in a few different places, but ended up kind of coming to the conclusion that we wanted to think about ministry, while our family was still young. And while we hadn't really put down roots, and so spent some time at FBC, working in in college ministry and got to do international student ministry. And that was kind of the first time that we got a taste for ministering outside of our normal context. And we really fell in love with serving people from different cultures and backgrounds and doing discipleship with Americans and with students and helping them think about how to evangelize and be effective witnesses in their in their contexts. So God use that to kind of start us thinking about the potential for overseas ministry. And then when we went to seminary, that's kind of how we were thinking, and through a whole bunch of different things, God really placed a burden on our hearts to be helping in a place where the church had originally been and had fallen from its former glory, so to speak. And so looking at Europe, looking at places where they you would call them maybe post church, and thinking about how do you plant churches and strengthen churches in a place where we would have normally thought, this is a Christian place. This is a place where the church is strong and thinking about America a few generations from now, when the kinds of things we're seeing happen in America have run their course and saying, how do you, Minister in that context? And so got to know a couple pastors who went to some same seminaries me and they were working out in London. And as we heard about their ministry and the needs of their church, Grace, life, London, we realized that it seemed like there would be a great opportunity for us to serve there. So about five years ago now we started pursuing that and prayed about that, and along the way, the Lord just bless every step in that direction. And so we're coming up on two years now in London, and it's been a huge blessing.

    Nathan Thiry 4:27
    That's great. Tell us what you've been focused on here in London. What's What do you guys is involved in here? What's your focus been?

    Michael Dionne 4:33
    I'm officially the pastor of administration and discipleship. So using my background and accounting and finance and working at churches to help Grace life London, organize and get more structure and think through how to take the various teams and ministries and resources that we have and use them well use them efficiently think about how to take advantage of people's gifts and, and actually get them plugged in serving, where they're where they're wrong and where God has helped them be effective and looking at how we've gone from kind of a church plant to now hopefully becoming a church that plants, other churches. So trying to think through how do we build a stable foundation to launch from. So that's what I'm doing on the administrative side working with the staff and the pastor's to solidify things so that we can start that outward looking approach. And then, for ministry, I get to focus on discipleship. So I'm working with our small group shepherds and trying to train and equip them and think through our equipping ministry, or our Discipleship Ministries in the church, and additionally getting to council getting to preach. And then as a family, our main ministry is hospitality. So getting to have people in our home on a regular basis, both from the church and from the neighborhood and trying to show Christ's love to our fellow believers, and the people who don't, don't know him yet. So it's been a full full plate for sure.

    Nathan Thiry 6:02
    Tell us what are some of the challenges that you guys are seeking to overcome? Both you guys as a family living here in London, but also in central London, and then also as a church, getting the church really established? Tell us, what are some of the things that you're facing that are challenging?

    Michael Dionne 6:17
    Yeah, I mean, being, as I said, post church and thinking about being in a really secularized society and a society that has rejected the Gospel out of hand, having understood it at a cultural level and choosing to move on or to ignore it. We're dealing with the effects of a couple generations of that kind of thinking, that kind of living. So even when people are saved, you want the Lord when the Lord rescues people, and brings them into his church, they're not coming in with a clear understanding of what family should look like, and of what hard work looks like and what gender roles are, and what society should look like. And we're blessed to have those things in our cultural DNA in the States, and those things aren't as forgotten as they are here in England, but even getting saved. It's not necessarily that people have the blueprint for, for good Christian living kind of built into their cultural upbringing. So there's just lots of discipleship, lots of counseling, lots of everyone learning how to do things from the ground up, which is a is a challenge. That's a joy, because people are excited to do it. They're excited to learn. But it is slow building. And so that's been a challenge for the church. The other challenge for the churches that we're one church in the middle of the middle of London. But we've got a couple of 100 members all coming from 45 minutes to an hour away, getting into central London. So learning how do we practice the one another's? How do we fellowship together? How do we care for one another one, we're also spread out over this city with 12 million people living within the city limits and another 12 in the surrounding area, we've got a third of the country within an hour's drive of us, two hours drive of us, but we're all pretty spread out. And so you can feel alone, and you can feel lonely, even in one of these big huge cities, and that can make the kind of church life that we're all used to feel really disconnected at times. So really working with discipleship teams and working with the pastors to think through how do we live life together? How do we how do we do that in a way that honors the Lord and, and so as I said, our family's primary way of doing that has been hospitality. And that's been sweet. But hospitality is a lot of work and it's draining. And so a challenge for us as a family has been figuring out what's the right amount of that kind of ministry to be doing so that we're not losing our time as a family and we're not getting distracted from basic parenting and marriage and those kinds of things. Because there's so many opportunities to do it that you end up spending three or four nights a week doing those kinds of hospitality evangelism things and then before you know it, the family barely feels like we know one another. So kind of learning that learning how to do that well and take those opportunities well, but also do things that are sustainable. And then additionally, just transitioning to a new culture, learning how to live in a city things like not having a car and feeling like we're you know, not from around here and learning how to how to be outsiders a bit and to enjoy that but to accept it and getting the boys settled into school and helping them learn how to love their friends and and then the other challenge has been just health stuff. Vanessa has had some health issues the boys seems like we're struggling with lots of colds and things like that. So just figuring out how to Be faithful even when we're still dealing with those kinds of things.

    Nathan Thiry 10:03
    And it sounds like a lot a lot you guys are working on together and trust in the Lord with tell us what are some of the highlights that you've seen? What are some of the things you've seen God doing here? And Grace? I've London?

    Michael Dionne 10:12
    Yeah, well, we joke that. One of the best things for Grace life, London has been the pandemic. We've just seen so many people who got us the lockdown and the pandemic, to draw them out and to humble them, and to bring them to Himself. And so, in the last two years, we've had over well, just about now, about 100 members joined the church, more than 40, baptisms. So we're seeing people who are committed to knowing God's word to loving his word to committing to his church, and to caring for his people. And doing that out of a time when it was, you know, we all use the term unprecedented in thinking about how hard everything was during that time. And seeing now that all that time the Lord was laying the foundation for growing his church and for establishing his people and seeing the church excited about faithful ministry and excited to grow more, we have a training center here that we have, this year, we have 50 people in, you know, a Bible Institute level class where they're learning Bible survey, and hermeneutics and theology, and they're spending a lot of time and even some money to get trained and to learn the word. And these aren't people who want to go on and be professors, or pastors or just church members who really want to know the truth and want to be faithful to understand the Lord. And our evangelism team is sharing the gospel. Every Friday night, and every other Saturday morning around London, and we're starting to actually see people hear the Gospel there and come to church, seeing people get plugged in, ask questions. We're just seeing the Lord working. And it's not pragmatism, it's not crazy, new methods and strategies for us. We're just preaching the Word, trying to disciple God's people and seeing God provide the growth. So that's been really sweet. We've also worked through last year worked through training on what elders are and what the Lord expects of elders. And we've had two men nominated by the church to become elders. So now we're training two men to become elders. And we have more that are hopefully in the pipeline in the years to come. So as we think about church planning, as we think about sending men and people around London to Plant more churches, there's a real potential now to see that the groundwork is there and God's doing that. So it's just sweet because it's not Wow, look at all the stuff we're doing. It's us feeling like we're a little bit overwhelmed with everything God's doing, and he's putting on our plate,

    Nathan Thiry 13:05
    super encouraging hearing all the stuff God's doing, said 40 People got baptized in the last year, last two years. Maybe tell us briefly the story of one of those people kind of what is loser background? Where are they coming from? What has gotten been doing to bring them to this point where they're ready to identify with Christ and with his church,

    Michael Dionne 13:23
    I'll give the story of one person I won't share his name. But this brother, he's in his early 20s. He was in film school acting school here in London, moved over from South America, and was studying to be an actor, and quite skilled in it. But as you can imagine, being in London being an acting school, just in one of the most worldly environments you can imagine, wasn't saved and was in a really not God honoring place. And then during the lockdown the Lord, convicted of a convicted him of a sin and got ahold of his heart, and used some of the online ministry of different pastors and preachers that we love and respect to help him see that he needed to repent. And he did. And he found our church and showed up and plugged himself in and has not only grown in Christ, but has demonstrated the kind of fruit that we would all hope to see, you know, being going from being in the most worldly of situations to being still enacting school and choosing not to take parts not to participate in things. Because he's actively saying, I'm a believer in Christ, and I cannot participate in that and having to figure out with his teachers, how am I going to graduate because I'm refusing to actually meet the standards I need to meet to do that, but I won't compromise And God blessing him with going through the training center and him learning the word and going out and evangelizing on the streets and meeting a young woman from our church who has a similar story of getting saved very recently, and then getting married only a year and a half after the Lord saved him. And so seeing him just now in the church, loving God's people, working hard to provide for his family. And you know, three years ago, he would have been as far away from that, as you can imagine. And again, it's just Christ, working in the hearts of men and women to rescue them. And we see that I mean, I've done 3040 membership interviews since I got here. That's the story of easily half of them living in the world. God uses the preaching of the Word to convict their hearts through YouTube, you know, through Instagram, gets gets a hook in their heart, and they end up finding our church and rejoicing to hear the word preached and God transforms their lives.

    Nathan Thiry 16:13
    That's great. Tell us how many different nationalities you think your church represents. I mean, their most of them probably are Londoners, their their English, but as far as their, their ethnic background, what what are the different backgrounds that God's brought together through the gospel?

    Michael Dionne 16:28
    I think five years ago, they did an international lunch. And we're planning on doing another one this summer. And so they had everybody bring food from their country. And I think five years ago, there were 40 Different countries represented. I hope I'm not exaggerating that But, and I would say we have at least that many, if not more, so if you showed up on a Sunday, you would see a good 50% or more people from African backgrounds, tons of Europeans, Eastern Europeans, and Brits. So you're gonna see people from Ghana, from Nigeria, from Uganda, from Romania, from France, from Ukraine, from a lots of lot of parts of England as well, you got some people from the States. So it is a extremely diverse group of people. And that's one of the things we get asked is What are you guys doing to make your church so diverse, and the beauty is that we're not doing anything, we're not the target isn't let's be diverse. The target is Let's preach God's word. And if you're around London, you're going to see a very similar makeup of people from all over the world. And that's what it's like in our church.

    Nathan Thiry 17:46
    Yeah, it was, it was great to be with you guys last Sunday and see all the different people from different nations that God's brought together in one body and the unity and we personally enjoyed speaking a lot of Spanish speakers, a lot of people from Spain and Latin America, who are part of your fellowship who speak Spanish, and English. So it was really fun. Tell us about your family. You guys have a lot of exciting developments going on with your family. So guys, just up to speed a little bit on what God's doing in the Michael and Vanessa de and family.

    Michael Dionne 18:12
    Yeah, well, you know, we're, we've got myself and Vanessa, we will be married 12 years this July. We've got our oldest son Elliot, who's nine years old. He's in year four here, which is the equivalent of third grade. He's in the football club at school. And he's loving, trying to figure out how to be an American in England. And we've got Arlo, who's five, he's in reception, which is kindergarten. And he's an artist, he just spends all day he spends all his time turning what we think of as trash or rubbish into beautiful treasures and works of art. And then we've got Henry James, who's three years old, and he's the life of the party. He's the comedian, and the Energizer Bunny. And so we've got a full house, he just started nursery this week, which is their kind of preschool. So he's getting to go play with his buddies for a couple hours a week. And, you know, he's finally a big boy, which he's really excited about. And then we've recently found out that Vanessa is pregnant with baby number four. So come November, we should be welcoming. If God wills one more. And, you know, that brings a lot of joy and a lot of exciting opportunities for God to show His provision because we're living in a two bedroom apartment in the middle of London. So the more people you fit in there, the more it feels like you're playing a game of sardines. And so we're thankful for God's provision. We're thankful for his grace and looking forward to seeing how we're gonna continue to problem solve, live in in in the city, but we love it because we're a five minute walk from the boys school and a 10 minute walk from church and our neighborhood is the neighborhood that our church is in. And so we get to really be able to live out what we're doing. Right right where it is get to invite classmates and their families to church and the Easter and get to see them when we're at the market and just really get to live. It's not a commute. And that's been a really, really huge blessing for us.

    Nathan Thiry 20:23
    It's exciting. We're excited for you all and your your boys are growing and also for the one on the way. Whether it be a boy or girl. Yeah, tell us what do you guys like to do for fun here in central London,

    Michael Dionne 20:35
    Vanessa and I would probably love to explore the art galleries in the museums on a regular basis. But our boys mostly want to find the biggest park possible and get as dirty as they can. So London has a lot of beautiful parks and playgrounds. And so pretty regularly, we'll just hop on a train or hop on a bus and go find a new park and run around and get a snack. And so we're we're, I wouldn't say I'm a foodie, I would say I'm blessed to live in a house full of foodies. So we get to enjoy some tasty food around here and just walk around and enjoy the architecture and the beauty of the parks. And then everyone smile we get out of the city and get to see a little bit of English countryside to, we're pretty simple.

    Nathan Thiry 21:21
    Tell us how we can be praying for you.

    Michael Dionne 21:23
    Yeah, I think, obviously pray for us as we get ready to welcome the next baby. And just as we parent our boys in the schools and navigate the culture here and discern how to be faithful and be a part of what's going on here in a way that also allows us to stand out for Christ and not to conform to what's happening around us and pray for the churches, we try to just continue to work on establishing the groups, the discipleship, fellowship groups, and train the men up who are leading those and as we raise up elders, and just as as a pastor pastoral team as we try to determine what the priorities are for church planning and training men and the training center. And you know, right now, as a church, we're maxing out our space that is wonderful building that God's given us. But we are bursting at the seams. So we're not sure if the Lord wants to provide another building or not, are there ways we aren't taking advantage of the space we're using? So there's all sorts of questions to ask and solutions to consider. And we just want to stay faithful to the gospel and not get pragmatic or sidetracked. But also try to reach everyone here who's eager to know God's word. So pray for me as I lead the staff at the church and try to help them maximize the gifts that the Lord has given them to serve the church and still find time to preach and teach as well.

    Nathan Thiry 23:06
    That's great. Thanks, Mike. We want one last question and tell us what you're looking forward to in the next year. Yeah, well,

    Michael Dionne 23:13
    next week is the coronation of King Charles the third. And it's a weird thing to have been here for Queen Elizabeth's passing. And I would say King Charles is probably not on the same page that she was, from a faith perspective. And so an exciting thing is that there's a real push in the city for evangelism. So there's going to be a couple extra million people here in the city and our church and a bunch of churches all over the world are working to really evangelize and to try to share the gospel at that. And so it's exciting to think that even if the king isn't as excited about the gospel as he should be, we're going to try to use the event around his coronation to talk about the true King and the final king, and his kingdom. So we're really prayerful that God will use that just for the blessing of people all over the world. And we have a conference in May that we're starting for expository preaching, trying to find people around England who are passionate to either learn or to practice preaching the Bible. In a you know, the way that we we have faith and the way we do it Grace life London and that's not something that's super common in England. So we're really hoping that we can find like minded men and like minded churches and start up place for people to who are passionate about good preaching to be practicing it and and learning how to do it so that England can hear the whole counsel of God preached faithfully. And then yeah, I think the one of the most exciting things for me is just training up these elders and their families and trying to help them and just Excited to see God bless that ministry. And then obviously, I'm really excited to meet Dee and baby number four. So yeah, we've got a lot of exciting things coming up here in the next year. And yeah, we're just rejoicing.

    Nathan Thiry 25:18
    Thanks for taking some time to talk to us. And thank you and Vanessa, for being here in London, to serve Christ in the service church and praying for you praying for your family, for your boys for the church here and for God's doing and we're really thankful we can partner together. So thank you so much for taking time today to talk with us.

    Michael Dionne 25:33
    It's my honor. We love you guys, FBC. Thanks for being such a blessing to our family.
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