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a beat down

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It was a beat down. Michael O’Leary had 15 minutes to present ideas on innovation from Ryanair–the Southwest Airlines equivalent of Europe–to the Innovation Convention at the EU. Within the first 30 seconds, he was skewering the EU. For the next 15 minutes, he continued in the same way. To say that it was a blistering presentation would be an understatement.

So, while this is not a political forum, I thought it interesting to point out this video because it was interesting to me to watch the uncomfortable chuckles that came from the session moderator who was miked up and the audience as the camera pans out to capture the grimaces on a regular basis.

This is illustrative of a natural response to criticism. The presenter gave an in your face effort to force some level of disorientation for the audience, but the response of the moderator at the end of the video shows the resistance to really considering Mr. O’Leary’s point. It was an effort to defend the present based on actions taken some time prior. Mr. O’Leary quickly addresses the point and seems to make a mockery of the whole thing.

As it is easy to see the awkwardness that comes with a hollow self-defense, it is an opportunity for us to see the strange responses we are apt to give to criticism. The Pharisees did it when they were skewered by the rabbi claiming to be the Son of God. We do it in defense of church as is. What if we really were to evaluate criticism that comes our way to see if there was any truth to what the speaker was communicating?

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who will speak into their narrative?

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They have their own narrative. Regardless of which narrative they’re in…Hybels, Warren, Piper, Bell, Driscoll, Hirsch, Frost…they’re all being shaped by someone.  Over the years I’ve noticed that there are very few if any missionaries speaking into their narratives.  In the past this was largely impossible because those of us living overseas rarely spend time in the US.  Conferences would he held, events attended and we were never to be seen.  But all of this has changed….sort of.

Over the last few years more and more of us living overseas have started blogging….and a new tribe has been born.  In many ways we’ve started our own narrative.  Most of the overseas bloggers are more forward thinking and missional in practice.  The great thing has been our ability to connect with each other.  I for one usually feel like a misfit in my organization due to my relational/missional approach to life and ministry but among this tribe I feel at home….I experience community in this new tribe.  I’ve not only learned alot from reading the blogs but also received alot of encouragement. But could we do more…could we build our tribe and influence the US narrative at the same time?

Some would say it’s not our role to influence the US church.  They would argue that it’s the job of the seminaries, the conferences, denominational leadership.  I would say this argument is flawed because it reduces mission to a theory…one not being practiced by those teaching about mission.  So if we believe that the US church being on mission is necessary for our work…and if we believe that what we do on a daily basis can actually help the US church engage their world better as well….then it’s up to us to not only engage our local narratives with the gospel…but it’s also up to us to engage the US narrative with missional living.

We’re writing our blogs…but are they reading them.? We’re reading our blogs….but are we reading theirs?  Are our blogs too focused on missions….too branded for them to see the connection?  How else can we help shape the narrative?  We can’t complain that we’re left out of the conversation if we’re not actively trying to participate in theirs. On the field we leave our comfort zones, learn the language and enter into their 3rd places in order to have a voice and exercise influence.  The same goes for the US pastoral narrative….we need to leave our comfort zones, learn their language and enter their 3rd places …only then will we have a voice and will be able to influence.  So the big question is…how do speak into their narrative?

Categories : leadership, missiology
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what are you waiting for?

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At first it sounded so noble…”I spend 2-3 hours with God every morning.”  Then he said “And every afternoon I read a Christian book for 2-3 hours”….and then he hit the home run….”And at night I get in another 1-2 hours with God.”  Sounds like a good missionary to me….but then more came out.  He had time to do all of this because he had nothing else to do.  You see he had been sitting on the field for over a year literally doing nothing.  Why?  Because his boss created his platform…it wasn’t working and so he was waiting.  What was he waiting for?  Even he couldn’t answer the question.

What are you waiting for?  Permission?  Acceptance? Skills? Being comfortable? A book deal? Record deal? A new title or position?  I say…screw the reasons and go for it.  If what you’re doing isn’t working…then change it.  If your dream seems impossible…make it possible…start moving towards it. Whether we’re missionaries on the field or business people in the US we can do more than wait. Amanda Hocking isn’t waiting, and she’s making millions writing books without a publisher.

Sometimes it just takes a few moments to get unstuck from the moment.  The guy in the first paragraph took about 5 minutes.  We sat and talked, he finally shared his frustration and also his dreams.  And I gave him permission…he doesn’t work for me…or even in my part of Europe…but he’s not waiting anymore.  What’s your dream?  Do you have an idea?  A ministry you want to try?  What are you waiting for?

:::remember me…Grady Bauer?  I’ve left my home over at Missional Space and am now writing with my good friend and fellow sarcastic saint AlmostM.  Thanks for dropping by!

Categories : leadership
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rethinking team

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Imagine if at the end of basketball practice one day the coach says “tomorrow is the big game day. I want you all to wear your favorite jersey you can find laying around your house. Grab whatever ball or sporting gear that you like and then go to some field or court to play the game at 2:00 tomorrow. Chances are that I won’t be there.”

That would be more like recess rather than team sports. The above scenario does not embody what we would normally view as a team. Instead, this would be a whole bunch of people going out to play–whatever and wherever they want.

In conversation with a dear friend last week, I discussed the differences of a team and an association or a group. In working through some of these concepts with a “team” that is going out on mission, one of the leaders threw out the term community. That makes sense! This alleviates the pejorative connotation that comes with association of group in comparison with our much revered word team.

Undoubtedly, in mission there are some groups of people that are functioning as a team in every sense of the word. Others may function more as a community in most situations. While both will have a shared objective, only the team will have a shared strategy to achieve the ends.

Check out the latest blog on UC’s site to read more on this from my friend Bill Lewis: http://blog.theupstreamcollective.org/2010/10/04/were-a-team-right/

Categories : leadership
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The volume of silence

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It has happened before. Recently, I am aware of situations where it has happened again. What if a leader was suddenly, unexpectedly unable to talk for an extended period of time? What if the best (and worst) sermons a pastor could give were already taught? What if a teacher’s audible lessons in discipleship were already taught? What would it look like now? How would the disciple(s) do?

I have seen and experienced situations where those who were making disciples relocated in places far from the disciples they were training. Perhaps we thought they were ready. Maybe not. It is beyond us…still at times it hurts.

This weekend I had the privilege of meeting Brother Sam in person. We didn’t talk much because he was unable. Due to significant pain in his mouth of late, he visited the doctor and learned that he has oral cancer. More tests and treatment are soon to come. My prayers go out to him, his family, and his church. I look forward to having opportunities to sit and talk with him in the future. Through being with him and praying for him at this time, however, I have been prompted to ask many questions.

What if I lived my life with the expectation that I would soon be mute and no longer able to teach or disciple those walking with me? What would I do differently? What if, as one who makes disciples, I was suddenly unable to speak? What would I do to help advance others in walking more as He did? What if all the lessons I could ever teach were by example? How much would I pray? How much would I serve? How much would I think of others as better than myself? What changes would that make in how I view church?

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Pithy Wisdom

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He didn’t come in the VIP door. He hugged so many before and stayed and talked and took pictures with people after. Though he has reasons to boast, he was humble…and wise. Here are some of Rick Warren’s quotes from this session:

“The more important your job, the more humble you must be.”

“Don’t take early losses seriously.”

“Don’t focus on attendance. Focus on attendance and discipleship.”

“You have got to get over the prima donna complex….For the anointing of God, you must build your life on integrity, humility, and generosity.”

“You don’t have to be perfect to have integrity, but you do have to be authentic.”

“What matters is do you love people.”

“We actually grow best and we grow fastest through models.”

“The lesson of the whale…. When you get to the top and you are ready to blow, that’s when they harpoon you.”

Thank you Rick!

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Velocity Quotes

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Here are a few quotes from presenters today at the churchplanters.com Velocity conference.

  1. “We have to assume now that all mission is cross-cultural.”  ~ Alan H
  2. “It’s not that the church has a mission, but the mission has a church.”  ~ Alan Hirsch
  3. (Speaking about planting churches,) “I’m not even sure what we are trying to do the world wants.”  ~ Shawn Lovejoy
  4. “If you do church to reach church, then you’ll reach somebody else’s Christians.”  ~ Hugh Halter
  5. “The [Christian story] is a peasant’s movement.”  ~ Hugh Halter
  6. “…community has to be the witness now.”  ~ Hugh Halter
  7. “You cannot sell a Christendom approach to a post-Christian world. They are anti-Christian.”  ~ Alan Hirsch
  8. “Go among the people. Don’t assume you know what church looks like.”  ~ Alan Hirsch
  9. “You plant the gospel. You don’t plant churches.”  ~ Alan Hirsch
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G2g: Environment

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Key principle #5 for moving discipleship from great to good: Teach and practice discipleship in a safe, sterile environment to avoid dangerous encounters and messy situations.

One great bonus to being a follower of Christ is that transformation occurs. This is true not only in a person’s life, but also in a community. Missionaries share that when an entire village comes to Christ that the village is visibly transformed in terms of sanitation, meeting each others needs, etc. To take this reality and limit discipleship to the realm of good, then it will be important to ensure that discipleship happens in communities and with peoples that have already been transformed. Doing this will put disciples of Christ in situations where they can interact with those that are followers of Christ or followers of a moral code that mimics some of the changes of a transformed life. As a result, disciples pursuing good are safer and able to avoid some difficult, uncomfortable, or morally challenging situations.

Hermetic environments can include doing all discipleship inside the church, in homes of upper-middle class believers, inside conference settings, in cultural contexts that are familiar, etc. Additionally, for further good, extensive opportunities to disciple or be discipled in a safe context, believers can consider massing as residents in select neighborhoods. These could, once again, be in higher income areas or even gated communities. Also, this congregating of disciples can occur in a select country or countries.

Jesus walked. He moved. He got dust on His feet. The same dust that stuck to His feet also stuck to the disciples’ feet. Making a strong point, Jesus washed the dust off the disciples’ feet. He walked on the streets in the cities and into the homes of sinners and tax collectors. He walked through other towns that were not places that were normal for a Jew to walk. Places that may not have been safe. Walking with His Father and walking with others, he did not pursue safety. Interacting with the sick, morally depraved, and diseased, He was Truth and Love to a people that had not encountered Him before.

At the end of John’s gospel, we read of a setting when Jesus meets with His disciples while there appear to have been fish flopping on the ground. What an environment for teaching. This was a call to Peter and to the disciples to make a decision if they wanted to pursue a life of fishing for fish or for men. Either course would involve some real settings with real people. One pursuit would matter forever, while the other would matter for a few hours. After this, they understood that this was not a call to either equality or comfort. But it was a great call–the only worthwhile thing they could pursue.

both / and
I find that evangelicals have historically been very in favor of a Jesus who saves. But He said, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”  His life is emblematic of seeking the lost. He was also about saving the lost that He encountered. This is a both/and construct that He is passionate about. In the Great Commission recorded in Matthew He really calls us to “make disciples” “as we go.” According to his instruction and example, the going is a large part of the discipleship process. As a result, the environment in which discipleship occurs is constantly changing.

(In the excerpts from my non-book, Great to Good (G2g), truth or satire may be employed. At times, the two may even meet.)

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An Essential Metaphor

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book-cover-with-gray-matConveying what is arguably the best metaphor for missional, incarnational living, “Live Sent: you are a letter” is a healthy, needed read for followers of Christ. Jason Dukes, who I am proud to call a friend, uses an extended metaphor or conceit throughout the book to share the ever-present reality that as disciples and disciple-makers we are the image of Christ to the lost. Like the snail mail or an email that is sent to be read, our lives are the content that communicates who Christ is. The reading of a letter or email can happen anywhere, but it must be close and personal. It is real. The book is a call to examine the way we live our lives. It is a call to live sent. Constantly. Consistently. Christ-like. Living sent.

Jason poses the question, “What’s my part in this epic called humanity?’ His answer is that each of us is to live our lives just as we are sent by God–because we are. In the book he communicates four main points.

First, he suggests that “there may be some things we need to rethink.” These things include life, church, relationships, and our intentions. He encourages the reader to ask if the way we are doing each of these is consistent with our call to live sent?

Second, he states that “living sent is all about trusting your value.” Made in the image of God, we can move forward in confidence that our life or our “live” (short “i” there) is worthwhile because of him.

Third, he shares that to live sent, we must do life together. He writes that the “epic of humanity…should be seen most beautifully within the movement Jesus started that he called His ‘church.'”

Fourth, we are to be consistently “giving ourselves away intentionally.” There is a really good example for that. Enough said.

Pick the book up and read it–to the end. Don’t miss out on the stories and the post scripts. They are important to make this both a “construct shift” and provide some practical, non-sequential handles to put this in motion. Because after all, living sent is about making disciples as we go.

One final note here that is important. It is the unwritten but very read post script. Jason is one humble guy. Borrow or steal his stuff and he’ll be fine. Just live and share it is his hope. Jason is unique in that he is not reacting to something that he grew up with that he needs to fix or improve. He has seen this sentness lived out in his family as he grew up in inner-city New Orleans doing life there. Watching his parents live sent there. He is blessed as he is part of a network of other humble leaders and followers and learners. He walks through life with some great guys that are also humble leaders: Jim Collins (no, not that Jim Collins the other one), Hal Haller, Robert Beckman, Adam Mayfield, Billy Mitchell, and others. These men along with their wives and children make up a great cloud of witnesses that are making disciples as they live sent. This is a tribe that has encouraged their brother Jason to write down the way that he has lived and shared and modeled and lived…so that others may see the realness of it. So that others may be challenged and encouraged to live sent. These are guys that are a blessing to me though we have been together only for a spot of time so far. Thank you Jason and crew.


Rob Thomas On Leadership

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1242074935.50407.redrocks2Friedman told us years ago that the World is Flat. Having been overseas 10 of the last 15 years, I have repeatedly been made aware that this global flattening is being expressed in its totality in a city near you. This is true both in the U.S. as well as in urban centers throughout Europe. At its most basic and observable level, there are people from a host of countries with a palette of colors and a symphonic cacophony of languages making a global urban move. As an example, just yesterday I got my hair cut by a Moroccan lady while a Chinese lady waited for the next customer. After this I grabbed a sandwich at Subway where an Arab woman and African-American young man were making the sandwiches. Other stops for the day included Target, Best Buy, and the airport…lots more nations represented.

So what does your city look like? What does your church staff/leadership look like? What do your disciples look like?

Rob Thomas’ band included 3 caucasians (including Rob), 4 African-Americans, and a hispanic guitarist. Each thoroughly and uniquely gifted. Together, they form one tight band…and look like a slice of America.

Categories : church, leadership, trends
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