Friday, February 19, 2010

" dude, i'm a plumber": Rob Bell interview excerpts

From "Tying the Clouds Together:
Rob Bell's metaphors and references make his listeners stretch, but his wisdom for preachers is down to earth."
A Leadership interview with Rob Bell

Your sermons are known for pulling from unexpected sources—everything from art history to quantum physics. Why?

When Jacob woke up after his vision of angels ascending and descending on the ladder, he declared, "Surely God was in this place and I did not know it." And Jesus says, "My Father is always at work even to this very day." Jesus lives with an awareness, an assumption that God is here and he's at work. Dallas Willard calls this "the God-bathed world." This has deeply shaped me...

what about the sermon structure?

There's a whole world of screenwriting wisdom that we can tap into as preachers. There are storytelling insights about arc, tension, narrative, perspective, point of view—these things aren't taught in most seminaries, but they're essential to understanding how stories work, which means they're incredibly helpful in understanding the Bible.

Imagine a pastor on Thursday staring at this obscure passage in the life of David trying to figure out where the sermon is. One playwright says, "When in doubt, just have a different character give the line." And suddenly it clicks—do the sermon from the perspective of Uriah. Boom! Just one little adjustment and all of a sudden the whole thing works. My experience has been that the modern preaching, teaching, training system doesn't tap people into all this. The imagination involved in the art of the sermon can end up being stifled...

What else have you found unhelpful when preaching?

Focusing too much on something in the text that is an issue of hairsplitting debate among theologians. You are assuming that people care as much about the debate as you do. Somebody may be sitting there thinking, "Dude, I'm a plumber. I didn't know that was a debate, and I didn't know that it needed to be resolved. I'm just trying to figure out life with God and you spent sixteen minutes letting me know that you understood the origins of this particular Greek word." Some things just aren't helpful...

Your NOOMA video series has been popular. What do you think about the increasing number of preachers and churches using video technology to expand their reach?

It's powerful but there's also a dark side. Video is not church. You put images and music on a screen, and people will listen. But it's also dangerous. You're playing with fire. I think video technology deserves to be scrutinized heavily.

Go a little deeper. What makes video dangerous?

I don't think we know yet what the long-term impact will be on disciple-making. In 10 years we may discover what particular kind of Christ follower is formed by video preaching. I see warning lights on my dashboard. It's unclear what video may do to the ways we conceive of life together.

In the New Testament, there are 43 "one another" passages, and during a Sunday morning service you might be able to practice three or four of them. And as the service gets large, you can probably do fewer. A massive group setting is also dangerous. You can come, sit, listen, and go home and think, I've been to church, even if you haven't practiced any "one anothers." And with video that only gets more intense. I'm not sure that's the direction we want to be heading.

We want to be calling people to deep bonds of solidarity with one another. We may gather in a massive group, but from the stage I often say, "This is just a church service. Church is actually about caring for one another, and serving one another, and speaking truth to one another in love. Don't get the two confused."

LINK full interview

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