Archive for Europe
With the swearing in of the new Greek Prime Minister this past week, I heard multiple news pundits share that it was really strange to see such a strong religious aspect accompany a seemingly secular event. Many references were made to separation of church and state–yes, our separation of church and state. Some personalities seemed to imply that our less religious political transfers of power should be more of the norm for other western, developed countries. The commentary was often laden with ethnocentrism mixed with disbelief that others could be so different. Disbelief that others could be so elementary or even so wrong.
Just because there are religious leaders all over the place does not make Greece or other declared Orthodox countries super-religious. This is not too different for Catholic countries as well, but one peculiarity of Orthodoxy is the nationalism that it reinforces and generates. Without a centralized Pope, many Orthodox countries have their own Patriarch. There has been a multi-century symbiotic relationship between the state and the church in these lands which I would contend continues to this day. The state has relied on the church to confirm its voice or authority as the one designated by God to lead the people. As for those of the cloth, the church has relied on the state to keep its head and shoulders connected. Whether this is actually execution, state funding, and/or unique, favorable legislation, the mode changes, but the outcome is very similar. In addition to the nationalism that this codependent relationship fosters, it also often leads to a secularization of society. Everyone is aware that there are charades afoot and all are willing and expecting to play along. Once the ceremonies are over, however, all can return to normal.
So, methinks, maybe a little less ethnocentric worldview would be good in general and especially so for the sent ones. Also, methinks that there is much to learn about how another people think, worship, live, etc. Understanding culture is a never-ending incremental process that we would do well to embrace if we are to be the ones to announce and demonstrate in contextually appropriate ways that indeed, our God does reign.
Often, I have the opportunity to talk with people about partnership opportunities in various parts of the UK. One key link I often refer them to is a 5 minute piece that gives a quick run down on how to understand the UK. It seems this is about as simple as it gets…and no, that is not so simple.
Prior to launching a start-up company, some key questions have to be answered. Chief among these is how the venture will create customers. Toward that end a business plan is drafted, critiqued and revised continually. This helps gather the team around a shared vision that helps them agree and understand how the venture will succeed (or fail) with goals for both the top and bottom lines and everything in between.
For BAM or marketplace ministry ventures, a little more input will prove to be helpful. There are a number of key questions that, when addressed on the front end, will impact outcomes. Included among these issues are:
On Tuesday, (10/25) I will have the privilege of chatting with several that are involved in or considering pursuing BAM opportunities to facilitate a discussion on these and other key issues with the SkyBridge Community. If you have interest in launching a BAM enterprise or using your marketplace ministry with more intentionality, I invite you to join this conversation.
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.
A few days ago I returned from almost two weeks of travel in the beautiful and often rugged Balkan peninsula where I was privileged to meet with many nationals and expats. It was a time for encouragement and challenge as well as being encouraged and challenged. Thank you to each of you who were a blessing to me along the way!
Through my time, explorations and many conversations there, the vast Balkan history that is at times sublime and at other times horrifying, became both clearer and more complex. While a number of things about the area merit discussion, two things stood out to me.
First, there seems to be a pervasive hatred that runs throughout the land and countries that comprise the area. I think it may be possible to find out what country a person is in or what ethnic group one may be communicating with by asking the question, “Who do you hate?” Surprising enough, the question may not even have to be asked. Upon leaving Greece I shared with the national TSA equivalent that I had traveled in Macedonia which seemingly played a part in me being questioned repeatedly by two different agents as well as dual pat downs and triple examination of my baggage.
Second, the need for the hope of Christ is as pervasive as the hatred. While I had the privilege of meeting with many national and expat church planters as well as purposed NGOs, there were so many cities and towns where the Good News is not being proclaimed. At a time when economic, political and ethnic unrest are challenging the stability of the area, there is enormous need for the Kingdom of God to be proclaimed in the land of the Balkans. I am thankful for those who are about this task now and am praying for you!
May God bless these wonderfully diverse peoples. (BTW – I’ll be posting a few pics from some highlights there soon on my FB account.)
For the person with a normal diet of steak and potatoes with a chaser of chocolate bon bons, life may be viewed as good. If there is a change in income, then something may need to change. Either cut the bon bons or downgrade the protein selection. It may still be feasible to have chopped liver and not let go of the bon bons for the chocolate afficionado. With still further reductions in monies, a minimal diet may consist of beans and rice–bye bye bon bons. Though nice while they are around, one would be hard-pressed to argue that they are essential. In times of difficulty, people will generally move toward what is most important for survival.
As many expressions of church deal with the reality of declines in giving, they will do well to determine what are the bon bons and what is the protein essential. Already, many are asking “where are we going to save money? How do we align our giving and expenses?”
With abundant, due respect to Rick Warren, I disagree with his egalitarian approach to the 5 purposes of the church. Instead, I would suggest that there is a primary, over-riding purpose for the church. Whether expressed as “making disciples” or participating with the One who came “to seek and to save that which was lost, our calling is to mission. Both locally and globally, we are to prioritize mission. (This can be developed further at another time.) As we do mission, we will worship, teach, and fellowship. For more on this see Michael Frost on the topic.
If mission is the purpose of the church out of or because of which other things flow, any rearrangements in financial allocation should, I believe, be directed away from areas that do not directly influence mission. Further on this, we would do well to redouble our efforts at taking the gospel to our communities and the world. This is the essential, non-negotiable that will determine the future health of every group of believers.
As it relates to staffing, those who lead mission may be more indispensable than those that teach or lead worship. The ones making disciple-making disciples are the ones that are making the church be just that–the church. Putting resources to serving the community and beyond may very possibly be a better investment than improving a worship experience. Drilling wells in impoverished places in Africa or drinking coffee in post-Christian urban centers in Europe both for the purpose of taking the gospel may prove more important than cooling a building to a certain temperature.
A serious re-think of what is important and how dollars are spent will be difficult but worthwhile. In the next post in this series (see stating the obvious for the previous post), I’ll share a practical aspect of this in encouraging churches to consider undertaking a new building program….
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.
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.
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.