Slow-brew Missions

THIS ARTICLE IS BY LARRY MCCRARY, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE UPSTREAM COLLECTIVE.

If you have ever met me you know that coffee is a pretty big deal for me. I prefer African coffees from Ethiopia and Kenya but coffee from Columbia is also at the top of my list.

I pretty much like all methods for making coffee but my favorites are the shot of espresso and pour-over coffee.

Fast-paced Force Versus Slow Saturation

The espresso is my go-to for a quick and intense cup of coffee. I rarely put milk in my espresso. I just love the boldness and taste of espresso.

espresso.jpg

It only takes a minute if you’re making espresso with a machine. In some coffee shops an espresso is automated and the machine does it for you. You simply push a button and after a few seconds, out pops an espresso.

But even a shot of espresso takes intentionality to pull well. It is important how you prepare it in terms of getting the right grind for the coffee and tamping the espresso grounds properly. The barista has to “dial in” to hit the sweet spot for such a focused burst of flavor—not too bitter, acidic, or sour.

pour over.jpg

The other method, the pour-over, requires a bit more patience. It is art and science combined. Think Ethiopia Yirgacheffe as you read about this pour-over.

It requires the right amount of perfectly ground coffee, measured to the gram on a scale. You also need the right amount of water, heated at the perfect temperature. You wet the empty filter with hot water. You also pour some hot water in the coffee cup you plan to serve the coffee in. Then you pour just a little water over the freshly ground beans to wake them up a bit. Finally, you slowly pour the water over the grounds at a controlled rate. The water trickles its way through the grounds to produce an awesome cup of coffee.

Holding Out For a Holistic Strategy

It dawned on me one day that these coffee brewing methods provide a great analogy to creating mission strategy in a church. I have been involved in church planting and missions for almost 30 years now. I have had to produce quick opportunities often, but I have come to realize that what I really want to see in a church is a slow trickle of missions that saturates the entire church.

One issue that we face in missions in many of the churches in the United States is that it is so shaped by our ready-to-order consumerism. We are used to a quick turnaround on production. We want things fast—immediate results. The problem with that is that it rarely lasts long. Mission needs to work its way through the entire church body, and that takes time. Sometimes little is produced in the beginning.

If I always go for an “espresso” strategy in missions then I will often get a good experience but it is rarely long lasting and it involves just a few people. What I want to shoot for is total church involvement. I want to see the entire church get behind the venture. I love to see the entire church buy into our mission strategy, and this often cannot be forced in a short amount of time. It is an art and it is a science, guided by the Holy Spirit.

You may start out with a vision trip. I recommend that not only a pastor go on such a trip but also a few others in the church. It is best if a prayer oriented person goes along as well as a person who is able to implement. This way you have prayer, vision, and implementation coming along on the trip.

Once back, you start praying and casting vision to the entire church. You start vetting your partnership options for that place and people. You begin casting a vision for your church to send out workers. This could be short term teams, mid-term sending opportunities and finally long term workers who are willing to move their lives to this place. The church starts casting vision to students, business people, and other marketplace workers as well as people who are retired. You start gathering a group of people who are willing to pray for the work. Over time you will start seeing the entire church praying, resourcing, and sending people to this place—not to mention living in close proximity to their own church and engaging their community.

All of these elements take time. But in the end you get a more holistic mission strategy.

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash