Archive for April, 2011
This was the last talk that Michael Frost gave during our recent JetSet trip to Prague and Budapest. He gives several mission catalyzing principles. Christ focused, highly practical–good stuff. If you haven’t seen this piece yet, I encourage you to carve out 40 minutes and make it happen. Probably best to watch this with someone(s) with whom you are doing life.
Following “my name is ____,” the very next sentence he shared was: “I am also a Christian on the edge.” Others shared, “I am on the fringe.” Still others did not even know how to describe their situation. I heard this repeatedly during our recent Upstream JetSet in Prague and Budapest. There was even concern that none of the “leaders” were at one of the Frost One Day events. What these on the edge were saying was that the leaders of the long-standing church were missing. We were gathered as the planters, the rebels, perhaps the misfits according to some.
Undoubtedly we worked with and took some fringe guys on the journey with us too. (And no, I am not trying to exclude myself from this group.) I heard multiple stories of metric discombobulation and concerns about missiology and ecclesiology and its outworkings. It is not uncommon for me to have conversations via various communication modes about this fringe issue–about us. But I’m not sure that makes it easier for those that are out there who feel alone and cut off.
Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a leader. I don’t think it an accident that Christ’s first miracle recorded in the gospel of John was to turn water into wine using the ceremonial jars–all of them. Though His time had not yet come, He took the opportunity, while honoring His mama, to start conveying that things may not be as right as they seem in the religious realm. This was just the beginning of course. He still would be accused of being a drunkard and glutton. This accusation was believable by many as Jesus often spent time with those that were the unwashed eating and drinking in their homes. (e.g. Matthew, Zacchaeus, a band of Samaritans in John 4). Tragically ironic, it would be the religious leaders that crucified the Messiah who was so often on the edge.
Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a tribe. There is a band across the globe of those that are seeking to walk as Jesus did whether that puts them in the mainstream or on the fringe. Partner with these around you and walk together. Continue to bless and encourage each other. Draw from each other’s passion, creativity, stories of triumph and stories of failure. Know that there are places and networks where these fringe are likely to gather. These networks are relationally based. Good luck climbing a social ladder here. This is about people walking together on mission in grace.
Being on the fringe is not about a fight to be won. There is not a position of leadership that needs to be sought and attained. Ours is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.” Ours is to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” Ours is to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ours is to love deeply both the washed and the unwashed as we continue to experience the “breadth and length and height and depth” of His love.
Take courage. I am so thankful that you are who you are.
I hadn’t seen this clip in years, but it kept replaying in my mind. For some reason I heard Dreyfus’ voice when I typed the word “misfits.” Almost discarded the word, but thought it even better to include the clip here.
In talking with many national leaders and planters throughout our time on the Prague / Budapest JetSet trip, one of the most compelling stories for me and many of our trip participants was about how God had moved among the Czech people and was drawing them to himself. It was the story of Sasha Flek, but it was a parallel story of his country and a post-Christian world.
Sasha told of his journey in coming to Christ which was instrumental in many of his friends being transformed, though not in the sequencing one might expect. Later, led to translate the Bible into a contemporary version of Czech, which was completed a couple years ago, he continued to see God stirring the hearts of people throughout the country as the whole text was and is read annually at Easter in town squares throughout the country.
This brief interview gives some more insight into the Czech worldview which Flek describes as anti-clerical or anti-institutional. He gives some of his cultural exegesis in how to speak to his postmodern, post-Christian countrymen.
Unfortunately we did not get Sasha’s full story on video, but we do have the audio. It was a huge blessing and encouragement to me. I would encourage you to give it a listen if you can invest the time. Here is a link for the audio on The Upstream Collective sight. By the way, his story includes an amazing phenomenon that has started in the last several years in the Czech Republic because of the Easter holiday. Thought I would share that in case anyone is still looking for a good Easter illustration. (smile)
In our first meeting in Prague for this JetSet we began to lay a framework for helping the Sending Church begin the process of exegeting a different culture. For the central European region, this exegesis must include attention to the deep, long-lasting scars left from the Communist era. This reality translates into a number of unique issues including a pervasive lack of trust. While cognitively, this is not difficult to comprehend, information is often not enough to grasp the intensity of the issue and the resulting severity of the impact.
To aid in better understanding the events that have shaped the Czech and Hungarian people, we spent a couple hours in the House of Terror in Budapest which recounted some of the horror that came through the Nazi and Soviet occupations. To give insight into some of the unbridled evil that men inflicted on others, we shot a brief interview with some immediate responses from a couple of trip participants.
Many of the stories that came through were difficult for me personally. I may share some of that in the months ahead as it may seem helpful. But in this post in addition to pointing to the video and putting it in context, I will share a portion of the museum’s provided information in the room that chronicled what occurred during this era between the state and the church:
“Both Nazism–promoting racial war–and Communism–advocating class-war–regarded religion as their enemy. Whilst the totalitarian dictatorships persecuted and murdered their victims based on collective criteria, religion looks upon sin and practices forgiveness on the basis of individual responsibility. Both the Nazis and the Communists replaced God with their own leaders, whom they presented as infallible and omniscient. They swore allegiance to their leader, went into battle in his name, and surrounded his person with rituals befitting an idol.”
The church in Hungary was squelched during the Communist era. Several of her leaders sought to carry on to be a people of forgiveness and justice but the persecution and purges proved to take out many of the leaders. With the state so concerned about the power of this humility and others-focus that is to be characteristic of those identified with the name of Christ, the church’s response remains an example for us today. Even a post-Christian world will take notice and have to determine what to do with a church that will seek to be revolutionaries willing to return good for when evil is meted out by others and to be a voice and advocate for those that are without.
It was a glorious night at the furthest corner of a sprawling, underground restaurant / pub. In this bunker, we shared our stories, laughed with and perhaps a few times at each other, and had a couple Czech guys tell what the Lord has done and is doing in their lives. (Audio of the stories will be posting soon at the Upstream site.) If for no other reason than this night, the trip was a personal gain–an enriching time. All the while though, something dreadful was taking place. It was something none of us could see, but it was among us and impacting our lives both that night and, undoubtedly, for the rest of our trip.
Each of us as we put on whatever we deem sleeping attire (though I am not certain I wonder if Frost was wearing his white satin nightgown that he finds so inspiring), it hit us. Now woven into our clothes was “the stink”. Not only was it now part of our clothes it had been baked onto our skin and saturated our hair–not exactly a problem for all of us. Tossing the clothes aside and scrubbing well, I thought it was all over–we had conquered. That was until I repacked my stuff to head for the train this morning. Folding up a shirt it hit me again. The reek of the stink is pervasive.
So now with my shirt and jeans laden with the stink packed in a closed case with my clean clothes, I am afraid that the stink will have multiplied and nested in each fiber by the time we open our bags. I’m afraid we will be living with the stink for the rest of our time. Of course it’s not such a big deal to stink if everyone else around you does also, but then again maybe we can try to have an upcoming missional conversation in a laundromat.
It is a common push at the end of the year. Often church leaders are encouraging members to make their contributions by the end of the year in order to get their tax credit. But what if…?
Sitting in a “missional business” that is hotel / hostel / restaurant here in Prague, some interesting questions came up at our table. What would happen to church planting in the U.S. if no tax credits were given to members for contributions? Businessman and JetSet participant Paul Mayfield shared that the normal tax benefit of the average person in the U.S. is a 30% realized return for contributions. If this incentive was removed, would it change the economics of church planting? Further, we discussed what would happen if other charities brought tax benefits to their donors while church contributions did not gain any value beyond itself. For those looking to help others but motivated by tax savings, contributions to nonprofits that were anything but a church would take priority.
Is it possible that assumptions are made about church planting based on economic realities that may fit the exegesis of our tax structure but not the exegesis of our culture? As these tax benefits are not available in most European countries, the question of economics becomes either more or less important. But which is it? Does this lead toward setting up business as mission opportunities, tent-making or other possibilities? AND what would removing or downgrading the economic issues from church or gospel planting do to how we implement in these areas in a current known or future unknown context?
I am writing this from Prague just before jumping in bed to try to sleep off the worst of jet lag before the rest of the JetSet crew arrives tomorrow. Excited about all that is to come over the next week and a half, I continue thinking, praying and preparing for the days ahead. One idea that keeps coming to mind is: question. Whether as a noun or verb it is important for each of us (I am writing to me on this post as much as anybody), yet something that is at times hard to do.
It seems that it is either a part of human nature, American culture or a leadership profile (perhaps there is a combination of reasons) that the more experience or familiarity a person has with a topic, the less likely he or she is to ask a question to seek to wrestle with a topic. I would offer that the only helpful question is the one that is genuinely asked. Further, the only difficult question is the one that does not have a pre-determined answer.
For example, maybe someone has already dealt with and implemented a third place strategy that has 10% believers or 40% participation in a time of worship during any week. But what might a third place concept look like in a city that has less than half a percent of people who follow Christ? Does this change the outcome? If so, then what?
I am listing out some questions that may be worthwhile for you and me over the days to come:
What can I learn here? What do I do with this? Have I understood / dealt with this well historically? Have I chosen a simple answer based on simplistic inputs? Is there more to this I should consider? What other solution might fit my current context? What might happen to my outcomes if my context were to change?
It is my hope and prayer that you will genuinely benefit if you are led to participate in #js2011. See you here, at the Upstream Collective and at many other points around the net in the upcoming days.
In one week I’ll be in Prague, Czech Republic with some friends old and new as we JetSet there and in Budapest, Hungary. Together we will be seeking to continue on a journey to learn and live the ways of Christ as we sharpen and encourage each other along with other planters both expat and nationals. One overarching question for our time together will be the hallmark issue of The Upstream Collective–What does it look like for the church to think and act like a missionary?
Throughout our time from April 12-20 we will have as special guests Michael and Caroline Frost. As he has played such a huge role in helping to shape my missiology and ecclessiology, I am confident that they will be a blessing and challenge again to me but also to others.
I would be honored to have you follow along and participate in the conversation that will be happening both in person and online. Feel free to check in here often as Grady Bauer, myself and most likely some other special guests will be sharing their thoughts and responses as the conversation unfolds and at the UC site, the Twitterverse (#js2011) and other blogs and Facebook pages.
Finally, I want to strongly encourage you to consider not just taking this virtual trip with us, but also to consider walking through it with others you are doing life with. It will be, I believe, a very worthwhile investment of your time. I am including a video of a previous JetSet trip in which I was privileged to participate to help give you a better idea of some of what this virtual experience could be like.
Hope to see you there–virtually.
Here is a bit more of several of our keynote speakers / vendors at this year’s reJADED conference:
Bam! Media is helping to make the medium the message. Good and well-done are two adjectives that should never be used regarding media in the church. Instead, we strive for superb, stellar, unparalleled, first rate, oscar-caliber, unbelievably creative, out of this world descriptions for each piece we prepare.
Our research shows that when using top-shelf, highly professional productions, the viewer gets caught up in the experience. Time stands still, distractions disappear, and the piece will be remembered for a long time after the viewing experience. BAM! Media productions are the post-worship conversation. As an added bonus, 93% of our church clients report significant increases in guys that are being called to plant media productions in their communities.
Twitter Salt produces enough creativity for both of us. Twitter salt helps you live in the Twitterverse with a message. The company has a range of services that help users be salt and light to those they are leading and to other leaders in a broad, digital community. 4 key packages are available for purchase today. Also, for the person really seeking to be salt and light, use of multiple packages can help further your efforts and results. Our four highly valued packages are:
- #BringIt! – features 3 different ways to communicate each Sunday how good your message or song set are going to be. To really get noticed, you need more than “I’m really excited about what I’m sharing today,” or “(our guest speaker) is going to bring it.” While you may not be able to do better than that, we can.
- #Promote! – helps bring creativity to 10 tweets a day that will promote your latest blog post. We both know it’s important because you wrote it. Let’s get the world to read it.
- #EchoEchoEcho! – through proprietary algorithmic software, this package provides 2 tweets a day that are guaranteed to get re-tweeted by your followers and help you generate new followers with historical facts, quotes, witty sayings and off the wall thoughts that will improve your Twitter rating and make you one of the cool kids in the Twitterverse.
- #Tell! – this disciple-making service provides each user with a database of Tweets, each of which compresses the full gospel into a 140 character Tweet. This enables all of your followers to have repeated exposure to the gospel to aid in evangelism or be a key part of a discipleship process. In addition to the 140 character Tweets, there are more than 500 Tweets that communicate aspects of the gospel in a 120 character format making each post more likely to be re-Tweeted.
Mighty Escort enables tomorrow’s big deal to step it up by a day. We can see when a star is rising, but sometimes they need a little help. Mighty Escort (ME) has a full range of services that can be made available for a day, a week or longer. ME supplies a fully trained “Band of Mighty Men” to escort you from your office or a green room to the stage so you can remain focused, ready to bring it without distractions. The band can consist of as many trained bodyguards as you need to provide protection and communicate the message. Some other select services include limo and jet rentals helping you make a subtle statement. Because ME is all about you, we help you arrive.
Holy Stix, we rock your worship! Our clients tell us that our completely original repertoire sticks better than any other songs they have used. We like to think that our lyrics are the holiest, while our tunes are the catchiest. Some of our great hits have included: “I Thought It Was All About Me And Then I Met You And Realized That I Was Badly, Badly Mistaken” and “I Saw Two Sets of Tracks, But Then There Was One; I Knew That It Was Your Footprints In The Sand.”
Projecting Right helps the church look like a church should look in today’s world. Projecting right helps your church campus communicate the right message through making culturally appropriate, architect-designed facades for your buildings. For campuses that need a little missional sprucing up, we can make the most elaborate of facades to announce the new, improved church. Our clients often share that thanks to our re-design, their people are prouder of their church than ever before. Not only are people glad to come to a place with one of our new facades, they are likely to stay minutes longer after the service, begin inviting their friends to special events and hold more key family celebrations on the campus.
Inspired by Mike is the leader in creating the right environment, atmosphere and systems for working with children. Michelangelo was the master of the church mural for centuries. Drawing from his creativity, Inspired by Mike (IbM) prepares children’s areas that are highly creative, fun for children and comforting to moms. With extensive padding embedded into each wall and covered over with hand-drawn murals, rubberized floors with sedating hues, tranquil music and pleasing vegetable aromas, IbM creates a sensory experience that allows for a rowdy, crazy good time, but helps restore order and calmness so that your church can teach your kids the important stuff of life during the children’s hour or two each week.