Helping churches think and act like missionaries.
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.
Today. Around the World
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.
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
2016. Louisville, Kentucky
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.
Upstream continues build relationships with churches around the US and now on to the world. Our materials are being translated into many languages and churches from around the world are growing in sending capacity from the coaching and consulting of the Upstream team. Our Cohorts and Sending Church Trainings are providing practical understanding and implementation of the sending church elements in the hundreds of churches. God is clearly at work in revitalizing the role of the sending church in global missions. We are thankful at Upstream to play a role, by his grace, in this movement; coming alongside local churches help them send well. We look forward with anticipation to the day when every tribe, tongue, and nation will be before his throne and dream that the local church will have played a pivotal role in seeing this promise fulfilled.