In 2007 Time magazine did an article on Rob Bell.
“At 28, he founded a megachurch that threw out the conventional sermon-and-worship service and instantly drew thousands of attendees. He has sold hundreds of thousands of books with titles like Velvet Elvis and Sex God that find the sacred in the profane. And he has created a form of video message he calls Nooma (phonetic Greek for spirit or breath) that may make him to YouTube what [Billy] Graham was to the arena….If the father of a young child can watch Rain, a divine-love parable featuring Bell and his son during a storm, and not fight tears, he is Christopher Hitchens. The 18 Nooma DVDs have sold 1.2 million units.
I remember watching some of the Nooma videos. They were very engaging and helpful, and provoked many fruitful discussions that started “is that quite right what he said about such and such“.
One of the things people feel uncomfortable about with Rob seems to be that he ask “what if” too much and doesn’t always give a clear answer. I guess there are pros and cons to that approach.
I have been blogging my notes from a recent series of seminars he gave on preaching called Poets/prophets/preachers. I have already shared some notes on the second seminar which starts “What I’m interested in is the thing behind the thing behind the thing….Where and how you begin the story and where and how you end the story, shapes and determines what story your telling.”
Just a few quotes towards the end of the seminar:
“Justice, the poor, the oppressed.
- half the world lives on 2 American dollars a day
- a billion have no drinking water
- 800 million will go to sleep hungry tonight
- 80% of the world lives in sub standard housing”
There is enough food in the world.
We aren’t stewarding the earth well.”
“the story is about God restoring all things, empty stomachs and empty hearts.”
“A sermon then, is the continuing insistence that through the resurrection of Jesus a whole new world is bursting forth right here in the midst of this one and everybody everywhere can be a part of it.”
“What you look for you will find if you look for churches that make you embarrassed to be a Christian you may find them…”
“An 18 or 19 year old girl said to me three weeks ago ‘everything Christian I have ever known is totally lame and Christianity is pathetic, why would I want to be part of that?’ [She had been in the church for ages and it was just after the main service] Thanks! I said to her what about that woman right there who just said to the other woman who lost her job that she was going to pay her grocery bill until she gets a new one. What about those people who sold most of their possessions to take in those two orphans and give them a home because they had a sense that that was what Jesus wanted them to do and they did it. My problem is you see ‘that’[lame Christians] but I see that [love and care for those in need] and now you have seen that![love and care…]“
“a sermon then is helping people see this new creation with their own eye” ie show them things they would at first sight not see. It’s like when I (Marcus) say to my kids “Look there, in that tree, look“. For a while all they see is a tree. Then suddenly as I had hold their attention there they see it! A squirrel!
“The resurrection is hope for this world!” (ie this world being rectified)
“The whole world is your rhetorical tool box… if you see something that is humming with reverence, that’s got resurrection written all over it” .
You can tell a story about someone who isn’t a Christian but who did something that points to the resurrection because they are made by God and therefore will reflect him in some way. Obviously with some distortion, like everyone.
I was asked today why I preach, ie what my motivation is. I guess in part its because I want people to see the squirrel. To see the glory of God in everything from creation through to salvation. Even the last year where I have preached on nothing but supernatural healing all I have really been doing is saying “look at what God is like! He is so good he heals people. Can you see it? Can you see it? Look. Keep looking. Follow my finger“. When you really see something of what God is like the application should be pretty obvious. That is just as well because each person’s life is so different from another’s that you couldn’t hope to give all the applications for every person’s situation. My friend also asked me about the place of application in a preach. I think I struggled to give an answer because of the emphasis I want to have on pointing God out. It would be easy to overplay this though as Paul does give lots of applications in his letters (although some of them are quite general).