NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — After many years of ministry, something was not working for pastor and church planter Marvin Lorenzana. Searching for inspiration, he turned to the example of the 16th-century Anabaptists.
“I kept repeating mistakes that hindered me from being faithful to what I read in the New Testament about how the early church behaved as a Jesus movement,” Lorenzana said in a recent interview. “I looked for answers from within Anabaptism, a radical movement during the Reformation that included adult baptism, a Jesus-centered discipleship and shared leadership within the community.”
Five hundred years beyond the rooting of that Christ-centered, community-oriented focus on discipleship, Lorenzana, director of discipleship ministries at Mennonite Mission Network, is helping his generation revitalize churches in that direction, he said.
As part of his vision, he launched a new discipling and multiplying church movement called Missional Discipleship Initiative (MDI) in 2013. In less than a decade, he and other Mission Network colleagues have developed MDI into a growing movement of pastoral leaders, laity and congregations across the United States and abroad. Currently, 121 people, in seven countries, are joining in virtual MDI groups to learn how to become better disciples of Jesus. And those 121 participants are engaging hundreds more in virtual discipleship groups around the world.
At a time when the movement is growing faster than ever, Mission Network has been called to share Lorenzana with the wider church. He is resigning his Mission Network post in February and will become the president of Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) on March 1. This sister mission agency is where he hopes to share the affirmation, growth and resourcing he received at Mission Network.
“My colleagues at Mission Network trusted me, and they led with a big yes,” Lorenzana said. “They said, ‘Yes, Marvin, if God is putting this dream of church vitality on your heart, we trust you are going somewhere with it, and let’s see where it lands.’ That affirmation was tremendously important, and I intend to bring that supportive leadership style to EMM.”
“Because of his gifts of creativity, innovation and seasoned leadership, Lorenzana will be instrumental in helping the wider church become more vital in challenging times,” Sandy Miller said in a recent interview. As Mission Network’s senior executive for resourcing and mobilization and leader of the church relation’s department, she has been Lorenzana’s supervisor for the past three years.
“I recall Marvin telling me that discipleship isn’t about a program but about relationship with God and with others,” Miller said. “I’m so thrilled to know that Mission Network will have opportunities to interact with Marvin in his new role at our sister agency, EMM.”
The heart of MDI, Lorenzana said, is its belief that kingdom work is not just for those who have specialized seminary training. “This work is for anyone who has experienced the life-transformation and grace of Christ,” he said. “All God’s people need to be missionaries right where they live, work, and entertain themselves; discipleship takes places where life happens.”
In making the transition from being the leader of a movement to becoming a CEO of a mission agency, Lorenzana is seeking to walk his own talk: God is on the move to encourage growth in his disciples. Lorenzana has learned that it is important to be on a steep learning curve with Jesus. This has always been the case in his Christian walk, which began in Honduras when he accepted Christ as a boy through Amor Viviente (Living Love), a ministry first launched by EMM in the 1970s and led by Ed King.
In 1994, after marrying his wife, Mariana, Lorenzana moved to the United States to minister to Latino communities. He came as a missionary with Amor Viviente and Gulf States Mennonite Conference. For almost three decades, he has been involved in church planting, leadership development and innovative disciple-making. He also pioneered the development of online training platforms, which he has used to train many church leaders in missional church theology and best practices.
“This idea of being a missionary right in the middle of where one lives, works, plays and raises a family was introduced to me through the Amor Viviente ministry,” Lorenzana said. “I am a third-generation Christian, as a result of the witness of EMM through that ministry. This move of God in my life is bringing me full circle back to EMM, the original sending agency that, by sending Ed King and his family, led to me becoming a follower of Jesus. That is the beauty of how God works.”
Editor’s note: Questions related to ongoing Missional Discipleship Initiatives should be directed to Sandy Miller at Sandym@MMNWorld.net.