Thursday, November 27, 2008

What do you do with a church building?

Happy Thanksgiving.

As I was doing some online news reading this morning a story jumped out at me and so I decided I would go back and grab this photo that I took earlier this Fall in Basel Switzerland. This was one of the city's main churches years ago. It is now a musuem.

Europe has quite a few options in when comes to using old churches buildings. You can find quite a few for sale in many of the cities.

You may remember an earlier blogpost. This is the literal
House Church in Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como.

You can find quite a few that are now mosques.

And this morning the source of inspiration for this post. I found this one in the Netherlands. This church has been converted into a Luxury Resort . The writer says he would enjoy going to this church on a regular basis.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Basketball at Black Forest Academy

Yesterday I went to the gym and played basketball with the high school boys team where our kids go to school and where my wife teaches espanol. The one word that would best describe my basketball experience would be "awakening". I was awakened that I am in the middle ages and I no longer can play like Michael Jordan. I would love to tell you more about it but I am still out of breath from running full court for two hours. I have taken a lot of Advil since yesterday afternoon as well.

The scrimmage was at the Black Forest Academy . BFA is a boarding school for Third Culture Kids. Many of these kids come here because their parents work in some difficult places where high school education can be a challenge. My wife teaches Spanish in the high school. I have been able to get to know a number of the teachers and staff and I am most impressed. I was talking to a guy the other day who told me that it has been said that 50 percent of the graduates end up living overseas again either doing mission , social work or simply living out their faith as salt and light in various countries of the world.

I see the investment in these kids as an incredible opportunity. I am so thankful for people like my wife and many others who have a special calling to pour their lives and talents into these kids for a season. When you get a chance check out their site. You may see our kids somewhere in the pictures. Pray for the teachers and staff. Pray for the kids as well as they are in important developmental years before college. Pray for the basketball team to find some better practice competition than someone in theior 40s. smile

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the guide

On recent visit to an area where I had never really been before, I was faced with the task of how to enter into a couple of new cities. I saw the importance of the role of a guide because they were from that city and could speak the same language culturally and linguistically.
The first instance was in a small city in the south of Spain. It was about 11:00 am and time for some much needed coffee. We entered into this small city where almost 75 percent of the people that I observed were from North Africa. They work in the migrant agriculture fields there. Because of the economy many do not have jobs now. There was a construction boom going on in Spain and now it has busted. So a lot of construction workers are jobless, and they spend their time hanging out during the normal work hours hoping to find work. We were walking around the street looking for a place to go for coffee. Our leader enters into a Tea house and comes out with the owner who has a big smile on his face. We were welcomed into the tea house. The owner makes us some great tea and some awesome Moroccan pastries. As he sits down and talks with us, the thought struck me that the reason we had that experience was because our guide, our person of influence, introduced us to the gatekeeper if you will of that crowded bar. Because he welcomed us others also welcomed us.

The second instance was in another city. Again, it was time for coffee or tea. I do not mind if it is coffee or tea as long as it is strong and caffeinated. This time our host for the trip enlisted the help of a guide from that country. I made a couple of observations. We entered into a place and he introduces us and lets the owner know we are good people and honest people. We are instantly welcomed into conversations and taken care of. The second observation was that our guide only stayed with us half of the day. As we walked through the city or “medina,” with our guide, people watched us but they did not really approach us asking us to buy things or give them money. As soon as our guide left us, we became the target of many people coming to talk with us and ask us to buy things or give them things. We had lost our guide. We had lost the person who connected us to the culture.

I am learning just how important introductions are. I recall the story of Levi the tax collector found in Luke 5:27 - 29

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.

To me this is one example in scripture where we see how people introduce us into their circles of friends or family. It is what is called their “oikos” in the New Testament. Levi invited Jesus into his relationship network. I think it is important as we try to missionally live out our lives that we connect with people who can introduce us into the community. What I loved about this particular story in scripture was not that Levi tried to bring his people to Jesus but that he invited Jesus to his people. As I observe the church today I think we far too often expect people to come to us to meet Jesus instead of meeting them where they are living.

Monday, November 17, 2008


As a part of our Basel Lab experience we were sent out in two’s which is from the model that Jesus gave us in Luke 10 when he sent the disciples out two by two to the cities where he was about to go. I went out with my friend D. As we walked around we made notes of the places and people that we saw. Another aspect of this narrative mapping process is to really be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I think when I have read Acts 1:8 and the Great Commission in the past I become too fixated on the location and where I am suppose to go more than I do in following the Holy Spirit in His timing and place.

Do we stay in Jerusalem?

Should we venture out to Judea?

What about Samaria?

When do we go to the utter most parts of the earth?

A couple of thoughts on this
A) The Spirit should drive the strategy. The promise of the Holy Spirit in the church is that it will lead us, guide us, encourage us, convict us, comfort us, etc… Regarding missions, the church should depend on the Spirit to lead as did Paul in his call to Macedonia.

B) We can be missional wherever we are and it count just as much in the kingdom as it does if you sell your possessions and take your family overseas. I personally think in some ways it was harder to share my faith amongst the people I lived with on a daily basis in the states then it was when I went on a mission trip or in my case moved over seas. Acts 1:8 is about BOTH / AND not EITHER / OR. It is about being missional wherever you are.

Back to Basel - One “take away” for me on this Basel Lab was the fact that I realized that no matter where I am I am drawn to a certain people. It does not matter where they live. I find this when I visit the states. I find this when I go to Spain or Morocco or Italy or when I am home near Basel. I am drawn to Spanish speaking people and in particular Spaniards. So when we were assigned by our trainer this certain area of Basel we had no idea what we would discover so we started taking notes and talking to people as we went.

Sure enough the Lord put some pretty cool things in our path. We had the Spanish Consulate, a Spanish Vino y Tapas bar, a Spanish kindergarten, a Social club where Spanish speakers meet and we even heard of a Spanish speaking evangelical church. I know this may seem quite obvious but this gave me a clue that there are Spanish speakers living in Basel Switzerland. Grin.

Later the next day we went out again and this time we ate at a local restaurant. Often in the case of these countries they will sit you on a bench next to another couple or family. We sat next to a couple where the woman was from Switzerland and the husband was from the USA. We talked for quite a long time and one thing that we were able to discover was the migration of certain peoples to Switzerland. She told us that about 50 years ago Italians came and then Spaniards and then people from Turkey so they could find work and that in those days the Swiss allowed people to come and work since they needed to build up their work force. This piece of information helped me realize that indeed we did find a Spanish population. An important aspect of narrative mapping is finding information givers in a community so that you can learn from them about the people and places of that area.

I think as I mentioned before, one thing that I am all about regarding mission strategies in churches is the idea that as your church senses some leadership from the Holy Spirit to reach a certain people group that the church will work towards reaching them no matter where they live. There are a growing number of churches doing this. One such church that I have talked to lately regarding connecting with some people in Europe is the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. They have a desire to reach a people group and they are doing so everywhere that people groups lives. So this means that in their community, in the states, in Europe and in that particular country. In my mind this is a good way to flesh out how being missional can look. They are integrating missions in their community to missions in the world.

We live in a small world. We live close together.
The world has come to Europe and the United States. Many of the unreached peoples in the world live in the states. How can we connect with them in the states? It is a great opportunity. Sure we need to go overseas. We need to take mission trips but AS WE are doing this we also need to be seeking to build relationships and share Christ with these people in our own cities.

Some questions to consider:
Who lives in your city? consider doing some narrative mapping to explore your area

What are some ways you can reach out to these people?

What needs do they have as people who come from a different country?
How can you help meet those needs?
How can you help them feel at home ? Personally if it were not for our spanish and german friends (believers and non-believers) making us feel welcome here then it would be much more difficult to carry on day to day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

basel day two

Yesterday was a pretty cool day in Basel. I will need to make this two posts just so this will not be super long. Plus, I only have a few minutes before we go out the door for day three. Part of our day is in the classroom where we meet at a local church for debriefing on our mapping time, some teaching elements which are pretty cool. Yesterday morning we were given a map of the city. The leaders gave us a section of the city to walk around. Our instructions were to walk around the boundary of our section of the city; to pray, to observe and to connect where possible. We were sent out in twos. We talked about Luke 10 as we prepared to go in our section of the city.

As we walked around our boundary I thought about what we were doing. There are several things that we wanted to accomplish:

1. We want to pray a blessing on the people we encounter.
2. We want to learn by observation such as locating types of churches, main passage ways in and out of our area, gathering places, people groups or people group segments who live in the city, etc..
3. As possible we wanted to interact and talk to people to learn about the area. This is part of what we would call narrative mapping.

Looking back this first step in mapping our area is so important. I do some training and helping groups prepare to come overseas and minister in cross cultural situations. In these first hours in our area it was also important to acclimate. This may not be as important for some people but for me it is huge. Some people are able to enter into a new area and process all of the newness however I have found over the years that I need time when I enter into a new area to adjust to my surroundings. When everything is brand new around me I need a little time to soak it in and try to start interpreting it from a missional perspective.

I found these first hours to be vitally important for me to acclimate to my surroundings, to get my bearings. I found that as I spent time on this first day praying and observing that I became more and more comfortable with my area and thus able to interact with people as time went on.
This proved to be very beneficial later in the day.

More later.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

back in basel

After several weeks off I finally made it back to my Basel experience. Sorry. Over the next four days I will be part of a small group of missional leaders who work in Western Europe at various capacities. It is one of the ways in which we equip our workers here to live missionally in an urban environment. We are doing what is called "The Basel Lab". This initiative originally started as London Lab but this year is using Basel as the base. It is an integrated approach where we have some classroom time and then follow it up with being on the streets.

Tomorrow we start off by walking around a section of the city that my team will work in for the next several days. Our purpose in the morning is to spend time walking around the boundary of our area and getting to know that part of our area. We will be making notes and praying along way. I am sure we will drink some coffee as we go. We will be looking for opportunities to connect with the people. I am making no promises since I have been such a slacker the last few weeks on writing. But I will try to post throughout my time here.

I am excited about one email I received today from a person is a cell group leader at a Spanish Church here. I found him several weeks ago from a connection made earlier in the city here. I contacted this pastor and we are going to get together sometime in the next week or so to talk. There has been an influx of Spanish speaking people (some from Spain and others from Latin America) to Basel in the last 20 years. This church is focused on reaching those people. I hope I can be of help.

Next week I will also make some posts about an incredible experience that I had in Southern Spain and in Africa this past week.