Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Football Time in .... Portugal

One of my favorite things to hear each Fall is "It's football time in Tennessee". You have to imagine that in a loud and Tennessean accent. This is what the announcer screams over the microphone as the Tennessee Vols come out to the field. Well, this post is not about UT football. We have to think about other things during these rebuilding years. smile.

Have you ever heard of this? It's football time in Portugal? It has a cool ring to it. A few years back John Grisham wrote a book called "Playing for Pizza". It is a novel about an ex-NFL quarterback who plays football in a small town in Italy. American football in Europe is not the most popular sport but you are now seeing teams pop up in a lot of cities.

Over the next two posts I am going to tell you about a guy who plays football in Lisbon Portgual.
Take a quick glance at a team video.

Here is the beginning of Brady's story.

My role in Portugal is to take care of all the financial and logistical
items for a team of workers. This includes visas, housing, cars, insurance, taxes,
etc.. in Portugal. When God called us to go to Portugal I viewed myself as a support person and really wanted to do everything I could do to free the people who are great evangelists to do their work, without having to worry about budgets.

About a year on the field, my family and I were watching the Houston Texans beating the Cowgirls, and we decided to go grab dinner. While we were waiting for the restaurant to make our sandwiches, we went for a walk. We rounded the corner and found a football
team - full pads, playing AMERICAN football. I walked right up to them and
asked if o could play.

They offered me a tryout the following week. A week later I was on the team and a month later I was the starting QB. Two months after that, I was the offensive coordinator and month after, that I was the head coach. During this whole time I viewed football as a great tool to
learn the language - God had not shared with me that he wanted me to use
this as His tool to witness to these men.

More soon!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

conversation in a Taxi

One of the guys who went with us on the Jet Set was Marshall.
Great guy from Houston.
His parents are very well respected workers that served in Europe. Marshall spent some of his days as a youth in Barcelona but I will not hold that against him. smile.

I hope you will take a look at this video. You can get a feel for how one participant processes the information. One really cool thing is that as we are trying to understand a new culture at the same time we often process what this means at "home".

Each morning on a Jet Set we have a few hours of conversations.
We spend time praying.
We talk about some of the impressions the Lord is giving us each day. We pray for each of others and the ministries that we see on the ground.
We also pray for the people we met the day before as we go about the city.

Our next one is coming up in May 2010 to London and Paris with Ed Stetzer and Daniel Montgomery from Sojourn Church in Louisville.

After our debriefing time we normally have some pretty cool conversations about some practical ideas about missions. This trip we talked about the person of peace, oikos evangelism or what we call tribes, mapping the city, working with other partners, etc...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Church as Missionary

In many ways our end game at Upstream is to help the church think and act as a missionary. Though we are finished with this trip the conversation continues with these churches. Many of them have us back to their places where we can start engaging in a conversation with their church.

Our next trip is to London and Paris in May of 2010. Check out our site at for the dates and the initial application.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Meaning of Life

One of the things we do on these trips is meet people who have a wide variety of ministries. I was really struck the other evening when we went downtown to an area where there are a lot of single mothers just trying to survive. Many are without hope.

Take a look at a story of someone who finds hope.

My desire is that God will use these posts to create in you a desire to help people who are often overlooked.

Maybe it is in your neighborhood.

Maybe it is in another part of the world.

More soon.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I have learned some lessons this week.

We normally line up some guest speakers who are from the country we are visiting. One day during our trip, we heard a guy talk about presenting the gospel. He used "EvangeCard" which is a type of tract. I am not a real big "gospel tract" user. I normally do not use that method of evangelism. I normally focus on getting to know a person relationally and then sharing the Gospel within the context of the relationship. I try to let the person know that I am a Christ follower early in our relationship and this will at times set the stage for spiritual conversations.

At the end of our time that day, he challenged us to go out and talk to some people. As we finished the time and people left the room he asked if I would go out with him for a while. What do you say?

So we took off and went to a near by section of town. He was the translator but he wanted me to engage in a conversation with an older gentlemen setting on a bench. I looked across the street and saw a group of people playing basketball and I thought to my self this is where I need to be talking to people. This is much more in my comfort zone.

I know in the context where I serve most of the time you need to hang out some before you talk. I raised my objections and he told me that I needed to understand his context some. He said "you are in this country and these people here actually respect you as an American most of the time. They will listen to you. They may or may not accept the message but they will listen and talk to you".

I still did not believe him until about 10 seconds later when he led me over to this man to talk. I started the conversation with a hopeful "do you speak English?" He did not but luckily I had my friend who was able to translate for me. Sure enough I asked if I could share something with him and he said yes. I spent the next 10 minutes talking to this man and he responded favorably. I did not do a good job with folding the card the way it was suppose to be folded but luckily I had help and I tried to focus on presenting the gospel message. I was especially excited at the end when he told me he knew where he could go buy a Bible and my new evangelist friend invited him to his house church this weekend? I feel better that there was some follow up to this conversation and I can only pray and hope that life change would continue to happen in this man's life.

Several things that I learned from this.

I needed to trust the cultural guide who was helping me in this situation.

I have had the opportunity this week to talk with several Taiwanese people and all of them have been quite friendly and open to talking about spiritual things.

Obedience is important. Again, I am not a tract type of guy but I knew in my heart I was suppose to go with this guy. I am glad I did.

Taiwan seems to be a receptive place but the receptivity is seems to be about being open to spiritual conversations and not so much making decisions to follow Christ on the spot. I am still processing this but I think it takes time and the trust of a significant relationship.

This is my first time in Asia. Without a doubt it has stretched my thinking regarding contextualization amongst other things.

more soon.

The Temple

When I visited the temple today I saw many rooms with gods in them.

We heard this from a worker here.
“People become what they worship.”

When I saw the gods on the altars here it was very apparent that people worship idols. As you walk down the streets you will see many of the buildings that will have one room or apartment that is open on the outside and that is the place dedicated for the god of that building or the small temple for that building.

You can get a picture of what these verses are referring about as you live and observe people in cultures similar to this one.

Psalm 15
1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us 
but to your name be the glory, 
 because of your love and faithfulness.
2 Why do the nations say, 
"Where is their God?"
3 Our God is in heaven; 
he does whatever pleases him.
4 But their idols are silver and gold, 
 made by the hands of men.
5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, 
eyes, but they cannot see;
6 they have ears, but cannot hear, 
noses, but they cannot smell;
7 they have hands, but cannot feel, 
feet, but they cannot walk; 
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
8 Those who make them will be like them, 
and so will all who trust in them.

However, while very apparent that many worship objects made with hands here I think about the idols that we often worship where I live in Europe or in the states. I think about how we can have as our idols our jobs, companies, possessions, family and many more.

What do we become?

Anything that takes first place instead of our Lord becomes an idol. The obvious idols here helped me to recognize some more hidden ones in my life where I live. I think of Matthew 6:33 and give a honest look at what do I seek first?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taxi's and Temples

Half of the challenge in an urban environment is how do you get from one place to another?
On these trips we do a lot of:

and even riding a bus

Sometimes though it is easier if you are in a crunch to cram into a taxi but it can be dangerous.

For some really good insights on our trip take a look Rodney Calfee's blog.

We were on our way to a temple the other night. Here is a great clip about Taipei and some of the religous beliefs here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dead Women Walking

Last night we went to a completely different part of the city.
We went there with a couple of workers from OMF. You should check out their site and learn more about their ministry here.

We visited a ministry center, temple, a night market and an area of prostitution. Check out this book called "Dead Women Walking".

Here is a video I took last night.

It is about two ministry centers that are side by side. One is a restaurant and the other is a second hand shop. We went shopping and then we ate at the restaurant. Good food. I was impressed.

Their ministry is geared to single mothers. They provide opportunities for affordable housing, food and opportunities to sell items in a second hand store.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hungry Ghosts

Yesterday morning we split up and went to various evangelical churches. For an excellent post on one person's observation of our church visits next a look at this.

Later on as we were walking yesterday (which by the way we walk a lot and I love it) we went by stores that had small tables placed out front with food and drink placed upon them. They are set out for "hungry ghosts" to come have a drink and some food to satisfy their spirit. These are for people who have died but lived an unfinished or incomplete life so they are called "hungry ghosts". I found this quite fascinating and disturbing at the same time. The spiritual darkness here is quite apparent. As we continued to walk around yesterday afternoon to various places we would see quite a few of these sites.

We also walked around and would see neighborhood temples. They were quite small but a place where a person could come to a altar.

We see two forms of religion here that are quite prevalent; Buddhism and Folk Religion. We will see more of this as we move around the city. Tonight we will talking to a person who will be explaining to us about some of their local beliefs.

More soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The City - First impressions

We arrived last night. It was a long night and day of travel but I am here safely and thankful for the journey. Learned much about the city from my airplane ride as I sat next to a very nice and talkative guy from here. I simply enjoy learning about one's culture. I pulled out my language sheet and he was helping me pronounce words. Wow. I thought German was hard. Both languages are painful to me. smile.

Several first impressions.

The city is densely populated. There are 22 million people who live on the island and many live in this city. Wow. Even on a Sunday morning here there are plenty of people out and about.

I think one out of two people here have a motor scooter. They may be a stretch but it does not seem like I am off by a lot.

They love tea. It seems to be free flowing. I am enjoying a cup this morning. Not too bad! HOWEVER, I was able to get my Starbucks City Mug last night. There are plenty of Starbucks here and to my surprise 7/11 stores. No Big Gulp for me though.

The people enjoy conversation. Maybe I have been fortunate but I have had several good conversations with people here.

Okay. I have only been here 12 hours and I have much to learn. It is time to get outside.

More Soon,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Connecting Flight

Sitting here in the Amsterdam airport waiting on my plane. I only have about 4 more hours til take off. This is the point of arrival for us when we moved to Spain. Our connecting flight to Madrid was from here. Many memories of entering a new culture here. I remember two things rather vividly.

Most people here talk at least three languages. I am amazed at the Dutch. They are great at languages.

The second thing I remember is the playground they have for children. It was a lifesaver for our 6 year old at the time. I do not remember the Starbucks being here but I am thankful for it today. smile.

I was thinking on my flight up here about something that Roger Greenway said in one of my classes some years ago at Trinity. It was a class on urban missiology. He was asked about what are the important strategy steps to understand a city and develop a church planting strategy for that city. He gave us 20 steps but he said the most important is to know that you must wear out two pieces of leather;

your shoes
your bible

May that be so this week as we travel.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Final Preparations

In a few days I will be going to a place that I have never been before. The adventure side of me gets really excited about it. I love to go to places that I have never been. I love seeing new things, learning new cultures, eating new food (well, most of the time).

I like adding to my Starbucks City Mug collection. I know that is silly but it is a habit that I started some years back. I hear that I will be drinking more tea than coffee there but that is okay.
I like learning new custom rules and hearing new languages. At times I like trying to speak them.

But I also know that this crossing of cultures does not come without a challenge.

Language and cultural adaptation does not come easy to me. My teachers in Spanish and German over the last 8 years would echo that statement about language. But when I find myself doing this I know:

It stretches me.
It expands my worldview
Some times I just get over stimulated with all of the new information, sights, sounds and language.

After it is over I am usually very thankful.

I read this article from Almost M the other day. Incredible insights as we cross cultures. It is a three part series and well worth the read. It was one of the reading assignments that I gave the group. I hope they read it. smile.

Please take the time to follow along on my blog over the next week and also on these blogs and and others. If it means something to you feel free to tell others about it. You can also follow me on twitter at LarryMcCrary or TheUpstreamC

We will be going to Asia and learning about their worldview and beliefs. We will be writing and recording some things along the way about our journey.

Pray for us. Stay in touch.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Back from the roadtrip

In many ways being able to be on the road these last weeks was a dream come true for me.
I could write a realllllllllllllllly long post about all of the places where visited but you can actually check out

And while I am thinking about it be sure to visit our blog as we go on our next trip to Asia in the coming weeks. We are going to do a virtual vision trip of sorts. So stay tuned.

Here is why our road trip was so cool for me.

One of our dreams as we started The Upstream Collective was to work with young churches ....
We want to help new churches to start to think and act globally from day one. We try to do this as we write, speak, consult, etc..

If I had one "do over" in my church planting life in the states it would be that very thing. I waited way too long to have our church plants get involved internationally.

I kept thinking:
maybe in a while
we need to be a certain size
we need to be more mature as a church.

I had plenty of reasons.

So this summer as we were able to speak with quite a few churches who are young in their church life AND many are exploring ways to take the gospel outside their own local context. If we can help you do this or if you know of a church that has that kind of interest please let me know. Feel free to point them towards our site or get on our free e-newsletter where we try to highlight ways churches can be involved.

If you are a church planter you may want to consider what my good friends David Putman and Shawn Lovejoy are doing at They have a coaching network and one of the elements of their coaching has to do with "Going Global".

Mission Opportunity in the U.K.
If you have a student from Oklahoma and want a significant ministry opportunity this summer in the U.K. you should check out this site but you need to do quickly. They have a deadline real soon.

Check out iGo Global website for other opportunities. I consistently hear great things about their work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Top Five Food / Drink spots from the Tour

Coming off our tour with I decided that I needed to give a shout out to some of the best places where I ate. Of course we journaled about some other things on our blog and you should check it out for sure but I also like to eat some local food and drink some local coffee.

Here are my top five. All of these could be number one. If your favorite did not make the list please do not be offended. Maybe next time. smile

Andy's Frozen Custard - - My friend Lane Harrison at Lifepoint Ozark took me for my first and second Custard. We were only there two days. Probably the best custard in the world. I would eat way too much of this stuff if I lived there. It is good!

Bongo Javas - Great coffee in the Belmont University area - PLUS I was able to enjoy it with some great friends and my daughter. The best coffee is always enjoyed with others.

Java Joes in Lebanon. Our friend Michael Carpenter of Matthew's Table took us to their coffee shop. Great coffee - PLUS they let me make a double shot cappuncino. I must say I am pretty good at this and could work there some day.

Sam and Andys in Farragut, Tennessee. I always go by there for my Pastrami on Dark Bread. Best deli sandwiches in Knoxvegas.

BBQ - Anytime I am in Alabama I have to go to two places for yummy BBQ: Jim n Nicks and Golden Rule