And James is eager to learn. He wants to use his experiences and his seminary education to become active in leading new church development, and helping to rebuild churches prepared for the 21st century world.
James was inspired to specialize in mission development when he met Pastor Kelly Fryer, assistant professor of congregational mission and leadership, in her “Missional Church in Context” course held in Phoenix. He heard her story of redeveloping, and it sparked his interest. “My passion comes from a desire to live a life that demonstrates my faith. Too many churches don’t reach beyond their walls,” he says. “We need to be disciples of Christ, willing and eager to share the gospel with those who desperately need to hear it, those who are under- or de-churched.”
As an intern, James is helping the two churches establish their roles in the community. He describes St. Michael historically as a very Catholic town. The fact that the community has opened up to a Lutheran church is a big step, James says, but one of the biggest challenges for him has been alerting the community to their presence. Because both churches are so young, neither has established a permanent location for themselves. Spirit of Joy is currently holding its services in the community’s high school, and Alleluia! Is renting one of the old Catholic church’s buildings as its base of operations.
He uses marketing techniques to advertise the church’s mission and goals by placing door-hangers and information packets around the community, and invites members to reach out and bring others to special Visitor Sundays.
There are benefits to his experience with two congregations–for both the communities and for himself. “The two churches are helping me discern my calling, to learn about mission development, and realize how I can grow and lead others to grow with me,” he says.
James has used the information and skills he learned at seminary in his experience as an intern. “I am a ‘hands-on’ rather than a classroom learner, but after working at my internship, I’ve realized how valuable my first two years [at Luther] have been,” he says. He has learned to use the Bible in his ministry, and Luther has given him a focus and a passion that he brings to his congregations.
At Luther, James has been active in developing a group called FLEAS, Fellowship of Leadership in Evangelism Attending Seminary, a group committed to worship and evangelism. In FLEAS, James brings seminary faculty into meetings to talk about evangelism and to discuss applications of their courses from the congregational mission and leadership concentration.
James has been progressive in his call. It is typical for missionary ministers to delay their work in a new or developing church. “You talk about your first call before going into missionary as a specialized ministry, but this isn’t the path I see for myself,” James says. He is currently in discussions with the “College of Developers” planning committee to determine what a call to mission development would look like immediately following graduation.