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Are You a Master Of The "Almost?"

Mark Junkans

My life is "almost" 100% more awesome than it actually is. There are so many things I have almost done, or thought about doing, or just didn’t get to.

Many times when I am speaking with someone, and telling stories from my experience, I have to mentally differentiate between those things that I actually did and the things that I almost did. If I’m not careful, I will tell a story of almost as if it really happened.

Or, I tell a story about how I almost did or accomplished something with the same excitement as if I had actually done it.

Why is this?

Because I have mastered the art of almost.

In our minds, the gap between attempting something and actually accomplishing it isn’t very big. When we think about doing something, plan to do it, and start to do it, we have already reaped most of the emotional reward.

Our brains get a boost of dopamine when we start something new. It may be a new relationship, a new project, a job, etc. However, these things quickly lose that “new car smell” and we are quickly on the lookout for the next new thing to start while we still haven’t finished the last one.

We love to tell other people about the newest thing we’ve started like books, diets, training, workout regimen, etc. This is why people are forever starting things and never finishing them.

Finishing something that is difficult is, well...difficult. It takes determination, endurance, hard work and patience.

So how do you move away from the practice of Almost?

One way is to delay your brain’s release of those rewarding chemicals by NOT telling people what you are starting, but only what you are committed to finishing. Don’t allow yourself to celebrate until you finish something. That takes too long? Then split up the goal into milestones and celebrate those along the way.

But you can’t finish everything you start, nor should you.

You should always be trying to learn new skills, habits, etc. This doesn’t mean that everything you start you will finish. However, you should be able to determine those things that are worth seeing to completion, and those that were just good experiences.

If you’re like me, you learn by doing. That means you only learn if you want to do something or not when you actually start doing it. Also, by dabbling in several different activities, you find out what you have a talent for and can become a more well-rounded individual.
One strategy is to group your activities into Experiments and Commitments. In other words, categorize the things you are doing into those that are worth finishing, and the things that aren’t. This process is explained by Scott H Young in his post “How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start.” How to Build the Habit of Finishing What You Start

Sure, telling the story of how you almost did something is fun. But, how many “almosts” will it take until you finally finish something of significance? That story will be even better.

Be a master of the "Almost." Tell the story of all the hard work that it took and all the failed attempts to finally accmplish something great. Just don't fall into the trap of believing that Almost is good enough. It is just a step on the journey to accomplishing something great.

credit to Wilco for the inspiration for this blog title: I used to listen to this album almost everyday on my morning run. Wilco - Art of almost - YouTube

Why I'm Stepping Down

Mark Junkans

After over 15 years as the founding President and CEO of LINC International, I am stepping down from my position and handing over the reins to an interim leadership team.

I’ve always believed that most founders shouldn’t stay in their post for longer than necessary. After a period of time, you tend to have had your best ideas and can become stale in your position.  You begin to know the organization so well that it’s difficult to see things with fresh eyes, and begin to take for granted the amazing miracles that happen every day throughout the whole organization.  This is especially true for natural entrepreneurs, who are more energized when starting and creating than when managing for long-term growth.

I’ve observed myself over the past couple of years, and have realized that the organization that has grown so much since our beginning, is in need of new leadership.  I believe that God has gifted me in unique ways, and that these gifts are best used for His Kingdom in a different arena.  I’ve grown comfortable in my changing role over the years, but being comfortable doesn’t always bring out the best in me, and I want to give my best for the sake of Jesus’ mission.  That being said, I have learned a lot about cross-cultural ministry in the city, and am proud of what we have accomplished with God’s help.  And all along the way, it wasn’t easy.

When LINC Houston began in 2001, we were sure about one thing, that new ministries and new ministry leaders were needed to reach our dynamic and diverse metropolitan area.  Houston’s population was already a world mission field, with people from hundreds of language groups scattered throughout our thriving metropolis.  We had great support from local congregations and the Texas District LCMS, but still had to manage to find a way to survive in urban ministry, where sustainability and growth are often difficult.  But we did learn how to survive.

To help grow our mission leadership, we hired a Mission Director, David Kim, who had just graduated from the CMC program at Concordia Irvine.  He and I became a great team as I concentrated on growing the organization and he on growing our leadership and church-planting base.  Together, we saw phenomenal growth in new ministries and disciple-making pastors and leaders for the Kingdom.  I once again felt the call of God to focus on growth and expansion, and began to assist new cities to begin LINC ministries and Dr. David Kim launched the new organization GlocalMission.

Then we changed our organizational model and became LINC Ministries International, an organization that operates in multiple cities and countries to plant ministries through courageous local leaders of impact.  God allowed us to start and support LINC ministries in new places like Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Milwaukee, Denver, Andhra Pradesh India, Thailand, as well as relaunch LINC Twin Cities under our umbrella.  We’ve partnered nationally with other mission societies to plant and multiply new ministries among specific language groups.  New LINC ministries are being birthed through our incubation model led by Rev. Dominic Rivkin VP of New City Development, with the same mission of raising up local leaders who start new ministries that impact their communities with the Gospel, and for that I praise God.

  • We have an amazing group of leaders from our City Directors to our local mission leaders.  Everyone in the organization is deeply committed to fulfilling the Great Commission in their community, and are willing to sacrifice much for the sake of the Gospel.  LINC has produced some of the most passionate and committed mission leaders in our church body, most of whom work as partially or completely bi-vocational in their ministry.
  • We have a solid Board of Directors that is clear about their governance role and passionate about the work of LINC.  Together with the board, we have continued to raise more support for the work of LINC each year, and have made wise decisions to set a firm foundation for future growth.
  • We have expanded our available resources by heeding good counsel, taking advantage of opportunity, and by working to systematically improve our donor development systems and the way we communicate the work that God is doing in each of our cities through LINC.
  • We’ve responded to multiple natural disasters by providing emergency relief, disaster case management and home repair.  In fact, LINC was the leading home repair agency in Harris County after Hurricane Ike, restoring almost 500 homes in our low-income communities.
  • We are acquiring new locations for incubating new mission starts.  God has blessed us with the means to do so, and we are committed to making sure that new churches have a place to start from to reach their communities with the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus.
  • We built a robust back office that now supports work throughout the US and other countries.  Matthew Schultz, our Chief Operating Officer, has done a tremendous job of building our accounting systems and development processes to support multiple cities and ministry startups.
  • We built an online/on-demand system for LINC Bible Institute so that we can train new leaders for ministry in our cities and around the world in a way that’s practical and scalable.
  • We are seeing multiplication happen as our new City Directors train, mentor and walk alongside local ministry leaders who are committed to replicating the process with those they are discipling.
  • We designed a completely new outcome model that focuses on the development of leadership from point of engagement through the launching and multiplication of new ministries.  Everything that LINC does on an International, City and local community level will share the same basic principles and desired outcomes.

I am proud of what God has done through this organization so far, and am excited about what He will do in the future.  The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Psalm 113:4.  Most of all, I am proud to have been a part of something that has made an eternal difference in the lives of over 300,000 individuals through the outreach and evangelism ministries of over 50 new mission churches.

What the next chapter holds

I am a starter and a builder, and will always seek new ways to expand the Kingdom of God using my particular passions, gifts and talents.  I have thoroughly enjoyed taking LINC from our first years through various phases of growth.  But I now feel it’s time for LINC to seek out a new CEO who can bring fresh energies along with new gifts of leadership; someone who will build the team even stronger, is excited by our vision, respects our values, and is able to take LINC International to the next level. 

I am as committed as ever to fulfilling the ongoing vision of LINC.  I have also dreamed that my entrepreneurial mindset could be used to further expand the Kingdom of God by creating an alternative revenue stream for ministries like LINC, even as I continue to serve as an ambassador for LINC’s ministry expansion around the world.  As part of a new type of mission endeavor, I will work together with other Kingdom-minded leaders to build Business as Mission models that incubate and grow new businesses to fund mission work as well as create new opportunities to share the Gospel and make disciples among leaders in developing countries.  I will be still be called by LINC, but as a bi-vocational Missionary At Large, and will continue to connect and work with local leaders in various places to grow and expand the Kingdom of God.  

Some are wondering if I’ve lost my mind.  Why would I leave a comfortable position in the organization that I founded and have led for so long, only to take a risk to start a new venture with no assurance of success?  But those who know me best are not surprised that God is leading me in this direction, and I truly believe that this is what God is calling me to do in this new season of ministry.

LINC will not only survive, but thrive. With a strong transitional leadership team, a solid Board of Directors, and a talented, diverse, and hardworking staff, I have no doubt that LINC International is about to enter an exciting new future of growth.  God will fulfill His mission; my prayer is that He also continues to use my wife Natalia and I to do so for His glory.

Yes=Yes

Mark Junkans

As I dropped off my daughter at preschool for her Valentine's Day party, I was reminded again how excited kids are about the littlest things. When a teacher says that they're going to do something, the kids get excited. Her teacher, however, told the class yesterday that if they didn't be quiet she would take their party away.

Her teacher’s words put such a doubt in my daughter's mind that, even after I repeatedly assured her, she was adamat that the party was cancelled. If adults continue to do this in her life, she will soon learn that they can't be trusted. Believe me, I know plenty of parents to use this tactic with their children, and they can't figure out why their children don't respond to their threats.

This situation really made me think about my own parenting style, and question whether or not I give and break promises as a reward and punishment. What about my other relationships? Do I fulfill my promises based on how I feel about a certain person at the time, or based on the fact that I gave my word?

If I am truly honest with myself, I would have to admit that I often behave just like my daughter's teacher. That’s not the kind of person that I want my children, or my coworkers and colleagues to know. What about you?

Because I know people use empty threats to control behavior, I was able to promise my daughter that she was indeed having her party, even though "teacher said." We took her bag of Valentines for the class, and got ready for the party that wasn't cancelled.

James 5:12  Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

You need more adventure in your life.

Mark Junkans

Our modern lives have become a little boring haven’t they? The most excitement most of us have during the week happens on our commute to work and on our Facebook feed. Like a homebound senior citizen, we end up living our lives vicariously through media and through our conversations with others.

Here’s the thing, I believe that we are hard-wired for adventure.

Humans have always longed for adventure, it’s in our nature. Without adventure, our world becomes incredibly small and our lives are reduced to mere existence.

Life is either a great adventure or nothing. —Helen Keller


See - 8 SIGNS YOU’VE LOST YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE

But, how exactly does one begin to add more adventure into life?

1. Sign up to do something you’ve never done before

This doesn’t have to be something extreme like an ultra marathon (although I would personally recommend it), or some exotic trip that costs a fortune. It could be something as simple as eating a new type of food or going camping. If you don’t like it, at least you have a good story to share about how bad it was. That’s the thing. Living a life of adventure isn’t about being comfortable all the time. In fact, the most memorable adventures are usually the ones that take far outside our comfort zones.

2. Don’t be afraid of discomfort

In fact, adventure and discomfort are often inseparable. So are Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain (‘cause this is how the Rob Base feels.)

Think about the best adventure story you’ve heard from someone. Did they only recount the wonderful things they experienced? Didn’t they also tell you about the challenges, obstacles and discomforts?

That’s the point! Adventure opens us up to a whole new realm of possibilities, both good and bad. It forces us to face our discomforts, our dislikes, our fears and our limitations. A REALLY good adventure stretches us beyond what we previously thought possible.

Stretching yourself hurts, but it’s the only way to grow.

I could tell you dozens of stories about how miserable or uncomfortable I felt when I tried something or went somewhere new. And while sharks will never have a week dedicated to me, I would also tell you that I’m a much more interesting and well-rounded person because of those situations.

Want to be more interesting? Have more adventures! In fact, risk having more adventures that could potentially turn out horribly bad.

3. Bring someone else along for the ride

While it may be easier and more efficient to go on your own little adventures, the adventure becomes bigger when others join you. Different people experience things differently. That means that their recalling of the story will ad nuances and layers that you alone can’t. Whatever happens, it will be multiplied (literally) when others are part of it.

“Remember the time we almost ran out of gas in the middle of a lonely desert in Mexico?”

For example, I could tell you about a wonderful trail run I took that ended at the most beautiful high mountain lake scene I’ve ever seen. I could even show you a picture of it, except I forgot to take my camera along. This was a great adventure for me, but I’m the only one who can truly know and express what it was like.

Adventure is a lot more fun when exciting when someone else is living it…

The trails I hiked with my family, however, were even more memorable. That’s because I experienced the whole situation differently than they did. I was totally in my comfort zone and enjoying the sites, while my daughters were probably thinking more about the miserable temperatures and endless walking. I also had the added burden of caring for their well-being (and survival) as we walked along cliffs and risked potential dehydration. It was an adventure for all of us, one that we still refer to.

Note: Adventure makes you more valuable to others

I love this story about Jephthah from the Bible in Judges 11. He didn’t come from a “normal” family. His mother was a prostitute, he was cut off from his family inheritance, and he fled to a new land. He was forced into a life of adventure. Then, “a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.”

But here's the kicker. When the Israelites needed help, they went to Jephthah and asked HIM to be their commander.

Judg. 11:4 Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”

Some people will never allow themselves to be stretched, and in so, they will never have great adventures. Because of this, they also won’t have honed the skills necessary to do great things or to face bigger challenges. That’s where someone is needed who has those skills that have been honed by experience, hardship and adventure.

As a person of adventure, you now bring stories and experience, and frankly, make things more interesting. People will begin to live vicariously through you, and will come to depend on you for advice when attempting to do new things.

I believe that our lives should be in service to others. I also believe that having more adventure in your life actually gives you the ability to better serve others. It opens up new opportunities, grows your base of skills and gives you more courage to face challenges.

Why not plan (or just improvise) your next adventure today?

It could possibly be both the best and the most uncomfortable thing you could possibly do today.