James and Heather Cochrane have been serving in Portugal since 2008. Initially they were involved in leadership training, Bible teaching and discipleship (with the Portuguese Bible Institute), but in July 2013 they moved from the Algarve to Porto in northern Portugal to begin a church-planting project in collaboration with the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal (ICPP) called ‘Comunidade Pedras Vivas’ (CPV) which translates as “Living Stones’ Community”. CPV is based in Senhora da Hora in Porto and is led by James and Heather. In March 2019 Chris & Rachel Humphries joined the church planting team.
Church planting is a broad term that encompasses many varied tasks: prayer, planning, team building, evangelism, discipling, pastoring, building relationships and training future leaders. The building of relationships is very important to gain the respect of the Portuguese and break down many prejudices and misconceptions about what it means to be a Bible-based church. Together with their colleagues, James and Heather reach out to all age groups (children, young people, men and women) through one to one contact on the streets, formation of small groups to explore faith and Christianity, youth activities and ministry to couples. The shaping of the church to have a missional vision occurs through preaching and teaching and short courses to equip the members to live as disciples and share their faith with others.
They write, “Portugal is a religious nation with symbols of Christianity on every corner. However, only 0.5% of the population would claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. In this context of religious fervor, the task of church planting is steeped in prayer as we seek to live out our lives before those who do not know Jesus seeking opportunities to explain who Jesus really is, why he came and what this expression of God's love, grace and hope actually means here and now for the people of Portugal.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, James and Heather have continued to serve in Portugal and adapted their work and witness to comply with local restrictions. At times, when in-person meetings couldn't take place, church services, Bible studies and other church meetings moved online.
From 1996 to 2003 James and Heather served as church planters in north-east Brazil with the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (IPIB). They returned to Ireland and both completed degrees in theology, with James continuing to study as a ministerial student at Union Theological College, Belfast. He was ordained, after two years as assistant minister in Second Comber Presbyterian Church before leaving for Portugal in 2008. James later studied for an MA in Aspects and Implications of Biblical Interpretation with the London School of Theology. James and Heather have two daughters: Alana will complete her Masters degree at QUB in September 2022 and at the same time Lucy will begin her second year at QUB.
Pray for the people of Portugal who are surrounded by symbols of Christianity but with little or no knowledge of Jesus.
Making contacts and building relationships is crucial to the ongoing work of church planting. Give thanks for contacts already made and pray that members of CPV would be good witnesses to their friends and colleagues.
As CPV prepares to return to normal activities following lockdown, pray that there will be a tangible cohesion and sense of community among the church members and a desire to be actively involved in building relationships with the wider community.
Continue to pray for the witness of ICPP in Portugal. Pray for the many challenges this small denomination faces (approx. 250 members in Portugal).
James and Heather have recorded a short and long film clip which can be downloaded and used in church services, prayer meetings or events to raise awareness and prayer for what God is doing across the world, as we seek to go deep and wide in global mission involvement.
(For previous Digital Dispatches video clips click here)
July / August 2022
Comunidade Pedras Vivas (CPV) has grown very quickly over the past year. Some weeks we have 80-90 people gathering on Sunday mornings. We did not expect this growth so quickly in the church plant as back in the beginning (2013) and we could never have anticipated the arrival of so many immigrants in Portugal. We are thankful to God for the way he has moved people around the world and for the vibrancy and richness this brings to our church body. We are also thankful for a few Portuguese visitors in recent weeks, and we continue to pray that CPV will be a missional community that seeks to be intentional in its relationships with non-Christians in the workplace, neighbourhood, sports clubs, etc.
With this growth, it has become necessary to begin to form a local leadership. We are thankful for four men who lead up the biweekly small groups. James has gathered these men and one other to join with him as he leads a leadership course, which looks at the qualities of a spiritual leader, the role and vision of a church leader and the encouragements and challenges of leadership. It may be that among these men, God will call some to be elders as we consider the step of constituting CPV as a church, rather than a church plant.
Heather is also meeting with five women over the next six weeks as they work their way through a study called “Real change” published by CCEF. It is a course that helps us see how the gospel transforms us from the inside. It is our hope that this tool can be used with others within or outside CPV. This group of women is also thinking of ways in which to reach out to non-Christian women through relationship building and invites to group activities.
Give thanks for the growth of CPV.
Give thanks for our Portuguese members and for visits from a few other Portuguese people in recent weeks.
Pray that as a church we will seek to fulfil our mission as witnesses in the world, seeking to be salt and light in the nation of Portugal.
Pray for the five men who are going through the leadership course with James. Pray that some of these may even become the first elders of CPV.
Pray for the women of CPV currently meeting to study and plan outreach activities.
To download a printable PDF version of this bulletin or for a previous bulletin visit the Mission Reports listing at the top or the Global Mission monthly bulletin archive.