Brewing a Better World (Part 1): Musings and Mission and Transforming the World

Photo by Jake Liefer
I remain obsessed with bringing the hope and wholeness of Lord Jesus to those who have been the least-reached by his message, least-reachable by his followers, and least in reach of his reign in this world.  This obsession has manifest itself in many strange ways over the years. I have become strange, and I'm okay with that.

[Read the whole Brewing a Better World Series here.]

Coffee is the latest, perhaps most surprising, new dimension of my strangeness as I try to discover new ways of . . . not sure what exactly.  Bosch said mission is about transforming reality.  That's true and that's what I care about.  That's the passion to which I've devoted the last 18 years of my life.  I have gradually discovered about myself that when I see problems of lostness, brokenness, oppression, injustice and the like I don't want to raise awareness about them.  I don't want to help out.  I want to change it.  I want to end it.  What is worse, I tend to believe that transformation is wholly possible.  

So, all this to say that I've stepped into a more active and significant role with Endiro Coffee - which my sister founded a few years back and which officially became a part of the Trinity family a couple years after that.  I spend about half my time now thinking about (and drinking) coffee.  I've dusted off and refurbished old creative, marketing and branding skills and am even trying to develop my palate so that can tell you with authority if a certain coffee bean is malty, earthy, fruity, honey-toned, or all of the above. And it's all crazy as heck because I had never even consumed a cup of coffee before I went to Cape Town in 2010 - but this all seems to reek of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed the more I meditate upon coffee and its role in my life as a missions leader (particularly while propped up the magical brown substance) the more I find myself in awe of the potential these mighty little beans have for the Kingdom of God in the 21st century.

So, over the next week or so, I want to muse over coffee and mission and do a lot of "what if"-ing - which I suppose is what muse means.  Here are the questions I'll be pondering:

1. Can coffee become a financial engine for world mission? 

2. Can the business of coffee itself transform reality for the sake of the Kingdom?

3. Is coffee the perfect Great Commission commodity for the 21st century? 

4. How do I put the terms "south-to-south migration", "10/40 Window" and "Coffee belt" into the same sentence and somehow articulate how big and awesome is the potential of this grouping of ideas for the sake of mission? (hee-hee)

5. Can coffee-business based in coffee producing nations be used for the mobilization of missionaries from the Global South?

6. Can coffee business put us on the front line of bringing justice to bear where it is needed most?

7. If I have only 6 questions will I seem like I'm not a very good Baptist?

I want to encourage you to muse also.  About coffee or whatever.  Muse about something.  Especially if you care about God and his Kingdom and its advance in your community and the world - you should definitely muse.  Because when you muse and dream and ask "what if" you join the faithful company of protesting saints and prophets who have from the beginning always been at the forefront of God's ever encroaching reign.  Intentionally think outside the box this week.  If mission is about transforming reality, it may very well begin with transforming your mind.


Henri Nouwen on Crossing Barriers

Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you.  This partnership cuts through all walls which might have kept you separate.  Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws and destined for the same end.  With this compassion you can say, "In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hands."  

"Their flesh is my flesh; their blood is my blood; their pain is my pain; their capacity to forgive I find also in myself; There is nothing in me that does not belong to them, too.  There is nothing in them that does not belong to me, too.  In my heart, I know their yearning for love, and down to my entrails I can feel their cruelty.  In another's eyes, I see my plea for forgiveness, and in a hardened frown, I see my refusal.  When someone murders, I know that I too could have done that, and when someone gives birth, I know that I am capable of that as well.  In the depths of my being, I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and hate, life and death."

-- Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands


David Bosch on an Eschatology of Mission

"We need an eschatology of mission which is both future-directed and oriented to the here and now.  It must be an eschatology that holds in creative and redemptive tension the already and the not yet; the world of sin and rebellion, and the world God loves; the new age that has already begun and the old that has not yet ended; justice as well as justification; the gospel of liberation and the gospel of salvation.  Christian hope does not spring from despair about the present.  We hope because of what we have already experienced.  Christian hope is both possession and yearning, repose and activity, arrival and being on the way."

David Bosch, Transforming Mission


Four Reasons Why Spiritual Maturity is Impossible Without Global Partnerships

Photo: "Somos" by Miguel Cabrera
First, two moments . . .

#1.  As I sat listening to the Sunday sermon at Worship Harvest Ministries in Kampala, Uganda my mind filled with gratitude at the countless and consistent opportunities I have to learn from, work with and be sharpened and challenged by brothers and sisters, friends and partners from every part of the globe.  I relished in the thought and praised God and then tweeted this:
#2.  Yesterday in a fairly randomly (from my perspective) chosen coffee house in the Chicago suburbs, I caught wind of a business as mission venture that they just happened to be starting up that involved coffee, coffee beans, Uganda, and community transformation.  Now, that sounds pretty much exactly like what we are working on with Endiro Coffee so my fist thought was, "Ahh, DRAT ... competitors!"  But then, the Lord graciously let me to a new thought, "No, no, no ... partners!"  And we started to talk.

The evangelical missions world has always been sparsely populated, but when you are in the midst of it, it seems like everyone and their dog is clamoring around one or two ideas -- usually the same ones you are -- and it feels crowded.  It's like Toronto.  There are two valid and biblical options for dealing with the crowds.  First, you can move to Manitoba or, two, you can learn to make friends and work together.  

So, let's talk about this idea of global partnership for a moment.  I'll begin with a quote from the Lausanne Movement which is as poingnant today as when it was written a few years ago in advance of the 3rd Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, South Africa:

Partnering in the Body of Christ: Toward a New Global Equilibrium
Seismic Shifts in Global Christianity.  Global PARNTERSHIPS for world evangelization, unlike anything possible in the previous twenty centuries, are now attainable as we develop relationships that are based on mutual respect – acknowledging that God has called us to be one in Him. These new partnerships, increasingly led by visionary leaders from the majority world, will also involve more lay people who comprise the vast majority of those who bear witness to Christ in this Century.  By sharing the best available resources and best practices, together “the whole church (will) take the whole gospel to the whole world.”

Now the practical question for me as a mission leader is, Why?  Why should I lead my team and seek to mobilize others to enter into partnerships within and outside of the denomination, within and outside of the nation? Putting all the obvious (or at least they should be obvious) practical considerations aside, let's consider the deeper, theological impetus for engaging in and committing to global partnerships as individuals, churches, ministries, agencies, and denominations.  Here's Paul:

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have power to comprehendwith all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19, NRSV)

Paul’s prayer declares that it is impossible for local bodies of Christians to reach (or even significantly approach) spiritual maturity without engagement in genuine relationships with other Christ-followers outside their local group.  We can point out at least four theological foundations for global partnership in this text:

  1. The Desired Result is Spiritual Maturity – note Paul’s “so that” in verse 19.  Everything that Paul is praying is “so that” something will result in the lives of those for whom he is praying.  It is “so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Which is a wonderfully evocative way of speaking of spiritual formation, maturity, sanctification -- i.e. God’s work to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
  2. The Cause of the “So That” – It is clear that Paul believes that when a disciple of Lord Jesus is enabled to comprehend and know the multidimensional, knowledge-surpassing love of God, the result is spiritual maturity -- the “so that” of verse 19.
  3. The Essential Conditions of Comprehending – Note that Paul’s prayer assumes that this comprehending and knowing of God’s love is only possible together "with all the saints” (v. 18).  This fellowship is presented here as a necessary condition for which Paul is praying on behalf of his readers and without which, the Apostle is convinced, grasping the love of God and thus spiritual maturity is an utter impossibility.
  4. The Plurality of You – The Biblical demand for partnership comes into full relief when we recognize that the “you” of Paul’s prayer (v. 16, 17, 18, and 19) is plural (by the way, a nice benefit of global partnerships is having friends that speak languages which use plural forms of "you".  Thanks, Nepalis, for "timiharu"!) That is, the “you” being rooted and grounded in love in verse 17 is the local body of believers that has received and is now corporately reading Paul’s epistle.  Thus is it a local body of believers for whom Paul is praying in verse 18 when he says, “I pray that you [all] may have power to” comprehend and know the love of God. It is this plural "you" then that must enter into relationship, dialogue, and indeed partnership “with all the saints” – Christ-devotees from outside that specific community – “so that” spiritual maturity may result in their body.
What we are left with is an inspired prayer that sees spiritual maturity as only attainable when local bodies of disciples are engaged in meaningful partnerships with other communities outside their immediate context.  That is, we may say confidently from this text that any given mission team, church, agency, denomination, or Christ-centered business will be unable to be all that God would have them be as evangelists, medical missionaries, church planters, Bible translators, campus ministers, educators, relief workers, worshippers, intercessors, disciples, or whatever apart from the pursuit of global partnership as a corporate spiritual discipline.  Or, to put it positively:

The active pursuit of ever-deepening global partnerships by local bodies of Christ-followers enables those communities to better and increasingly comprehend and know God’s love which results in dramatic spiritual transformation and growth.

This is true, I assume, because there is actually only one body of Christ in the world (4:4) with one triune God indwelling, ruling over, and guiding that whole body (4:4-6).  That the gifts of Christ are distributed among all parts of that body (4:7ff) further testifies to the fact that it is when that global body is peacefully bonded together (4:3), pursuing and gradually arriving at the unity of faith (4:13) that the family of Jesus Christ in the world functions as it should (4:16).  It is when the whole Church builds itself up in love (4:16) – which it cannot do outside of the exercise of the spiritual discipline global partnership – that it “grows up in every way
into him who is the head, into Christ” (4:15).


Looking Again at Church Planting Strategy

As a church planting strategist -- a term that makes me more than a little uneasy, but which I am beginning to carefully embrace -- my heart's desire is to prayerfully identify the peoples in a region or city which are least-reached by the gospel of the Lord Jesus.  Normally I understand the concept of "peoples" ethno-linguistically and see my calling as being about planting Kingdom-bearing churches among all people groups, but today, I want to throw a wrench into the mix.  

The following isn't an idea which competes with my distinctly ethno-linguistic calling nor is it something that should been seen as a threat to those of you with a more specifically geographic calling.  Rather, I want to call your attention to a parable from the Lord of the Harvest himself which can help us to take our respective mission fields in hand and tilt them ever so slightly -- allowing us to look again and to see from a different vantage point. 
 He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 
(Luk 14:12-23 ESV)

Here is an important question for you church planters and mission strategists out there.  What if we literally did this?  What if we had specific church plants that were focused entirely on bringing in the disabled?  What if some of our dying and gasping churches – with more empty pews than people – shifted their focus on reaching the poor, crippled, blind, and lame?  What if new and limping church planters set aside their dreams of reaching the suburban comfortable or the urban hipsters and just went out to the highways and hedges, the overpasses and street corners?  

What if?  The Lord Jesus actually answers the "what if" for us.  Saying that at least two things would result:

  1. You will be blessed, being repaid at the resurrection (Lk. 14:14)
  2. His house will be filled (Lk. 14:23)
How do we try this in our various contexts?  What would it look like in your church or church plant? Is anyone out there already doing something like this?  How are you seeing God fulfill his promises?

I am testing a theory.  I'm suggesting that church planting and mission strategies can be entirely founded upon the promises of God.  It isn't that God hasn't given us education and wisdom and a variety of insights into culture, sociology, marketing, and whatever.  He has and he wants us to use whatever he has given us.  But, upon what is our strategy founded?  That's the key?  What promises does God have to keep in order for your efforts to succeed?


Photo by Panshipanshi