2008. Madrid, Spain.
Our story began in Europe with vocational missionaries, Larry McCrary and Caleb Crider. Larry had planted several churches across the US before moving overseas. The more he learned as a global missionary, the more he realized how disconnected American churches were from global missions. Caleb, meanwhile, was busy hosting short-term mission teams from American churches. He soon found that though teams could complete service tasks, they lacked the ability to actually make disciples. Larry and Caleb knew something had to change. In 2009 they started a nonprofit and called it The Upstream Collective.
The heartbeat of this organization began with a vision for all believers to develop the knowledge and skills of global missionaries. Upstream spoke up for a better missiology, one that asserted the Great Commission as belonging to the entire church, not simply to pastors and missionaries. They pushed for missionary thinking to become part of basic discipleship. That meant every Christian realizing and embracing their God-given missionary identity at home and abroad. In addition to teaching missions skills to church leaders in their local contexts, Upstream also established Jet Set trips to give church leaders training alongside vocational missionaries.
2013. Knoxville, Tennessee.
Upstream quickly drew together like-minded leaders. In the loft of a Knoxville coffee shop, four of those leaders, Larry, Caleb, Rodney Calfee, and Wade Stephens, drafted a unique book that Upstream would become known for. Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission was a manual for nine basic missionary skills. In essence, it pulled back the curtain on tools once accessible only to vocational missionaries and offered them to anyone anywhere who desired to live on mission. It continues to be utilized by churches, organizations, and schools.
Upstream exists for the benefit of local churches. Over the years we have developed close relationships with churches who seek to mobilize their members not only into their neighborhoods, but also onward to the nations. They recognize that the responsibility of the Great Commission was given to them and cannot be outsourced to missions organizations. With the help of a number of these "sending churches," in 2014 Zach Bradley produced a book to describe the growing movement, called The Sending Church Defined. As the notion of "sending church" continues to grow in popularity and ambiguity, this book is literally bringing definition to the conversation.
2016. Louisville, Kentucky.
Today The Upstream Collective is no longer just a couple of guys who want to help churches engage in missions. Now it's truly a collective of churches who are encouraging, equipping, and challenging one another to take seriously the “sentness” Jesus spoke of in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." One of our deep partners is Sojourn Community Church, who has graciously given us office space alongside them in Louisville. There we work to provide resources, training, and consulting for local churches who want to grow as sending churches.