We loved watching Anthony Bourdain. Both Mary Michael and I love to travel so it made sense that we watched many episodes of No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Some of the places we would love to go some day we discovered through Bourdain’s travels. There is something remarkable about someone who declares that a Chicken McNugget is the worst thing he ever ate. He was real, open about his battle with addiction and passing this past Friday by taking his own life. The world grieves his passing, as he brought the world to people like few have. I have no clue as to what his religious orientation was and don’t necessarily care. I do believe his life and experiences carry three key teachings for the church. So, here are three lessons the church can learn from Anthony Bourdain.


Table Fellowship is About More Than the Food

Bourdain was a storyteller and cultural ambassador. He told stories few told and went to places that few others would go. Food was his medium for learning more about people and cultures. His interest was not borne out of a judgmental curiosity about others, but a true desire to build relationships and a respect for different cultures. Christ’s table is a place intended to build relationships and eliminate false divides that keep us apart from one another. The meal is the medium by which God gathers us around one table. Bourdain understood the power of a meal as a conduit to something greater. The church, at its best, understands this as well.

Meet People Where They Are

You rarely, if ever, saw Anthony Bourdain in a television studio. He was always on location, out and about. It was important to him to meet people in their space. It was important to understand the rhythm of their daily lives and to see how they lived. When you meet people in their own space, you understand what they value and what is important to them. As a pastor, I always appreciated being invited into people’s homes. I would often look to see what they had stuck on their refrigerator door. You can tell a lot about what It is going on in someone’s life by what they stick to their refrigerator door. The church has been hesitant to meet people on their terms and in their space. We’ve learned that waiting for people to come to our buildings at our designated times is a thing of the past. The church can learn from Bourdain’s practice of meeting people where they are. We will gain a lot by going to others.

Do Not Fear the Unknown

We tend to be afraid of what we do not know. In a changing religious landscape, the church is facing a lot of unknowns. Too often, we breathe in the breath of fear rather than breathing in the breath of the Spirit which leads us into the future. Bourdain boldly went where few others would go. He did not fear the unknown, rather the unknown emboldened him. He found life in the unknown. As the church moves forward, we can trust both the Gospel and Anthony Bourdain that life is found by moving forward into the unknown.

Three lessons the church can learn from Anthony Bourdain. Thank you, good and faithful servant, for telling the stories you told and giving us a glimpse of the holy through other people and cultures.

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