Month: September 2013

My (brief) History of Aroma

I was recently asked to briefly comment on the history of my role at Aroma as it pertains to our current situation and future outlook.  Here’s a brief synopsis.

In 2006, we (Chris and Jamie) first trip to Taiwan together.  At that time, we were just friends looking for adventure on an ICE Trip from Crown College. We knew we wanted to be involved in what God was doing around the world, and so Jamie led a team of six of us to Taiwan to stay in the Rainbow Hotel in Ximen.  We went as a part of what was then called STMO (Short-Term Missions Office), which is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  Matt Peace and Jason Ostrander were trying to get people out there, because of a burden they had on their hearts to reach youth in that area of Taipei.  That was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.  It was there that God birthed a strong desire to be a part of what was going on in Asia.

In 2007, we got married and began our last year as students at Crown College.  That spring semester, we received a phone call from Matt Peace, inviting us to be a part of what was then called “Praxis” a grouping of missional communities living around the world.  We immediately knew that God was re-awakening our passion for Asia and particularly Ximen.  Shortly after this, I (Chris) saw a pretty clear indicator of the magnitude of what God wanted to do one day while I was in the prayer room at Crown College (the one behind the chapel).  I was truly amazed as I looked up at one of the maps on the wall and saw a picture (some might call it a vision) of Taiwan being three times bigger than China with arrows flying out from it.  I believe it was God telling me two things: 1) Taiwan holds a very special and important place in His heart, and 2) Taiwan is going to come into a nation-wide revival and be used instrumentally in world-evangelization.  I then used one of my remaining classes associated with my minor in “church multiplication” to write a synopsis for a church plant in which we partnered with a missionally focused business to create a sustainable ministry that would reach hundreds, if not thousands, with the truth of the gospel.  I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went.

In 2008, we got one-way tickets to Taiwan two weeks after we graduated.  We found jobs and began learning Chinese.  Things started off pretty simply: grow personally, grow in community, and grow on mission.  It was our job to grow in our relationship with Jesus, learn Chinese, and teach English.  It was our job to cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who would learn to love each other.  It was our job to find a specific missional focus for reaching out to the community.   We did these things and worked hard at them.  Each year a few people heard about Jesus, made commitments to him, and grew in their discipleship.  We began English outreaches and even Bible studies.  All this was done in the context of a group of people who saw the potential.  There were five of us at first.  Then, there were seven.  The number kept growing.  God kept teaching us new things about the power of the gospel, the love he had for the people of Taiwan and the desire He had to reach each person we came into contact with.

In 2010, we began sensing the need to find a specific missional focus beyond individual living towards our goal of reaching people for Jesus.  We started praying and felt led to begin preparations for a coffee shop.  This was after intense dialogues and discussions with multiple people both on and off the team.  This was after relentless fundraising, recruitment of new team members, and hundreds if not thousands, of hours of prayer and planning and preparation.

In 2012, after two years of hard work, The Aroma Coffee Shop finally opened.  Call it strategic planning or definite insanity, but we also launched weekly services in the church at the same time.  It would be foolish to think that this was just Jamie and I.  There have been a countless number of individuals who have participated in this great work.  There are those who haven’t stopped praying since the day we left the States.  There are those who give finances sacrificially.  There are those who have taken hundreds of hours to coach and consult with us and our team.  And there are those who have gone, who come to the Aroma whether it’s for a short-term trip of two days or a long-term experience of five years.  Here are just a few of the people who come to mind (in no particular order):

  • members, past and present, at Nowthen Alliance, New Prague Alliance, The River, River’s Edge, St Croix Falls, Parkside, Victory Christian and other Churches for almost seemingly unlimited prayer and resources support.
  • students, staff and faculty at Crown College for cultivating an environment that encourages people to be fully devoted to Jesus in whatever endeavor they pursue and for preparing us (as much as possible) for what we would run into in Taiwan.
  • Steve and Kathy O’Dell for raising Chris and knowing that he would “bear Christ” to the nations before he was even born. Add to this tons of family members who believe in and support what we’re doing.
  • Dave and Ann Julik for letting me marry the most amazing woman in the world. Again, various family members play a critical role in support.
  • Matt Peace and Jason Ostrander for deciding we weren’t insane (off one 20 minute coffee) and buying one way plane tickets for us to move out to Taiwan.
  • John Hinton, Chris Folkestad, Marc Trujillo, Tony Roos, Rinata Sokrutova,  Aaron Ernst, and other leaders who have brought out short-term teams. We have been encouraged and reinvigorated by your determined focus. And we trust that you’ve been challenged to live life as the Aroma.
  • Sharon Duddles, Emily (Ballinger) Matarazzo, Dave Wickersheim, Kyle Kjormoe, Dan Werner, Rachel (Parker) Wichert, Sarah Mabee, Victoria Crowley, Lindsey Nagel, Scott Sidwell, Kalong Wong, Miki Bennett, Caleb Bennett, Michael Shiflet, Belinda Lin, Tiffany Barron, Jesse Wagner, Andrew Trein and other short-term and long-term interns and team members that have participated in the ministry at the Aroma. These people gave up a lot to move to Taiwan and serve.
  • Mark Cheng, Ariel Wu, Sweetie Chen, Jimmy Wu, Sandra Wu, Alexa Li, Cloud Shih, Afra Lin, Chris Hugli, Amy Miller, Van Jiang, Stephen Donaldson, Steven Chen, Ulainda Chang, Brian Markley, and countless others who have contributed thousands of volunteer hours to running the coffee shop, church, and missions teams.
  • Rick Mann, Jim Nichols, Al Prentice, Gary Schmidt, and Kris Blanchard for teaching me the importance of business as mission and valuing everyone who contributes to the kingdom.
  • Kyle Whitlow, Jim Malone, Liz Udall, Becky Gorton, Michelle Olson, Bill Ramirez, and others at the National Office of the C&MA for providing such awesome administrative support.

The list could go on and on, but for now, just remember, it takes a village to raise a child and it takes two nations to start and run the Aroma.

It’s now 2013.  We have more focus towards our goals than ever before.  We’re learning to lean and press into what God wants for us.  We desire to “be the Aroma.”  We want to see our neighborhood, our city, our nation, and the world transformed.  We want to participate in seeing Heaven come to Earth.  We are hungry for everyone to come in through our coffee shop, be transformed by Jesus in the church, and go out living life as the Aroma in their families, amongst their friends, in school and at work. We also know that in the future, God is going to launch more Aromas.  He’s going to lead us into the more that He’s been promising.  We are excited.  For now, we’re learning more everyday about what it means to be the Aroma as we invite people to enjoy good coffee and great friends.  2014 is coming!

沒關係,下次付好了 (No Problem, you can pay next time)

The other day I went to the breakfast shop across the street from our house to pick up breakfast. I grabbed just enough cash to get what I wanted and out Mochi (my dog) and I went.

However, after I put my order in, I realized that I hadn’t brought enough. I quickly apologized to the staff and asked to get less than what I ordered. What happened next surprised me.

She told me I could come back later and pay the next time I grabbed breakfast. It was, to be honest, the type of great customer service that just makes you want to go back there all the time.

It was also a genius business move on her part. She knows I’ll come back and puts an urgency on me to get back there sooner than I would have normally chosen to go.

Well played, Lady at the breakfast shop, well played.

“Feed My Sheep” – A Call to Discipleship

In John 21, Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep. This is tied directly to John 10:11-16, a passage we recently went through at the Aroma, something that has been brought to our attention through several people sharing testimonies the last few weeks and months. This is a word that is on Aroma right now. We can feel it so strongly. God is saying: get my sheep, feed my sheep, help my sheep, heal my sheep, encourage my sheep, train my sheep, love on my sheep. And each one of you have a responsibility to this. You’re the Aroma! A simple word for some of you is that you need to learn what it means to think beyond yourself. Learn to give of yourself. why? Not because you feel guilty, but because you’re compelled by love. You’re moved by love. You’re a good shepherd, and you can learn from Jesus THE good shepherd. 1 Peter says we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 1:9). We are ministers of the new covenant (1 Cor 3:6). We can’t afford to rely on one person or a few people. This generation, you, at the Aroma, can’t afford to sit around and wait for the pastor to do something. You’ve got to enter the door for yourselves. You’ve got to meet and intimately know the shepherd. And you’ve got to live from that as the Aroma everywhere you go! We’re the ones who help others walk through the door. We introduce them to the shepherd. They’ll know his voice. They’ll come. People have been seeing visions, having dreams, praying and hearing clearly from God that the time is coming when Aroma’s going to be exploding with people. This isn’t about it. This isn’t about you. It’s about Jesus. He’s the door. He’s the gate. And He’s inviting each of us to be the ones who host the presence of the Reality that comes when the door is opened. He’s inviting us to be the ones who hear his voice, follow him, and invite others to do. We need to step up. We need to people to boldly step up and enter the door. We need people to know the Shepherd more intimately. We need people to raise their hands and commit to finding another sheep and walking along the journey with them. To be honest, church, we are weak at discipleship. But I believe there are thousands of people out there who are going to be touched through the Aroma because of one on one discipleship, wherein you grab one sheep and feed them. Everyone needs to grab someone and read the Bible with them. Pray with them. Listen to them. Encourage them. Help them. Feed them. Feed my sheep (John 21:15-19). In the coming weeks and months, we must learn how to empower everyone to feed sheep as a lifestyle.

Jesus is “The Door”

A number of weeks ago, we did a short series within a series called on Jesus’ “I am statements.”  Here’s an excerpt from one of the more popular ones:

Jesus says that he’s the door. What happens when you enter through the door? You 1) receive salvation, 2) go in and out, and 3) find pasture. These are four critical aspects of the believer’s life. Many years ago, there was a lot of debate about things like when we actually get saved, or if we are choosing to get saved or having it chosen for us. These are all things I’m not interested in debating, because I believe God is not bound by our ideas of theology. Rather, I choose to see the way Jesus has revealed himself in Scripture and in our lives, and believe that He’s willing to do things from a different form than we are used to. Consider all the miracles we’ve talked about in the book of John so far: water into wine, lame man, official’s son, man born blind. Each miracle was done in a different way. Jesus is infinitely unique. And we don’t need to be concerned about how exactly he’s planning on doing it. He’s good and that’s great! Back to the main verse: Receive salvation. This is showing us one important thing. No matter how your story happens, and I believe many are unique and that’s great, Jesus is the door. We enter in through Jesus. Your life of salvation is through Jesus. What is salvation? It’s being saved. Saved from what? Saved from your sin, death, evil spirits, sickness, etc. Saved to what? Saved to the Kingdom, health, freedom, and eventually heaven. We are saved. If you enter in through Jesus, I have good news for you: you’re saved. Next is going in and out. I struggled with this one during my preparation time. I think there’s an element connected to our idea of “testimony is the Spirit of prophecy.” Jesus says, what I’ve done before, I’ll do again. Jesus is a door. That means, when he shows up (through a miracle or a sense of his presence), there’s entrance into another reality, beyond what we have. I believe strongly that Jesus is around us a lot more than we think, and he’s desiring for us to open the door. I believe we have a heavenly reality that trumps, or goes above, our reality here in on earth. That is the Kingdom of God. A quest we have at Aroma is learning to move freely in this reality. We can enter the Kingdom… we can go in and out. I believe it’s much easier than we currently think it is. This starts with a change in our understanding. Our minds need to be renewed (Romans 12:1-2). The final element of this door is “pasture.” Jesus is saying he’s coming to give us abundant life. Now, just what are the confines of this life, I don’t dare say. I’m only confident of one thing: it’s better than we think it is. It’s more full of Jesus, his joy, his peace, his power, and love than we ever imagined. We need to maintain ourselves continually in the free flow of an abundant life in Christ. He came for us to have life and have it to the full.

耶穌說,他是門。當你通過門進入時,會發生什麼事? 1)接受救恩,2)走進去出去,3)找到牧場。這是四個信徒生活的關鍵方。很多年前,有很多爭議,像是我們甚麼時候會真正得到救贖,或者我們是否都選擇被救贖或是救贖選擇我們。我對這些辯論都不感興趣,因為我相信上帝不是我們的受約束的神學思想。相反,我選擇看到耶穌已經從聖經及我們的生活中展現自己,並認為他是願意用不同於我們習慣的形式動工。想想我們目前為止已經談論的約翰福音所提到的所有奇蹟:水變成酒,瘸腿的人,官員的兒子,先天的瞎子。以不同的方式完成的每個奇蹟。耶穌是無限獨特的。我們不需要去想他究竟是如何做規劃。他是很好的,很棒!回到主要的章節:接受救贖。這告訴我們一個重要的訊息。不管你的故事如何發生,相信有不少是獨一無二的,這是很棒的,耶穌是這扇門。我們通過耶穌進入。你的生活是通過耶穌的救恩。救恩是什麼?它被拯救。拯救什麼?拯救你的罪惡,死亡,辟邪,疾病等。拯救了什麼?拯救了國度,健康,自由,最終天堂。我們有救了。如果通過耶穌進入了,我有好消息告訴你:你已經得救。下一步是進出。對此我在準備時間時掙扎了一段期間。我覺得有一個因素連接到我們的想法,“見證是預言的靈。”耶穌說,我之前做了什麼,我會再做一次。耶穌是一扇門。也就是說,當他顯示(通過一個奇蹟或他的存在感),進入了另一個現實,超越我們所擁有的。我堅信,耶穌是在我們身邊並多過於我們想像的,他希望為我們打開門。我相信我們有實在的王牌,或更高,我們在這裡的現實是在地球上。這是神的國度。一個任務,我們必須在Aroma學習自由移動這個事實。我們可以進入天國…我們可以進去了。我相信這是比我們目前認為這是容易得多。這與我們的理解的變化開始。我們的思想需要更新(羅馬書12:1-2)。這扇門的最後一個元素是“牧場”。耶穌說,他的到來給我們豐富的生活。現在,正是這種生活的局限,我不敢說。我只相信一件事:它比我們想象的更好。它更充滿耶穌,他的喜悅,和平,力量,愛比我們想像的更多。我們需要保持自己不斷豐富的生命在基督裡的自由流動。他來到我們有生命,並且得的更豐盛。

The “gourmefication” of everything

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Seth Godin makes many references to the importance of choosing a small tribe, choosing a place in which you can be “the best in the world” at something. It’s not about mass-marketing and spewing things at people. It’s about creating something awesome that people actually love. It’s about gathering a group of people together. It’s about encouraging them to follow on further down the road – to get connected to the cause.

Walking around Wal-Mart recently, I had this epiphany. Well, it was half me and half my dad. He may have coined the term: gourmefication as he explained to me how major brands that have come to stand for one thing, one flavor, are now diversifying to have 1,000 different flavors added to their once single-flavor lineup. When I was growing up, there was one kind of Cheez-It. The world fell apart when they added a second flavor.  Now look.  Same thing with Triscuits, and Gatorade, and a million other types of everything.

Is this the attempt of big-brands to choose a little tribe? Or is it simply more white noise?

Moving forward, what should big brands do? focus on one thing and hit a home-run or try to diversify? And what about you?  Should you be all things to all people? Or focus in on one killer thing that makes your group happy?

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Defining Business in the Kingdom

The Coffee Shop at Aroma is one aspect of business as mission, but it’s an important first step.  I’ve outlined these 5 levels of business + Jesus just from a few conversations.  I’m reading “BAM” the official “business as mission Bible, if you will,” from which I hope to gain more insight in the coming weeks and months.  What do you think of these five levels?

  1. Christian + Business: As believers, it’s our responsibility to re-present Christ to the world around us.  Regardless of our position in a company, we have opportunities to live as servants and show the world who Jesus is.   This is represented by the idea of being in and not of (John 17:14-15).
  2. Christian Owning Business: As owners of businesses, we have opportunities to bless our suppliers, employees, and customers in special ways.  We have been given natural and spiritual authority to be a part of fulfilling a commission given to us through the Lord’s prayer: in heaven as it is on Earth.  In particular, Joel Manby has an excellent read entitled “Love Works” in which he outlines management and leadership principles based on 1 Corinthians 13.
  3. Social Entrepreneurship: as Christians in business and Christian business owners, we should be seeking to find ventures that not only produce profit, but also have positive social impact.  I think of Jesus asking us to give water in His name (Matthew 10:42).
  4. Business As Mission: The fourth step of business as mission is to be intentional at your establishment. This is where you learn to outreach to customers, looking for opportunities to share Jesus with them.  I look at heroic examples, like Paul being a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) who used this opportunity to share with those around him.
  5. Kingdom Business or Heaven in Business: This is the epitome of living like Jesus in the context of your missional life.  This is where we learn to rely on Jesus for his insight into how to run business, do marketing, excel in management, and be successful in order to change the atmosphere of the community. Examples that come to mind include Jesus cursing the fig tree (Mark 11, it should be ready to bear fruit in all seasons and circumstances as in John 4:35), Jesus producing/finding a coin in a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27), and most clearly the Lord’s Prayer – on Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).