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Justin Juntunen

Justin Juntunen

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Last year we sent out questionnaires to all our new church planters so we could get a sense of their story   and what their churches are   like. One thing we want to accomplish here is to help all of us feel more connected as a movement. It can feel very lonely when you’re out planting a church. We want to help each other have a better sense of what’s going on not just in our own backyards, but across the nation.

But, in addition to getting a greater sense of connection by reading about church plants around the country, we also get the chance to be encouraged by hearing how God is moving among people all over the place. And we get the opportunity to support each other in prayer.

Therefore, we’re going to start sharing these stories   on the blog, so we can all get in on the fun. Our first church planters are Wade and Laurie Varieur.


Name: Wade Varieur
Church Plant: Vineyard Fullerton
Location: Fullerton, CA
Recent read: Missional Church by Darrell L. Guder
Music you are listening to right now: Whatever my daughters have put in the car cd player. This week was Kelly Clarkson. Last week was Vineyard Worship in French.
Favorite Day-off Activity: Hanging out with my kids and wife.
Cutest thing your kid has said recently: I’m biased. Everything is cute and very applicable for that week’s sermon, surprisingly.
Funniest thing a new believer has said recently: A Muslim man that we prayed for in a prayer tent at the Farmer’s Market came and said that the Vineyard was very similar to Islam, except we worship 3 gods and he worships one.


How did you decide where to plant your church?

We have always had a heart for Fullerton. We actually were a part of a Fullerton Vineyard church plant in the late 90s, which ended up closing it’s doors in 2007. But after the plant, Lauri and I moved to Fullerton to raise our family. Whenever we did an outreach event with our home church in Costa Mesa, we chose Fullerton as the location. When the opportunity to plant came up, many of the people in our planting team felt led to a specific city: Fullerton.

What’s something you were told about church planting that you found to be true?

You need a strong team around you so you are not tempted to do it all yourself. There are many distractions out there that can take your focus off of what God has called you to do.

What’s the biggest fear you overcame in planting a church?

Although I know God is our provider, there was a fear that He would not provide completely for the plant. I was happily wrong! He has provided wise counsel from Vineyard pastors, wonderful teachers for our kids, finances, a building and another church to secure the lease for us, leaders, and HIS perfect timing in all situations, including the timing of the plant itself

What’s one thing you wish you had known before planting?

It’s amazing how much of the legal and business details we weren’t aware of. Robert and
Teresa Crabbe at the River OC Vineyard adopted us and have been walking us through the process. They opened up a bank account for us, put us under their insurance, and helped us with many of the legal issues that allowed us to secure a building and move forward. Mark Maki has offered to help us with our non-profit status, too. Anaheim Vineyard has let us borrow a P.A. system and chairs. It’s been a real Vineyard family affair. We are still learning. It’d be wonderful if the Vineyard had a team that could offer help like this for every plant.

What has been the best experience of the first year?

We became an official Vineyard May 28th! Every week so far has been amazing. I think our first service was something we will never forget. The week before our 1st service, we had two choices for venues: Cal State Fullerton and a 100-year old Ice House building next to the train station in downtown Fullerton. 24 hours before our service, we were able to get permission to use the Ice House for free that weekend. We have been there ever since.

On that first Saturday, we had no P.A. system so the worship was all acoustic. We had 8 or so guitars and everyone singing. We didn’t have any chairs so we sent a facebook invite for everyone to bring their own chairs from home, and they did. Over 100 people came with their own chairs to a building still under construction. God moved powerfully and at that point we knew for sure we were a people sent by Him to fulfill His mission in Fullerton.

Another amazing thing is how we have been able to partner with other churches (non Vineyard) and organizations in the city. The churches are working together to bless the city and to reach the lost. The city government is open to partnering with churches, which was unheard of 15 years ago. We are seeing people come to Christ in our church, and we have seen steady growth in every age bracket from infants to those 60 and older. Our young adult group has doubled. We started the church with very few people over 50 and now we have several couples in that age bracket. We now have 5 small groups. We are excited to discover what God is doing this next year in our church and in our city and we’re excited to keep co-laboring with Him for His glory.

Do you have a cool story of ministry or healing that you’d like to share?

This story is more of a private one: Lauri had a dream—months before we were planting—that we would be in the building we are in now. She woke up at 4am smiling and told me that God told her we’d be having church in the Ice House. The building was $11000 a month, 110000 sq. ft. It had been an ice house for years, and then a punk club, and finally, the home of some churches and an advertising firm. People laughed when we told them we wanted to go see it. It might have been because we had no money at all as a church. We hadn’t taken an offering and we hadn’t had our 1st service to know if anyone was actually going to show up and give. I told Lauri not to tell anyone about her dream.

A few weeks later she had the same dream. I thought to myself, “Maybe if we could just have one service there, then we could say the dream was from God and Lauri would be encouraged.” But we ended up making other plans for our first service.

Another member of our leadership team happened to drive by the building on the way back from the store. He met the owner and shared that we needed a place to meet. It was Thursday and we were launching on Saturday. All of the places had fallen thru that week. My wife and I were in Florida visiting her parents when we received the news that our places had fallen through. The owner said to go ahead and meet there Sat. The building had been vacant for months and hadn’t been cleaned. There were no chairs and there was no power in half of the space. We asked our people to bring their own chairs and we asked our worship team to bring as many acoustic instruments as possible. I spoke without a microphone and it was wonderful. We had over 100 adults and 30 kids 13 and under. Our offering that night was amazing. God provides when things seem impossible and despite our limited perspective.

Well, we had our one service there, and I was convinced that would be it. But since the first service, another church has become the main leasee, and we are able to sub-lease from them, which isn’t free, but we can afford it. In fact, we’ve signed a year lease. My caution in telling Lauri not to share because I didn’t want the people to think we were crazy, robbed our congregation of a wonderful faith building experience. Now when I tell the story, few will probably believe it in hindsight. I learned once again to trust God to provide, especially when it seems impossible. I also learned again that God speaks to my wife and I should listen!

What are one or two big things that you’ve learned along the way?

Get a team of people around you that you trust and that can be direct with you. Be honest about your weaknesses so they can look out for you and share the burdens. Make sure you have mentors that are for you and the plant. My coach is Mike Turrigiano and he has been a blessing, since he’s been down this road and can see the pitfalls before I can.

Lastly, preach mission! I think sometimes people coming to a new church or planting with you can think this is their opportunity to get in early to make the church the one they’ve always wanted to attend. I like to think of all of us, regardless of our role in the body, as “underrowers.” Paul uses this word when referring to himself as a servant in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:1. I like that picture of all of us as a team of galley slaves under the ship where we are equals serving the captain of the ship—King Jesus—so His mission can be accomplished on earth.

What is happening in your life or ministry we can be praying for?

Please pray for my wife and family as we walk this out. It’s amazing how much you can end up talking about church all of the time. My daughters are 9 and 10 and we don’t want them to hate church because that’s all they hear.

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