Saturday, August 23, 2008

conversations about missional living

I made it back home to Europe. I have have been travelling all over the states for the last two months with the Upstream Collective. We have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of great people that are out there living out their lives with intentionality.

I was inspired to write some observations about living missionally last week at David Putman’s house (he is the author of the book Breaking the Missional Code). We were sitting at David’s house on his back patio enjoying a very HOT Atlanta afternoon. We were doing a Skype call with Alan Hirsch. Despite the humidity and heat it was a pretty cool day to be in conversation with those two.

As I have these conversations I get rather convicted of the idea that I do not want to be guilty of just talking about being missional but actually living missionally and being the salt and light as Jesus teaches. I want it to be a natural part of my day and not just aspiration. I think way too often I just talk about it.

In my former life I worked at the North American Mission Board in church planter assessment. There are quite a few people out there who sense a calling to plant a church in North America. I would set up training seminars at seminaries around the country teaching people how to assess potential church planters. The model that we used was from a behavioral psychologist by the name of Charles Ridley. One essential in behavioral psychology is that a person’s past behavior is the best predictor of their future performance. Often, with a high degree of accuracy one can assess if a person has what it takes to be an effective church planter.

You must first determine what are the behavioral competencies that are needed to be successful and this was the basis of his research. The second ingredient is that you must be able to draw out from the candidate the right information in order to properly assess and the right information is based on the depth of their past behavioral performance.

One such quality for a church planter is “the ability to start something from nothing”. For example if a person cannot give you a concrete example of ever starting something from nothing then they would not have that behavioral competency. After more discussion with them you see that their past experience really shows that they do much better at developing something that has already been started then. This would be a good indicator that being a lead church planter might not be the career path for them. They may be better suited for church development or revitalization than church planting.

With all of the missional talk going on in the evangelical world today I have been thinking about if there are certain behavioral competencies that can be identified in people who live this way.

I am going to start again (I think I have tried this before) to write about some characteristics that I hear talked about but most importantly characteristics that I observe in people whom I think do a great job living their lives in a missional sort of way.

Here is what I have so far.

On my list:

Intentionally engaging in the culture in which you are placed.
Having Margin in your life
Good at asking questions
An interesting person
Being natural
Willing to engage in conversation

What is on your list?


Jeff Whitfield said...

Ooh, I have a big time problem with a person's past predicting his future. As a counselor myself, one of the most power things I can say to a person is, "your past does not have to predict your future. You can make some new choices." In the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit, lives are indeed dramatically changed. What would your behavioral psychologist have predicted about Peter or Paul? In fact, at the top of the list of characteristics of a church planter I would say "a life transformed by and completely yielded to Jesus Christ." Otherwise, we are operating out of our own gifting. While often considerable, we cannot do the eternal work of the Holy Spirit without the actual intervention of the Holy Spirit, so the life of the church planter must first and foremost be completely yielded to Him. And btw, I am not a church planter. I am a member care consultant with the IMB who has seen a lot of CPers with a tremendous amount of talent crash and burn (and take others down with them) or even draw a crowd without evidence of transformed lives because they are relying way too much on their own strength and ability. WE WILL REPRODUCE WHAT WE ARE. Since I know you as a friend, Larry, I know you know this but it just didn't come across here and I don't think we can assume it goes without saying.

Larry McCrary said...


Thanks for your comment. I am definitely not talking about about the power of a transformed life especially when it comes to character issues. I would definitely not discount that. We can do nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit. This type of assessment that I am referring to is only on part of the overall church planting assessment. You also look at their calling and their character. I was not clear on that and did not go into details on that since I was hopefully making a quick point about living out our lives. Thanks for pointing that out. For sure we cannot assume that. I have also seen many talented people not do so good in church planting in North America or overseas for some of the same reasons noted. I am talking about making good predictions in regards to one's competency in church planting. Dr. Ridley suggests in his research that there are 13 core competencies specifically regarding church planting. This method of assessment has widely been used in the marketplace for years. It is not perfect nor is it complete but I have found that it can give an good picture regarding church planters.

Camel Rider said...

I think someone needs to have hobbies. Right now my hobby is how I'm connecting missionally to Someone needs to also be able to ask questions and take things at face value. When I arrived on the field here I was told that people were not creative here...that it wasn't a good way to connect....after only 1.5 years here all of my relationships are developing around creativity.

BTW, I know the Holy Spirit can play a role in the transformation of our lives but I do believe that many times our past behavior will give us insight into our future actions. We throw any one not labeled in a support role as a CP when most are probably not. Living missionally takes a certain type of person....behavioral based interviewing will help identify those already living missionally regardless of their location.

Brittany said...

I'd say someone who is teachable and willing to ask for help. Too often folks go into a setting determined to "teach others the error of their ways" rather than engage the person in conversation and simply be an element in the person's life. I like the idea that "I'm just a beggar showing another beggar where to find bread." I don't have to have all the answers - nor should I try to.

Larry said...

Camel Rider.

I will definitely put having a hobby on my list. I sometimes can lean to hobbies that are individual rather than those that are in community with others. I am not very artistic though I like art. I guess I am just not a participating member of the art community. smile.

But I love running and biking. I usually do those with some close friends or my wife. But in terms of living outwardly in my community I have been on basketball teams before and I loved playing golf with my neighbors. I am trying to discover what that looks like now in my new setting in Germany. Good thoughts on hobbies. I know I need more in my life.

Larry said...


Great idea on being the "learner". That is a list maker as well. I know it will be a famous list but it can be fun thinking about it. This is so true in regards to living missionally. It is easy to go about our day as the expert and not the learner. When we are in the learner mode I think we are able to get into deeper conversations and as you stated it demonstrates that we really care and that we want to share life with this person.