Rob Bell – The One Thing I've Never Heard Someone Talk About That Has Changed Everything for Me – #ppp09

Rob started this session by telling a story of someone who wrote him a letter telling him that he was defending him from all the criticism that Rob was receiving on facebook and various blogs.  He told him that people were saying that Rob was heretical and the messages were full of fluff and irrelevance.  “But I defended you.”

Rob said, “That right there is a chocolate covered turd.”  I didn’t feel good after this person told me this …

It’s the nine and the one – you may receive nine compliments and one criticism but of course you remember the one.

We need to learn how to forgive (not the mass of people but the actual person/people)

Become a student of forgiveness

We want to control how people respond to our words, not just control the words we actually say // every head nodded when he said this except for those who gave up a long time ago.

“You are not an ecclesial punching bag hired to take the blows.  You are a collective resource.”

You get a paycheck to deal

with our unhealthiness”

It’s ok to guard yourself (your leadership) as a resource.

– It can take hours of your life arbitrating toxic needs

You lose your creative energy, your prophetic abilities … you start losing yourself …

You find yourself holding, creating lists and labels, wanting revenge.

Forgiveness means being freed from all this.

You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself, instead of taking it out on the other person.  It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death.

// Obviously the great title kept a lot of us in some kind of anticipation.  I mean “one thing”, really?  I was pretty sure that it was going to be something pretty fundamental like “The one thing is the She’ma, to love the Lord with … and …”.  I lost 20 imaginary dollars to my wife on that bet.

Forgiveness. It seems like it would be theoretically true.  If you can take each crass word said about message, the mocking of your mannerisms, the story that someone interpreted to actually disprove your point, and the weekly comments you might get about not wearing a tie, all the tough moments and actually forgive, release and be liberated from their sting then I suppose that would change everything.

Shane Hipps – You Are the Medium – #ppp09

Shane Hipps – You Are the Medium – an exploration of the human being as God’s ultimate medium for his message. if the medium is the message, and you as a person are the medium, then what does that say about the message?

Medium of You
We have a  body – don’t underestimate that
you have a body for some reason
so God-Jesus – Embodied

Physical body – 5 senses – obvious

Energetic part of body –
thinking, psychology, activity, all have an energy quality
We feel this energy when talking to someone who is no longer listening (we know bc of their lack of energy)
Energy always follows attention
sexual energy is connected with creativity and vitality of life
connection however is not always sexual.
The more we develop our energy/attention/etc. the better you serve

Bono has energy to fill stadiums.
Oprah has energy
Michael Jackson – energy
Our energy is experienced differently by people
Another energy sheer gravitas – presence – Colin Powell

– Unchanging – the only thing that actually changes is your access to it.
– Unlimited – our Essence
Paul wrote about essence in Romans 8.11

Practices to develop your energy levels
physical – you know how to do this (exercise, sleep, eat right)
– physical body is the copper of your energetic body
– do not underestimate your breathing and your posture and how the two relate
We are imitative creatures
– so whatever we give to our audience, the will imitate.  This may reveal some of our blind spots
– shadow moment we down our shadow, it wrecks us
– we must acknowledge it, uncover it  find the person you like the least, feelings, etc. it’s probably in you.
– Own it.  Shane actually used the movie 8 Mile as a reference (which is like Francis Collins quoting Power Rangers ;-).  It’s when Eminem’s character (Rabbit … uhh, I think ;-) owns the negative things in his life that his battle opponent can no longer attack him.

Essential – essence is something you must act and know not just read and believe it.
Breathe you can’t save breaths, you can’t lose it – give it away
Breathe after success, after failure

If it’s anything this world needs is peace, compassion and wisdom.
There is no such thing as a good preacher, only a good person preaching.

Pete Rollins – For Those With Ears to Hear – #ppp09

New readers -please note there is a context here, especially with Pete. He uses a lot of  paradox, irony, and hyperbole.  But he also uses humor, hence the segue entrance.

After he successfully dismounted, he gave these words prior to the real introduction of  his message: “My job is to get you to disagree with me.  I don’t even agree with meYou need to push back against what I am saying.  To cause a rupture ….”

Peter Rollins – For Those With Ears to Hear: Parables and the Lost Art of Provocation – an exploration of that theological dis-course that holds the power to send us hurtling off course and onto a new one

We need Substantial Change

Christianity is fundamentally violent – People like St. Theresa ruptured the system (Ghandi, MLK)

The question isn’t whether Christianity is true but what does Christianity claim when it claims to be true?

The desire to know the name of God -Moses – systematic theology – gives us insight to who we are now

People’s dogs looks like their owners – people’s gods also look like them

– in baptism, we are brought into the name of God

Revelation is –
epistemological incomprehension
experimental bedazzlement – experience you can’t experience
transformation – no longer the same again

God is apocalyptic – the incoming of something you cannot predict

He reveals and conceals at the same time.

It is darkness and light – hidden/revealed – mystery/revelation
we are changed/renewed
You are my strength (my maranatha) but I am weak.
I fired it up, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
I curse the day when I saw the light, when you found me.
I find my home in Babylon, where I am exiled.

Why don’t worship songs express our darkness, only love and hope?

So our preaching should be a discourse.
a course that take you off-course

something to disturb, alter, change
disruptive, subversive & grounded

Sermons are always about the here and now.
always on the practical

I deny the Resurrection every time when I fail the poor, when I do not serve the helpless

I affirm the Resurrection every time I stand up for those that cannot stand for themselves.

This is substantial change.

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.

Shane Hipps – How Technology Shapes the Sermon – #ppp09

Shane Hipps – How Technology Shapes the Sermon – the art of preaching evolves with every new technological innovation in a culture. do you know what is being done and undone by our technologies?

You can read be a bit about Marshal McLuhan (Predicted things like  the virtues of the internet.  He called it a global village connected by  an electronic nervous system).

“Our conventional response to all media, namely that is how they are  used that counts is the numb stance of the technological idiot.  For  the content of any medium is the juicy piece of meat carried by the  burglar to distract the watch dog of the mind.” – M. McLuhan

Christianity is fundamentally a communication event.

Some say the methods change but message stays the same.

Instead the medium is the message.

While I have this a but out of chronological order for the sake of an  easier post, he usually demonstrates that idea this way.

He puts up  this slide.

Reads it and generally the audience continues listening.

Then he advances the next slide:

There is usually some kind of vocal “ah-ha!” gasp.  “The boy is sad”.    Then he’ll repeat McLuhan’s maxim –

“The medium is the message”.
We become what we behold

Some equate the gospel simply to be:

Apologies for sins + believe in Jesus = go to heaven.

Bill Bright’s tract   Fact – faith – feeling

Many of us (evangelicals) were brought up with the idea that “Feeling” is not necessarily a good thing.  They have been known to betray us.

Hence, it’s the caboose of the Bill Bright Gospel Train.

But we cannot truly be separated from our feelings.  Thus, we must learn to use them and not be manipulated by them.  We ought not to resent them but understand what they are and how they inform us.

Our current digital age is a wall of mirrors – Reflection after reflection

Significance of the photograph – Hyper picture – began to lose our ability for abstract thoughts

Pictures and words are different modes of expression. This is why advertisers use images and not essays.  There is no debate in the mind.

There is now a major global company logo associated with every letter in the english alphabet.

Shane used to work for Porsche and while marketing the Cheyenne he remembers himself thinking, “I DO have to get one of these for myself.  I need it. I don’t care that I can’t afford it – It’s awesome!”

We are moving to a right brain thinking way of the world

Images always win

You will remember an image easier than a word of phrase

It hijacks the imagination

So why does it matter to us (as preachers)?

Depends on what you want to accomplish

But you need to understand the medium

If we become what we behold …

As we became a print culture,

our sanctuaries started reflecting that.

In middle ages (stained glass), the stories of Jesus emerged.

After printing press, Paul was rediscovered.

As we changed to broadcast  and digital culture,

our churches start looking less  2 pg column and more circular.

We are far better off in understanding (and exploring)

Before we critique

If so, we’ll be able to use our media, rather than be used by them.

(Session 2 – Hipps continued)

How this affects the church.

Church as a lecture hall – to give out new info – dense philosophical,  theological, not practical).

Jonathan Edwards – 4 Hr sermons. Only possible in a print-culture.

Broadcast era came in and ushered in a new age of church (how  attentive  you are, how entertaining you are, how good-looking you  are)

Internet era – Interact era – gave way to coffee shop – no single authority, the conversation is important

All 3 areas are on still in existence – see the complexity of it

This can’t tell you how to preach – There are still things that are common and distinct to every era.

What I can say is that it is harder to preach now today than any other time.  The world needs good preaching.

2 Practices to help us become better students of preaching (or to awaken the art)

1. The art of surprise.

When an audience doesn’t have capacity to stay attentive, you need to use surprise.

  • The Exegetical surprise – some integrate the text, instead of  counseling the text.
    • Use ATLA journals,
  • Rhetorical surprise – the way we get to the end.  You lead people into the desert, they get thirsty, you want to give them water.
    • Need to create dissonance.
  • Lingustic Surprise – so you could relearn words, recharge them
    • You can take ancient ideas and make them sound new
    • Poetry is helpful with this because in reengages the mind.

For instance:

A case: water into wine

Rhetorical surprise – it’s an odd miracle

Exegetical surprise – Jn. 2:6 – nearby stood six stone water jars.

Linguistic surprise – how ìlimberî is your sol to withstand this kind of destruction?

Shane said the word ìlimberî just sort of rose to the top for him and he was able to use it.

2. The art of letting go – give the sermon and walk away from it.  Don’t wait for the affirmation or the complaint – let it go.  It will make you more effective in the long run.

My role is to fearless and endlessly offer these words

– you don’t need encouragement to breathe

– we haven’t been freed from the outcomes

– in the process, through you won’t realize it, you become a better and more powerful preacher.

Someone asked a question about twitter.  Shane said it was the most often asked questions he gets right now.  He wasn’t hating on it but was explaining that one of the problems with twitter is that it prevents simplicity on this side of complexity. The technology does the work, the user just has to supply the 140 characters.  It is the opposite of poetry, which is simple on the other side of complexity.  What we should do is only let our poets tweet.  He joked that one tweet would come out every 4 months or so.

Every medium has 4 basic effects

These are McCluhan’s laws of media

Reverses – every media reverse on itself

Extends – every media extends (some is bc of technological advance, some from society needing more)

Retrieves – every media retrieves itself – no new media.  The internet is the modernized telegraph.

Obsoletes – every medium obsoletes an another (digital mp3 obsoletes physical tape/cd)

// I’m still processing through this.  I’ve heard a Shane a few times now and have read the Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. (Flickering Pixels is on the infamous “To Read” shelf).  His material was very helpful to me, I encourage you to add his books to your Amazon wish list.  To cut to the chase, I appreciate so much of what Shane has to say, especially the idea of how we as communicators need to understand our medium. That said, I also find myself pushing back on some of his thoughts.  I’d like to save that for a future post(s) as I try to work that out so as not to sound trite.

Lastly, to you more experienced bloggers out there. I tried to work on the look and formatting of this post but it always published differently from how I drafted.  I even started over.  I wanted to organize some of the notes to relate more with the picture next to it but I was obviously unsuccessful.  Any thoughts on how to do this easily?  Feel free to comment or email. Thanks.

Peter Rollins – Returning to the New #ppp09

Peter Rollins – Returning to the New: An Introduction to Transformance Art – what do flash mobs, performance artists, and pirates have to do with Christianity? exploring how the church can act as an aroma of the coming kingdom.

Notes taken during Pete’s uhh, lecture/performance/address/… uhh, If you have seen him teach, you know what I am talking about. He’s super high energy, incredibly intelligent, and the ideas are brilliant.  Some people can’t listen to him because between the Irish accent and the intensity, they just can’t handle Pete. They say he’s too exhausting for their minds.  I suppose when you have been brought up on Family Matters and 3-point sermons, this tends to be true (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  I feel for them though, they must be cursed with boring smart people preaching long drawn out sermons every Sunday ;-)

Some of this will be familiar for those that came/read about the Emergent Mid-Atlantic organized by Thomas Turner & Friends. Anyway, this is what I got:

Life is lived forwards and understood backwards – Kierkegaard

Fairy tales contain our values

Living your dream can mean the ability of having new ones

Explanation of IKON non-membership cards (they have a card that says they are a non-member.  Yes, an actual physical card that literally says that.)

The real roles of the analyst is to push back so the anaylyzed can learn from themselves.

We want leaders to be dominated by us.  (brilliant)

Leader who refuse to lead are essential bc they allow people to learn/understand from themselves

more IKON practices …

Atheism for Lent – read critiques of C. to let them judge us

We know bigger car, home and money won’t make us happy.  We act like we know but our social self acts like it doesn’t know.

Pete Rollins explains the Batman- Bruce Wayne problem – It’s Wayne’s company that creates the greed that hurts the city then he has to fight the criminals that his company has produced.  He should either find a way for Wayne Enterprises to actually help the city or shut the company down …

The entire system needs to be changed

The church is a flash mob

Example of flash mobs

– A bunch of people show up to a train station and have some kind of pseudo-choreographed dance. Then leave.

– A bunch of people show up to a place with their ipods and listen and dance to the same song but only through their ipods and in as much silence as they can.  Then leave.

The purpose of canned laughter – so the audience doesn’t have to laugh.  The preacher believes so the congregation doesn’t have to believe.

As long as Rob believes, I don’t have to, you say you firm doubt but the structures doesn’t need to convince the chickens.

re-birth birth opens you up to experiences.

God is not an object in the world, He allows (or entrusts) us to change the objects in the world.

Some practices to consider:

1. Create the atmosphere that everything you believe could be wrong

2. suspended place – neither greek, nor jew, slave or free

neither freedom fighter or terrorost

so we empty ourselves

and look beyond the color of someone’s eyes

if you see them, if you know the color, your’re not really listening, your objectifying the person

Preaching should be descriptive, they should be performative

Bellieve, behave belong vs .belong, behave, believe

How can you have rock music if your parents give you everything you want?

Drawing people to conversation, they should be angry with what you’re saying, create ruptures

Instead of giving people water and epecting them to be thirsty, we should give them salt so they really can be thirsty

They’re not seeking God, they’re seeking meaning

Fear does not allow for transformational change (rabbit FBI, CiA RUC, bear)

Like being single, you usually find someone once you have accepted your singleness and are no longer looking.

The need is retrovertaliy true

Dramatic truth (I forget what this was actually.  I really they release some kind of recording of this.  You have to see/hear it and I have to again).

Anti-evangelism – no need for God so they can have an aroma of “bread”.

God is the one who gives God – Augustine

God became human, we want to be God-llike but God became human, incarnation is God becming fully human.

Rob asks top 3 moments of IKON

1. We askpeople to come to church and discover God but people must discover God in places they are not.

2. Pyro theology – the only church that illuminates is the the one that is burning

And I don’t think Pete made it to 3.

Reaction – As usual, I appreciated what Pete had to say.  At times I’m not sure people give him the respect and credit he deserves because he speaks in such an excited state but that’s their loss – those who have hears, let them hear, right?  I know I mentioned this in the intro but I had this conversation a few times whether it be the neighbors in front of me or conversations at the book table.

I left liking the idea of the practices of creating spaces where everything you believe could be wrong and suspended places.  I am trying to figure out what that would look like in my context.  I can see how it could work if the listener truly trusted the intention of the pastor-preacher.  I see why these practices work better in less traditional settings.  On the flip side, those are the among the excuses we tend to use.  How can we as a community form a space  where this would be beautiful and helpful for our faith and hopefully, for the faith of others?

Further, I think this among the reasons why the subject of apologetics is as popular as it is.  Though the apologist doesn’t usually say it, “What if none of this is true?”, the voice of the skeptic gets to ask that question like, “What if God  doesn’t actually exist?”  In most settings, the question is quickly squashed lest anyone fall of the wagon.  For me (and many like me), I’ve come to enjoy the great time of doubt because it makes me a better student of God, life and my Christian faith.

It could be my pre-suppositions or my ulterior motives, but the idea of suspended places always makes me think – pub-church.  I’ve been really interested in that for a while now, hmmm ….

I was also a bit relieved when he said “We should be drawing people to conversation, they should be angry with what you’re saying, create ruptures …”  Well, at least I’m doing something right ;-)   In truth, I some times feel that I have gone too far and the next day I wonder if I’ve gone far enough.  It’s a good thing to wrestle with but I was grateful he said this.

I hope to post Shane Hipp’s sessions soon.

Poets, Prophets, & Preachers Conference – “The Original Guerilla Theater” – Rob Bell #ppp09 – Post 1

The Original Guerilla Theater – from the brochure – “Throwing ourselves into this ancient sacred art form with the absurd, naïve, antiquated belief that the world needs inspiring, proactive, comforting, dangerous healing, great sermons now more than ever.”

Here are some of the notes I took and my interpretation of what I think I was said. They made subtle point that they didn’t want open laptops or phones on during the sessions.  So no twittering.  Similar to the Q Conference, I understand that they want you to be here and be conscious of those who are gathered with you.   I’ll respect it but when I put on my own conference, “Posers, Players, and Punks”, I’ll let whoever do whatever they want.  Anyway, they say that they will release video of this one day but in the meantime you’ll have to deal with my subjectivity until you’re able to have your own:

Rob came out and gave one of the best introductions that I think could be given when talking about preaching sermons to today’s culture. He first started by telling a hilarious story of one of his first sermons. I can’t take the time to retell it but it made me feel better.

“Why do we do this to ourselves?”

As the world gets more “tweeterized” and we continue to go to virtual church, etc. The idea of actual people going to an actual place with the other actual people to hear an actual person in actual real time … the sermon will be more important. It will matter that we were there.

If you were to ask the average person on the average street and you asked them what do you think of when you hear the word “sermon”, what would they say? Would they say stimulating, intelligent, provocative, life-changing, …?

The average person sees the sermon today as something to be endured. It raises the question, “When is lunch?”

For some it is to be evaluated, “Did you like it?”, “Did they do a good job?” As the preacher, you want to interrupt one of these conversations and say, “How did you do?”

Imagine Marin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech and afterwards people saying, “Did you like it?” “Yeah but he went a little long and I heard some of those stories before.”

To some it’s pure propaganda. It serves to tell people what they already know, and assure them that their way is the only way. It has no exploration, no discovery, no movement. Sometimes it exists for a building project. The sermon isn’t about that directly but everybody in the entire place knows what it’s about. Some non-Christians are particularly sensitive to this while many long time Christians cannot detect it.

Sometimes after a sermon you feel:

“Have you heard anything I said?” The scary thing is when you understand that a family/person who has been in your church for years has not understood some basic re-occurring themes you’ve been stressed over and over.

“Crickets” vs. “That was the most amazing thing I have ever heard”
There are some days you can’t wait to give this message, it’s your best stuff, it will blow people away. It’s like a grenade and you’re going to pull the pin and drop it in there and watch …. But no one responds or if they do, the response is a bored negativity (not even offended by the boldness of it). Then there are days when you don’t got it. It’s been one of those weeks, and you crawl into the pulpit with this pathetic sermon that you duct-taped wings to and people come back and say, “That was amazing!!!” and now you feel even worse.

“That sermon sounded like the old _____” “Can’t we go back to _______”
If you listen to the Mars Hill podcasts this is something that Rob has tried to subtly and at at times not so subtly correct. For years, he’s heard this, “That sounded like the old Rob” Can’t we do Leviticus again (and feel that way again)?” You can’t go back to the person you were because we are all becoming something different.

The picture to the right is a quote of collected words of advice to every pastor. It was something like – “The preacher should be honest and transparent.  He should use the Bible but not too much but it should be practical and it should be funny too but not too funny because you’re a pastor not a comedian but you should tell lots of stories but not too many because that gets old too.  You should use personal illustrations like about your family but try to be creepy about it, and you should admit your faults but not too many because that’s depressing but you really should be open and honest …”

He used some biblical illustrations like Ezekiel 4

The preacher and his sermon have a bit of:
Performance Art – We can’t deny that this is an element of our preaching.
Guerilla Theater – you come on the platform, give your message, then you’re gone, and people are like, “Wow, what just happened? Where did he go?”
Actions that Evoke – Sometimes unintended actions are evoked.
Just like Ezekiel

Acts 4 – “They were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus”

We are witnesses

We sometimes give the reminder that this isn’t what God has in mind

Mark 1:15

Is 52
Sometimes the sermon is a sub-story – there’s another story.

Luke 4 – they try to kill Jesus. At least most of our congregations have tried that.

Sermons have:
Loaded Language

Acts 17 – a missed response comes your way. Some people are skeptical, some are moved.

“And God said …”
“Words create new worlds”
Words need to be given flesh …
Rob believes that they have a power – “Talks start talks”
Many are conditioned in thinking that the preacher has the last word, maybe it’s just the first word.

Thoughts – Rob Bell comes out in his standard uniform, black on black, cool glasses and shoes that say, “Why do people only talk about my glasses; my shoes are cool too.” He’s sorta like a Johnny Cash meets an older Michael Cera, except Rob is actually funny. He’s brilliant too. I actually think Rob understands the way I feel. His assistants that do all this research for him are amazing.  Like am I really expected to believe that he understands the preacher hang-over?  He quotes my inner monologues like, “Have you heard anything I said?” and quotes listeners, “Did you like it? Yeah, he’s getting better. He’s kinda funny but he talks too fast some times so let’s go to Panera Bread and cut off every driver from here to there.”

Seriously, I think why so many connect with him is because he is a great communicator and he is in touch with how people feel.  And I suspect part of the reason is that he is in touch with how he actually feels.  it seemed to me that everyone in the room was feeling very similar things.  It was a solid first session and I am looking forward to more.