What's Really Happening with Rob Bell

Rob Bell seems to be a touchy subject for a lot of Christians.  So I'm not going to touch any of that... I just wanted to explore about with what's actually happening with Rob Bell. Last weekend, we got to have dinner with our good friend, Finn, and his family to celebrate his graduation from Belmont University.  We sat across from this grandparents, and we talked about ministry and churches all night long.  It was wonderful to have the ears and attention of solid, devout Christians who were older, more mature, and knew more than us.  One of the topics that we talked about was this: Preaching is becoming an archaic, specialized form of communication.  We could only come up with two things in life that are similar in the approach and methods of most sermons: university lectures and formal presentations at work.  As such, it seldom matters how good a communicator is or what their topic is... most people nowadays simply don't know how to process a sermon.  It's either too much information or not presented correctly (for me, it's too slow... I take in much more information in a much shorter time period every day at work). Now then, if this is a problem for Christ-followers... what must it be like for a new Christian or someone who is just exploring faith and life?  To never have been exposed to a "worship service" before and to walk in and have to follow the lead of the crowd around them and listen in a way that they simply have never done before... is that a good perception ofwhat it means to be learning?  What, then is the point of preaching if not to teach... and if the point is to teach, then what are our churches learning? So why is Rob Bell being so successful with preaching?  If you don't think he is, that's ok.  But there are few people who have as many DVDs of their teaching as Rob does, and less that have gone on tour with their sermons (and then sold them as successful DVDs). Rob's teachings are like songs.  They crescendo and repeat and become famliar.  He teaches in a way that introduces you to ideas and concepts like you already knew them.  He's turning teaching into art. I don't want to talk about whether his content is good or not; this isn't the place for that and - quite humbly - I'm not enough of a Biblical scholar to tell you a valid opinion to your arguments.  But what amazes me is how he turns delivering a message into an art.  Just check out one of his nooma videos; one glance will tell you that he's got skilled people working to make a short film and they are passionate about doing so. Rob isn't alone.  He has a team that put together the message into an artform for those videos - I know, because their names are on the credits.  And in his sermons at his church, he often tag-teams with other speakers, to get the message just right.  Regulary, he turns into a character on the stage, turning to the theatrical. I'm not sure what's happening with sermons across the expanse of the church in the United States... but what's happening with Rob is he's turning it into an artform.  And I will listen and learn and recall a song long before I can recall a sermon...
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Preparing for a Sermon

This Sunday evening (April 6th), during the 6:30 service, I will be teaching at Mosaic. The last time I preached a full-on sermon (not lead a Bible study, but a full on teaching time to a church) was when I used to preach at Willoughby Baptist Church during my high school/college years (they're looking for a pastor.  A church like Willoughby would be a blast to work at).  Getting back into the idea and discipline of speaking is incredibly exciting for me. Preaching is a strange thing, to be honest.  For a pastor to be expected to come up with a teaching or lesson each week that helps the spiritual growth of the church he serves is a deal that gets less thought from the congregation than it should.  Preparing a sermon means so many things.  Not only do you have to do the research to be sure that what is being taught is theologically sound, but the message competes with all the other messages an individual recieves throughout the week.  A fifteen-to-fifty minute talking head on one subject is simply not replicated in any other medium for the common person, unless they are involved in schooling and recieve lectures from professors. So during the week, the pastor must bathe the message in prayer, to be sure that the words are from God, not just human utterances.  The pastor must be sure that any personal knowledge of issues in the church don't betray confidences from the pulpit, yet be sure that the message is applicable to the lives of the congegration.  And it's almost standard that the pastor must have at lest a good joke or two.  The preparation for a sermon is, without question, spiritually and mentally draining. Our pastor, Gary, is having dental work done and wanted to be sure that he would be well rested - and not too loopy - and has asked James Jackson to preach in the morning and for me to preach in the evening.  I'm settling in on an idea for the sermon... but this brings in only more questions. How do you decide what to teach on to a church?  If you have an opportunity to help the spirital development of the community closest to you, how do you whittle down a message that is meaningful, impactful, and representative of the lessons that life, friends and God has taught you? I'm excited to see what this week will bring me; what struggles, joys, revelations and humbling experiences.  It's an honoring, humbling thing to be asked to fill in for a pastor; thank you for the opportunity, Gary.
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