Tag Archives: evangelist

halfway around the world (or, what am i doing sitting at a starbucks in Bali?)

So, here I sit, in a Starbucks in Bali. I do feel the need to explain the ‘Starbucks’ part of that first–I have to wait three hours for someone to arrive. It is hot outside. I stick out here. There are many taxis wanting to take tourists places. There is free wifi in starbucks.

But the Bali part is, of course, the more interesting of the two locations. It’s origin actually starts, or, can be at least linked to, an In N Out Burger in Costa Mesa, California.

It was there, on 19th Street, back in  2004 I believe, that I remember, distinctly, having a cell phone conversation with my friend Kim, while I was sitting in the parking lot of In N Out. We were discussing what I would do with my life. At that point, in 2004, I both had no idea how long that would take to play out, or how crazy and amazingly that ‘playing out’ would actually go.

“I think what I’d love to do, or at least part of what I’d love to do, is to travel the world, visiting with ‘missionaries’ (it is not a word I like, as to me it sounds like catholic priests forcing indians to convert as the Spanish colonized the Americas, or the family from the Poisonwood Bible going to ‘save’ the ‘heathens’ of Africa–as if God were not already in Africa, and as if they could possibly ‘bring’ God with them…? But, then again, I’m ordained as a evangelist, which is also a word that has gotten a pretty bad rap, but which, perhaps like missionary, could use some ‘redeeming’ as a word too. But, since I don’t have another word to use in its place, ‘missionaries’ will have to do for now.) to both encourage them, but to also help tell their stories back to the rest of the world ‘at home’ so that their stories can be heard.” That’s what I said to Kim that afternoon from the parking lot.

And that, eight years later, is what I’m doing in Bali. And Vietnam.

Sure, I’ve done quite a bit of this in the intervening years, traveling, storytelling, sharing back through photos and words the people, the food, the experiences of ‘far off’ places. For me, it’s an inherent part of my calling, and why I pushed for the ordination as an ‘evangelist’ and not the more traditional path of minister.

An evangelist, I think, in its truest sense, is someone who tells the ‘good news’ of how God (or Spirit, or love…for those of you who can’t bring yourself to use the G word, but who still would like to acknowledge something that is more than my own individual self) is already at work in the world, long before we (whoever the ‘we’ happens to be) get there with our good intentions, desire to help, save, or otherwise impact the locals.

As an evangelist who also happens to be a photographer and a writer, I see these pieces as all intertwined.

So, what am I doing in Bali? I’m here with the PCUSA, to help tell the stories of those who are working in the region (they will be gathering at a conference/training here). From here we will travel to Vietnam, to meet with various folks there, see their lives, and hear their stories.

Bali is a long way from Baja. And 2012 is quite a ways from 2004. A lot of life has happened in between. But one piece that has remained constant, that has even increased, is this desire–a desire to help people see, to tell the story, and, in so doing, to cross-pollinate my many worlds in a way that will, I hope, bear fruit.

love wins…shouldn’t that be a good thing?

Love wins. And apparently not everyone is happy about it.

I just finished listening to the new book, Love Wins, by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church, and author of another of my favorite books, Velvet Elvis. I had heard rumblings about the book on Twitter and Facebook, that before they had read it and before it had been released, there were those who were condemning it as ‘heresy.’

The heresy accusation, the reality that I had loved Bell’s thoughtful reflections in  Velvet Elvis and the ability to download it for free from audible.com (and if you use that link you can get a 14 day free trial and I can get another free book) was enough to get my attention. So I downloaded it. And I listened to it. And I loved it.

Being a ‘designated tentmaking evangelist’ (my official ordination designation in the Presbyterian Church, USA) and having no official congregation or church building or program, I spend most of my time amongst those who want little or nothing to do with ‘organized religion’ or ‘church’ as they have known it. Does that mean that all of ‘organized religion’ or ‘church’ are bad? Of course not. There is so much that is good and right and healthy and life giving about both church and religion. But there is also so much that is decayed and lifeless and stagnant. Both are true. Both co-exist.

One thing I have found, in spending time, as a minister, with people who want nothing of church, is that, for the most part, what they are rejecting I am rejecting as well. They are typically not rejecting the sense of community, meaning, service, and love that can often be found amongst groups of Jesus followers.

But they are often rejecting the institutional ‘stuckness’ which is often found garnished with a healthy dose of  exclusive narrowness. The rejection is not necessarily of God, but more of the tribal God of our own particular group or understanding. Is God the God of the entire world, all of humanity and all of creation, or just our particular mascot, buddy, bully or bodyguard? If God is the God of all of creation, and that God, as we claim, is a God of love, then what is so crazy about the idea that maybe, just maybe, that love wins?