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i collect bad wines

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Rick Elias was a passenger on US Airways flight 1549 which crashed into the Hudson river.  He recently spoke at a TED talk and shared some life changing things that happened in coming so close to death and then having another chance.  One of the things he took away from the event is that he would collect bad wines.  In other words he was tired of collecting wines for some future event. He said from now on…”if the wine is ready and the person is there I’m opening it.”

Our lives can change in a moment…an accident can happen, a person can move, a country can enter a revolution, a job can be lost….and we can find ourselves with a good “wine” and no one to share it with.  Or even worse we can leave the good wine behind and no one will ever enjoy it.  So enough waiting.  We can all make excuses for why we wait to share, for why we wait to love, for why we wait to connect. But life can change in a moment…and we may lose the chance. None of us will face our final moments and wish we’d followed more rules, obeyed more policies.  None of us will wish we had been more fearful….but we will regret not taking risks, we will regret not being the husband, father, son, daughter, wife, follower, leader, friend that we could have been.

What would happen to our families…our churches…our teams…our cities if we would start collecting bad wines…because we’re constantly sharing the best we have with everyone we meet?

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BAM and church

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With the different wiring and  issues facing the mission-oriented person (MOP) and the business-oriented person (BOP), there are several options for how to be about business as mission (BAM). The first option is to determine that one type of individual and resulting strategy is categorically right and the other is always wrong. There are a host of issues that make this a poor choice, so let’s put this choice aside for now. Second would be to allow that both have merit and each MOP or BOP should find his or her own way. I have seen cases where this has and is happening, but often with poor results. A third option would be for the church to come alongside the MOP or BOP person and resulting proposed strategy and speak into the conversation, process and strategy. This is, I am convinced, a super healthy way to move forward.

If mission belongs to the church, then BAM is a tool or strategy for the church to use. The church is uniquely positioned to be able to work with the MOP to bring some BOP(s) into a collaborative relationship to be able to speak into strategy and process. On the other side of the scale, the church can bring MOP(s) into a consultative relationship with the BOP person being sent out to provide balance and perspective.

The church that is seeking to take rightful ownership of the commission of Christ can as a healthy body help in addressing strategy in a range of areas including resourcing whether it be expertise, legal counsel, capital fund-raising, business plans, missional living coaching, etc. The church is key in seeing the gospel go forward. If she takes ownership of this responsibility, then she should also prepare to work in a range of ways and strategies including BAM.

As this happens, there will be a slew of new questions to address. At the base level, the church will do well to look to answer the question about her role both if and in BAM as a strategy for her people to reach out to those to whom they have been sent.


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business as mission?

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There is a rising interest and practice in the use of business to do mission. With this comes both new opportunities and new challenges. As I have been involved in this some over the years in a couple different iterations, I thought it would be helpful to begin writing on the topic here from time to time. Following are some revised notes from a chat I facilitated last month with Skybridge Community. The follow-up post will deal with the church’s role in business as mission. While this would not normally be a first post on BAM stuff without laying more groundwork, I have promised to get this up for use by a church I am currently in consultation with on the topic. Of course, we can always go backward in the future…blogs are fluid!
There is, I believe, a distinct difference between mission-oriented people (MOP) that are seeking to use business and business-oriented people (BOP) that are seeking to be on mission. When the MOP speaks of business as mission (BAM), they are usually talking about a platform. For the BOP, when speaking about the business aspect of BAM, they are usually thinking more in terms of a profitable, self-sustaining business model. Both of these have value. At the same time, both wirings come with some difficulties (more on this another time).

Most people will be able to self-identify quickly as being either a MOP or a BOP. Some natural ways to determine this would deal with whether someone is more comfortable developing a business plan or a ministry plan. Are they more comfortable interpreting financial statements or exegeting culture? Is reading business books and magazines more or less desirable than reading Christian literature? Does their conversation tend toward business or church models? Generally, a person will lean in one direction or the other.

The mission-oriented person (MOP) and the business-oriented person (BOP) will naturally have different questions and face different challenges.

Common questions and challenges for the MOP:
– What are opportunities to fund the mission effort?
– How can I get into meaningful relationships with non-believing nationals?
– How do I gain experience / credibility in business?
– How should I pursue / maintain excellence / professionalism?
– How much time do I have to spend on business type activities?

Common questions and challenges for the BOP:
– Where can I find good workers and legal structure to expand my business or outsource parts of my current business?
– What job / business model exists or is possible that fits my giftings and context?
– How do I balance work and mission?
– How can I practically be about the mission?
– How can I fully engage culture / be a learner?

Next BAM post: BAM and church

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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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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.

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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the story of a man and his country

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Sasha Flek tells his storyIn 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)

Categories : missiology, story
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communism and culture

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This is a wall of victims in the House of Terror Museum in Budapest, Hungary

A wall of victims in the House of Terror museum in Budapest, Hungary.

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.

Categories : case study, missiology
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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.

Categories : church, missiology
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loving Japan

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With the terrible earthquake, tsunami and now the ongoing aftershocks, many are beginning to look at ways to participate in helping the Japanese people. Praying for them is significant, but our call is one of both prayer for and acts of kindness toward the people as we seek to feed the hungry, cloth the naked or help in whatever way is needed.

While there are a number of good organizations out there providing humanitarian relief, I thought I would mention one in particular as many are not aware of the group. BGR is Baptist Global Response. While their logo may need some work, the good that they do is noteworthy and something in which others may want to participate. If your family or your church are looking for credible organizations that get donations to areas of need and provide avenues for people to lend a helping hand, this is definitely one worth considering. I know several of their board members and leaders and can vouch that these are solid guys.

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launch of themissionbook.com

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Last week The Upstream Collective launched themissionbook.com–a new resource for so much that is mission. It was my privilege to help brainstorm a bit of what this resource could be as we were throwing around ideas for the development of a piece to advance the conversation of missions. The idea we dreamed up and the tool that was born did not match up exactly, but maybe that is a good thing. As collaborators, we are so pleased with what did come out as the still-in-development product. Sure there are still some web tweaks being done to the site (I was told it was done with j-query for any tech geeks out there that care about that stuff) but most importantly it’s a place to join the conversation.

Share your one-page contribution. Comment on the voices that are out there. Feel free to share things you agree or even disagree with via Facebook or Twitter. As a tool for furthering the conversation of missions, we feel this one has all the potential to do just that and it has already started. Having you participate in the exploration and discussion could very well make it a more meaningful conversation.

Categories : missiology
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