Monday, November 8, 2010

How In The World Could This Guy Be An Effective Church Planter?

I want to introduce you to a man that in no way would ever pass a Church Planters Assessment but is probably one of the best church planters I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  He is my very dear friend - no - he is my brother, Larry Munguia.  Larry is not a Bible School or seminary trained man but he does know, love and daily saturates his life in God's Word.  He is not refined but he has spent time with Jesus. He doesn't speak with a large vocabulary but he does pray powerfully and regularly.  And by the Grace of God, God has seen fit to start a church that reaches out to a group of people that most churches would shutter to have.  It is a church that average about 250 people in attendance and sees more people baptized in a year than most do in three years.  Take a few moment and read his story in his own words:

" In 1997 my life was changed. I had lived a life of self-will. I drank and drugged and thought I was Lord Larry until it all came crashing down on me. I lost my wife, my two daughters, my home, health, what little respect I had from my family and my job. Within two weeks my whole life came to a stop. I was lost without my family. I had no way out of my circumstances. Then one day my brother offered me a chance to go to a Promise Keepers convention Los Angeles. I had a little information on them. I knew it was a Christian men's group. I uttered those immortal words, "I'll try anything." So I went to L.A. in search of a new way and I found an old way; the way of Jesus Christ. I have known Jesus all my life. I just never became a friend to him. I never had a real relationship with him until 8:20 p.m. on May 2, 1997. That is the exact time I asked Jesus to come into my life and take over. I was sitting in the Coliseum with over sixty thousand men who witnessed my conversion but only a few would be able to see the outcome of that day.
My life was finally on the right track. I had been delivered from the drugs and alcohol and now I needed to prove to my wife that I was a changed man. I came home from Promise Keepers with a renewed spirit but the same old body. I didn't look any different but I knew I was. So, when I came home and told my wife that I was now a born-again Christian and that I needed to be the leader of my home, she was so excited. She said, "That's great! You don't live here; you can go be the leader of your apartment." My wife, Bobbi, has known me since we were in grade school at St Ambrose. She has seen every con, scam and lie I have ever tried; I should not have been surprised. I went to my apartment and began to pray for God's mercy on me. I prayed that God would reunite me with my family.

It took some time, but in just a few months I got my wife back, my children back, my home back, the respect of my family like I never had and a brand new career. As Bobbi and I got closer to God, he drew us closer to each other. The Lord brought us to a new Church, The Church in the Desert. Pastor Jay Moore welcomed us in and he saw something in me that only he could see. Jay began mentoring me to become a Youth Pastor. At the same time I started classes at Pima College. Within a short time we built a youth group of over forty kids and four adult leaders. In 2001 I graduated with a degree in Social Services. Jay taught me how to minister and gave me the opportunity to hone my craft. Then Jay was called to a church in northern California and I was looking at starting my own church. We now have The S.O.B.E.R. Project, Inc., a Bible-based church that offers weekly worship services, 12-step meetings and bible studies that focus on recovery; recovery from drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, over-eating and all kinds of things that we have let control our lives. If you search your heart, I'm sure you can find something you need God to take care of for you. Please consider this as an open invitation to call me and discuss how God can do in your life as he has done in my life. Give us a chance to show God's love to you and your family.

When I started this project I had no idea that God would bring men and women into my life to show me his power. I have seen a man and woman who were divorced and, within a year, I remarried them. I have seen a man come off the streets, give his life over to Jesus, start his own business and a new relationship that's blooming into love. Lives are being changed for the better. Once you hand your life and your will over to God, he gives you his will for your life."

In addition to the characteristics of spending time with Jesus, a powerful prayer and an ordinary guy I believe there is one other characteristic that has made Larry a successful church planter and that is, he is INDIGENOUS to Tucson, AZ.  Larry was born and raised in Tucson.  He doesn't have to exegete the culture, HE EMBODIES THE CULTURE.  He not only understands his target group but he can empathize and sympathize with the target group.  He is the MAN OF PEACE that is the answer to our prayers. He is the additional laborer that we asked the Lord of the Harvest to send into the fields. 

If we in North America are going to truly see a Church Planting Movement develop then we must become more intentional in raising up, training up and unleashing ordinary believers who are indigenous to that mission field!  We must stop the unhealthy practice of always looking outside the mission field for a supposedly suitable church planter.  It is time to stop recruiting the Arkies, Oakies, and Texans to go to the North, East, West or even the Southwest to plant churches.  WE MUST DEVELOP INDIGENOUS CHURCH PLANTERS from our own mission fields so the work can ignite a wild fire of spontaneous Kingdom growth.

Did you notice what it was that gave Larry the confidence to be a church planter?  According to him it was a person who believed in him, encouraged him and mentored him.  It was man who could see the Hand of God on his life.  Pastors how much of a blessing could there be to both the Kingdom of God and an ordinary believers life if we would just look at these people through the eyes of Christ and dare to bless them with our words and challenge them to truly believe that our God can do anything and he is the God who can do anything through anybody, including them.  This is my hearts cry!  LET'S RAISE UP, TRAIN UP AND UNLEASH ORDINARY FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST WHO INDIGENOUS TO THE MISSION FIELD AS THE NEXT GENERATION OF CHURCH PLANTERS.  THEY WILL GET THE JOB DONE OF SEEING A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT TAKE PLACE! 

If you would like to learn more about Larry and the The Sober Project you can find him online at:  htttp:// or call him at (520) 404-6237.  Take care and God bless.