This was a very enjoyable Preaching Conference and quite timely for me. Throughout I was very grateful for the excellent grounding I was fortunate to have in this discipline, initially by osmosis from Melissa and subsequently from Paul Windsor direct. If you want to check out the live blog you can here. I am not going to summarise the content; I will simply note some of the things that stuck out for me.
Bell was superb throughout. He is an excellent communicator live. Uses his body as well as his voice, all without a note in sight (uses powerpoint though). I've often wondered whether it is possible to learn from him because he is just so good - a natural if you like. But he did a great job of breaking down his approach including using previous sessions he had done as examples of his process. It not only reinforced the content but you got drawn into the process as much as the preaching. Some great moments for me:
- The idea of sub-version - the telling of stories that provoke and arrest
- The reinforcement of the importance of the metanarrative and the selection of beginning and end - does the story start in Genesis 1&2 or Genesis 3? A key choice to be made which affects the whole world view of the preacher and pastor
- Building on the beginning of Genesis 1/2 and the ending in Revelation 21 "If you were to remove sin from the Bible, you'd have a pamphlet" - priceless
- Drawing from Genesis, sin can be boiled down to (a) saying to God, "excuse me you're in my seat" or (b) looking to Creation for our wellbeing - elegant
- On heaven coming to earth, "I get concerned that there will be folks who are going up somewhere while God is coming down and they'll miss each other! And it will be like, 'But I read it in the novel'"
- The sermon is the continuing insistence concerning this larger story
- Texts are often built around moments, movements or mystery - knowing which one can help
- Everything in a sermon is related to every other part - name and know the parts
- No rules other than knowing what you're doing
- Tension is your friend - just know how your friend behaves!
- Sermons that help people to find themselves will be focused and yet open, said and yet unsaid, defining and yet imagining, resolute and yet unresolved
- Inviting people into a cathedral of words
- The sermon is always about what it means to be fully human (rather than fully Christian...)
- The chocolate covered turd - death by papercuts - the vulnerability of the preacher
- Your identity cannot be tied up in how you are received
Rob Bell was impressive throughout with his preparedness to be personally transparent and you sensed his pastoral heart for other pastors. They had counsellors available for anyone who needed to unload any burdens they were carrying in pastoral ministry. Nice thought. This was a conference unlike any other. You felt like you were being treated as a person and not just a student.
There is no way to describe this man. He was a force of nature. Maybe it was the Irish accent or the way he scattered his written notes all over the stage while delivering a message on how we should think of knowledge within the Christian worldview (beautifully done). He came across as all over the place, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Brain the size of a planet tied to a heart of real compassion. There is an interview online here which captures the heart of what he was on about. My responses:
- IKON's answer to "Alpha": OMEGA - How to exit Christianity Course (the toxic versions)
- Evangelism group - goes to other religions and asks them to evangelise the group (makes sense if you think about it...)
- Atheism For Lent - will only read the best critics of Christianity for Lent to be transformed by what they might say about (counterfeit) Christianity
- Transformance Art - rupture, provocation, transformation eg. One time they organised people to picket their own gathering - people experienced a sense of mockery and alienation as they entered - some even joined the protestors!
- When he discovered someone was writing a tract against him, he contacted the guy and met with him to help him write it!
- Structures and ministers can do your believing for you - like canned laughter is not there to tell you when to laugh, its to laugh for you...
- Transformation of the social self rather than the "head" self [he used a different term which I missed]
- A failure to engage real transformation leads to the ironic gestures of an anemic Christianity - people who give money to the poor, but make no effort to address those parts of their lives that contribute to poverty, people sitting around Starbucks drinking coffee and talking about the evils of global corporations
- The church needs to find the real site of resistance
- Religious experience is not an experience - God is not an object to be experienced - he is the lense through which we truly experience
- IKON is an equal offence community! We offend everyone to offend no one - I want to offend myself, to rupture myself
- Preaching is not giving water, but giving salt to make people thirsty - preaching is not the bread but the aroma of bread, so that people become hungry
- Christianity as violence - consider Mother Theresa whose pacifism ruptured the caste system - key = violence against systems not people
- God as trauma - God as excess - conversion is radical - the infinite coming into the finite
- Jesus is not a painter, he's an optician
- People's Gods like their dogs, look like them
- God is not the patch on our wound, he is the wound on which we try to stick our patches
- Jacob demands to know God's name while he wrestles and God renames him - God names
- God so loved the world he forsook heaven, he emptied himself - this is our path
He received a standing ovation at the end.
This was an excellent Conference. A really worthwhile investment of time with some good people who I got to know better as well. People from all walks of life. Mainstream contemporary alongside vibrant emerging. Lots of grassroots ministry going on around the place. A great feel to the whole event. 5 stars.