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Meet the New Missional Monk

I am beyond excited to announce that Missional Monks once again refers to two people

…instead of one guy using the Royal “We.”

Dr. Wes Magruder is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, is the Director of Missional Community Development for the Missional Wisdom Foundation, and is the founder and director of Daraja, a ministry which works to build bridges with refugees in the Dallas area. Wes and his family served for several years as missionaries in Africa. Since returning, he has worked to cultivate missional renewal in a large congregation as the Associate Pastor, he has helped launch missional communities, teaches a course on “Reading Scripture with Missional Eyes” in The Academy, and has developed incredible relationships with refugees from multiple countries. So, since he isn’t busy, I asked him to partner with me as a Missional Monk.

 Wes and Bret serving Communion during worship with The Gathering

Wes and Bret serving Communion during worship with The Gathering

In addition to working together on the blog, Wes and I are relaunching the Missional Monks Podcast (hooray!) – with the addition of monthly videocasts. We already have several fantastic interviews lined up where we’ll be talking about the collision of the missional and the monastic with people in a variety of different contexts.

Through our work together in the Missional Wisdom Foundation, Wes and I have had multiple opportunities to speak and teach together. The “Bret and Wes Show” as it is often called within the Foundation, seems to work pretty well. Specifically, we have had a number of opportunities to work with individual churches and groups that are interested in cultivating the missional imagination. Missional Monks is the perfect context to continue developing and improving that aspect of our ministry.

As this marks an exciting transition for Missional Monks, you can expect a number of changes coming to the website in the near future.

Please join me in welcoming Wes, because I’m contractually obligated to limit the nice things I say to him personally…and I think I’m already over my quota.

But for now it is time to unveil the first ever Missional Monks Videocast…complete with too many closeups of someone who needs to shave.

For this inaugural episode we visited the Seattle’s Best Coffee in Burleson to tell ’em…”Hi, I’m Bret.”

Check it out.


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Just Some Dude From The Neighborhood

This is part of an ongoing reflection and unpacking of our “Bret Sent Me” social experiment. If you’re new to the conversation, check out the original post here.


Almost as soon as I had the idea to get a bunch of folks to tip their baristas, another thought occurred…”Can I really expect to influence enough IMG_2592people in this area to even make a difference? I’ll end up looking like an idiot…again.”

Isn’t that exactly the kind of thought we’re faced with whenever we want to have an impact? How many transformative projects never even started because people were afraid of their own insignificance? 

As a coach I help people address fears that are holding them back needlessly. In my Missional Imagination course, we focus a great deal of time and energy on developing a theology of risk and adventure. I’ve been a church planter for nearly 5 years for crying out loud! Even with all of that, this response of fear and insecurity was my first reaction.

I thought about all the commercials where famous people say, “Tell ‘em I sent you.” Powerful people, influential people, wealthy people. These are the ones who say that – people who’s names carry weight. (Unless the store is offering referral gifts…then we all do it.)

I’m not famous. I’m not wealthy. In the grand scheme of things I’m not really that influential even in my own town.

My friends know me. My family knows me. A good number (but not even most) of my neighbors know me. I have a modest presence on the web, but its a relatively small presence in the midst of a relatively small “niche market.”

But in the context of Burleson, TX, who am I? Just some dude from the neighborhood.

And maybe there is more significance in that than we give credit.

That was next piece of this experiment – the piece that has been most exciting to me throughout the past week. Part of the reason it grabbed me was the realization that after all I’ve seen, with everything I spend my time doing, it was still a message I needed to hear! And I don’t think it’s just me.

This is a lesson we must continually relearn for ourselves because we live in a society that pushes us toward mediocre lives of risk management. Over time we can begin to drift back toward obsession with the myth of comfort and security. We can allow insecurities and the fear of being confronted with our insignificance to slowly box us into self-imposed exile. Deep in our bones we can forget – even with the words on our lips – that we are made in the image of a creative, risk-taking, adventurous, incarnational God. The God who took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. The God who walked in relative obscurity for several decades of human life and who called a few “dudes from the neighborhood” to participate in something far more significant than they would have ever imagined. A God who recognized the kingdom-defining significance of being a neighbor.

I often say that my church planting strategy when we moved here in 2008 was this: “Go to Denny’s. A lot.” It seemed to me that the most important thing I could do was to become a part of this community – for real, not as a gimmick or hook. So I became a regular at a few coffee shops, got to know employees and other regulars,  got to know the parents of my kids’ school friends, and just looked for ways to be involved around town.

Over time I began to realize, Burleson isn’t just where I reside, it’s my home. I am a part of this community. (Which didn’t really hit me until I got free ice at the gas station because they knew me).

I may be just some dude from the community…but we shouldn’t lose sight of how important and valuable that is. It’s so easy to think that because we don’t have positions of influence that we don’t have any influence, and that – at best – is short-sighted. In reality, this is exactly the context through which we are invited to join in God’s mission of reconciliation. When God chose to become human in the person of Jesus, it was a radical consecration (or perhaps reminder of the consecration) of the seemingly mundane experience of being human.

Telling the baristas that “Bret sent me” didn’t  mean anything to them initially. They didn’t recognize my name…until they did. This wasn’t about them figuring out who I am. The “Bret sent me” part was really just a strange – and thus memorable – group identifier. This was about a group of people rallying around a simple cause they perhaps only barely understood…and the impact that had on strangers. It was a simple (and yet, to me, very profound) reminder of what can be accomplished when we call one another to specific action.

In one week, with nothing more than a few blog posts, social media updates, and friends spreading the word, the phrase “Bret sent me” went from eliciting blank looks and polite, “Okay…tell him thanks,” to, “Everybody is saying that! Who is this guy?”

This experiment worked. It worked on something as “insignificant” as getting free coffee at a new store and leaving a tip. It worked with an unknown person’s name. There’s no reason to suspect that you, regardless of how influential you think you are or are not, cannot have the same or greater impact regarding whatever issue arises in your own neighborhood.

What’s the “tip your barista” opportunity in your neighborhood? Disconnected neighbors? A chance to encourage struggling single parents? Starting a community project, like a garden, book exchange, collaborative yard work / home improvement / spring cleaning?

Or what about more systemic issues like poverty? Injustice? Crime? Hatred? Loneliness? Lack of education?

Is there anything you can do about these things? I mean, seriously, in the face of these challenges and possibilities, who are you?

Just some dude/dudette from the neighborhood… Which means something after all.

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What Was the “Bret Sent Me” Experiment Actually About?

I’m glad you asked.

Over the next couple days, I’ll be addressing some of the different aspects and then later this week there will be a video that goes into more detail and also presents a major change and launch of a new era for Missional Monks. (If you’re just joining us, you can read the initial experiment post here.)

The idea for the experiment began with a simple comment. On the first night that Seattle’s Best was open in Burleson, my friend Ron and I went by for free coffee. As we were getting our drinks Ron (who was driving) asked the barista if they accepted tips. They did and so he did. As he was doing so he made a comment to me along the lines of, “Should be easy for folks to leave a tip when they didn’t have to pay anything for the coffee.” And that was the end of it.

But the idea stuck in the back of my mind.

The next morning, Ron’s wife Shandy made a comment on facebook regarding the free coffee all week. And in that moment, I remembered Ron’s comment about tipping…and the initial idea for the experiment was born. Here’s a new store in our town and for this week, every single penny we give them (well, if we order the free coffee) goes directly into the hands of new employees. What if a bunch of people did that?

As often happens, the idea snowballed in my overactive brain and pretty soon there was a lot more to it. We’ll get to more of them later, but simply put, the first impulse for the “Bret Sent Me” experiment was an opportunity to extend hospitality to the employees of a new business in town.

The baristas are our neighbors. Our town is still small enough that a new business opening is a big deal…even if they hadn’t been giving away free coffee all week. New employees, in a new business, with lots of long lines – this had the potential to be an incredibly stressful week for the folks inside that little drive-thru coffee shop.

So, I thought we could not only practice generosity, but also include some light-hearted stress relief with mysterious “Bret sent me” comments coming in throughout the day. The barista’s comment to his coworkers on the first day was perfect, “Uh…Bret sent her. Who knows Bret?” The laughter in the background as we drove away gave the answer, “Nobody!”

We’d like to publicly thank the following folks who we know participated in the Bret Sent Me experiment – if you played along with us and we left your name off the list, let us know!

Those who physically visited: Rachel Wells (obviously), Robert Bishop, Jodi Bishop, Ron Myers, Debbie Myers, Seth and Beth Nichols (who visited Seattle’s Best in Burleson even though they live in Hillsboro!!), Chris Chappotin, Heidi Chappotin, Jamie Gonsoulin. I’ve also heard that friends of friends, people I don’t even know, started participating…but I don’t know who they are. If you do, please tell us!

Those who posted on the Seattle’s Best fb page or shared on fb: Ron Myers, Rachel Wells, Caroline Wells, Pam Wells, Anthony Parker, Ruth Ann Prude, Ross Callarman, Noel Hammac, Matthew Johnson, Jamie Dahman, Robert Bishop, Brandon Lazarus, Seth and Beth Nichols, Hallye Fletcher, Daryn DeZengotita.

I’m grateful to each of you for your help. This would have been really anticlimactic if you hadn’t taken the time to play along. But that isn’t what happened. Sunday morning, I walked up to window and said, “Hi. I’m Bret.” The barista, Elizabeth, said, “Hi Bret…Wait…You’re Bret? We’ve been hearing about you all week!”

For me, anyway, this was anything BUT anticlimactic. The experiment worked, and it helped confirm another, incredibly important goal of the whole project. More details and explanations are coming up tomorrow…

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Final Day of the “Bret Sent Me” Experiment

Here we are folks. Tomorrow is the last day of our experiment. I’m so grateful and excited at the response we’ve had – tons of people in town have gone by Seattle’s Best and told ’em “Bret sent me.” And so many of you from other places have left comments on the Seattle’s Best Facebook page. I hoped people would respond…and I guess that was part of the experiment as well. If so, it was a part which has been amazingly successful. And that, my friends, is 100% you. Thank you.

The question that barristas have been asking repeatedly is, “Who’s this Bret guy?

That’s really the question, isn’t it?

…But if you don’t know the answer, you’ll have to wait until next week to find out. 😉

However, the experiment isn’t over yet! One more day to leave a tip or a comment…and tell ’em Bret sent you.

This morning someone suggested that Bret should send Bret by as well. So he did…er…I did. And he…I…we are very glad he did. If you didn’t see on Facebook, here’s how it went down:

The “Bret Sent Me” Experiment Continues

We’re halfway through the week of free coffee at the DFW area Seattle’s Best Coffee. We here at Missional Monks – and at the Wells household in general – are big fans of free coffee. And we’re also fans of the opportunity to bless folks, cultivate community and reclaim the concept of neighborhood. So we’ve got the “Bret Sent Me” challenge in full swing at the Burleson store. You can read a slightly longer explanation in my previous post. But if you’re in or around Burleson, please go by Seattle’s Best, get some free coffee (or another delicious treat…or nothing at all), leave a nice tip and tell them “Bret sent me.”

If you aren’t in Burleson, and even if you are, you can also leave a message on the Seattle’s Best facebook page telling them that Bret sent you to the Burleson store – but DON’T TAG ME!

Many thanks to those who have already gone by or left messages – be sure and let us know if you do so that we can give you a shout out next week when we reveal the point of this little experiment. And if you are able to get a video of your trip, share it with us and we’ll make sure others see it as well!

Here’s what it looked like when Rachel went by….

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