Tag Archives: rob bell

Learning from your Enemies

Krish Kandiah has a blog post up about how Tom Wright ( N.T. Wright) is the christian equivalent of marmite.

In the article he raises this point:

“For some of my friends its all or nothing with the theologians they like. There’s a tick list – a writer needs to tick the boxes on a number of issues in order to have anything to contribute to a conversation.”

I think it’s a fair point. When I studied for my BA in Youth work with Applied Theology, there was a clear split between those who preferred Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll. As if somehow by liking one you automatically had to hate the other. It became very tribal.

People like to be part of a tribe and its very easy to have a tribal mentality. When someone attacks what you makes you ‘you’, it is in your best interest to fight it. You want to defend your beliefs as you feel its a personal attack against your identity.

For me though, I think its a little different. I can happily listen to those that I disagree with- to a point. I imagine its the same for most people. We all have buttons or ‘no go areas’. There are convictions that we hold that cannot be pushed and its not always necessarily to do with theology.

For instance I will have nothing to do with Mark Driscoll or Martin Luther. I will not read what they’ve written or take any time to listen to their views.

Why?

Because they both, in my opinion (and it is just an opinion) have a very abusive view of women. Martin Luther once said, “women are the gateway to hell”. Driscoll famously has said, and i paraphrase here, that since the husband is the head of the household, if he wants anal sex, he gets anal sex.

Those are worldviews that those men hold that I cannot get around and its not simply a case of removing those remarks when I come to look at them. I cannot come to a text of Driscolls or Luthers and ignore what they’ve said. Those remarks infect everything that they have to say. It is behind everything that they have to say.

Krish suggests that he can learn from any flawed person and I commend him for that. But I cannot do that.

Let’s imagine Hitler wrote some great literature. I could not sit down and read any of it without thinking “this man had over 6 million people killed”. I cannot just conclude that he’s a flawed human and get past his actions. They are what makes him. It is part of who he is.

Now I’m not comparing the actions of Driscoll or Luther to Hitler. But…if we believe, as many say, that all sin is the same and that sin by its definition is anything that causes a breakdown in relationship with either ourselves, others or God then maybe its perfectly acceptable to do so.

So, over to you. Does any of this make sense? Do you think this is helpful or is there some way of getting past your convictions in order to learn from people like this?

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Youth Work Summit Musings Part 3: Deepening Faith 1

On Saturday, I attended the youthwork summit in Manchester: An incredible thought provoking, God soaked, challenging and inspiring day.

Over the next few days, I hope to explore what I thought worked well (as well as what didn’t), what inspired and challenged me, what I disagreed with and what, frankly, bored me.  sadly I couldn’t make the retreat or the other activities on the Friday so my posts will focus solely on the Saturday event.

So let’s dive in.

read part 1 here

read part 2 here

After a lunch hour that consisted of mostly wandering around aimlessly trying to find somewhere we could buy a sandwich, finding said shop, buying a sandwich (and eating it…obviously) we took our seats for what I hoped would be an inspiring and challenging set of talks.

I wasn’t wrong.

First up was Steve Griffiths who wanted to bring back “hit and run youth ministry”. Griffiths spoke of his frustration with how people used the term ‘incarnational’. He believes that most people who use this term do not use it correctly and do not base their work on the style of Christ. He said that hanging out with young people so that we earn the right to speak to them is a load of rubbish and we need to get back to how Jesus operated.

I agree with his frustrations, but for different reasons.

Youth work is so much more than hanging around with young people. It is this kind of thinking that shames our work and makes us look like a bunch of people who have nothing better to do and have no aims or objectives. Secondly, I hate this kind of manipulative agenda that we sometimes carry as Christians. The idea that we befriend and get to know people so that we can build a bridge that allows us to share the gospel with them. Jesus didn’t do that and neither should we. He helped people, met their needs, talked with them, stood up for them, fought for them. I don’t start friendships with people so that I can change them in some way. that’s not authentic. That’s what salespeople do and that’s not what we are.

After outlining his frustrations he went on to talk about two greek understandings of time that were used in the New Testament.

1) Chronos– Time that can be measured.. quantitative in assessment. seconds, minutes, hours, days etc.

2)Kairos– time that is qualitative in assessment. It’s about how you feel. “That hour felt like two”. It is time that is measured in eternity.

Griffiths shared how he felt that youth workers focused on chronos time on Kairos. He spoke of how we think we need to spend loads of time with young people but that results in us feeling guilty because we don’t think we spend enough time with young people. Thinking about it, that might also be connected with how we feel about the times we spend praying, reading the bible etc (but that’s another post).

Griffiths urged us to move away from Chronos and focus on Kairos time. We need to be people who live in Kairos time to help young people encounter eternity through our conversations. This all sounds good and throwing in some greek words makes you think that what you’re hearing is right but I think this approach is fundamentally flawed.

H said that we feel guilty about how much time we spend with young people. Is it ever enough? But that wouldn’t change with focusing on kairos time. we would still feel guilty but it would be a different type of guilt. we would feel guilty about whether or not our conversations were meaningful or not. it won’t change anything. What we should be is intentional. Intentional about our work and intentional in our relationships. We should be ready to have those conversations with young people at any point if they ask. not just when we feel we’ve spent enough time with them.

And anyway, can you have kairos time without chronos time? surely they go hand in hand.

Up next were lucy bannister & sid williams talked on “sharing your life with young people”. The exact opposite of what Steve Griffiths was suggesting. Brilliant stuff.

They shared personal stories about how getting to know young people and being ‘present’ in their lives was a better way of understanding incarnational youth ministry. It is about being there for young people without having an agenda. It’s about sharing in their story and, at times, if appropriate, demonstrating how they are part of God’s big story. I enjoyed what they had to say but the one thing I found unhelpful was when they said, “love first then professionalism.” (or something to that extent).

In the context of their talk I understood what they meant but I think that kind of quote can be taken the wrong way and can lead to all sorts of trouble. We should be professional in our youth work. We should take it seriously. We should have polices and procedures in place to make sure people are protected. If we don’t, out work can be become sloppy and we leave vulnerable young people open to risk.

Still, food for thought.

Krish Kandiah then took to the stage to argue with himself on the subject of “tell young people about love before you tell them about judgement/ tell young people about judgement before you tell them about hell

I’ve not always agreed with Kandiah’s views on certain theological issues But I listened to his talk with an open mind and was surprised that I agreed almost entirely with it. Kandiahs main point was that when Jesus spoke about judgement it was to those who were the “in” crowd (ie the religious crowd who believed that they were safe). To everyone who was in the “out” crowd, he spoke love. His point was that the context you find yourself in will determine the message you bring. To some you may need to preach judgement whilst to others you will need to preach love.

As an introduction to the subject, I thought this was clear and concise and Krish came across humble and honest.

It does leave me with some questions however.

1) Using the gospel of Luke to make his point is fair enough because Luke talks a great deal about insiders and outsiders but what of the other gospels? Do they make the same point or would they offer an alternative view?

2) What do you actually mean by ‘judgement’? I would suggest that this will be where Krish and I disagree. I realise there wasn’t time to go into that and ir wasn’t the place to do so but it’s an important question.

In my next post I’ll speak about the remaining talks in the “deepening faith” stream.

Thoughts/ comments? do you have similar comments or would you completely disagree with what I have said?

Doctrine, Education and Discipleship

I read this post by John Koessler yesterday.

In it he claims that those who attacked Rob Bell‘s new book, “love wins” (and I don’t use the term lightly) were right to do so.

“the general message seemed to be that anyone who would be disturbed by possibility that Rob Bell denies the literal nature of hell must have too much time on his hands. Don’t Jesus’ followers have better things to do than to dispute such things?”

He then finishes his post with the following statement:

“I know. It sounds “old school.” It seems “ungenerous.” But what can I say. It’s what the Bible says. Unpleasant as it sounds, doctrine does matter. And no, we really don’t have better things to do.”

Really?

I agree doctrine is important (as a way of understanding and articulating what it is that we do or do not believe) but to say that we really don’t have better things to do?

That doctrine is the be all and end all.

Did Jesus really spend all his time making sure the disciples understood everything perfectly?

Wasn’t one of Jesus’ issues with the pharisees that they put too much doctrine on people? Jesus attacked them for focusing too much on right belief.

“Love the Lord your God with all you heart, all your mind, all your body and all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself.”

“Faith, hope and love. but the greatest of these is love”.

The greatest commandment is to love. love God. Love people.

The greatest commandment is not too make sure your doctrine is all nice and neat.

In one of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus congratulates them on rooting out false teaching but convicts them because, as a result of this heresy hunting, they have forgotten what it means to love people.

Rob Bell

Image by feyip via Flickr

Yes, critics had the right to read Bell’s book and criticize it but is that really the most important thing? The things above all else?

As a youth worker in a church, I ‘m realizing more and more that young people struggle with doctrine. they struggle with right beliefs. they get bored by it. we can load them up with all the right info and teaching but does that really do anything?

Isn’t it time we move past simply making sure young people know the right doctrine and instead help them experience faith.

experience God. Walk with them.

Discipleship should be more than teaching.

teaching should be the end bit.

Here is a short animated video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about education.

Yes the video focuses on state education but christian education should be no different.

Let us move away from pouring knowledge about God into our young people and instead, help them to get to know God.

Crap Youth Talks, Mourning and Lamentations

I gave a terrible youth talk on Sunday night. It really was rubbish. There were a number of contributing factors but ultimately it was my fault. What came out of my mouth was a series of random thoughts and questions that had no through line and no clear point.

My heart sank as I watched the young people check their phones, talk to each other and stare blankly into space, whilst I rambled on.

Why share this you may ask. Hell, I’m thinking it as I write this but i’ll keep going and see what happens.

The topic was the 2nd beatitude, “blessed are those who mourn” and the speaker pulled out on Friday because he was having teeth extracted. That’s not an excuse, that’s just the circumstances surrounding the talk.

I tried to share the point that we live in a culture of denial. We ignore the homeless on the street, the bullied kids in our schools, the suffering and oppression that goes on in the world. We choose to deny that it exists cause it will make us feel bad. It may even make us‘mourn’. But that’s what Jesus calls us to do. Those that choose to connect with others, who grieve for others. Who stand up and say, “this isn’t right! This isn’t fair!”. They are blessed.

But I didn’t have those thoughts together in a way that would engage anyone. So it failed.

Yesterday I text the young people to apologise because the talk wasn’t good and I hadn’t done the beatitude justice. was that the right thing to do? I still don’t know.

But I didn’t want to deny it. I didn’t want to brush it under the carpet. Cause those young people deserve better than that. And Jesus words deserve better than that.

I started reading lamentations this morning. Jerusalem is destroyed. People have been exiled to Babylon and other surrounding areas. The temple is in ruins. Rather than deny it, the narrator and the city cry out. They get angry. They grieve. They mourn.

I listened to Eminem’s new Album, “recovery” a few weeks ago. I got a few songs in before my wife asked me to turn it off. I’m surprised it got that far. The first song, ‘cold winds blow’ is the most foul mouthed rant I have ever heard put to music. He’s angry. He wants people to know it. He doesn’t deny it.

the beatitudes, lamentations, my failed talk and enimem.

It’s all linked.

In a culture where we deny and ignore anything that upsets us, God tells us to the opposite. He tells us to embrace it. To mourn, to grieve, to stand with those who need help. To get emotional.

We are called to throw down the stiff upper lip, the pursuit of (our own) happiness and the masks of respectability.

Blessed are those who mourn!

Blessed Are The Truly F**ked Up!

Next week, our Sunday night youth fellowship (for want of a better term) will start looking at the beatitudes. The beatitudes were eight statements or announcements that Jesus chose to make at the start of ‘the sermon on the mount’ and ultimately his ministry. They are not something I hear preached on very much and that is precisely why I wanted our group to look at them. Maybe it’s because we don’t like what they proclaim or we just don’t understand them. But that’s no excuse not to look at them. For me, they summarise everything that Jesus had came to announce. I’m going to focus just on the first one for now but you can see all of them below

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Thanks to Tom Wright, William Barclay, Dave Andrews and Rob Bell for their insights on this subject.

First off, contrary to some opinions, the beatitudes are not a list of things to do in order to be blessed or to have God on your side. They are not eight steps to know God more. They are statements. They are announcements. They are just how things are. But who are the poor in spirit?

To some this has been translated as, ‘those that realize their need for God’ and in some sense this is true but that again is something you have to do. Something you have to work at. That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is on about (to me anyway).

The poor in spirit then are those that are just that, ‘poor in spirit’. Those that don’t have all the answers. Those that mess up time and time again. Those that are addicted to things they know they shouldn’t be. In other words…

“blessed are the adulterers, the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the paedophiles, the murderers, the liars, the time wasters, the dirty minded, the porn stars, the dictators. Blessed are those who get it wrong time and time again, those that continually do what they shouldn’t do, those that society calls scum, useless, irrelevant, passed it, unnecessary. Blessed are the tax cheats, the rapists, the space cadets, the abused. Blessed are all of those who society or religion or communities have deemed sub human.”

Does that sound wrong? Offensive even? Surely God doesn’t love everyone like that? Why would he?

Let me ask you a question then. Why did Jesus have to have dinner at a tax collectors house who had cheated hundreds, if not thousands, of people out of their money? Why did a man throw a banquet in which he invited the low lives and the degenerates to? Why did Jesus walk around healing people?

He just did. Why does God love these people? Why is God on their side? He just is.

“…theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. That’s the gospel. That’s (one of) the message(s) that Jesus came to proclaim. It may not be fair. You might think it’s not right but it just is.

When Philippe Petit illegally walked across the twin towers on a tightrope in 1974 everyone wanted to know why. He couldn’t understand why people would ask him this. He said, “i’ve just performed something miraculous and all they want to know is why. There is no why”.

It’s the same with God. There is now why. It just is. There is a place for all those people at the banquet. Jesus didn’t come to announce his message to the rich in spirit or those that had it all together. He said, “he came for the ill”.

The Kingdom of Heaven is for everyone and when we start becoming the gatekeepers, saying who is and who isn’t in, then we deface what God had in mind. What Jesus had in mind with the first beatitude. Let’s live our lives with this proclamation stamped on our minds and on our hearts.

“Blessed are the truly f**ked up for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”.

The Importance of Beginning at the Beginning

I just listened to an incredibly exciting and thought provoking sermon that Rob Bell gave to ‘Mars Hill’ church a couple of weeks ago on how we read Genesis 1 and 2 and had to share it. Listen to it below or go to the Mars Hill website here