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6 Traits Ministry Leaders Must Have

Mark Junkans

In our current culture, true leaders that set an example worth emulating are getting harder to find. Sadly, this is true in ministry as well. There are several important traits that you should strive to embody as a ministry leader.

1. Stay Focused on the End Goal If you work in a ministry position you'll often be called to wear many hats. It's far too easy to get side-tracked and find yourself far away from what you're really supposed to be accomplishing. Write down your primary goals, post them on the wall right above your desk and enlist the help of other leaders and co-workers to help you stay on track.

2. Stay Christ-Centered As a church leader you always need to remember that Christ is the focal point of every endeavor. CTPastors points out that leaders must have a strong focus on things that always remain the same. There is nothing more unchanging than Jesus, the foundation of our faith. Having a strong, unwavering commitment to Jesus’ mission is crucial, otherwise you will begin to exchange lesser missions for the most important one.

3. Adhere to High Standards of Integrity If you've been called to a leadership position in ministry you will be held to a higher standard. Crosswalk.com states that integrity must encompass all areas of a leader's life, not just in a particular leadership position. To be a leader of integrity means to adhere to a high code of behavior in issues regarding the heart and the home as well as in public.

4. Learn to Deal With Criticism If you're in a position of leadership there will be criticism. Jesus received a lot of criticism during his ministry, both from those who adamantly opposed him and even at times from his own followers. It's important to not take it personally and respond with love and kindness.

5. But Still Accept Constructive Criticism Remaining humble and realizing you aren't going to get it right all the time is a necessary leadership trait. If you surround yourself with Godly individuals who genuinely care as much about the ministry as you do, it will be easier to take counsel and apply it.

6. Take a Team Approach Taking a team approach means you'll seek out and involve others in what you're trying to accomplish, and in the decisions you make. It also means working regularly with others and not going it alone. David Mathis in Desiring God writes that individuals are simply too frail, shortsighted and naturally sinful to go it totally alone without support from others.

Being a better leader takes a conscientious effort on a daily basis. Excelling as a leader isn't be easy, but this is what you’re called to.

What would you add to this list of crucial traits?

How to Identify Future Leaders in Your Ministry

Mark Junkans

As a church leader, you can’t try to run a church, ministry or mission alone for long – you’ll burn out. One of your most important tasks as a leader is to find and develop other leaders -- the men and women who will lead your small groups, disciple others and carry the mission of the church forward beyond your own personal limitations.

Identifying Future Church Leaders

You’ve probably heard the saying, “leadership is influence.” We use this phrase to remind each other that we all have a responsibility to lead ourselves and those around us as best we can.

Unfortunately, although every person is a leader in this sense of the word, far fewer people have been given the right mixture of leadership gifting and character that allow them to take up more formal leadership positions in ministry.

In fact, finding the right leaders can be downright difficult. So how can we search better?

Make Time

The biggest obstacle many pastors face is that they don’t have time to look for and develop new leaders – they’re too busy running everything themselves!

You must carve out time for finding potential new leaders and then invest time in building a relationship with them. Only by getting to know them better can you assess their leadership potential.

Who has potential within your church? How can you make time to get to know them better?

Look for Character First

Raw leadership talent is important, but it isn’t everything. A talented leader without the right character can do more damage to your ministry than a less-skilled leader with a true heart for Jesus.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, Samuel is looking for a leader, specifically the future king of the Israelites. God gives him some advice about what to look for:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Examine the hearts of the people around you. Who has the character and faith to set a great example in leadership?

Use the People God Has Given You

When we talk about identifying and developing future leaders, we often assume this means young people – and it often does. It is important the church makes room for young leaders, but don’t discount other generations either.

This is especially true when you have a ministry with very few young people. Instead of choosing someone unsuitable, cast your net a bit wider. God can use anyone, at any age. Moses was about 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt!

Is there anyone you have unintentionally looked over because they don’t fit your initial expectations?

LINC's Philosophy and Mission Model

Mark Junkans

Our Mandate

We the church have been given a mandate by our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, to make disciples of everyone everywhere.

Everywhere we look, there are people who don’t yet know how much God loves them. They haven’t heard the Good News that Jesus died for their sins so they may have peace with God. Instead, they try to make it in this world as best they can. And this world can be a very difficult place, causing many to lose hope.

Because of wide-scale poverty, families in our urban communities struggle to even put food on the table. Children grow up in neighborhoods where the streets have more influence on them than their parents and teachers. Families struggle to stay together and most children grow up without a single positive role model.

Immigrant families struggle in much the same way. Language barriers, lack of education and higher lever job skills make attaining a well-paying job extremely difficult. Most piece together multiple part-time jobs, which leave little time for their families and provide very little money to sustain them.

People from everywhere around the globe now live in our cities, and they bring with them their own cultures, beliefs and values. The city is a challenging mission field to say the least. But this is the mission field where LINC has been called by God to focus all of our efforts, the communities that are the most unreached and underserved by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

We also wanted to expand our ministry into new cities where the same challenges are present, but in order to do this well, we first had to figure out how to overcome three basic challenges: the Challenge of Impact, the Challenge of Sustainability and the Challenge of Scale.

Impact:

When most people think of ministry in the city, they think of charity work and service projects.

But charity work among the destitute actually serves a very small percentage of individuals in the city who are unable to function normally in society. The vast majority of the poor throughout our city don’t fall into this category of needing charity. Instead, they need empowerment and opportunity.

Service projects by outside groups are a tremendous blessing to people like the elderly and those who are truly helpless. The problem is that most of the projects that outside groups come to do in the city actually take initiative away from proud and able -bodied individuals who could learn to do these things for themselves. Instead of helping people fix their situation, it helps keep them there waiting for the next handout.

Most service projects create a lot of good will among the volunteers, but make very little lasting positive impact in the local community.

And possibly the biggest challenge for the church, is that we’ve come to equate relief work with mission work.

Let’s look at what mission work is: To take the message of Jesus Christ to places where the His kingdom of grace isn’t yet established. In its narrowest terms, every heart without Jesus is a mission field.

The outcomes for all mission work ultimately results in new disciples and new churches. At LINC, we seek to accomplish these outcomes by training new leaders for ministry who plant new churches that reach, impact and transform their communities with the Gospel of Christ.

We believe that this focus provides the best potential Kingdom impact in our communities.

The outcomes for all mission work ultimately results in new disciples and new churches.

Sustainability:

Another challenge to work in the city is sustainability. Usually the communities that need the most focus and attention also have the fewest financial resources.

In low-income communities, families often live day to day or week to week, not knowing where the money will come from for tomorrow. When whole communities are living in survival mode, its extremely difficult to sustain even basic services without outside assistance.

Mission work in these communities faces the same challenges. Outside resources are instested into new mission work in an new community. When those resources eventually go away, that mission is typically left unsustainable and struggles to even survive. In fact, most don’t, and that community is left without a mission presence until the next outside group rallies the resources to start new work. This cycle repeats itself over and over until the residents stop trusting any new work, and outside supporters stop believing that their contributions will actually make a lasting impact.

By focusing on the development of local leaders who can properly leverage their own resources, we know that our work will be more sustainable. A missionary leader who learns to develop the resources God has put in front of him primarily needs the proper training, coaching and incentives to do the work they’ve been called to do. That is precisely what LINC provides in order to create a sustainable mission field.

By focusing on the development of local leaders who can properly leverage their own resources, we know that our work will be more sustainable.

Scalability

Because of the unique challenges in each community, a ministry model that works in one location rarely replicates itself into another. It typically takes such an incredible amount of energy and ingenuity just to make something become effective and sustainable that the idea of scaling or multiplying is unfathomable. That, or we try to scale ideas prematurely with little success.

LINC has been working in the city of Houston for 14 years, and has helped other LINC organizations begin around the country. This isn’t based on a single model that is difficult to replicate, but on the basis of principles that are universal to mission work in the City.

The first principle is that the main goal of all mission work is to make disciples, who in turn make disciples. The second principle is that planting new churches is the primary means of making new disciples, through the Means of Grace, Christ’s Word and Sacrament. The third principle is this, that mission work is best done through local leaders who are indigenous to that community. The fourth principle is that work in the city must be holistic in nature in order to truly be impactful. In other words, that community transformation should be an intended outcome of all urban church planting.

Because of the unique challenges in each community, a ministry model that works in one location rarely replicates itself into another.

We’re now doing everything with the end-goal of multiplication. Multiplication of disciples, ministry leaders, churches and community transformation work here in the cities like Houston where LINC already works, and into new cities across the world.

We’re networking leaders on a local and a national level for encouragement and the sharing of best practices. We’re producing programs and materials that are teachable and reproducible in every community. Finally, we’re building a back-end system and replication model for launching LINC ministries in new cities.

Only by God’s grace are we able to move forward so that more lives and communities will be transformed by the power of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

That God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.

The Basics of Christian Community Development - Part 1

Mark Junkans

Doing Community Development Work is In Our DNA

The church has historically been at the forefront of community development work. It was Jesus and his disciples who preached a radical new equality for society.  It was the early church that was famous for its love in action, both for those within the church and those outside of it.  Throughout history the church has built hospitals, looked after the poor, helped widows and orphans survive and make a living, was leading the fight for civil rights and has provided jobs through social enterprise. 

The Christian church takes a holistic view of community.  In other words, that the people in communities are both physical and spiritual beings and should be treated as such.  It is our view that it is not simply enough to address one or the other, but rather we should seek to better our communities in both realms, the spiritual and the physical.  While many of us would like to think that our responsibility for the surrounding community is simply spiritual in nature, Jesus showed us on numerous occasions that how we respond to the physical needs around us are of high importance.

While this holistic approach may seem common sense to some, as a church we have largely moved away from this practice.  With the rise of public services, many of us who follow Jesus have abnegated our responsibility for the well-being of the community that surrounds us. Also, as many of us have been insulated from true poverty for most of our lives, and as such it is more and more difficult for us to relate to those in need.  After all, we have what we need. Why can't others just work harder and get what they need?

The truth is that, in many communities, the basic building blocks for personal and professional development are simply not there. While we can point to some exceptional individuals who have risen out of poverty to become successful, we have to ask ourselves why this is not the norm? The other question we have to ask ourselves is "What is the churches responsibility for its community?” and “What should be our response?”

As a primer for Christian community development, we should look at a few key points to remember.

The first issue we need to deal with is the root cause of poverty in communities. While there are several possible causes, and each community is different, there are some common themes and issues in underdeveloped communities around the world.

1.    Why Are Communities Poor?

Indeed there are many acute causes of poverty like war, natural disasters, famine, drought, etc.  In these situations the church’s response should always be to help provide for the immediate needs of those affected.  Poverty in traditionally poor communities, however, is normally fueled by ongoing factors that inhibit the individual's ability to become successful.  These factors are both systemic in nature and chronic.  

Major factors leading to poverty in communities include (but not limited to):

  • Lack of skills and knowledge
  • Poor health
  • Lack of opportunity
  • Lack of resources

          Ref: http://www.gdrc.org/sustdev/causes-poverty.html

It is true that not every middle class caucasian is a racist, we also can't deny the fact that many of these poverty factors are due to historical and ongoing inequality, injustice and prejudice.  If the church is going to be serious about addressing poverty in communities, then it also must be honest about the causes and the part it has played in promoting those up to this point. Doing so can go a long way in the church’s ability to actually deal with real issues, and not just those on the surface as seen from our viewpoint.

So why are communities poor?  The first step in community development is to discover the answers for your particular community. Only then can you address real issues that can build up your surrounding community and not just continue to put Band-Aids on the symptoms.

2.    The Church’s First Response

“They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”  When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”  (Neh 1:3-4 NIV)

The first response of the church when faced with the reality of broken communities should be the same as that of Nehemiah.  We should actually feel something when we realize how broken and under-resourced our communities truly are.  It is not enough to talk clinically about statistics, however, we must be moved to action through our God given compassion. Nehemiah sat down and wept when he saw the broken down gates of Jerusalem, but he didn’t just stay there.  Nehemiah fasting and prayed seeking God’s help for his community.  

An emotional response to the reality of poverty in our community also shouldn’t lead us to knee-jerk reaction just to feel better.  As followers of Christ, we must first seek His will and His help, knowing that Jesus is the only source of all goodness and hope for a better community.

So What Next?

So if we believe that the church should take responsibility for the well-being of it's surrounding community, that there are identifiable causes for brokenness and poverty in community, and that we should seek God on behalf of our communities, what do we do next?

 

Dancing With An Elephant

Mark Junkans

Kenyan Pastor Muriithi Wanjau shared this parable at the Great Commission Summit 2014 at Concordia University, Irvine. It paints a very painful, but accurate, picture of how Western Christians generally approach partnership with are brothers and sisters in other countries.

Needless to say, his whole talk was amazing, and I was so grateful that he made the flight all the way from Kenya to address the conference.

Click here to watch his entire message to the conference, which I highly recommend.

Why no church planting movements in Western Democracies

Mark Junkans

From "An Interview with Dr. Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History (Part 2)" - Ed Stetzer

Ed: There are 34 Western industrialized democracies in the world. And among the majority peoples of those nations, missiologists have not seen a break-out church planting movement. Would you say that is because the way we think and relate to one another or is there something missing that in our context that prevents it from happening?

Dr. Jenkins: If you're in a country where there is basically no Christian presence then something can grow very, very rapidly. But in a country like Britain or Germany, it grows and defines itself up against an existing church establishment. In fact, I would argue that there have been movements like this in Western countries.

I agree with this assessment, it's more difficult to do truly missionary work when you're battling against the established norms of the church at large in society.

This is also why, I believe, a house church model hasn't really picked up steam in the US either. There are just so many "real churches" to belong to.

Small Urban Churches: Accepting Reality Without Giving Up

Mark Junkans

I love Ed Stetzer's article about small churches.  In many communities, there are limiting realities that keep a church from growing beyond a certain size.  In my context, the urban and immigrant communities of Houston, we knew that small would be our normal church size when we began.  There are several factors that contribute to this, and I believe, allow us to not be ashamed when answering the "how big are your churches" question.  Here are a few of them:

1.  Transient Communities

Stetzer address this in his article 

"Persistent turnover is a reality for some smaller churches because of their location. Churches near universities and military bases almost have a new congregation every three to five years.

Think of the kingdom impact these small churches have as they invest in and train students and soldiers before they are launched throughout the world."

In most of our immigrant communities, households tend to move around a lot due to a combination of economics, immigration and opportunity.  A ministry in a transient community will work very hard to make new disciples, only to see them move to a new community or back to their home country within 6 months to a year.  This trend is also prevalent among young urban dwellers moving into lofts, university students and other mobile demographic groups.  A ministry among these people groups will have a difficult time growing beyond a certain size because their disciples are always moving somewhere else.  Stetzer continues:

"Small churches that recognize their calling in transient places focus on discipling those God has given them knowing that He will plant them somewhere else. These are healthy churches on mission for the glory of God."

One of the blessings of this type of ministry is that the ministry can continually be training and sending out missionary families that are equipped to reach a new community.  It may not grow the local ministry when the move, but it's not a loss for the Kingdom.

2. Stagnated Communities

Another issue with long-standing urban communities is one of stagnation.  Existing families are often stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty, and new families aren't moving into the community at a high rate.  Ministry in this type of community takes a very long time to develop and grow.  It takes years just to build trust in the community, and those that do live there don't immediately jump up and down with excitement when a new church puts up a sign and begins worship.  They've seen ministries come and go, and yet their community is in the same condition it has been for decades.  

Ministry in a stagnated community is difficult and long-term, and most church planters either aren't willing or financially able to dedicate years of unglamorous and seemingly "unsuccessful" work before they decide that they are called elsewhere.  Sometimes just surviving in an urban community takes more entrepreneurship, creativity and dedication than most Christian leaders are capable of mustering.  Stetzer sums up this idea with this sentence.

"Where there is little community growth, there may be little church growth, but that shouldn't keep us from trying."

3. Sustainability

Because of the social dynamics and economic realities in an urban/immigrant setting, a large congregation sometimes just isn't sustainable.  It takes a tremendous level of administrative skill to maintain a large congregation in such an unstable and dynamic environment.  This isn't unique to urban settings, by the way.  The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings, according to the National Congregations Study (NCS) http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/.  Few if any small urban churches are able to financially support their pastor because the median income of the members is at or below the poverty level, and because new disciples aren't as faithful in their stewardship.  This makes it even more difficult for even a talented leader to grow, manage and sustain a large congregation in this setting.  It also takes great financial resources to purchase or lease and maintain a larger facility, which is a limiting factor in church growth in this setting.

4. Re-definition of "Successful"

After explaining the ministry of one of our urban churches and how many new believers had been baptized in the past year,  I was asked by the pastor of a large congregation "but are they successful."  While he didn't say it directly, what he really meant was "are they becoming a large church?"  I wanted to say, "are you freaking kidding me? One young, small urban church has helped rescue people from drug addiction, gangs and domestic abuse, and has baptized almost 20 adults last year.  You're asking me if they're successful?"  I controlled myself and simply responded "yes, they are very successful."  I know how much work it took for just one of those individuals to come to faith and to begin following Jesus.

Given the reality that the vast majority of our churches won't become large congregations, we still have to gauge whether we're achieving our outcomes of growing the Kingdom of God throughout the city.  The marks of a successful church, for us, are three-fold.  1. They are making new disciples, 2. They are multiplying, 3. They are making an impact in their community.  No matter the size, we expect to see new followers of Jesus, daughter churches and spin-off ministries and tangible blessings in their surrounding community through the work of their members.

For the Church Leader

If you're a pastor, denominational leader or mission developer, you probably need to re-examine the process and system you currently use to begin, support and fund new missions in these settings.  Accept that fact that the normal size for a new mission church in an urban or ethnic community will be small, but that fact doesn't diminish the missional importance of this work.  A lot of leaders I know throw up their hands and say, "it's not possible because they'll never become self-sufficient, so we don't do it."  Yes, it's true that a new church in this setting that begins with a full-time, full-salaried worker will not likely ever become self-sufficient.  So let's abandon a ministry model that doesn't work in this new reality without abandoning the mission of Jesus.  

Whatever system we establish needs to account for this reality, and empower disciple-making, multiplication and community impact.    A system must be set up to support smaller, self-sufficient and sustainable ministries that are able to multiply themselves.  You're a creative person, or at least you know someone who is.  Isn't it worth it to try and find a way to reach the unreached who are all around us?  Who knows, one of those churches will grow beyond your wildest dreams, but don't expect it to be the norm.  

How our organization approaches missions and communities

Mark Junkans

Why do we operate the way we do at LINC?

Many years ago our organization began with a unique approach to ministry. Instead of continuing to import leadership and resources into communities, we made it our priority to identify and empower local leadership. This is our approach both in church planting and community development. We believe that all communities have assets and resources that God can use to grow His Kingdom and improve people's lives.

The Apostle Paul, in his third missionary journey, invested time and energy in people from the local communities where he worked. When he got to a city, he didn't immediately call for professional leaders to move there and lead the ministry. Instead, he equipped local leaders to form new communities and carry out the mission of the church in that place. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily (Acts 19:20).

This doesn't mean that outside help isn't needed. Training, tools, access to resources, knowledge, and skills are all valuable contributions that partners can make from the outside of a community. The difference in the approach is one of empowerment versus dependency, or asset-based versus needs-based. An asset-based approach seeks to train and equip individuals to eventually solve their own problems. In contrast, a needs-based approach perpetually does for and gives to communities in need.

What communities need are individuals committed to building them up through their resources of time, energy and skill. There are a lot of reasons that people give for not investing in low-income communities. Many of these reasons are based on long-held stereotypes, past experience, lack of understanding or just misinformation. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure, people often don't act because they don't know where to start. We suggest that, instead of looking for people to go give things to, compassionate individuals should develop meaningful partnerships with local leaders already in place.

How does LINC do this work?

First of all, we empower local leaders in a community (usually through a local mission church) to identify and meet the needs of their own community. Leaders in a community are more likely to know what the real needs are. They are also more likely to know who is truly in need and who is not.

Second, we train local leaders how to impact a wider group. One of the benefits of local leadership is that they are known and trusted by the community. They often have dreams of doing something greater in their community, but have access to a limited supply of resources. We spend a lot of time training local leaders how to obtain, develop, manage and utilize more resources to build up their communities.

Third, we maintain a partnering relationship, but also purposely get out of the way so that local groups can eventually grow without the need for outside help.

Fourth, we connect leadership from one community to train and empower leaders from another community. This creates an interdependent network of communities and allows local leaders to grow by becoming a resource to others.

If you are a well-resourced individual, there is a great need for what you have to offer. It may surprise you how a different approach to missions and community work can multiply your resources instead of simply transferring them to another community.

Justice And The Gospel

Mark Junkans

Excerpt from paper presented at CTS Theological Symposium ~~~~~~~~

The church cannot forgo its responsibility to proclaim the Gospel, for in doing so it ceases to be the church. Neither can it forgo its responsibility of being a neighbor to those who are in need and are hurting from injustice. It must continue to give voice to the voiceless, and in doing so, proclaims God’s love and concern for all people. As the church speaks to and works for justice, a portal is created whereby some may be able to hear the trumpet blast of the Gospel more clearly. Moved by compassion, we meet the needs of those around us and proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus. We shouldn’t stop there, however. 

If we truly love our community, we should go beyond the combination of charity work and the Gospel. In Christ we are free, yes we are compelled to seek justice and equality, to seek the full development of communities in every sense. By doing so, we are proclaiming loudly that God loves all men equally and that Christ’s atoning work on the Cross does more than just open the way to heaven, it restores all things.

Three Things Necessary for Missional Movement

Mark Junkans

I believe that there are three things necessary to foster a church planting / missional movement within our church body. These three, of course, are in addition to the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.

1. Permission
People within a system are hesitant to move forward and plant new ministries unless they feel that they have permission to do so. This permission comes primarily when I, as a church planter, learn that others have done something similar with success. It also comes from my ecclesiastical authority. So many times entrepreneurial leaders don’t try new things is because they don’t feel they have the permission to do so.

2. Provision
Missional leaders need resources. These are not only financial, but there is a great need for training, best-practices, materials and partnerships. Without proper provision, the movement may be stunted.

3. Protection
If there is a possibility of being picked off by the world and also those within the church body who are against what the missionary is doing, then the entrepreneurial spirit begins to weaken. This protection comes from the fellowship of brothers in the ministry who will band together and have each others’ back when one of them is attacked. The ecclesiastical leadership also has to grant protection to the mission leader. I am privileged to be in a District that will protect me when someone raises an issue with the ministry that I am leading. Others don’t have that privilege. Thoughts?

I have wanted to flesh this out a lot more, but need more time to do so.

Denominations, Associations and Networks

Mark Junkans

Denomination

A religious denomination is a body of churches and individuals who are bound to each other through common creed and covenant.  Denominational belief requirements for membership range from the basic credal frameworks to tightly knit systems of theology with no wiggle room for variance.  Some denominations are more movement oriented while others are more static.  Some denominations inter-relate while others remain isolated from the church at large.  Within denominations there are often smaller divisions like districts, synods, regions, etc.  Most major denominations today, unfortunately, have fallen into common human power and control patterns and use politics and the primary means of doing so.

Association

An association is a group of organizations or individuals who have banded together for a specific purpose.  They generally have a common goal or philosophy that can be promoted better as a group.  There are associations of churches for just about every kind of cause or ministry area.  Some examples are the Willow Creek Association, Association of Christian Accountants and the Chrsitian Community Development Association.  The members of an association don't generally share the level of theological unity within denominations, however, they do share common values and philosophies regarding a particular issue or area of practice.  Associations are generally well developed organizationally as well.  The association normally assesses membership dues and also provides resources to its members in return.  Associations are only as valuable to the member as the benefits derrived or the accomplishments that are made as a whole. 

Network

A network is a loose connection of individuals, organizations and churches that acts mainly as a social connector.  Networks generally have a lower requirement of commitment for membership and serve primarily to allow for one on one and small group interaction.  Membership of networks is generally at-will and people go in and out of networks as their situation and needs change.  While some networks have a creedal requirement for membership, others simply require that basic values be upheld by its members.

The size of the circle indicates the amount of influence that the entity traditionally has on the congregation. The porousness of the border indicates requirements for membership. The requirements and influence are possibly reversing between the three circles.Networks and associations are nothing new, both in the secular and religious worlds.  Traditionally, networks of like-minded individuals, organizations and ministries serve a purpose for a particular time period.  They provide a loose connection to others with the same interests, philosophy, purpose or style.  In the church world, congregations and ministries operate within certain frameworks, networks and denominations.  Here is the basic breakdown of each type of organization.

What this all means for the church

As traditional institutions lose their power, influence and sense of mission/purpose, churches and ministry leaders are seeking connection and fellowship outside of their institutions.  The rise of inter-denominational networks and associations is nothing new, but there is now shift in how people identify and distinguish themselves.  The majority of churches still belong to denominations, as this provides a theological framework and ecclesiastical accountability structure that is needed for the individual pastor and church.  Churches are less likely, however, to identify themselves publicly with denominations as they were before.  Denominational membership acts more as the foundation upon which the individual congregation grows, and less as the distinguishing outward mark of the church.  Membership in a network or an association is quickly becoming the more common public statement of solidarity among new churches.

Is this shift just a reactionary trend to the decline of institutions?  Will networks and associations someday replace the denomination?  Will networks evolve into denominations?  These questions are yet to be answered.

I do believe, however, that the church is experiencing a more dynamic reality where churches can multiply more creatively and rapidly.  Denominations and districts will either accept this and promote connection to networks and associations, or they will still further attempt to control and restrict their members.  I see great potential for a movement within the mix of denominations, associations and networks.  If a church planting movement is happen, though, institutions will need to reassess their role and begin to loosen their grip on the methods and practices of their members.  If not, they will see themselves become more irrelevant and unneeded in the minds of our new generation of church planters, ministries and congregations.

Are Mission Trips Really Mission?

Mark Junkans

The church is supposed to be about the mission of God.  However, every follower of Jesus, small group or congregation sometimes gets to the point where they don't know where to go "do" missions.

First of all, let's start by listing what mission isn't.  Mission isn't necessarily

  1. Painting houses
  2. Handing out food
  3. Running a sports camp
  4. Tutoring
  5. Collecting items for the poor
  6. Flying to exotic locations and building houses

Mission trips may include these activities, but these aren't in and of themselves mission.  In other words, just because you do something good for someone less fortunate doesn't mean that you did missions.

"Hey," you say, "we just went on a mission trip and that's exactly what we did.  In fact, we even did this with your organization (LINC)."  True, doing good work among the poor can make an impact and there is nothing wrong with this.  The problem, however, is when we exclusively turn mission into a trip or an activity that is outside of our normal context.  Don't get me wrong, I love opening people's eyes about the needs of our communities.  I get excited when youth and adults get a chance to see things from the perspective of the poor, and I appreciate the help in getting our message out to the people we are called to serve.  Mission groups are a tremendous blessing to us.

Mission may involve service to the poor, but that in and of itself isn't mission.  

Mission is working to extend the kingdom of God.  More narrowly defined, it's to extend the kingdom of God among unreached people or people groups.

We could divide missions into three categories based on the activity and role of that group.

  1. Frontline Missions
    • These are the missionaries working in and among a community, bringing the Gospel message of Christ to people who don't yet know him, and forming groups of disciples.
  2. Support Systems
    • Agencies and congregations who directly support missions.
    • This includes support staff, financial support, training, coordination and other means of directly helping to facilitate and promote mission work.  (mission agencies, congregations, etc)
  3. The Church
    • The whole church participates, or should participate, in missions by praying, financially supporting and sending warm bodies to help run outreach programs.
    • Whatever the church is doing, it needs to make sure that it isn't fostering a dependency model or one that is void of Gospel proclamation. 

Understand not only where you fit within the mission system, but how you can best serve where you are.

When you go on a mission trip to do a service project, you aren't necessarily doing mission work in a biblical sense of the word.  You are more than likely acting as a support for the ongoing mission work that happens in that place and helping to create trust with the community in which they serve.

Your main goals are (in this order) to: learn, serve and amplify the Gospel message in that community.  If you are really blessed, you will even get a chance to share the message of Jesus verbally with someone.

Above all, let your mission trip be a way for God to awaken in you a heart for the lost.  Maybe through this experience he will call you into missions as a way of life, wherever you are.

What is the answer to the question, "Are most mission trips really mission?"  It depends on your definition of the word.  

So....what is your definition of "Mission Trip"?

Is There A Future For Denominations?

Mark Junkans

This slogan epitomizes the desire of ultra-conservatives to go back to the "glory days" of the church when brand loyalty and uniformity reigned supreme.

In the back of most everyone's minds within denominations is the fact that we are losing members.  My denomination has lost about 500,000 members in the last few decades alone with thousands of congregations very close to closing their doors.

Chris Owens, a UMC pastor from Maryland, talks about the issue of decline in his denomination.  His is not alone, as all mainline denominations in the US are in decline.  He writes:

"Jabbing and slinging mud at the mainline church has become a new intellectual sport among church leaders, and at first glance, this blog may be yet another fruitless contribution to the worn out question, “Why is the mainline church dying?” It is not. I’m moving on from mudslinging to asking questions that might lead us into resurrection. How can the mainline church enter into Christ’s resurrection, and what does that resurrection look like?"

In his blog post "Beginning with New Questions for a Church In Decline, Part 1," he sets for a set of new questions for churches to wrestle with.

Question #1: How can we get our churches growing again?

This question is the most common question asked by denominational leaders, churches, pastors and other leaders within an institution.  This is an institutional questions because it deals with the survival and longevity of the corporate body.  This question points back to the glory days when our churches were actually growing in numbers.  This question is asked of our current church which is in a new era with new realities.  The fact is that in this day and age, most of our churches are in steep decline and may never recover.  We no longer have the biological growth that contributed to our rise, nor are millions of adherents to our particular denominations flooding our borders from foreign countries.

The sad fact is, that many of our more conservative leaders in the church aren't even asking the question about growth.  They are only concerned with being faithful to our theological and ecclesiastical heritage.  Adopting an almost Calvinistic approach to denominational survival, they might say something like this "If we are only faithful to our historical doctrines and practices, God will bring to us those who He has chosen.  Ours is not to seek growth, but simply to remain pure."  What's lacking in this thought pattern is any evangelistic zeal to make new disciples of Jesus.  While I don't believe that our primary question should be "how do we get our churches growing again," I do believe that it's just as wrong to assume that unbelieving people will come to our churches simply to find pure theology.  Without mission, the church has no real reason to exist.  The mission of Jesus is to seek and to save the lost.

Question #1 Rephrased: How can we build the kingdom of God with new disciples of Jesus?

This question begins to get at the real issue.  The issue here is the making of new disciples.  Anybody who has been caught in a financial crisis knows that there are two issues to balancing the budget, revenue and expenses.  A continual and long-term cutting of expenses will eventually leave the organization or household without adequate resources to have any impact.  Along with short-term austerity measures, there must be an inflow of new dollars.  Large corporations has long-since created new brand segments in order to reach new markets.  The modern corporation is a complex and highly diversified organization that is continually seeking to break into new markets.  They know that their original core product line is not sufficient to maintain overall growth into the future.  Current denominations may not exist very far into the future as they do now.  If they insist on maintaining strict brand loyalty only one product line (the archetypical congregation), they will see an ever-decreasing market share.  Realizing that the use of business terms to talk about spiritual issues may put some people off, I do so only to help the reader better comprehend the issue.  I do believe that God grows His church only through the power of the Gospel message.

There needs to be a greater diversity of forms and ministries to reach our ever-diversifying communities.  The idea that the European form of church transcends culture and will be the prominent form into the future is pure baloney.  The European forms that have been forced upon Christians in developing countries are rapidly being shed in order for the Gospel to take root at an dizzying rate.  We are witnessing the quick rise of post-colonial Christianity throughout the developing nations, and with it, millions of new believers are coming into the Kingdom.  God is blessing these movements in spite of the fact that they no longer use European ecclesiastical forms and structures.  Maybe this fact alone gives an indication of how the body of Christ in the West make new disciples into the future.

Surviving The Great Shakeup

Many writers say that we are on the verge of a complete shake up of Christianity in the West, which happens about every 500 years or so.  I believe that, at the heart of this movement, will be the realization that the growth of the kingdom of God is much more important than that of the denominational kingdoms of men.  When we once again seek to grow the kingdom of God instead of just our own brand, we may have a chance of coming out the other side with some health and validity.  Signs of this are being seen with the rise of networks that transcend denominations.  These new networks of churches and ministries are about sharing best practices and resources for the multiplication of Jesus followers.  Pastors and new church planters are no longer confined to learning from and working alongside people from other stripes and tribes.

Will our denominations survive these cataclysmic changes?  I don't know, and frankly, I'm not that concerned about it.  I will work within my denomination as long as God allows, but the future belongs to Jesus himself, not our historic church bodies.  He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  He himself will use whatever form is necessary to accomplish His mission on earth.  I no longer pray that my particular brand of Christianity will thrive and survive, but rather that the highest number of people possible will come to know and follow Jesus in my lifetime.  I'm not working against my denomination, but alongside it for the sake of the kingdom.  I am also extrememly excited that I can be an observer and participant in this worldwide shakeup of Christianity.  I love chaos and navigating the dynamics that are involved. I believe that the church is at her best when things are in flux, and that a renewed dependance on the Holy Spirit can arise out of this.  What do you think?

From House Church to Small Church

Mark Junkans

As I was reading "Leadership and Church Size - How Strategy Changes with Growth" by DR. TIMOTHY KELLER - Original Article, I was again struck with the challenges of moving any size organization from one stage to another. There are so many dynamics working against change that sometimes the task seems impossible. I especially found the section interesting on House Churches, because that's the size almost all of our ministries start at within LINC. The goal of almost all of our churches is to grow beyond the house church size and multiply. However, the various factors that work against this growth prove to be too difficult for some church planters to overcome.
House Church

Crossing the threshold to the next size category

The house church, like any small group, gets to saturation rather quickly. Once it gets to 40+ people, the intense face-to-face relationships become impossible to maintain. It then faces a choice: either multiplying off another house-church or growing out of the house-church dynamics into the next size category, the small church.

If it does not do either, evangelism becomes essentially impossible. The fellowship itself then can easily become ingrown and stagnant somewhat stifling, sometimes legalistic.

An ongoing problem for the stand-alone church of this size is the low quality of ministry to specific groups like children, youth, and singles. If it opts to multiply into another house church, the two (and eventually several) house churches can form an association and do things like youth ministry together. They can also meet for joint worship services periodically.

If it opts to grow out of the house-church size into a small church, it needs to prepare its people to do this by acknowledging the losses of intimacy, spontaneity, and informality and agreeing to bear these as a cost of mission, of opening its ranks to new people. This has to be a consensus group decision, to honor the dynamics of the house church even as it opts to change those dynamics.

I believe that if a house church really wants to grow beyond its current form, several things must take place:

The church must decide that it wants to grow. This seems like a no-brainer, but groups that get too comfortable don't really want to grow anymore. Things grow to a point where there are enough people to keep things interesting and give an appearance of success. If the group isn't really in agreement that growth is God's will and should happen despite the changes it brings, then it probably won't.
Evangelism must become the number one priority. All other activities become secondary. If this shift can't or doesn't happen, stagnation becomes almost inevitable
New goals must be set and achieved. Groups of people naturally settle into a routine. The problem with most churches that plateau at the house church stage is that they don't have goals that stretch them. Most of their attention goes to in-group activities. What start out as lofty goals quickly become reduced to the "attainable" as reality sets in. The necessary work of setting new growth goals, working the plan and evaluating outcomes is difficult. If done, it will build a system of accountability into the group that leads to accomplishing outcomes.

These seem like easy tasks, but are not for the average house size church. There is no silver bullet, only prayerful determination and hard work. It takes a new way of thinking to get beyond where a church currently is. Multiplication of disciples is God's will. The only question to ask is "Should our house church multiply itself or grow to become a small church?"

Prevailing dynamics of a dying church

Mark Junkans

Below is an excerpt from an article written in April 2001 by John Benton. Some if not all of these are recognizable in churches across our city.  Recognizing the indicators is the first step towards addressing them.  original article.

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Negative reputation

Probably you will find that the community and surrounding churches have assigned a reputation to this failing church. Some helpful soul may even say 'That church has the mark of Satan on it - it can never prosper.' Some of the people who have left over the years and gone to nearby congregations will probably have spread horror stories about what the church 'is really like.' If there are grounds for such stories the dying church must repent. But often it is not quite the way the story is told.

Nevertheless, somehow, the negative image has got to be combated if the church is to rise again.

That bad reputation will be a huge obstacle to that church getting a fair hearing for the gospel among the local people. So it will be also, that families new to the town might come and look at the church, but never return having been given the 'the low-down' on the fellowship.

Nostalgia

There may well be church members who can still remember the glory days of yesteryear. Their outlook will not be about hope for the future but rather about trying to recapture the past. Their agenda will be to get back to doing things the way they used to be done, and often those old ways are no longer appropriate. Hence they too can become obstacles to revitalizing the church. Such nostalgia needs to be confronted by asking the question, 'If the old days were so great why are we in the condition we are today?'

Tradition

This is a slightly different matter from nostalgia. Apart from the 'glory-days' members, there are quite likely to be others who have joined the church over the years who are from different Christian backgrounds. Their answer to the problems of the church may well be to insist that the church needs to conform to the tradition in which they were brought up. Thus it can be that there are five or more different traditions vying for influence as the recipe for success. But, of course, mere tradition never brings life.

Defeatist attitude

The church may well be like a football team which has lost every match for the last ten years. They have a ready list of excuses to explain the certain defeats of the future. They know that nothing is going to work.

Disrepair

'If the wood-worms stop holding hands it will all collapse'. It may not be as bad as that but probably the church building will be in disrepair. But perhaps more seriously the church programme will be in disrepair. Instead of an overall, cohesive approach to the work there will be confusion. Ministries will have been dropped simply due to lack of money or key people leaving.

Unrealistic expectations

If the church is pastor-less and a new man does accept a call to lead and teach the church then the people may well expect him to work miracles and turn the church round almost in an instant. This can lead to a very short 'honey-moon' period between new pastor and church and lead the church into yet more problems. 
If this is somewhere near a true picture of a dying church then it is obvious that the task of revitalization is a challenge of gigantic proportions. Yet at the same time it is a challenge which carries vast opportunities. This is not least because the world takes a look as it passes by, and if such a church can be revitalized ordinary people will sit up and take notice.

 

Radical Renewal of our Church System

Mark Junkans

Although I am slowly becoming less cynical about the issue, I still wrestle with the fact that the church today in the West is driven mostly by religion, tradition and consumerism.  Also, our church systems aren't so much designed for making new disciples as they are about keeping church people in the church. My first instinct to addressing the issue was to simply begin new churches. I still believe that this is an important and crucial piece of the solution. New churches more easily adopt a new DNA which focuses on reaching the lost, blessing the community and multiplying disciples. While beginning a new church doesn't guarantee that any of these things will happen, the statistics show that more new disciples are made in new churches than in existing ones.  Even so, if the leaders of a new church aren't careful, the group may quickly adopt the religious norms of America and sinks into consumerism as the driving factor for growth and maintenance of numbers.

For the congregations who have never multiplied themselves or discipled a new believer in years (maybe the majority of our churches), I really don't hold out much hope for a quick renewal. The leadership cannot envision a different reality nor will they typically allow it to happen. Are there exceptions to this? Of course there are, but they are not the norm. Many discipleship and renewal movements have happened within mainline denominations, but still those denominations decline in numbers and Kingdom impact.

Just Keeping the Lights On
Surviving seems to be the primary concern for more than half of our North American congregations as well as our Synod.  The goal of self preservation is a strong emotional reaction to decline based on the fear of losing something or everything. Churches of no more than a few families sometimes hold on for dear life to maintain the property, hold church services and provide governance to the "congregation." Instead of praying that God would do something radically different, they keep going through the motions of church because they don't want to lose their investment (church property) or they simply don't know what else to do.  It is sad to see this happen, but most in this situation don't have the ability to accept any other option. While many churches begin to rent their property to outside groups in order to pay the bills, this doesn't do anything for their congregation's renewal. It simply delays the inevitable. In order to truly be renewed, there has to be an inflow of new life into the system.

Our religious institutions are mostly just keeping the lights on as well. They purvey religious services to the faithful and keep trying to find ways to maintain allegiance to the system. They have traded the mission of Jesus for other less important missions. Keeping our doctrine pure, preserving our heritage and maintaining our cultural distinctions are among the surrogate missions that we have adopted. Because of these changing missions, a growing love affair with the Roman church among our more conservative leaders is also apparent.  There is a high distrust of the laity among some of our clergy and a disdain for the Biblical definition of the Priesthood of All Believers. Our system often teaches people to more excited about our history, liturgy, traditions and European heritage than it does about following Jesus and fulfilling His mission in the world. We are desperately trying to keep the lights of tradition on while extinguishing the lights of mission and Gospel entrepreneurship.

How do we change a sick system?

Maybe we don't. Maybe this is the wrong question. Maybe the right question to ask is "How do we fulfill the mission of Jesus while still being attached to a dying system?" In order for this to be possible, there have to be pockets of life and freedom within the system that new life can grow in with minimal negative contact with it's more cancerous parts. People continue to say "We need you guys that are doing mission to come to our meetings so that you can help renew our excitement about the Great Commission." Or, "You are part of the body and the body needs you." I fully understand this argument and will keep telling our story to those who will listen, regardless of their ecclesiastical bent. We are part of the Body of Christ and the little toe can't tell the torso "I'm done with you."  I don't believe, however, that my church body is really going to change and that a deeper involvement with the system is healthy for our new churches. Without adopting a prideful attitude of missional superiority, I hope that the movement within our little petri dish continues to grow uninhibited by the norms and religion that would kill it. Jesus didn't try to change Judaism, He fulfilled it. We too can work to fulfill the Reformation movement that was begun, and has been kept in suspension within our religious time capsule. How do we do this? Help me find out.

Roles and distinctions in ministry.

Mark Junkans

In our church body, the battle for a common understanding of the distinction between clergy and laity in ministry seems to be just beginning again. For quite a number of years, it seemed at this issue was becoming less controversial as congregations and mission agencies began to equip and deploy trained lay leaders in multiple facets of meaningful ministry. Recently there seems to be a newfound momentum to create a greater distinction and or separation of the roles and functions of ordained clergy and the laity. There is indeed a distinction, but I believe that the function of the clergy in the church is somewhat different than what the ultra conservative factions in our church body believe. In my opinion, to regress to a clergy only parish ministry model is a step backwards for the mission of the church and inspired more by our church body's European Christendom past than by the direction of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.

The Scriptures speak much about the role of the "average believer" in the growth and expansion of the church. During the time of the Apostles, men were sent into missions seemingly without a proper theological education as we know it today. The diaspora sent thousands of regular Christians into the mission field to share the message of Jesus, gather believers in their homes and plant churches. The five-fold ministry described in Ephesians 4 was apparently the norm and the purpose of these ministries was to equip the saints for the work of ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-16) and the ministry of the church wasn't confined to the position of pastor.

The leadership of the church evolved as the church expanded and norms became rules. Under Constantine, church leadership became somewhat politicized and the church began to adopt a hierarchical form of ecclesiastical leadership whose purpose was to probably meant to mange the masses in the church more than to expand it as during the time of the Apostles. By the time of the Reformation, missions was almost a foreign concept, seen through the lens of worldly kingdoms and empires desiring to expand their borders and protect themselves from the heathens seeking to overcome Christendom from the East and the South.

What has arisen today in our church body is a codependent relationship between clergy and laity. The primary role that our clergy seem to take is one of the "caretaker." The care and feeding of souls is one important aspect of pastoral ministry, however, it does not in itself equip the saints for their ministry in the world, nor does it necessarily encourage a proper understanding of the priesthood of all believers.

If the church were a restaurant, the believers as customers gorge on the Gospel buffet prepared by their pastors, sucking up spiritual milk prepared for them by the kitchen. The pastors in this scenario see Jesus the master chef, and they being the only ones qualified to handle the ingredients, prepare the dishes and serve them to the waiting masses. At best, the leaders of the congregation are allowed to bus the tables and pay the bills. This arrangement is comfortable to all those playing the game. It allows the clergy to remain needed and feel special as well as allowing the laity to simply consume the ministry of the pastor. What it doesn't do is empower the followers of Jesus to be active and directly involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

This may seem like a harsh judgment of the church, and it may be skewed by my perspective as a missionary. Things have gotten so bad in some circles that, for some, the only valid proclamation of the Gospel message is when the pastor preaches during the Divine Service. I believe at what is at stake is the salvation of the world around us. By limiting the role of the laity to that of a consumer is to limit the potential of the church to save the lost. This Gospel is used primarily to comfort the saints and not to save the lost. There are even some in our church body who don't trust the laity to properly interpret Scripture, and don't encourage them to read it on their own without the intervention of the ordained clergy.

My missiology professor declared in class that "in the mission field, the church doesn't exist without the presence of an ordained Pastor." He also told me to stop using the Apostle Paul's method of indigenous lay leadership development for church planting and ministry. When I asked why I shouldn't use the Book of Acts a guide for missions he said "You are not the Apostle Paul and can't use his mission methods.". His suggested methodology was for the ordained missionary to establish a congregation which he himself would serve as pastor. Without the presence of other ordained clergy, any new missions would also have to be served by this pastor. New churches could be started only according to the capacity of the missionary to serve every location. This had been our missiology for many decades, and in many of our long-time mission fields there are still weak church bodies who are completely dependent on the white church in the west to provide direction, teaching and money.

Today in the world where the indigenous church is thriving and multiplying, western missionaries have generally let go and allowed local leadership to develop it's own leadership systems, theological training, missiology and church polity. As has been well documented, the West is no longer the epitome of mission effectiveness and vitality. We may see the church in the west as being more refined and evolved, however this doesn't make it better. The holistic understanding of the Eastern churches coupled with a more intentional empowerment and sending of laity has led the church in many Eastern and Southern countries to multiply where before it was simply adding at best. Our whole Western emphasis on tightly engineered systems and logic often doesn't fit well with other cultures, thus limiting the expansion of the church.

In many countries, the releasing of the laity for missions and ministry has proven very exciting. Ethiopia, for example, has experienced a miraculous expansion of the church through lay leaders who have been sent out to plant churches and make disciples. Only when the constraints of Western dominated ecclesiology and church polity was cast off did the church begin a resurgence in missions. In China, centuries of mission work dominated by Western foreigners had produced only a pittance of churches. The work of the missionaries brought and established the Gospel, but the Western forms being taught by the missionaries didn't set well with Chinese thought and culture. When the Communist government expelled all western missionaries from the country and began a concerted persecution of the church, those missionaries feared that the church would die without their presence. After many decades, Western missionaries were finally allowed to visit and, to their surprise, the indigenous church was growing and multiplying like wildfire. The laity are expected to carry out the mission and ministry of Jesus in reaching the lost and planting new house churches. The simple message of Jesus taught by pastors and untrained lay folk is compelling the believers to take great risks in spreading the Gospel message even in the face of severe persecution.

Fear
Some may say that the unity of the Gospel is at stake and must be protected by imposing such limitations on lay ministry. Others might say that to be true to our confessions, we must not allow anyone to preach the Word without a regular call. These may be the stated and/or believed motives for promoting such a clergy driven ministry, however I'm not so sure that this is the case.

I believe that the underlying issue at hand is one of fear. As stated in the movie The Incredibles, "when everyone is super, then no one will be." Maybe the fear in releasing the laity for mission and ministry has to do with the clergy's desire to be special in their profession.

Christian Smith, writes that our clergy dominated system this is a fundamentally self-defeating system: It’s stated purpose is to nurture spiritual maturity in the church-a valuable goal. In actuality, however, it accomplishes the opposite but nurturing a permanent dependence of the laity on the clergy. Clergy become to their congregations like parents whose children never grow up, like therapists whose clients never become healed, like teachers whose students never graduate. The existence of a full-time, professional minister makes it too easy for church members not to take responsibility for the ongoing life of the church. And why should they? That’s the job of the pastor.

I personally believe that there is a special divine calling for pastors, but I believe that we have defined the role of pastors and laity so narrowly that we actually limit the potential of the pastoral office. If seen as the only person in the church that can preach, teach, baptize and serve communion, then the value of the pastor is simply that priest. Sure, there is a priestly role to be filled, but we are all priests. As Christians mature they should be allowed to take on more and more of these functions in the church so that the more highly trained pastor can operate at a much higher level of influence. As he equips and deploys leaders in many different capacities in the congregation, his ministry spreads and the Gospel reaches more people.

What is the future?
I believe that the future move of the Holy Spirit in our denomination will be the releasing of the laity for the expansion of missions. As they are empowered to do more, they will also seek more training. Many new pastors, deaconesses and evangelists will come out of this, as is happening already. We will also recognize that the followers of Jesus in our churches have the authority to plant new churches where they are led. Many churches are already empowering and releasing their lay leaders to do this. We aren't living in Apostolic times, however, we could see such a movement of God's people in the West in our lifetimes. I don't believe it will be a movement fueled primarily by the professional clergy, but rather the followers of Jesus living out their faith in ways that they previously weren't allowed to.

Three Things Necessary For Missional Movement Within a Church System

Mark Junkans

I believe that there are three things necessary to foster a church planting / missional movement within our church body. These three, of course, are in addition to the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.

1. Permission
People within a system are hesitant to move forward and plant new ministries unless they feel that they have permission to do so. This permission comes primarily when I, as a church planter, learn that others have done something similar with success. It also comes from my ecclesiastical authority. So many times entrepreneurial leaders don't try new things is because they don't feel they have the permission to do so.

2. Provision
Missional leaders need resources. These are not only financial, but there is a great need for training, best-practices, materials and partnerships. Without proper provision, the movement may be stunted.

3. Protection
If there is a possibility of being picked off by the world and also those within the church body who are against what the missionary is doing, then the entrepreneurial spirit begins to weaken. This protection comes from the fellowship of brothers in the ministry who will band together and have each others' back when one of them is attacked. The ecclesiastical leadership also has to grant protection to the mission leader. I am privileged to be in a District that will protect me when someone raises an issue with the ministry that I am leading. Others don't have that privilege. Thoughts?

I have wanted to flesh this out a lot more, but need more time to do so.

Luciano's Installation

Mark Junkans

Luciano and Brenda Vega-Ayala at reception after his installation service.Today was the installation service for Luciano Vega-Ayala at CDCE. He was the first Hispanic pastor that began to work with me before LINC even began and took over as pastor at the church when I took my position as Executive Director. He passed his colloquy interview at the Seminary with no problems. I can't believe that so much time has passed since he first arrived in Houston, but here we are making him an official Lutheran pastor. Very exciting for all who have known him for so long. I had the privilege of conducting the ceremony and David Kim is delivering the message. There were 20+ other pastors/lay pastors who participated in the service as well.