Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Missional Interview - Rick From Blind Beggar

Rick from Blind Beggar agreed to be interviewed. So here goes!

1. Give a brief bio of yourself.

My spiritual journey started in the 8th grade when my nominally Christian parents started to attend a Southern Baptist congregation. My Sunday School teacher introduced me to Christ. Our family moved between my Sophomore and Junior year of High School (summer 1966 I think) at which time we quit attending any congregation. I was a normal kid in most ways, but on the margins (actually, I loved the margins, even today). My opinions were generally consider outside the norm in a conservative redneck part of Oregon ­ I was an anti Vietnam War and “what’s the big deal about marijuana” type. I grew up fishing and hunting, loving the out-of-doors (and still do), cowboyed each summer and drove a 55 Chevy.

Move to the big city of Portland, Oregon to attend college in 1968 (Economics), drifted alone in the youth/college culture of the day and most of what that entailed. Avoided Vietnam by joining the National Guard. In 1973, with the stirring of God we call the Jesus Movement, I hear him calling me back (I’m still a 60’s hippie/Jesus Freak at my core). Knowing nothing of “church life” except Southern Baptist, in 1974 I joined a small SBC church here in Portland. Met and married my wife Fran, grew a bunch spiritually and got involved deeply in the SBC locally, regionally and nationally serving on many committees, boards, even a trustee of one of their seminaries. Was also a Deacon and Elder for many years.

We have not been part of the SBC faith community of over 15 years now, wanting to discover and be part of a more global Christian people. We have been part of two non-denominational which has expanded our understanding, network and worldview greatly.

I’ve been successful in business starting and running several companies. My latest venture is now the largest Internet based information source on 401(k) retirement plans.

2. When did you make the move towards missional ministry?

The short answer is, before we had a word for it.

For 3½ years in the late 70s, my wife and I did bus ministry in a lower income area of town (we moved into that area also and lived there until 1992) where we literally pastored 20 plus families. Even after the bus ministry ended, we continued to help many of those families. We were missional before we even knew what that was. We met and loved some of the most marginalize and wonderful people and families. Prayed with them when they were sick, rejoiced with them over the birth of a new son/daughter,
paid their electric bill when they could afford to and the power was within days of being turned off, supplied used appliances, cloths and other needs (our old Volkswagen van got well used), took them to church with us, made sure many of the kids had something under the Christmas tree each year, attended weddings and high school graduations, and live among them as one of them. We will see many of those folks in eternity and I can't wait.

This was God missional training ground for me and it has molded and shaped my thinking and actions ever since. When you compare and contrast those wonderful early missional years with the denominational and church activities I was involved with (designed to support and further an institution and organization), it is pretty easy to know where the heart of God was.

3. What was the factors around that move?

It certainly had nothing to do with what I had read in books or had been taught. We just found ourselves in the midst of a community in need and intuitively (a God thing?) knew we had to do more than what was generally involved in a “bus ministry” (which was an evangelist tool or program at its core). It didn’t take to many times of being obedient to Gods prompting, then seeing the amazing things he did as a result, to get it.

God moved us out of that community in late 1992. We have lived since in a middleclass urban part of town. It is harder to minister in this new community, but it has been part of the learning process. Some of what we have learned is how to be intentional about ministry by getting involve in more general focused ministries like The Bridge, a ministry to street people and the marginalized of Portland. We don’t attend this faith community, but support it by, praying for this ministry, verbally supporting co-pastors Deborah and Ken, and once every two months a number of us from my faith community go down and provide a home cooked meal right after their Sunday gathering. We are involved in more such endeavors, but The Bridge is one good example about being intentional, i.e., ministry doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it.

God has also allowed me to be what I call a “missional catalyst.” Helping individuals learn how to be missional in both theological and practical terms. For the past two years I’ve been developing this aspect of ministry more and more (The Blind Beggar and Friend of Missional is part of that). But missional must be modeled as much as taught, so I must tell you, I see a day coming in the not very far future where Fran and I will sell our home
and move into a lower middle class apartment complex (I’ve been prayer-walking it now for a year) where we can explore and continue to practice what God has taught us over the past 30 years. It is within walking distance of where our faith community meets.

4. What is an important thing that becoming missional can do for an individual and for their church?

It will draw the individual into what God is really about in the world around them. Most American Christians have no idea what the way of Jesus is or looks like. All they know is that they are being marginalized more and more and, as a result, they either do one of two things: 1) lash out by going into “Protective Social Action” mode (see Bob Robinson great post on here) or, 2), withdraw into their protected and cloistered “church world” where they can pretend nothing is happening.

Becoming missional is the proper response, but it is a practice that puts one at risk. It will cause you to finally evaluate much that you consider to be important and good in this world, particularly in the area of “things.” I’m afraid that many will fail the test, but God always has an obedient remnant.

Let me throw out one word of caution to those who are feeling God’s missional call and may not be in a faith community that yet understands. Don’t become a disruptive factor. God didn’t call you to “convert” your faith community. He is calling you to a missional life, so get on with it and let your actions (not your words) leaven the loaf.

5. If you could recommend one book to get someone's missional journey started, what would it be?

I don’t think I could recommend just one book. My recommendation would depend on where you are today in your journey and what your faith community and denominational background has been. So, let me suggest that:

If you are currently part of a faith community that is a member of on of the mainline Evangelical denominations and you have little or no exposure to the missional movement, try Ed Stetzer and David Putman’s “Breaking the Missional Code” (Broadman & Holman, 2006).

If you are currently part of an emerging church or you are a pastor who is struggling with how to be the church in a post-Christian cultural context, read Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s “The Shaping of Things to Come” (Hendrickson, 2003).

Then move on to a couple of the better books on the emerging church.
Remember, at its core, the worldwide emerging church movement is a missional movement. Try either or both of the following: Dan Kimball’s “The Emerging Church” (Zondervan, 2003) and/or Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger’s “Emerging Churches” (Baker, 2005).

And don’t forget the Internet. You can get a good overview of what it means to be missional, including a great reading list, at

Finally, start reading the scriptures as a missional story instead of a “self help” book. When you read the Gospels, quit looking for a systematic theological understanding and start seeing how Jesus walked and lived in the context of his world. See the type of life he commands a Jesus follower to live.

6. What's been your greatest joy since becoming a missional voice in the blogosphere?

Networking with and meeting so many great people who are on the same journey. It can get lonely out here and often you think you “are” the remnant. But in the blogosphere, you come to know that God has many passionate people who I get to converse with and learn from. Some have become real kindred spirits, but all have had a positive impact on my journey.

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