Would you like to go to Barcelona? Ed Stetzer offered a group of pastors the opportunity to join him on a “vision” trip to Western Europe. I had just finished an online course with David Fitch, “Readings in Postmodern Philosophy and Theology.” During our conversation at the end of that course, David shared his dream of pastors getting their minds around the philosophical and so theological shifts taking place in the US already witnessed in Western Europe. My curiosity was piqued by the opportunity to share conversations with missionaries in Western Eurpoe and I signed on to go.
There I met, among others, Caleb Crider and Larry McCrary. Great hosts. Outstanding people – all of them. Challenging conversations. Not long after returning home I determined to maintain contact with Caleb. Over the course of the next few months I learned of his heart to connect churches with people. In our denomination churches connect with the International Mission Board. If we engage with missionaries it is solely at our initiative and generally to get a regular prayer-gram. We need to pray for these folks without question. But, getting the vision of God for people everywhere only comes through connecting with people, not organizations.
Just more than a year ago Caleb and Larry launched The Upstream Collective. Our denomination likes to pride itself on being something of a “grassroots” cooperative network. Over time it has taken more the feel of a top down magisterium. National conventions, state conventions, and even local associations come across as though they know what is best for the local church. I know many in these various strata of SBC life. I know they do not want to project that image. Even still, it isÂ more often the case.
“Upstream” is intended to convey the mission of God moves “up” through the local church. So rather than tell a church what to do, what would be best, The Upstream Collective intends to put the mission of God back into the hands of the local church and “de-professionalize” the idea of “missionary.” It is not the jettisoning of existing relationships with the IMB. Instead it is a capturing of a new ethos among many who “want” to be involved but have always felt we have been asked to send our money and pray. Life on life connections come via videos and magazines.
Snow Hill had Caleb and Lindsey come lead us in conversations about church and mission in a conference we dubbed, “Church As Missionary.” This coming year Caleb will return with Larry and we will look at how we can take next steps with these experienced missiologists offering insights and helpful ways for us to live our what we believe is our part in God’s mission to the world.
Thanks Caleb and Lindsey, and Larry.