Travis Scott

On today's show, Nick Bogardus sits down with Travis Scott. Nick is the pastor of Cross of Christ Church in Orange County, California. Travis Scott is the pastor of Shorebreak Church in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. They'll talk about their friendship, about planting in Hawaii, and about the unique cross-cultural challenges of that context. We hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

Learn more about Shorebreak Church here.
Learn more about Sojourn Network here


Transcript

Matt Herron: Hey, this is Matt Herron, from Sojourn Church in Traverse City Michigan. And this is Sojourn Network.

Mike Casper: Hey, welcome to the podcast. My name is Mike Casper, and I'm one of the board members here at Sojourn Network, where we exist to plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches that last. Each week on our show, pastors and leaders from Sojourn Network sit down to talk about church planting and ministry, what they've learned, how they've grown, and what they might be able to pass along to others. On today's show, Nick Bogardus sits down with Travis Scott. Nick is the pastor of Cross of Christ Church in Orange County, California. Travis Scott is the pastor of Shorebreak Church in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. They'll talk about their friendship, about planting in Hawaii, and about the unique cross-cultural challenges of that context. We hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

Nick Bogardus: Travis, dude, first of all, do you know that there is a hip-hop artist in Travis Scott?

Travis Scott: I'm aware of this. 

Nick Bogardus: Oh, I was not aware of this. 

Travis Scott: I'm actually working on redeeming my name. But any hopes of me becoming a celebrity and having my name out there, pretty much the Lord just put those to an end with someone sharing the exact name that I have.

Nick Bogardus: Yeah, such a someone is just like massive hip-hop artists. I posted on social media that I was interviewing my friend, Travis Scott, who is a pastor in a church planter in Kona Hawaii, does anyone have any questions for him? And a couple people wrote back, "You're interviewing the Travis Scott?"

Travis Scott: Oh, God. 

Nick Bogardus: I said, "I don't know what you mean. Who is the Travis Scott?" They said, "Well, he's a rapper." And so, I googled Travis Scott and I saw who the rapper was. I wrote back and I said, "No, I'm not interviewing the Travis Scott, I'm interview a Travis Scott."

Travis Scott: Because when news breaks about who Travis Scott is dating, I'll get texts everyone's like, "Travis, I was unaware that you were cheating on Juliet and dating Kylie Jenner." I'm working on redeeming my name.

Nick Bogardus: All right. Dude, Travis, I'm excited to talk about a misconception about church planting in Hawaii, that will be helpful to other pastors and church planters as a they think through cross-cultural ministry in their own context. But before we get there, I want to start with your story. Because you're a Southern California boy who moved to Montana, who then move to Hawaii, which by the way, are two places people tend to go to run away from something or to start over. Maybe that's going to be part of your story. But take us along from Orange County to Montana to Hawaii.

Travis Scott: From where I was born, where I was raised, where I got married, and where we had our first son, Sebastian, was within a 30-mile radius of Central and South Orange County, which you and I both know is the bubble of the OC. That's what I knew. And that's what I lived and that's what I breathed and I was really unaware of that. And so, we had come back from our honeymoon from Kauai, actually, which is one of the islands in the Hawaii chain. We loved it here. Every person who gets on the plane, first thing they say is, either they love it or they hate it, right? And, of course, I loved it. I've always loved it growing up over the years coming out here and visiting.

That being said, come back from our honeymoon and the pastor who married is said, "Hey, we're going to move to Montana to plant a church. Do you want to come" We said, "we'll pray about it." Which meant no, we're not going to go to Montana. Why would we go to Montana? There's more cows in Montana than people. Why would we leave Orange County? Sure enough, over that year and a half time period, we remained in Orange County. I was disciple by a few guys within the Calvary Chapel movement, which is something that we are part of that I was actually raised in. It was too good of an opportunity to leave, but then once in that wrapped up that discipleship opportunity, we were praying about it. And out of God's providence, we really felt the Lord leading us to move to northwest part of Montana, where we spent four years living in Montana, which is a complete cultural shift change that I was unaware of.

You don't realize who you are until you get out of your people and you get away from the way people talk, the way people dress, and from the culture you were raised. And so, we would walk into restaurants or talk to people or go over to people's houses and they would just stare. It was because we were different and we were just not self aware. And so, spending four years in Montana really prepared us for just being self aware that we actually are different, that we don't see ourselves as different, but that we actually are really different. Even going from a place like Southern California and wearing slim skinny jeans to not wearing car hearts, right? Or looking the part in Montana.

I think each of those places, God was doing a unique work and preparing us for Hawaii. Being in Orange County, two of my best friends growing up, one of them was Puerto Rican, and they're still good friends to this day. The other was a Mexican. And so, I was hanging out with my Puerto Rican friend and my Mexican friend. And here is this white boy in the middle, and they call this he Oreo. It was just something that became just natural. I didn't really think about, "Oh, I need to be culturally diverse." Or, "Oh, I need to build friends and relationships." It was just naturally something that had come up and really, we gravitated towards one another. It was really formative and helpful. 

The high school that I went to had one third Asian, one third Latino, one third Caucasian. That, as you well know, is the story of Orange County. I think Orange County really groomed us in preparedness for the diversity that we would see in Hawaii. Then I think Montana, it was a small town. It was a small place and it really slowed us down. It really was like this small town lifestyle. In fact, I remember pulling into the town we moved in, and we pulled in July 5th, it was like at midnight, and there was a stop light blinking yellow. And in Orange County, that doesn't happen. The stop lights are always red, green, and it was blinking yellow and I had no idea what to do. That was just the beginning of really a naive unpacking of what it's like to do life in a different place with a different people who are slower paced.

Montana really slowed us down and prepared us I think for what would eventually be moving to Hawaii, where Hawaii is similar, but even more culturally diverse in some ways than even Orange County, in some sense. And so, Southern California groomed us for that. And then at the same time, Montana really slowed us down to a lifestyle that is very much part of living in Hawaii, where people in the islands, there's something called the island time. And you've been here, Nick, as you know, it's real. I mean, it's live and well. It's even rubbed off on me a little bit, which, thanks for pointing that out from time to time.

Nick Bogardus: You've actually just teed this up really well, because our hope in this conversation is to kind of cover the cross-cultural contextualization aspects of administering in Hawaii. But also, the shifts you made and going from a larger denomination, a larger church to planting your own church, an autonomous church. I want to ask you, you mentioned how Orange County to Montana kind of slowed you down. But in a sense, did it also kind of speed you up? Because you went and you serve them in Montana at a church that grew exponentially. You were part of something that was in a small town where the pace of life might have been slow, the pace of ministry was not.

Travis Scott: Yeah. It was really breakneck pace of ministry. From the day we moved there, our intent was to never stay long-term. That as soon as we saw the church began to flourish and grow and have some stability, and that we were no longer needed there. Our desire, even going back to Orange County, right around when we had gotten married was to plant a church. So, we didn't fully know what that would look like. We didn't know where that would be. But I think the transition was helpful for us because as you know, and I mean, that's your domain still.

I haven't lived in Orange County now for it's all coming up on 10 years, which is pretty crazy. But even then and even now looking back at my time in Orange County, I think what happened with us moving up there was a lot of times we think we're going to move to a place, and we're going to go to that people, and we're going to kind of step in as the functional savior and we're going to be the hero, and we're going to do the work of sanctification on behalf of these people for the glory of God. When in reality, part of God's work of sanctifying us is using the people and using the place to shape us and to mold us into the image of God's Son.

That was something that it wasn't ready for. And so, while the breakneck pace of ministry growing exponentially was something that really we weren't ready for, at the same time, when there wasn't time for ministry and it was negative 30 degrees outside, and there's nowhere to go, you were forced to do community. And you're forced to do community in ways that you would never have the opportunity to in other places and other settings.We realized, like, wow, we had a lot of people over, and people begin to pour out their hearts. Community was being formed in ways that we had never fully experienced that was really, I think, God's intent for every Christian, no matter where they live, to enter into that deeper friendship that I think is missing in a lot of fast pace cultures. 

Nick Bogardus: Looking back, did you feel any kind of dissonance or disconnect between a pace of life that you're describing that sounds slower, and that kind of explosive growth? Did you feel like this feels two different worlds and living in? 

Travis Scott: Yeah, it did. I think one of the things that was difficult, I'm still trying to process the four years that were there. I think part of the disconnect was that the church that we are a part of wasn't like, how can we contextualize and how can we really meet people where they're at? It's like, let's be, a Seth, refers to Seth Godin, the Purple Cow, like let's be the obvious strange presence in the community, and use that as we draw people. That's what that church was. So, that was actually really difficult after a little while, because at some point, that works for the boom aspect of growth. But when it comes to the depth of relationship, that wasn't there. 

And so, relationally, we felt like there was a disconnect between what's happening on Sunday and in the lives of the people that were friends of ours. While a lot of people were seeing what was happening within the Ministry of that church and people were coming from everywhere really in the country, like man, what's going on? Because this growth is explosive for the size of town that you're in. And so, it's hard. I was living this tension between it seems like it's working, and in some ways, there is. There's some fruit. I don't want to overly critique and say that God wasn't in that. There was some evidences of His grace there. But at the same time, what is going to be the long-term result of the consequences of this really fast paced ministry?

I had to live in that tension. I don't even know that I fully have an answer of what God was showing me and teaching me through that season except that there needs to be connection between what's happening on Sunday and what's happening live to the ministry that reaches people in such a way that is faithful. I think the unique settings where God places us, I think we underestimate the story and the people of the place that God has called us.

Nick Bogardus: One of my favorite moments with you is when we first met. I think I'd just come from the airport and you and had jumped into your car. I asked you to drive me around Kona. I said, "Tell me about the place and the people in the history." And so, you just drove me around in your little white car for what, two hours? And you told me the story of Hawaii. You told me the story of the people in the place. You told me the story of the history of Christianity in Hawaii. And it really helped me to understand the unique work that you and Shorebreak are doing. I was hoping you can kind of share that with some of the listeners.

Travis Scott: Yeah, I'll try to give the best brief condensed version of that I know how. Hawaii or Hawaii is historically a very rich place of the gospel. Even going back before the gospel came to the islands. The fact that people climbed in canoes and paddled in the open ocean for thousands of miles and found these islands in the middle of Pacific is itself a providence of God and a miracle. How did they know they were here, and how do they know they were getting here? It's just incredible to really even look at that.

And then around the 19th century, you have the import of ... Or you have people coming here from the mainland, from Boston, from the west coast, and even from different places of Europe and South America, to use the land. To use this place for agricultural purposes. And obviously, the land and the soil here is in a lot of places really rich in minerals. And so, things grow here year round. Things never freeze. It never gets cold, at least near the beaches and the coast lands. And so, soon after, traders came here and the lane was being used for agricultural purposes, missionaries came in. The revival that would then soon take place, specifically even on the Big Island, which is the island of Hawaii, which is the island we're on, a revival took place that was so significant of which God use men like Titus Cohen and his wife and other missionaries from Boston when they came and they planted here a legitimate revival that took place in a church that by size would rival that if Charles Spurgeon, which a lot of people are aware of.

But it's this is beautiful story of people being so hungry for the Word of God that they could not print Bibles and get Bibles fast enough over here to the island for people to read. They're baptizing people and their arms are exhausted, and that's really the word that the Lord had done here. But then like [B.E Carson 00:14:26] talks about one generation believes, the next generation assumes, and then the next generation forgets, we're in that forgetful season of people in Hawaii don't even really have an assumption of the gospel now. They don't know what the gospel is. They don't really have an idea of what Christ has done for them, what beauty there is and the grace of God toward a people. And so, really, the desire to come here to plant even when we were considering in Montana where God would have us to go was, where is there a need for a church that is gospel focused, that is going to work our way through the Scriptures and really build up a literacy of God's word for the people?

We've seen this transition of people having a desire and a hunger for the Word of God and now not being hungry or having a desire at all. The place or God has called us to, we really see this post Christian culture where people have assumed and received some the blessings of Christianity and some of the things within Christianity are still tangible. I mean humility and aloha or love and some of those things are still actually intact within the culture that are very much rooted in the work of the gospel, but people don't even realize that. Our desire in coming here wasn't to come with some colonial agenda to be the savior and to step in and say, "Here's Jesus, plus we have all these other agendas." Because that's actually what happened in the past.

Even recently, we have a lady in our church. She's Conoco, which means she's Hawaiian. She's born and raised here in the islands and she can remember a missionary coming from the mainland and teaching them and sharing the gospel with them. She worked on a plantation, they were farming pineapple. She can remember her teacher, this missionary, teaching her the gospel. And then five minutes later, taking a ruler and slapping the kids in the mouth for speaking Hawaiian. And so, we're trying to step in this place and say, "Hey, our agenda then is Jesus. It is his good gospel. And it is not to come in and to bring some sort of colonial agenda where we desire to take over."

Nick Bogardus: It sounds like you have kind of two things that you are working in the midst of, which is this beautiful history of Christianity in the islands, but the transition from a kind of Christendom do a post Christian secular society, and kind of parallel social ramifications of that and some ways where some groups use religion to colonize and some of the negative effects of that. And so, you're coming in saying, "Well, we have something that you may have lost or don't see the value of or beauty of, and we want to give it to you freely with no conditions. That sounds to me like a pretty fine line to walk, isn't it? 

Travis Scott: It's difficult, and part of the challenge is when people look back historically at what has happened in Hawaii and what has happened with traders and farmers and merchants and businessmen who've come here and missionaries you've come here is, there is in a lot of ways a delusion of when they look at the past, they coincide Christianity with this colonial takeover. And so, for us to try to separate those things and try to point them to their history and bring up things like Queen Liliuokalani and others who believed in the Gospel and received the gospel, and these people saw the fruit of the gospel regardless of some of the negative effects of what we would call Christiandom that have brought some cultural expectations on the people here. That were not gracious or loving or helpful.

I don't know that we've done a great job at really distinguishing that. I think that's something we're actually moving towards. I think that's a vision, a desire of bringing more clarity as we continue to do ministry here. 

Nick Bogardus: One of the difficulties in doing ministry there and you church planting there in some ways is the color of your skin. I posted on social media that I going to interview, like I mentioned, a couple guys, David [Myre 00:18:24], he was a member of Cross of Christ, and Danny Morgan, who's working towards church planting in Colorado submitted questions along the line of this question, which is what are some of the cross-cultural obstacles and opportunities to being a haole planting in Hawaii?

Travis Scott: They use the word haole. That's a good word.

Nick Bogardus: They did. And I threw that in there. 

Travis Scott: Okay.

Nick Bogardus: That's my point break reference. 

Travis Scott: Thank you for throwing that in there, Nick. Yeah, that's a great question. I think from one to step back and even just define some words for you here. I think this is kind of the run around to eventually answer their question. To understand the word haole, it's actually helpful to understand the word aloha. And so, aloha and the Hawaiian language is a word for greeting. It's, it's hello, it's goodbye. But it means more than just hello and goodbye. Actually, is a term of endearment. It means like love, I love you or to deeply care or have compassion for someone, or even to share. That's what aloha means. 

And so, aloha, the way Hawaiians would greet one another as they would wrap their arms around one another's necks. They would inhale together and exhale together and they had aloha. Alo, meaning life, ha, meaning breath. So, they would share the breath of life. And then what happened at the arrival of Captain Cook and even some of the missionaries and some of the merchant traders that would eventually come over here, they would come to these islands and the Hawaiians would walk up to them and seek to wrap their arms and their hands around their neck to share aloha and haole, or these people who came over here would push away. Haole, ha, how, meaning breath, but ole, meaning the lack of. So, haole is actually had the lack of the breath of life, that they were unwilling to share the breath of life.

And so, that's actually the origin and the history behind the word. Some people understand that today when they use the word haole. In fact, there's a saying here in the islands that either the island culturally accepts you or rejects you. And part of that is do you have aloha, and are you going to come in? Are you willing to share life? Are you willing to share your resources, your love, your time, your energy with the people here in the islands? Or, are you just kind of push up against that and really not be received? And if that's the case, then the people here will reject you. They will not receive you. And thankfully, we haven't been rejected. In many ways, we've been received.

But that being said, haole isn't just a term of that historicity that I just told you, but it is also very much a derogatory term. Oh, you're white. And there are people who will not come to the church. Not many, but there are some, because of the color of our skin. But then there are other people including the Conoco, the Conoco mali, the Hawaiian people who are so gracious, who are so loving. You show them respect, you show them love, and you be honest, you'd be real with them, they will receive you, they will love you, and they will treat you like their own. And we've been adopted by a few Conoco here. We've become hanai, brought in by these families is adopted, even though we're different skin color. And for them, that doesn't matter. 

They've even said actually, "Hey, Travis, Juliet. You guys, you're not haole. You belong here. You're one of us." And so, that's been a big blessing and also a challenge understanding that there are going to be people who are not going to come here because of the color of our skin. And I just think of what Paul said in 1st Corinthians 9, that I've become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. But I think a lot of times and what I struggled with Nick and this is to answer their question, I felt like I needed when we first moved here to be all things to all people, meant me becoming a chameleon. We have Jackson chameleons here on the island and they resemble that where they're at. But to do that in an authentic way, it's actually more harmful. It's better to be you, better to be self aware and know your background. Acknowledge that and don't pretend to be that which you're not. And in the most God glorifying way possible, become all things to all men by who you are for the sake of those people. But do genuinely.

And so, that's been something that I actually stepped in having a fear knowing. I even argued to God in prayer through him. Like, "Why can't you send someone else? I mean, why me? Why wouldn't you send someone else?" But oftentimes, that's what God does, is he uses unique people and unique places for his purpose. And so, I think understanding the uniqueness of the setting. I think understanding the story and understanding what's going on behind the people in the place. Knowing who we are, but desiring to become all things to all men. Really serve and love the people well.

Nick Bogardus: How have you felt coming in from the outside and trying to put down roots and build a foundation for the family and the church? What does that been like for you? How have you felt?

Travis Scott: Lonely. I think one of the most difficult parts of church planting that really the books didn't talk about a ton and that I really didn't hear in a lot of circles was the loneliness of planting. We didn't know anyone here. We knew no one on this island except the core team that moved over and planted with us. And even then, with the five, six families of the core team that were here, everyone's working two or three jobs just to try to make ends meet. Because similar Orange County, it's really expensive here. And so, not only are we trying to enter into place that's foreign to us, we really knew no one. A challenging as that was, what was actually difficult in working two or three jobs and everyone trying to make ends meet in turn became a blessing.

I think a lot of times what we can do as pastors is like get comfortable in our offices, be comfortable with our books and never really go out in the world and explore, similar to what Gandalf talks about. The world is not in your books, it's out there. It's beyond just the maps that are printed paper. Go and explore the terrain. I felt like us being forced to do that by working in coffee shops and working food and beverage and doing graphic design and doing other things to make ends meet actually helped with the loneliness. As lonely as it was being an outsider coming in, I think we found it really helpful to be in the community, to be working with people to be hearing their stories. Learning about them and building relationship with them, which became really helpful.

Nick Bogardus: Is the loneliness for you something that you had to work through and then you got past it, or is the loneliness something that kind of comes in waves?

Travis Scott: As you know, and I'm sure many listening to this podcast know those who've been in ministry for a while, it comes in waves. With the turnover we have it Shorebreak, even within our own leadership, we thought we were going to be the anomaly. We are going to be the church that has virtually no turnovers. We were wrong. We're really grateful for those who are part of the core team who ended up moving back to the mainland when planting. But really, my wife and I are what's left, and there is just a loneliness there. It takes time to build relationships, and it does come in waves.

But I think at the same time, we have to be aware that God brings people into our churches for a season. And some of those people God is going to bring are going to walk with us for decades. And we celebrate and we love that. And then others, God's going to bring in for two or three years. And the turnover rate, the revolving door in our church is probably somewhere between 70 and 80%, we figured most in a two-year time period are going to be part of the church now and will not be part of the church then. It's because they'll move back, they'll get married, they'll have kids and they realize, oh, wow, it's really expensive here. Or they'll move here from the mainland, try it out, and then move back realizing it was not what they expected. Because hey, it's paradise. Isn't it going to be great here? Isn't it going to be perfect here? Isn't life going to be so much better?

Nick Bogardus: One of the major misconceptions that people have about the ministry in the places where you and I live is that it must be like an all inclusive vacation all the time. We get up, we preach on Sunday, and then someone hands us an umbrella drink and everyone lounges around on the beach for the rest of the day. But I think it's because for some reason, people equate nice weather with easy ministry. Or nice beautiful place with easy ministry. But the reality is that it's precisely how the people treat the places that you kind of just mentioned. It's precisely how people treat the places that we live that make ministry so difficult.

You've kind of started to allude to it in regards to Kona. But what's it been like in Kona? How has the way that people treat the place work itself out in the ministry of Kona, men made it difficult, and how have you and Shorebreak tried to address that? 

Travis Scott: Well, you know the struggle as well. I'd actually love to hear you answer your own question because I think Orange County and Southern California and Hawaii are really similar in these ways. People come here, you mentioned even earlier, people come here too often run from something. And so, what are they running from and what are they searching for? And some of those people, their hearts have been so tenderized from the struggles and the sins and the difficulties of their own life, they're actually really receptive to the gospel. A lot of those people, it's the running from bad news, coming to this place for good news. And we can actually, we use the very thing they came here for to exploit how that has been insufficient.

So, has the sun, the palm trees, the 80-degree water temperature, that is clear and you can see turtles and you see these beautiful sunsets and these exotic beaches and these beautiful mountains, have they satisfied? Has it worked? Are you better? And so, we actually kind of spin it on them. We try to use the very thing that came here for to show them, has it worked? And then we'll point them to the real good news. And then for the people who remain here and for the people who are from here, who as people say here, grown up flown and that are from this place. They've lived here long enough to be able to see through the mirage of what seems to be paradise. And so, they, at the same time, while they love and appreciate this place that they live and they see the beauty in it, they see through it all. They see through the hurt. 

And so, yeah, the person who comes over here on vacation to the person who visits Orange County or Hawaii, or any one of these other tropical exotic places, talk to the waiter, talk to the waitress, hear their story. They're working two or three jobs, they've gone through a divorce, they've had an abortion, they've lost hope, they are hurting. In fact, part of some of the injustice they've experienced is due to colonialism. And yet they by nature of the business have entered into that system, which in a lot of ways, has even wounded them as a people. I think just really having this hyper self awareness of really the westerner mind thought, and I have this as well, we are so oblivious to how we step into certain contexts and certain cultures with this mentality of we're going to take over and we have all the answers. 

I think one way is we've kind of used the place to exploit that it hasn't worked, and here's the good news. And then at the same time, we also hate the injustice you've experienced from these earthly kingdoms and these competing kingdoms that have come in. When it comes to the nation and history of Hawaii, there is a greater kingdom that is coming that will make all the wrongs right. And in Jesus in his kingdom, there is good news. There's restoration. You receive a new identity. And so, for the local people, we kind of address it that way. 

Nick Bogardus: Dude, something I just love in listening to you  every time we talk about this is you mentioned the chameleon thing before, right? You're not a chameleon. A chameleon is just trying to fit in. A chameleon is just trying to survive. You're actually loving, you bring a missional empathy to your work. And I just love it because you can tell that you love Hawaii deeply, you love the people of Kona deeply, you recognize the wounds and weaknesses that have been imposed on them or lived out by themselves, and you understand the good news of the gospel in midst of it. I'm encouraged by listening to you and I love it. Thank you for sharing that stuff. 

Travis Scott: Part of faithful contextualization is being aware of why people have been born and raised and remain in a place, the place God has called you. And then part of it is why people are drawn to that. I found Sinner Church, obviously by Keller, he's got a whole section in that textbook on contextualization. One thing I really appreciate that he has done that has helped us in Hawaii is when it comes to bringing the Gospel to a people, what are their fears? What are their dreams? Have they been wounded? And understanding their story. And then in hearing that story, applying the gospel to their dreams, to their fears, into their hopes, into the things they've experienced.

I think when it comes to contextualization, it really, I think sometimes we can complicate it. But in reality, even going back to the question being a white guy being haole in a place like Hawaii is knowing the hopes, the dreams, the fears, and the struggles of the people of the place God has called you. And then faithfully showing them the good news of the gospel in that, and using illustrations and stories that they can identify with, which is exactly what Jesus did. And then that's when you begin to see not only are you preaching a good sermon, but you're being winsome and people are actually hearing you. Your heart is connecting with their heart, and you begin to move from a place of where, yeah, okay, there's a white boy preaching. Typical, so cowboy. But in reality, this gospel that is being preached is beyond him, and people will see through that. I think if we exalt Jesus and we preach the word as it is and bring honor and glory to God's name, I think people are drawn to that, regardless of their ethnicity, cultural background, or a story.

Nick Bogardus: How does it make you feel when people make assumptions about church planting and ministry in Hawaii? 

Travis Scott: People have asked us, "So, what is it like to study a sermon? Do you sit on the beach drinking a Mai Tai under a palm tree?" That may or may not have happened one or two times. But that being said, there are unique struggles to being in a place like this that we've experienced. I think for one, the loneliness. I think two, I don't care who you are. If you're a church planter, you have some sort of objective set in your mind as far as a timeline of when you think cultural immersion takes place. Whatever that is, it's probably going to be longer than what you have planned. 

We're six years ain, and I just now begin like we're feeling to be accepted and be received. And people are like, "Oh, you're still here. Oh, the church hasn't washed out. Oh, you guys haven't ... you're not on the next plane flight out." It's like, "No, actually, we're here." And now people are beginning to move toward us. When we would move toward people, we'd invite them to church, and we'd be on mission. And we had a couple of people, one guy straight out to said, "Hey, bruh, you come back in two years. If you're still here, I'll come by and check it out." Sure enough, two and a half years, he came around, showed face and we're now friends. 

Nick Bogardus: That's awesome. 

Travis Scott: It's one of those things where people take time, it takes time for us to step into a culture and here it even takes more time. I just think being aware that it's going to take time and that it's interesting. Hawaii is so beautiful. It' is a beautiful place. But one thing people do not realize is beneath deep enough beneath every Island, specifically this island is rock, is lava. I think that is very much the condition of many people here. That outwardly, externally, they're beautiful people. But inside their heart and in order for us to kind of get past those things and begin to brush aside the beauty, the place, the community, the drowning our sorrows with drinking or community and friendships, because people do community well here, showing that beyond those things and beneath all of those things is hurt and their pain and just trying to be faithful and bringing the gospel to them in that way.

Nick Bogardus: In addition to ... We talked a lot about the cultural and cross-cultural opportunities and obstacles ministry in Hawaii. There's also the regular difficulties of planting. Almost every planter and his family and their church are going to experience these things. And a lot of times, I don't know about you, you actually kind of already mentioned that you thought you would be the exception to the rule. I thought the same thing. There are certain things people tell me, "That's just going to happen you." Like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. That happens to other people. It's not going to happen to me."

What have been some of the problems that you thought that you were the exception to, that you ended up having to face, and how did you face them?

Travis Scott: Turnover in leadership, and just difficulty leadership in general. We've been stunted in our growth as a church. One of the reasons why is I think even when we first planted, everyone was busy working a few jobs trying to make ends meet. So, there wasn't a lot of leadership development. I think the inevitable consequence of doing that meant some people just didn't feel cared for, they didn't feel loved, they didn't feel like they really belong, which they really needed. So, they ended up washing out. And some people were like, "We're going to be in this for life to the death." Some of those people are still great friends to this day. We grew pretty quick, actually, in the first couple years. During the season of working a couple jobs and everyone being really busy, we grew rather quickly.

The desire then in growing quickly was to put leaders in positions to fill the gap, and we did it too quickly. We felt like were kind of forced to because we grew quicker than we really thought would when we went from a small church on a Sunday night to church on Sunday morning. And soon, we're at two services. And we're just trying to scrape and find people who were sober and preferably not homeless to help us lead. And once we found those people, it was like, "Oh, my gosh, and you're a little bit older in the faith," because we were really, really young, "Come jump on board."

On paper, they looked great. We called their references. Some of their references, we even had similar friendships. We knew the same people. And like this is going to look great and is going to work well. And just because it looked great on paper and just because we had a need, we ended up doing more harm. And so, we rushed people into positions. We thought we had equipped them, and we thought just because they meet the qualifications and they have a great reference that this is going to go well, foolish. T was just a big mistake that we had made. And how are we doing that now? We've pretty much hit the brakes, maybe even too hard. In fact, we're trying to accelerate that now. 

That's where the network has been really helpful for us, is identifying people who are here who understand the church culture. But not just the church culture and what we're about as a church, but a people and leaders who understand this story and understand the people of this place that God has called us to. I think so often, we really want people to ascribe to our polity, to our theology, to our theological vision, we want to get them on board. But I think we also missed that missiological aspects of, do you understand what we're about as far as being on mission in this place that God has called us to? That's where we had some rub with a few people. 

I think we have to be really careful, and our mistake was not being careful and kind of bringing that to the surface is part of our assessment in bringing on leaders. And so bring them on a little bit more slowly, even if you see exponential growth because to remove a leader actually hurts. And as we know, it's easy to point a leader, it's much more difficult to remove a leader. And when you do, there's more collateral with that. As so, just take your time, pray about it. My encouragement overall to anyone listening through our mistakes is that prayer is key through all of this. Oswald Chambers said, "Prayer does not prepare us for the greater work. Prayer is the greater work." 

I think one of the greatest things we could commit ourselves to as pastors, as church planters, and even as guys within the network is just to be on our knees, be pleading God's grace and his providence over our lives. That he would give us wisdom and direction in even appointing leaders. That would be one thing that I would just say has been a challenge, and that's one thing we're doing. Just really praying and assessing and being careful.

Nick Bogardus: I got a question actually on Twitter, from my friend, Casey Fritz. He's a church planter in Los Angeles. He planted a church called Collective Church, with another friend Lorenzo, who came out of the Calvary Chapel Movement. So, Casey co-planted with him in LA. His question for you was, what's the biggest mistake you've made and what was the way forward?

Travis Scott: Man, biggest mistake.

Nick Bogardus: It's just so hard choosing one, isn't it? 

Travis Scott: Yeah. Which one? There's a lot of big mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes is planting [inaudible 00:39:59]. We came out of a church and out of a movement that is not notoriously known for sending churches. They planted a lot of churches, but it's all been organic. There's not a system, a structure, really much of a vision. It just, "Oh, you want to go? Here's the door. God bless you." We knew coming out of the church that we were part of before, who we didn't want to be. And we planted with we don't want to be this, we don't want to be this, we don't want to be this. We didn't know we wanted to be.

I think we needed probably another year or two, at least for me and for my wife, to see some healing and to really build a positive conviction of what we should be, a not just a negative conviction of what we didn't want to be.

Nick Bogardus: Yeah, that's good. 

Travis Scott: And so, a couple of years into the plant, we realize, wow, we're only then beginning to form some positive conviction and people know what we're about. In fact, people coming up to us, "So, we know what you guys don't like and what you're not about, but what are you for?" So, that would be a mistake that I would just say, moving forward, have a good positive conviction of why you're planting.

Mike Casper: That's our show. Thanks again for listening. You can learn more about Sojourn Network at sojournnetwork.com. You'll find our series of eBooks, articles on the blog, and information about our upcoming Leader's Summit. Today's episode was recorded by Nick Bogardus. It was produced and edited by TJ Hester. It was mixed by Mike Casper. Our music is by Sojourn Music. Thanks for listening. We'll be back in two weeks.


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