Mission Different Context

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Josh-bio-2015I have grown up in Maine for the majority of my life. I grew up a pastor’s kid and have lived with the church as a major part of my life. Because of this I have a deep love for the church. I see the beauty of what the church can be and how Jesus is using the church to build His kingdom here in Maine.

Five years ago I started feeling the call to plant a church. I did what anyone in my position would do; I started talking to other planters, pastors and people who were part of different church leadership. I didn’t stop there; I also started to listen to those who were not part of the church. It was in those conversations that I learned what might have been the most valuable lesson. A lesson that surprisingly I didn’t hear much about from those who were already in the church. I learned the simple, yet profound truth; each person is very different. I know, deep huh!

Here is what I mean; my context, my community and my neighborhood is different than the people in another context, your community or someone else’s neighborhood. I know you might be thinking, “Well, duh! Of course there is a difference in people and communities.” Yes, I knew this also, but here is the question that I couldn’t get out of my mind; “Was my church plant going to look the same as every other church in the community? Or was I willing to intentionally go after those who looked, acted and were different than the people who sat in the pews of a church in the community?” Was I willing to hold firmly to the truth of the gospel while contextualizing to the audience I was attempting to share this life giving hope, or would I simply read the manual all the experts had put together and plant the way they said I should plant?

For you see, I planted a church in a town where there were already good, godly, gospel proclaiming churches. I planted in a community where I had friends who were pastors, people who I knew well and I knew their hearts for the lost. I planted in a context where people were being saved, churches were growing, and the lost were finding the life giving message of Jesus. All this was good, but what I couldn’t shake from my mind was that in the midst of this success, the vast majority of the people in my community would not darken the door of those same churches. I quickly knew that these people needed a different kind of a church. In listening to them, I saw that what they needed was something that met them in a way they were not being met. They needed a church that was going to contextualize to them, their needs and meet them where they are with the message of grace.

Their deepest need was the gospel. The gospel is the message of hope for a hopeless world; a message of grace for people who are judged; and a message of healing for the broken. Yet, even though the message was the same, the method by which this message was shared needed to be changed because of the context of the people.

Here is the thing that is beautiful about the church of Christ. Throughout the New Testament there are some very clear things a church is to be and do; however, when you really start to look to shape the small details of what a church should look like, the Bible is surprisingly silent. We don’t know how many elders there should be, how we are to order our Sunday gathering, or how the apostles taught the word (was it book by book, topical, systematic or big picture). We don’t know how many hours they studied for their weekly address. We aren’t really sure if they had children’s church, how much they gave to missions, if they had ‘special elements’, or if they meet for 60 minutes or three hours. What we do know is that the early church looked different than the culture, yet it engaged the culture in their context with the message of hope.

This was my goal. Engage the culture where they are with the hope of Jesus. So this meant that we wouldn’t have a big band, use sweet videos for our announcements, or throw big outreach parties. None of those things are wrong, because there is a segment of people who will hear the gospel through those means, but there is also a large segment of people who need the gospel, and to hear it we might have to think differently. That is the beauty of church planting. We can take the same message into a community that other churches are already faithfully proclaiming and contextualize it for those who have yet to encounter with the living Jesus.

Maine needs hundreds of churches, church planters, and families to do just this. We must take the life-giving message of Jesus to the unique culture of “hipsterville” Portland, potato fields of ‘The County’, and everything in between. This is how the gospel will saturate Maine and God’s kingdom will be experienced here and now by every man, woman and child.


Mission Different Context by Josh Cousineau, Church Plant Leader in Lewiston, Maine. Josh can be reached at  or by twitter @joshcousinea or on facebook:  /josh.cousineau

Church Plant in Saco

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My name is Justin Johnson.  My wife Tara, our son Josiah, and I just moved to Saco, Maine from Harrodsburg, KY.  Tara and I married 7 years ago and now have a 20 month old son.  Shortly after Tara and I met, I received my calling to the ministry.   At our home church, one faithful minister of the gospel shared about the lostness and need for the gospel in Maine.  God used that presentation to ignite a passion in me for Maine. From that point on everything that I planned on doing was about coming to Maine.  All of my college papers and presentations were about Maine.  God opened the doors and connected us with Barry Murray, the Maine church planting catalyst, in 2013.

We are now living and serving in Saco alongside Brandton and Katie Wood and their three girls.  We have been residing in Maine for two months.  We love the town of Saco and the people.  We have had the privilege of working with 4 amazing interns from Birmingham, AL; Jacob Pierce, Lydia Brown, Beth Gladney, and Chris Atchison. Since moving here, we’ve been living in the truth of Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Literally, everything that we have planned from our move up here to the beginning steps of church planting has not gone according to our plan.  However, God has still been faithful to give us opportunities to serve in different areas and He has worked things out for His glory.  We were able to serve the community at the Saco Sidewalk Arts Festival by providing a tent with children’s art activities. It was a fun filled day where we were able to connect with several members of our community and begin building relationships. In our short time here in Saco we have met some amazing people and are still looking for ways to connect with families at the parks and with kids at the basketball courts.

As a family we are blessed to have several partners, most of which are from our hometown, that are financially and prayerfully supporting our church plant.  All of our partners are either families, individuals, or small rural churches.  It is amazing how God can use so many smaller groups to come together and fully support our church plant.  Our plans are to stay in Saco and serve with Hope Church for one year before moving to Bridgton to plant a church. We are still praying and trusting God to open the necessary doors to put us wherever it is that he wants us. He has shown us time and time again that He will establish our steps. We are excited about being in Maine and serving alongside the Woods’ to learn more about church planting.  More importantly, we are excited to be a part of what God is doing in Saco and just praying for lives to be changed through the power of the Gospel.

-Justin Johnson


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Thirteen years ago, while serving at a local church in Indiana, I walked into a tattoo parlor with a friend.
I quickly began my discussion with the long-haired, tattooed man standing behind the counter. He opened up the conversation with racial ignorance that perked my interest.
Over the next hour, as he “delicately” carved ink into my buddy’s skin, I chatted with him about how he landed on such a convoluted belief.  After some weighty dialogue, I gave him some information to process and told him I would be back in one week.
I pulled back into my confused friend’s parking lot only to see he and his girl friend meet me at my car.  What happened next will forever be etched into my soul…
He and his girlfriend got down on their knees… They said. “We are wrong, wrong about everything. Jesus was right about everything…”
We prayed together.
The next week, we started our first Bible study in his tattoo shop.  He closed down early and we chatted about Jesus with a few of his friends.
It was hilariously powerful.  A pastor and some tattoo artists loving life together.
What was even more hilarious, was the one guy, who kept tattooing while we were chatting.  The longer we went, the longer he went. The more we laughed and cried, the more tightly he tried to jam his door shut. It was a tangible picture of his heart (Ezekiel 36:36)
He wanted nothing to do with us, until that one day, when he did.
After spending several months chatting with him, he asked if he could tattoo a picture of Jesus on my arm. I prayed and said yes.  A few months later he wanted to see the passion of Christ with me.  During some of the most violent parts of the movie he got up and went into the hall, I followed.  “What’s up man”, I said.  He said, “That guy showed up in my dreams last night and told me I needed to repent and follow Him.”
Right there in the movie theatre, he responded to God’s abundant grace.
For the next five years you could find me regularly in a tattoo shop with an atheist, agnostic, Lutheran, Catholic and a new friend.
It was exhilarating to recline with such men.
Today we continue much in the same.  My wife and I spend time in the cracks and crevices of culture for the sake of those around us.  You will often find us having a coffee in an immigrants living room, a cigar in a local shop, a chat at a local pub, or a conversation at a local recording studio.
Because many years ago Jesus reclined with a man named Eric Wood.  He was a self-righteous bigot, who needed to repent and believe in the good news of the kingdom.
Where were you? Who were you? What were you doing?
When Christ reclined with you?
“… Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…  And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him… And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners… “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 1:14-15, 17; 2:15-17; 10:45
It is my prayer that we would do more reclining. Less programming. While being faithful to display the manifold wisdom of God to the universe (Ephesians 3:10).
This seemed to be what Jesus exemplified.  This seems to be what Paul imitated.  This seems to be what we’ve been invited to (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Repent. Believe. Follow. Recline. Remain.
Grace and peace my friends,
-Eric Wood