Okay. The creative angst is too strong, I have to take another break from studying. While studying eavesdropping at ABC, I learned of the work of Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber that nearly lost his life scaling K2. He vowed to build schools for the indigent children of Pakistan, and has sold everything to make good on his promise.

I hate missions as I have always known them.  In my Baptist church, missions meant sticking tracks on urinals (if you don’t understand this, don’t worry imagine someone placing information they deem to be the most important information they could share 8 inches above where your piss hits the ceramic). Then in the 90s with the advent of the super-church, missions analogized to the Wal-Mart approach to Christianity–not gaining new parishioners just converting all of the others to your super-church. YUCK! Basically I rest in the sovereignty of God and have not understood the need for missions. Partially because of my own misunderstanding.

Hearing this story about Mortenson, I actually felt a deep stirring. I could actually do something to richly help the lives of others without the quid pro quo gospel that I have heard all my life–I lead you to Christ, and you come to my church-notch (again YUCK). What if building schools in Mexico and working to create infrastructure helped to allay some of the concerns about immigration in this country. I sense a current of empowerment and innovation in the world. The cold war era bespoke fear and control, and the post-modern, post-coldwar, post-911 era speaks more about empowerment.  If we want to fight terrorism, educate the future terrorists–this is of course the same method that first created terrorists as we know them. If we fear the largest growing segment of the American demographic we educate them and empower them–give the Mexican population infrastructure and desire to stay in Mexico.

In my short lived Tai-Chi stint, I learned about the notion of flow. When someone pushes you, the natural reaction is to buck up and resist, but the tai-chi method is to give. This puts the pusher in a vulnerable position and the weak one in the position of strength (through weakness). Paradoxical? Funny how that seems the way of the cross. Christ was always weak. When given the choice he consistently chose weakness. In tai-chi this begins to look like a dance: the aggressor pushes, the defender retreats.

In my favorite book, Seven Habits, Stephen Covey talks about the “win-win” situation.  Empowerment typically is a win for people.  Empowerment gives people a voice and a choice.  Currently, the choice for many Mexican workers is to come to the great America to make a lot of money to send home.  The alternative is to stay in Mexico and make only a fraction of the earnings they can make in America.   Building schools and infrastructure in Mexico empowers the people of Mexico to have a choice whether to immigrate to America or stay in Mexico and work.

I am in my last weeks of Law School.  I am preparing to take the bar this summer, and then I will probably never practice law.  Maybe.  I have decided to go into real estate and pursue more “business” ventures than law ventures.  For some time, I have been exclusively devoting thought on acquisition and success, but this hollow and ultimately meaningless goal has never felt right.  Today, for the first time in my life, I have asked the question: Is it possible that I could be a missionary?  Could I spread “good news”  (you can bet your ass I would not be spreading Dogma).  I just really feel inspired as if a breath of fresh air has been breathed into me, or maybe it is just the comfort in knowing that I have not been studying for the last hour.

I would be glad to hear anyone’s comments.

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at jeremyfloyd.com and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.

  • This makes me think of some MBA/Mission models I’ve read about where the “missionary” travels to a foreign country and instead of planting a “mission” (ie – Church), they start a business. The emply local people, and they train individuals to manage. Eventaully the managers are prepared to run the business whereupon the missionary goes on to start another business and repeats the process. The sharing of the gospel then takes place informally (relationally) as the missionary builds friendships with the people.

  • tim

    That’s very kool Jeremy . I often thought of mission work , just to relize I’m in it everyday and everywhere I go , I just have to be open . The needs will come to me , if my eyes and ears are open I can help .
    Like the Tai Chi comments ……….

  • I share your disdain for the practice of “missions” as proselytizing. In fact, this was the root of my departure from the Baptist church. I found that I just could not stomach at least two aspects of the general Protestant-evangelical approach to missions.

    1) These churches engage in missions (or consider themselves to engage in missions) in primarily three ways, that I have found.

    A) The church sends members on “mission trips” to foreign countries or at the very least somewhere over a five hour van ride away. Church members typically help a community in some way on these trips (clean up the community, build a school, etc.), but the principal aim of these trip is to evangelize (or as Floyd has put it, spread dogma). I have no documented support for this, but I would also submit that traveling to such a faraway place allows the members and the home church to pat themselves on the back without really having to come to terms with the missionees’ lifestyle on a daily basis. Don’t recall reading anything that documents Christ doing anything like this…

    B) The church creates a community within itself. It creates a daycare, for example, and offers very reasonable rates particularly for single parents…who are members. The church builds a gym for the use of those…who are members. You get the idea. Don’t recall Christ commanding this anywhere either.

    C) The church sets up a weekly or monthly Soup Kitchen or Clothes Closet. To me, this is better. The church is opening its doors to give of itself to its immediate community. In my experience, these types of endeavors are not often successful: The members start in with the proselytizing and run people off, members bring their old, out of style clothes to donate, the members don’t actually engage in conversation with those they’re helping or do anything to undertake any obligation additional to what the members are doing at that moment. A legal analogy might be that the church is honoring its deal with only nominal consideration. In the legal world, a party supplies nominal consideration to a contract when he or she is trying to make something look like a valid contract that really isn’t. For example, my parents want to give me a parcel of land worth $100,000. When we execute the deed, I have to give them something in return so I give them $10…Not quite what onlookers would call a fair deal.

    2) The other aspect of a church’s outreach that I just can’t bear is the brand of Christ’s love that it offers. Christ commanded his followers to be in the world but not of the world. Not only are many church members no longer in the world (because they are so wrapped up in the whole Jesus-freak ensemb or simply because they’re afraid of what their peers will think), but also in their proselytizing these members tell prospective Christians that they will have to not be homosexual or not drink or smoke or not hang out with certain people who lead them down the wrong path.

    When Christ chose to hang out with people, who did he choose to hang out with? Not people at church…well what were the churches at the time. He surrounded himself with the known “lowest of the low,” and he also surrounded himself with controversy. And no, not controversy formed out of conservativeness—the controversy he stirred arose out of openness. This is my most fervent criticism of the Protestant-evangelicals because before I did a degree in this stuff and got into all the historical and textual criticism, I could not find it in my heart to help only people who were willing to listen to how wrong their life was and how they needed to change. I just felt the whole approach to be misplaced and a disgrace to what we all claim to have received from Christ. The love that Christ gives and asks us to share is the one that he first showed us—one without conditions. I was never able to find this in the Baptist church, not even for myself.

    I could go on, but I believe I have shared enough. Thank you for your post.

  • Don

    Congratulations on your new found “calling”. Your thoughts of empowerment to immigrants in order to give them the choice between staying in Mexico or coming to the “land of opportunity” was very interesting. That solution is very different from the the general outcry to keep them out by force “or electric fence”.

    The thought process that you have went through was interesting because as you thought of how maybe your calling was to help empower others, you actually empowered yourself to think of other goals in life besides the general dreams and aspirations of outward success. You have actually considered what may bring greater inward peace as opposed to outward success. By doing that, you have accomplished what most people never accomplish. (Of course you may be just delirious and talking out of your ass.)Either way, good job!

    About your problems with the Baptist church and their methods. I also have had struggles with the generic broadbrush religion. This method can sometimes bring people to the church, but as far as any kind of deep meaningful relationship with God, they are on their own. Growing up as a Baptist preacher’s son, I have seen those who absolutely loved the the big churches and felt like they were a part of something great, even though they may not really know why. And then I have seen those who search for something deeper than youth groups and volleyball teams on Tuesday nights. I think it is important to remember to not follow those in organized religion, but to try to learn as much about God as you can and follow him. There are good and bad people in any religion or denomination (or non-denomination). Sometimes the “bad” do good, and sometimes the “good” fail, but God is all sovereign and unwavering.

  • I never understood how beating people over the head with religion is supposed to help anyone other than the institution that calls upon their congregants to do the beating. That “Christianity” is a nine-billion dollar retail market (and climbing) says it all.

  • Interesting. Almost every person I know who has attended law school has left enmeshed in some sort of moral quandary. Even the folks I know who are working for non-profits now seem to be somewhat at odds with whether that hefty law school tab is working ‘hard enough’ for the good guys. A buddy of mine who’s a (corporate) lawyer was hanging out in my cramped Brooklyn apartment and turned to me smiling. He said, “if someone gave me a million dollars tomorrow, I’d have no idea what to do with it, which sucks. But I bet you’d probably turn around and make a film or something.” I’m not sure he was right about what I’d do, but what I took from what he said was that he found himself somehow feeling without place, direction maybe.

    I’d always thought that one of the higher aims of religion was to help people find their place. But when I walked past the Bentley parked next to the Zion Baptist Church on Washington the other day, I’m was reminded that even organized religion helps some people find their places better than others.

    Still, I don’t think that honor is bestowed in whole upon people who perform selfless acts. Especially when those acts are performed in order to settle-up on some checklist with god. Mortenson’s case, which we might call inspirational, is so remarkable because his inspiration came from within. And if the rest of us are looking to *do *something maybe we should learn to know our true selves (hopefully near-death is optional) and that can help point us to a meaningful direction.

    (or not.)

  • David

    Good thoughts Jeremy. I am beginning to find that, even in my personal life, service is the key to success. If I serve my family and community, then I receive back something much more precious than I gave. There is power in weakness. I have seen this manifested powerfully in my own life as of late. When there is conflict, appear weak, yeild, then deliver the death blow, grasshopper.

    Serving Mexico by building a sound infrastructure is a wonderful example of service and community ideals. Not only does it create a desire to stay in the homeland, it also keeps local tradition and culture alive. We, in the great American melting-pot, are becoming cultureless because of dispersion due to economic potential. One could say that we are forming a new culture, but I would disagree. Over generations, the old ways ultimately perish.

    Concerning missions, I too have a distaste, especially for those which replace rich indigenous cultures, which ultimately point to God’s beauty and diversity, with a foreign Western-centered religion. Although I must say that I commend, and currently send financial support, to people who are willing to give of themselves for what they feel is a greater cause than the proverbial house with a white picket fence.

    I try not to judge this sacrifice that people make. I have friends in Haiti with two children who help build homes and the wife is a physical therapist. My sister visited Haiti once and was deeply moved. She went home and started Serving Our Savior (SOS), a nonprofit organization that does nothing more than funnel money to Haiti. With her efforts there has been a school built along with children being clothed, fed, and educated.

    Lastly, I will note that I saw a street preacher in my home town one recent afternoon. He stood preaching at the cars with rolled-up windows while his young daughter paced with a homemade poster. My first reaction was “fool, what good is it to preach at people who cannot and do not want to hear. Moreover, how dare you submit your daughter to this!” But, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I felt compassion and the urge to pray for the man and his daughter. My heart felt as if this man was sincere and passionate: he was doing what he felt he was supposed to do. And, as I attend SOL, who am I to question the apparently absurd?

    Your post is obviously very thought provoking, Jeremy. Good work! I will relent that I do not understand the “porclain throne” gospel. What gives?

  • jeremyfloyd

    Doug: I think Tony Campolo runs the EAPE. Interesting Stuff.

    Greg: I think that is certainly one perspective. Cyncial. The phenomena of big buck religion seems to me a recent development, and fortunately these things too shall pass. It certainly is not an accurate picture of “Christianity” around the world. Chinese religion is not an 8 billion dollar industry, and there is really good work going on over there.

  • Interesting post J. I have never thought of being a missionary probably because I am Catholic and the idea of trying to explain Catholicism to someone always gives me a headache.

    I have decided that I want my life to mean something. I hope that when I die, someone besides my family will stand over my grave and say “my life was better because Myria did blank for me”. The hard part is figuring out what the blank should be. I am like in you in that I do not think I will ever actually practice law. Well, it will be interesting to see where lives leads us.

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