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Category: Evangelism



There’s a phone booth that used to stand in the Mojave Desert, 8 miles from the nearest paved road, 15 miles from the nearest numbered highway, miles and miles from any buildings. It’s telephone number was (714) 733-9969. The booth was eventually removed, but there had been a time in the 1990s in which a man, who claimed direction from the Holy Spirit, camped at the booth for more than a month, answering the calls that came in each day (more than 500 in all).

A movie was made, Mojave Phone Booth, one of the most tragically comic films I’ve ever seen. I sat for a screening at the Boise International Film Festival, a screening punctuated with loud laughter as audience members connected with the painfully funny moments of space-alien paranoia, a botched suicide, an out-of-work administrative assistant sucked into a lucrative ménage-a-trois, a desperate man who breaks into his girlfriend’s car and steals her stereo system (four times) in an attempt to convince her that she’ll be safer living with him.

It’s not that people in Boise, Idaho, are weird enough to have shared similar experiences. Instead, these impossibly strange scenarios perfectly illustrated the common American phenomenon in which we long for intimacy while resisting commitment. The phone booth in the desert – a kind of secular confessional – gave many of these characters their only meaningful (and vulnerable) human connection.

In the movie, there was a woman on the other end – an older, English-accented lady with a fondness for Canada – who several times a day placed calls to the booth and spoke with whoever answered. She listened to them. She asked questions. Sometimes she offered advice. In the movie, she had started calling the booth seven years earlier, seeking to connect with someone, anyone. Instead, she discovered a calling in listening to the problems of those on the other end.

While watching this film, I was overcome by the work of God reflected in the care offered by this woman, her continued calls, her endless patience with and for the pain of others, her love for a people stranded in the desert, looking for direction.

her love for a people stranded in the desert, looking for direction

Conversion Danger


Faith is fused with identity. I am what I believe. As a result, the discovery of a truth opens new worlds and changes my character.

What, then, is the danger of conversion, trying to bring others into truth? It is this. To convert is not to open up new worlds. Instead, its aim is to destroy old ones, leaving the converted in a land not their own and dependent on us, their human saviors.

Do you see that proselytizing is patronizing? That it is a way for us to lord over the less-enlightened? That it objectifies?

Too often, we seek to convince people that they must exchange their boxes for ours. This is sin. Our aim, instead, must be to help them tear holes in their boxes, to see the light of day, to enter this new world as free men and women.

But first, we must work on tearing down the walls of our own boxes. After all, the beam must be removed from your eye before you can take the speck of dust from your brother’s.

we seek to convince people that they must exchange their boxes for ours

When Words Fail


Often, while speaking of God, I will talk in one direction, stop, turn, and stop again, only to find that I’ve run out of words without completing my thought.

At the beginning, the issue seems clear enough. I’m moving along under a full head of steam, when I suddenly spot a break in the track up ahead. I jump to another line, engine shuddering, as I try to maintain speed. But just around the corner, there’s that same break. Except for now, it’s a chasm. So I stop, try another metaphor, pull out a different analogy, hoping that this time I’ll jump the divide. But there it is again, looming ever larger.

And I wonder at this gift of words that is also a curse. After all, language gives us freedom to relate, to connect and create. What is the Church? It’s just a word. But the collection of our shared understandings, of our hopes, of our fears, of our deepest needs has made this word into a physical place of refuge for some, a family for others.

This same language, however, also confines. We are imprisoned in a society held up by words that are not our own, and we are isolated from those we love by a failure to communicate what we really mean, what we truly need.

What then can I do when my experience of God — of the very source of love, truth and life — transcends language? What dare I try when words fail me?

What dare I try when words fail me?



Religion stabilizes society, instills patterns of behavior that ensure a community’s longevity. But is that what it’s supposed to do? what it was created to do?

As for us, have our efforts been to transform society or just to control it? Have we left room for creative engagement (or burned our bridges)?

Empires have tended to use religion to exploit. So what do Christians do about a world in which religion for so long has been an empire (if not the empire)? What responsibility do we have for exploitation done in the name of religion?

As for us, have our efforts been to transform society or just to control it?



Frequently, in ministry-related planning sessions, someone will say something like the following: “We’re not going to compromise the message.”

It’s a statement that catches my attention because it reveals the speaker’s opinion of others in the group: they can’t be trusted.

Is it possible that some of what we ascribe to the “message” is not, in fact, central to what we believe?

Is it possible that we sometimes confuse cultural values with moral values?

Is it possible to think before we speak?

we sometimes confuse cultural values with moral values

Original Sin


I have many frustrations with institutional Christianity, but my biggest beef is the fact that so many Christians seem unable or unwilling to think outside of the theological boxes within which they’ve been raised (or saved). So many people claim to be following scripture when they’re actually following their interpretation of scripture (which may or may not hold up to scrutiny). And just because a theological theory’s been established, doesn’t give Christians an excuse to stop thinking, to stop wondering, to stop asking difficult questions.

For instance, I received a visit a few days back from a Christian who made the following claim — “Christianity teaches that sin is humanity’s natural preference, due to our self-corrupted nature.”

I know that the comment was made with good intentions. The reader saw what appeared to be a shortcoming in my thinking and gently attempted to expand my understanding. The problem with this particular attempt is that it makes a claim I know to be false. Christians have never been limited to a single line of thought on the subject. There are extremely few — if any — yes or no line items that must be checked before one can advance to heaven (do not pass go; do not collect $200).

Scripture just doesn’t tell us what to believe. That’s not what scripture does. And I’ve gone into the prose vs. poetry argument before, so I’ll cut to the chase. There is room for all kinds of thinking within Christianity. Here are just a few examples on the concept of original sin as referenced in my visitor’s claim .

1) Those who identify original sin with concupiscence: an innate tendency among humans to do evil.

2) Those who see original sin not as a positive reality but as something merely negative, namely lack of holiness.

3) Those who believe Adam’s sin influenced his character, making it impossible for him to lead a completely holy example for his own children (nature/nurture controversy).

4) Those who believe in ancestral sin as opposed to original sin, claiming that Adam’s disobedience changed the very environment in which we live, opening up opportunity for (but certainly not requiring) sin.

5) Those that believe humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception.

6) Those who reject the notion of original sin, believing only in the sins for which men and women are personally responsible.

And it doesn’t matter which of these you choose. There is plenty of room at the table.

And it doesn’t matter which of these you choose. There is plenty of room at the table.

Why Church?


I got sick, this morning, thinking about going to church. I suddenly felt dizzy and tired. Incredibly tired. I sat down on the couch (with a plate of brownies for sustenance).

What’s going on? Church has been my life. I volunteer for hours every week, attend services at several different denominations, read just about anything I can find, regarding what it means to live a God-centered life, what it means to know God. But I had to face the fact that I don’t like church. It feels like a waste of my time. I resent having to go.

Is there anything wrong with church? Anything I can put my finger on? I believe in an active, living, present God, and we spend a lot of time talking about God. Maybe that’s the problem. We talk God to death every Sunday. But when is there time to experience his presence with us in corporate worship?

What about all the good that churches do? We sent money, supplies and volunteers to help with Hurricane Katrina. We provide food baskets and Christmas gifts for impoverished children in town. We hold an annual appreciation dinner for local public school teachers. We offer free counseling to couples in crisis. But do we know our neighbors? Do we love them? Is our giving truly generous or a burden that we carry (because that’s what good people care about)?

I asked my students, last week, where church originated? Where do we get the idea of church? Nobody seemed to know for sure. It’s just always been, some claimed, while others thought that God had founded the institution.

But that can’t be true. Jesus didn’t go to church.

He invited people to enter a new way of life. It seems, however, that we’ve watered down his message, replaced the Kingdom of God with a social institution.

What’s that mean for me? What’s next? What can I do? Should I do anything?

I don’t know.

Looks like I’m going to need another batch of brownies.

We offer free counseling to couples in crisis. But do we know our neighbors? Do we love them?

PO Box 751 . Newberg OR 97132-0751