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13 Things You Need to Know About Monk Wes

wes with kidsRather than write a long, boring bio of myself, which you would only briefly scan anyway, I thought I’d make it easy and give you a bullet-pointed list of things you need to know about Wes Magruder, the newest Missional Monk:

  1. Yes, I actually am a friend of Bret Wells. We got to know each other through our work with the Missional Wisdom Foundation, but even then, I kind of like him. I think he’s cool, especially with the facial hair. We like hanging out together, and even more, talking about how to be Sent. Together.
  2. I am a Wesleyan, but not sure how Methodist. Full disclosure: I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I became a UM because I felt called to the Church, and because I resonated with John Wesley’s emphasis on sanctification, joining together of faith and good works, and patterns of discipleship. When I see those things happening in the UMC, I celebrate. When I don’t, I get a little crabby.
  3. I don’t think most people who throw the word “missional” around knows what it means. I will say more about this later, but the missional conversation has been dangerously diluted by those who use the word loosely. And a lot of them are denominational folks looking for a new angle. If I can accomplish anything as a new Missional Monk, I’d like to help correct this situation.
  4. I hate church meetings. This comes from experience, believe me. I’ve been a pastor in churches in London, rural Texas, and suburban Dallas. Most church meetings, I have learned, peak after 11 minutes, and then quickly descend into ineffectiveness, gossip, and malaise. The proudest moment in my years as a pastor was shutting down a committee in England that couldn’t remember why it was meeting in the first place.
  5. I’m distrustful of institutions, but love community. This isn’t a paradox. It’s just a recognition of the reality that institutions quickly lose sight of the movements that birthed them, and end up doing things that undermine relationships and community. Exhibit A: most North American congregations.
  6. I believe that justice work is one of the great neglected themes of the North American church. Which means that most evangelical churches are lopsided, having determined (consciously or not) that social justice is not “spiritual” work. We need a recovery of the whole gospel, good news for every system, principality, power, and people group. Look for my contributions on this theme coming soon on this blog!
  7. I don’t own a gun, and never will. I might as well get this out here now: I’m a pacifist. No, I would not kill someone even if they were advancing on my family to do harm. I can explain some other time and in some other forum. All you need to know is that I believe the way of Jesus is nonviolent. Completely.
  8. I am suspicious of most Western missionary efforts, though I have been a missionary myself. I spent four years in Cameroon as the director of a new mission initiative through the denominational missional board. The experience was wonderful and life-giving (to myself and others), but even while I worked on the ground, I wondered if I was engaged in anything more than a colonizing project.
  9. Daraja is the Swahili word for “bridge,” and the name of the nonprofit organization that I recently started. Daraja is my current passion, a ministry to recently resettled refugees in the Dallas area. We train volunteers to coach refugees and their families, and help them make a successful transition to life in America. For more information, check out www.jesuswasarefugee.com
  10. I am a girl dad. That’s what my three daughters call me. This means that I know way more than I ever wanted about drill teams, the Twilight series, hair and clothing, and emotional swings. But it also means that I am pampered, loved, and spoiled. Rachel is 19 and currently touring the world with Long Island University — Global. Chloe is a Planoette and going to be a senior next year, while Mallory starts high school next year as a Vikette. Oh, and my wife recently started her own business, a franchise of Kumon.
  11. In my next life, I want to be a rock musician. Seriously. My younger brother lived this life for awhile as the drummer of a band called Calla, and I was madly jealous the whole time. I’m currently digging the new album by The National, but I also like Bon Iver, Delta Spirit, Mumford and Sons, The Tallest Man on Earth … ok, this could go on awhile. Just know this — Bob Dylan is the man. And so is Bono.
  12. When Jesus says to follow him, I think he meant it. My whole life has been an attempt to figure out what this is supposed to look like. It’s taken me to some pretty crazy places, but it’s what life is supposed to be about.
  13. There are only two seasons of the church year: Baseball Season, and Ordinary Time. My major leisure activity is watching baseball. I am a lifelong fan of the Texas Rangers, and thus, have recurring nightmares of a ninth-inning fly ball in St. Louis. I’m SO glad we let Josh Hamilton go, but hope we never trade Jurickson Profar. 
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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….

Wanna Hang Out?

There isn’t anything else going on April 5-6, I checked.

So break open the piggy-bank, dig under the couch cushions and come see me in Fort Worth. Wes Magruder and  I will help you figure out once and for all what missional and monastic have to do with each other. We’ll also be talking about the Missional Wisdom Foundation’s experiences with forming missional communities. I’m quite positive other people will say good things too…but mostly, you don’t want to miss Wes and me. 🙂

Find out more about TransFORM at their website.

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Every Monday Matters

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As we begin this new year, many of us are making resolutions. And here, on January 7, my guess is that many of us have already broken those resolutions. There are any number of reasons why we’ve already given up – lack of discipline, lack of motivation, abundance of distractions and temptations. However, there is a simple component which, when missing, makes room for all these other roadblocks…and, when present, levels the field tremendously.

So very often, for whatever reason, we make our resolutions in isolation rather than in community. We may tell others what we “want” to do and hope that the accountability will keep us on track. But the kicker is, we don’t really expect to do well…and the prospect of having to tell others we didn’t follow through simply isn’t that much of a motivator.

There’s a reason “strength in numbers” is a saying we all know. Whether we’re talking new year’s resolutions, a Rule of Life, or walking through the woods at night, stuff just works out better when there is someone(s) else along for the journey.

The accountability structure, where we tell others what we’re going to do so that they can later check-up on our progress, tries to distill the benefit of community for use in our hyper-individual society…without having to actually do things together. It is better than nothing, but pales in comparison to actual shared experience. Accountability is often based on fear – fear of looking like a failure, fear of breaking faith, fear of mutually agreed upon consequences. And that can be effective. To a certain degree.

But the actual shared experience is different. It isn’t about avoiding, it is about embracing. Avoiding fear and consequences becomes embracing hope and adventure.

To be sure, in situations where shared experience isn’t possible, we’re certainly better off having others who can at least encourage us in word, if not deed. In coaching, my primary task is to help the client determine their goals, form a plan with concrete action steps, and then evaluate the effectiveness after the fact. It isn’t my job to make people feel guilty when they don’t follow through. It IS my job to help them understand why they didn’t and address the barriers. Often what we determine is that, for whatever reason, they just aren’t going to complete this task on their own. “Should” and “ought” are pointless when combined with “but don’t.” In that case there are a couple logical responses.

The first is the goal isn’t really that important. Perhaps in this case, what they “should” do is stop stressing about it and move on. Of course, we often resist this option. But here’s the deal – if we aren’t going to complete this task, the consequences will be the same whether it remains on our “to do” list or not. So we have to ask, how important is this task? Is the stress of an incomplete task greater than the actual consequence of not completing?

Many times the stuff we’re stressing over isn’t that important. Letting it go can open the door to more effectiveness in other areas – and often we’ll find ourselves circling back to this issue down the road.

But when the goal is important, and we realize we are not going to get it done on our own, then it makes sense to find someone to work with us. Maybe its asking a spouse, sibling, coworker, neighbor or group of friends to join us. Or it could mean hiring an assistant, consultant or contractor.

I didn’t make any individual resolutions this year. I’m not very good with them and I decided to pass on the personal guilt trip this time around the sun. However, Rachel came across this book, Every Monday Matters. The book is part of a growing movement of people choosing to reclaim the least desirable day of the week as a time for shared experience and positive change. Check out the introductory video below.

So yesterday The Gathering decided that we would take up this challenge together as families. We won’t all do the activities together as a large group – the basic unit of “we” in this shared experience is the household. However, we’ll discuss our activities as a community, encourage one another and from time-to-time orchestrate larger joint efforts.

I encourage you and your family to join us. You can order a print copy of the book HERE or download the Kindle version HERE. Check out the EMM facebook page and website for updates.

If you’d like to join The Gathering in participating and discussing, just use the “contact us” form in the right hand column and put Every Monday Matters in the comments section. We’ll send out reminders each Monday and provide opportunities to dialog about experiences and team up for group activities. We’d love to have you join us.

What Difference Does it Make?

This post is part of a series on the Bible as a missional text, to catch up see the intro post here.

I am grateful for the friends, old and new, who read this blog and dialog with me on Facebook, in coffee shops, via email, on the phone or over dinner. And I love that you are such an incredibly eclectic group. Conservative evangelical, bleeding-heart liberal, and everywhere in between; agnostic, atheist, and those who are part of other religious traditions; academics and practitioners (and even a few academic practitioners); clergy and laity; country folks and hipsters; Republicans and Democrats; missional monastics and back-row pew dwellers.

I’ve received numerous questions about this issue of the Bible being a missional text; questions I’ll try to address in this series. The struggle has been that the questions, like my conversation partners, are all over the place.

“I still have no idea what this missional word means…now you want to use it to describe the Bible. What the heck are you talking about?” (I only touch on this one briefly in this series – for a longer answer to that question see this post).

“How exactly is the Bible a missional text?”

“Okay, so what does a missional engagement with Scripture look like in practice?”

“Are you trying to say that every passage has a missional orientation?”

Who Freaking Cares?

There is at least one more group of questions. Simply and eloquently stated, these are versions of, “So what?” and “Who cares?”

And those are honest, practical questions we need to be asking. Why does any of this matter? Does it change anything in real life? Does it actually help us or just give us another context for rambling speeches and blog posts? (As if I needed an excuse?)

On a fundamental level I believe that missional is a theological principle rather than a strategy for church planting, church renewal, or something else. And not simply a theological sidebar, but an aspect of understanding the revealed nature of God. The word missional is simply a tool. Yet it is one that helps us address what we see in the relationship of the Trinity; the calling of Israel and the formation of the church…so it’s a pretty useful tool. It helps us recognize that the Incarnation of Jesus wasn’t a new thing for God, but the seminal expression of how God has been operating since the act of creation.

Appreciating Scripture as a missional text is, in part, a needed corrective to perspectives that have allowed us to develop a culture that sees faith as an individualistic and privatized practice; which describes discipleship in terms of membership (and that, merely in terms of attendance and contribution)…or else views discipleship as a feature which only applies to the paid version of the faith app…and who pays for apps when the free “lite” version is sufficiently awesome?

It matters because we can no longer afford to miss how from beginning to end the Bible is about God making space for the Other and then pursuing the Other to invite them into that space…and then calling the Other to become agents of that same space making adventure.

A missional engagement with Scripture matters because it reminds us that we do not read as detached voyeurs. We are invited into the Story as active participants – even if we considered ourselves outsiders when we started reading.

It matters because we are too quick to view the Bible as a list of ways that we can keep people out, keep ourselves in, and somehow feel good about it in the process.

And honestly, the missional nature of Scripture matters because it grounds our sending in something more substantial and sustaining than a fleeting desire for activism.

When the mystique and glamor of actively connecting with broken and hurting people begins to wear thin – and make no mistake, it will…right about the time you realize that “broken and hurting” kinda sucks – what keeps us moving forward? Obviously the first answer is the Holy Spirit. Next comes our community…wait, you are only attempting in this in community, right? Seriously, that’s important. But what happens when we begin to doubt if we ever heard the Spirit to begin with? (Yes, this too is going to happen. Here’s a description of one such time for me.) What happens when circumstances cause you to question whether your community sees you as anything more than another commodity to be consumed or traded? (…yep, that one’s real too.)

There’s another vital component. One that reminds us of the Spirit’s guidance when we forget and points us back to our community even if they’ll likely burn us again…and we them. This piece is so important that its actually the point and process of the entire book of Deuteronomy.

Story. Like the rabbits in Watership Down (such a great story), our Story sustains us because it reminds us of who we are and why we are; where we come from and where we’re headed. The Bible tells us the story of the God of Mission inviting humanity into the mission of God, transforming those who are sent into ambassadors of transformation wherever they go.

A narrative has several characteristics. It comprises a story that is moving somewhere; it gives a social group a story that tells where it is going and what the group will look like when it arrives. There is purpose and quest within the narrative calling a group in a specific direction and toward a particular goal…Because narrative creates and sustains social community, it’s the glue, the atmosphere of all social life. The key to innovating missional community is formation of a people within a specific memory and narrative. – Alan Roxburgh, The Missional Leader, 70-71.

If we can keep our minds wrapped around that aspect of Scripture, then I don’t care if we ever use the word missional again.

…but you’ll probably encounter the word a few more times in this series at least.

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