Monday, September 23, 2013

Starting Starling Initiatives With the Right Team

I set out a few months ago to recruit the very best leaders I could find to join me in a new enterprise called Starling Initiatives. These people are not necessarily the most famous thinkers and speakers of the missional church (though some truly are that); they are all practitioners that have done the work in challenging environments and in remarkable ways. Honestly, they are all thriving leaders who have busy lives with their own work to attend to–so I fully expected them all to decline politely. To my shock almost all have responded affirmatively believing that God is saying the same thing to them at this time. Wow, what confirmation. Perhaps we are already seeing the murmuration of starlings!
Each one is not just experienced, but their experience was fruitful at empowering others to reproduce. Each member is mature enough that they now find their sense of importance in the fruitfulness of others. They are more concerned with others success than their own. In a sense, our fruit grows on other people’s trees now. This is important when you want to ignite movements in other cultures and languages and do not want to create unhealthy dependence upon expert leaders with US models and dollars.

None of us are out to prove ourselves, in a sense we’ve already done that (and bought the t-shirt). We want to help others to become change agents in their own environment and release kingdom movement into all the spheres of society…and to every nation. To play off what the famous coach once said: there is no "i" in Starling Initiatives. Uh, oops, well, you know what I mean.

We never plan to become a large corporation. We have no plans for a large offices and an expensive staff to administer it. Our movement will be decentralized and our resources and power will be distributed rather than held onto and protected by a board of directors or corporate headquarters.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Call This New Ministry Venture Starling Initiatives?

At 53 I am pioneering again and setting out to launch a whole new global enterprise called Starling Initiatives. Needless to say it is thrilling, scary and rewarding all at the same time. I love the new learning. I love the rising levels of creativity involved with starting new things. I love the reward of taking huge risks and seeing God work in unbelievable ways. I'll post more about this new idea in the coming days. But why call it Starling Initiatives?

A starling is a hearty bird that seems to prosper in any part of the world where it is introduced. They are even considered invasive in many habitats and farmers are often desperate to find ways to be rid of them. Starlings can be very diverse in color and appearance around the world, but pretty much they are the same kind of bird.

They are a smart bird, in fact they can even be taught to mimic sounds and human speech (a Myna bird is a type of Starling).

What is most remarkable about the starling is when they fly together in what appears like a well-coordinated swarm of birds. This is called murmuration. Scientists cannot explain how so many birds can all move at once, varying angles and velocity, as though they were all hearing from the same source. In such cases each small bird becomes part of a much larger organic thing that seems to act as one. They do this to resist predators. Alone, a starling is a small and weak little bird. Together a murmuration is powerful. I believe this is a picture of the kingdom of God as it is meant to thrive all over the world.

Starling Initiatives will remain small and highly mobile. Our aim is not to grow a large lumbering organization that costs more and more and increases its own need for self-preservation. Instead, we choose to remain small, reproductive and highly responsive. And we intend to birth many more of the same all over the world. Our most essential value is to remain small, healthy, quick and always respond to the voice of our Father...and equip others to do the same. As the flock grows the murmuration can become more and more complex and beautiful and yet never be a large organization, but rather an organic movement.

If you would like to understand more about murmuration here is a link to a TED talk presented by Don Tapscott that is very helpful in presenting a global context for such thinking and using starlings to picture a way of working better in today’s rapidly changing world.

If you are so led, we are accepting support for this new venture. Josiah Venture, a mission to reach young people in Eastern Europe, has granted us the favor of flying under their umbrella until we can get our feet under us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Missions Is Broken

In just ten years time (ca 47-57 AD) the apostle Paul was able to establish a thriving expression of the kingdom of God in five different provinces of the Roman Empire: Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, Asia Minor and Illyricum. After that he had nothing more to do in those places and was looking for other places further west. Today, with modern missionary practices we do not see even one people group reached in the same amount of time.  Why is that? Are the people of the world more lost? Does our gospel  have less power? Are we somehow at a disadvantage with missions that Paul did not suffer? 

I actually think the opposite may be true. We may have more advantages than Paul did. We have air travel, mobile phones, the internet, rapid transit, computers, Bible aids, mass communication and an abundance of publications, none of which were available to Paul. At the same time, we also have the same God, the same empowering presence of the Holy Spirit and the same powerful good news that he had. Nevertheless we are struggling to see even a fraction of the fruitfulness he saw and it is taking us a whole lot longer for what little fruit we see. Surely we are doing something wrong. 

I am convinced that we can save billions of dollars and accomplish 10 times the results if we have the courage to do missions differently. Mission agency dysfunction has been a well-known secret that can no longer be denied or contained, yet is unpopular to speak about. We are sending too many people, the wrong kind of people, who are staying too long, costing too much, and not leaving behind a healthy, well-rounded and indigenous movement that is strong enough to endure let alone send missionaries to other places. This must change.

We simply cannot expect current mission agencies to correct a problem that they are contributing to and not designed to fix…and one that they actually benefit from maintaining. More of the same will only produce more of the same. So I, and a few others, feel called to start something new, something more organic, movemental and indigenously empowering. And we need to start something that does not produce a dependence upon US dollars, leadership and models of ministry. This is why we are starting Starling Initiatives. In the coming days I will explain a bit more about this new endeavor.