Chris Marantika stood at the podium, looking out at American church leaders gathered for a summer missions conference. “God is not dead. He’s alive!” Marantika roared. Then he said in a quieter tone, “He’s not even tired.” Laughter filled the auditorium.

Marantika is an engaging speaker. But for the seminary president who traces his roots to a tiny Indonesian island, the power of God is no laughing matter. He is a man who likes to believe God for big things—things that are humanly impossible.

In 1979, when he founded the interdenominational Evangelical Theological Seminary of Indonesia on the island of Java, he set a grand goal. Marantika wanted to start 1,000 churches by the year 2000. By the end of the first year, his seminary students and staff had planted 27 churches. Most Christian leaders would have been delighted, but not Marantika. His reaction was to expand the goal, explaining, “we have to have an objective beyond what is rational so that we can believe God for it.”

The seminary president’s vision grew to embrace all of Indonesia, a nation made up of more than 13,500 islands, nearly 1,000 of which are inhabited. Marantika reasoned that it is the church’s responsibility to disciple the entire nation. His next goal was to accomplish that task in one generation.

Marantika calls the plan “Indonesia 1:1:1,” and—along with the seminary—it is his favorite topic. His voice grows excited when he talks about the possibility of starting a church in every village in Indonesia by the year 2015. It is an ambitious project. Some 50,000 Indonesian villages don’t have a church.

This project is humanly impossible, and Marantika knows it. His ...

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