Rob Bell – Fumbling Around with Your Radar #ppp09

tools, questions, approaches, and everyday 5 minute disciplines that have helped me understand where sermons come from

Radar – Buckets – Chunks – Marinade

The Blank Screen – sitting in front of the blank screen, trying to write a sermon but all you do is stare at it.  It’s the worst.

– From having to say something to having something to say

– Discussion on hard work – “It’s all God …”  Do we blame God if the sermon sucks?  It’s ok to take credit for your work, let’s dare not be arrogant …

– Inspiration and the sermon is all around us, all the time, everywhere, everybody vs. Tues. at 9am or Sat. Night

Jn. 5 – The Father is always at work

Do you know what God’s other name is?  Surprise.

1. Life

write it – take a picture of it (literally.  your phone as a camera right?) – tear it out – store it – save it – ask for it – mark it – remember it – get it – clip it – with no edit button – this is the “radar” – when you find something, put it in a “bucket”.

He told a story of seeing an interesting sign – had no idea how we would use it but took a picture of it – eventually he found a place for it in a sermon

2. Text

memorize – inhale – words (what are the key words, are there pictures behind them?) – location – culture – concept – stories – time – picture – actions – connections – the stuff in the bucket now form “chunks”.

If I can’t use any biblical language, how would I describe this? to a  child? to a Martian? without words? using only drawings and pictures?  using only actors? in thirty seconds?

What’s the thing behind the thing?

The mystery behind the mystery?

The truth behind the truth?

enact it – perform it – show it – do it – ignore it – circle around it – hand it out

back to radar – buckets – chunks – marinade

so the radar is to take inventory and see what’s around

put everything collected into buckets

find the chunks, let them create …

let it all marinade with you.

One per idea/fragment/insight/sentence

once a week …

no pressure no time frame:

revisit regularly

intuition and attention


some buckets grow

if it isn’t hot, drop it

accumulating vs arranging – the beautiful thing is when great things can’t fit anymore

(Note that this is once a week apart from the current sermon you working on.)

Also – when he first walked out there was a lawn chair, a pig, and a few other props.  Among many things mentioned he said, a very helpful idea is to leave the prop up front (as opposed to bringing it out) because it creates tension and suspense in the mind of the audience.

He said something like, “Everyone asks me if I memorize my sermons, I don’t.  Not really anyway  … It’s that I’ve been thinking about this stuff for months …”

He did say that he uses techniques like brainstorming, storyboarding, and eventually creates 1 piece of paper that looks like this and this is what he either has tucked in his bible or memorized in his mind. Pictured here is the opening session to the conference.

// Staying ahead of that weekly demand is the crux of it.  I found this session to be very helpful in a practical sense.  Sorry my notes were not able to capture it all but the summary is this – If you can get the idea that everything you encounter in your day is a potential illustration/part/moment in your sermon, then you’ll never sit in front of a blank screen again.


  1. Don’t forget the “Parts” …
    step away from’em,

    The Types “Parts”
    – rants
    – declarations (the good news)
    – stories
    – observations (maybe)
    – actions
    – invitations
    – pictures
    – insights (have you ever noticed …)

  2. Nice. Thanks Mark. I ended up taking some pictures of the screens (as opposed to writing everything down) but some of them didn’t come out that well (stupid first generation iPhone ;-). Feel free to add more to past/future posts.

    Where are you from? Hope you enjoyed the conference – later friend.

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