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Farewell Starbucks

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It is time for me to say adios to my backyard coffee vendor. Goodbye Starbucks.

We are not parting on bad terms. In fact, I appreciate how St. Arbucks has always been there for me when I could not find a quaint, local-flavor coffee shop that had a beverage that was at least as good. Though I am not a big fan of their normal coffee, I do enjoy a Starbucks frappucino, caramel macchiato, and mocha–especially with a bit of peppermint added. But my consistent patronage must end. I will still be able to come and see you from time to time when I am on the road, but no more visits in my hometown. This also goes for my other local coffee shop that has such amazing pastries. Though I may still stop by, it will be very, very rare.

As we move into another part of our town where Christ needs to be exalted among an exploding, low-income minority group, I don’t find any of your stores for miles. The roads that demarcate where my new people reside are still at least two miles from your kind, green sign. Though the future place(s) for my work on all things digital while interacting with the people on some level is not clear, I will find a spot where the language and culture reflect the people rather than my more accustomed, U.S. environment. My drink(s) of choice and normal fare will need to change as well.

Thank you Starbucks. I will see you in the future. But until then you can find me in….

Categories : missiology, story
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A Tragic Tale

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While on the recent JetSet, we had a missionary / church-planter–T.J.–share some of his story. He has been in France more years than not. While so much of his talk was fascinating to me, there was one slice that grieved me. This is a paraphrased version of that story told in 3rd person.

As the “French” guy, TJ was invited on multiple occasions to be present at Sunday lunch with U.S. families that had finally convinced their French exchange student to go to church for the first time. The best he could understand is that these families wanted him to do a church debrief as he was uniquely qualified to understand and communicate with them from a French vantage point. This scenario played itself out on five different occasions with five different students. When TJ asked the young person how they liked their church experience, the responses were similar. Each thought the music was good. Each thought the preaching time was interesting–but not in a good way. They were surprised at how passive and compliant the audience seemed to be to whatever the preacher was saying. Each of them shared some variation of the following idea: “I felt like I was in a Nazi war rally.”

This is the unique, growing challenge of working in a post-Christian context.

Categories : story, trends
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Mosaic as Church

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These pictures were taken over a period of a few days in London during the recent Upstream Collective JetSet trip (thanks to Brad Hamilton for the assist with the photos). These represent the mosaic that is modern-day London and so many other global cities.

With the influx of immigrants and cultures, there is, some say, now a trans-national individual. For the individual that is a frequent traveler, student of cultures, in close relationship with non-native nationals, and/or as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation immigrant,  there is a stronger connection with a culture that is more diverse than the singular culture of their parents. As a result, it is possible that a resident in a global, urban center may identify with cultures in other large, urban cities around the world more so than with the culture in other smaller cities and towns in his or her native country.

Missiologist and life-long practitioner, SJ expounds on this idea that there is no such thing as a multi-cultural church. Instead, he claims that there is a multi-ethnic church. Though a church may have people from different nations and languages, the reality is that every church has its own culture. For this reason, a city such as London needs thousands of churches and the resulting cultural connections and expressions that come out of this.

Categories : church, trends
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God save the Queen!

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After helping host last week’s JetSet trip with The Upstream Collective, I had some additional meetings in Spain before returning back to London for a return flight home. With all of the conversations and things to do while in London last week, I never had a chance to break away and see Buckingham Palace. But today I took that opportunity on the way from the airport to the hotel. And….

Upon arriving there in the constant dreary rain, I walked past the front of Buckingham wanting to take pictures, but not wanting to ruin a SLR camera. Then I decided to come back to the entrance and try to snap a couple quick picks with the iPhone. That’s when the guards moved from inside the fence to the outside and began stopping all passers-by. Then just moments later, out rolled the Queen of England and Prince Philip.

Then I remembered that: He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. (Daniel 2:21)

Note: In the upcoming weeks I plan to spend more time debriefing some aspects of the trip and the conversation. I am still processing, and still trying to get back home. Some themes I am still thinking about and praying through include global cities, contextualization, presence vs. proclamation, working in a post-Christian context, etc.

Categories : Bible, story
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In London, England with The Upstream Collective, we had a stimulating discussion today about issues of contextualization in churches that are unique to London and many other urban, global centers. Questions were raised about whether or not metaphors, music, language, accents, etc. should be adjusted for the target audience. One of the realities dealt with was the presence of trans-nationals in urban, global centers. Additionally, there are nationals and a plethora of other distinct ethnic groups, etc.

To provide one thought on this discussion, I offer Malcolm Gladwell’s 2004 Ted talk where he shares about the market research of Dr. Howard Moskowitz. His findings on product research include the revolutionary findding that there is not a perfect product, but rather there are a number of perfect products. It seems that we have Dr. Moskowitz to thank for the retail dilemma of which of 13 different Crest toothpaste flavors to choose from. And about as many Colgate offerings, etc.

These findings also, I believe, speak to the numbers of and types of churches and church plants that are necessary to reach the transnationals and different people groups of an urban, global city such as London.

Your thoughts?

Categories : church, missiology
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God’s Stories

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Filmed in an undisclosed location for security reasons, the God’s Stories videos are simply brilliant in a number of ways. This video series makes a visual chronological storying of the stories that teach us about who God is and man’s relation to Him for Arabic speaking people. Additionally, the materials are to be translated into other dialects and languages as well.

Conceived as the G2 (GII) Project as it could have an enormous, transformational impact in the world similar to what Gutenberg’s press had some 6 centuries ago. In Arabic “with native born directors, production people, and designs,” the videos make His story available for those that previously have been unable to read these Spirit-breathed stories. The executive producer, John Dorr, describes the videos as “a set of dramatized Bible character stories developed on a foundation of storytelling – and telling them in the order they happen. These stories begin at the beginning with Adam & Eve, and move on through the Old & New Testament on to the Beloved Apostle, John on Patmos.”

At this time, the film-makers are trying to increase distribution. Toward that end, help spread the word. These life-changing videos are now being viewed in homes and some places of prayer for Arabic-speaking peoples.

I would recommend that you consider using these as a very fresh look at the God stories as they are told for a non-western audience. Spending some quiet time watching these stories may provide some new understanding of how these stories speak to us. (I would encourage you to watch at least the first 20 minutes to get a taste of how the story is told and the different perspective employed as it is told by Arab speakers for an Arabic people.)

Finally, enjoy and pray that these video stories would not return void. Also, I would encourage you to visit the God’s stories site or the corresponding YouTube channel where videos are being uploaded now.

Categories : video
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Future Learning

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Last month I had the privilege of spending some time with Michael Frost and his lovely wife. One of the primary reasons for this time was to shoot some video for an upcoming project…more on that in the future, but it will be great! During the video shoot with all of the normal professional video gear, I plopped a little Flip Video cam up to capture some of the content and make it available sooner and to this audience. The upside is the videos will be made available in short clips over the upcoming weeks. The downside is that there were constraints on the editing that can be done which impacts the audio a bit. Also, it required some creative video editing that gives Frost a bit of an angelic appearance. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. (smile)

In this first piece he identifies some of the problems faced and insights available for those that have been about disciple-making and church-planting in cultures that are a little further down the road of secularization and appearing more and more as a post-Christian context. At this point, let me make a brief plug for readers to consider the issue of disorientation that is facilitated by being involved in international and/or cross-cultural engagement.

Categories : video
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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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Hello World

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Even with minimal observation, the reality is clear. The world is coming to your door. In fact, they are already here.

  • According to a 2007 edition of the New York Times, “Nonwhites now make up a majority in almost one-third of the most populous counties in the country and in nearly one in 10 of all 3,100 countries” (Another Man’s Sombrero).
  • DHS estimates that the illegal immigrant population grew by 27% between 2000 and 2009 (HS: Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population: January 2009).
  • Estimates of permanent expatriates residing in the U.S. legally allow for half of those to have achieved their legal status since 2000 (HS: Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2008).

While a significant percentage of the foreign residents are from Mexico, the reality is that the spectrum of nations are here. Personally, I see them in all my travels in various cities and states. They are patrons at Starbucks coffee and Cici’s pizza.

The significant growth of foreign residents in the U.S. are one significant reason that the U.S. church must begin to “think and act like a missionary.” The implications are mutliple. One major issue the church must address is the issue of how will we choose to pursue or avoid relationship with select ethnic groups that have not assimilated into a more homogenous U.S. culture.

Categories : missiology, trends
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Cross culture through literature

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This week The Upstream Collective is conducting a JetSet Tour spending time in a number of places including Copenhagen, Denmark. Seeking to make a small contribution to this week’s discussion and vision trip, I suggest a little reading…

Learning the literature of another people or country is key for a couple of reasons. First, the process aids the learner in acquiring cultural insight. This, I believe, fits with 2 Timothy 2:15. We are to have some insight into how the Scriptures may be perceived by other cultures. For example, in an animistic culture where people are seeking to understand how things began, the genealogy in Luke has proved powerful in some contexts. When working in a former Communist culture, use of a text that may have been used as a tool to disprove God (e.g. John 3:16) may not be the best place to start explaining the Word.

Little-Mermaid-movie-08Second,  being a student of literature communicates to the nationals that you are entering as a learner wanting to be enriched through their heritage. At some levels, the ethnocentric tendencies are suspended. Many healthy conversations may center around their national heroes. Not only does this firmly place the foreigner in the role of the learner and the national in the role of expert, but this can also  lead to meaningful relationships and opportunities to deal with the big issues. These topics may include wisdom, social justice, love, the meaning of life, God, eternity, existentialism, hope, etc.

Thankfully, there is a rich trove of authors that are Danish and even more that are Scandinavian. Some authors to spend time reading would include:

  • Hans Christian Anderson – a Danish author that is one of the premier children’s story-tellers in all of history. Some of his famous tales include The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid.
  • Søren Kierkegaard – another Dane that was philosopher, theologian, and so much more. Exploring his frustrations with the state church among a host of other ideas may prove helpful for the individual as well as gaining insight and access to future conversations.
  • William Shakespeare – though he is a touch less Danish than the two writers above, the famous tragedy Hamlet occurs in and around the Kronberg Castle.

Happy reading!

Categories : case study, missiology
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