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.