God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Rob Bell blows my head up

Posted by Martin on November 17, 2006

A different Rob Bell - sportierArrived in Eastbourne last night for the start of the Youthwork the Conference ‘early day.’ The speaker is about as high-profile as they come in Christian circles – Rob Bell, the founder of Mars Hill Community Church in Grand Rapids Michigan (they meet in a converted shopping mall [which they were given]) and the man behind the nooma series of teaching DVDs. Expectations then were sky-high, which in my experience is rarely a good thing. Remember how you felt going in to see The Matrix Reloaded? And then how you felt when you came out?

So I was cautious about expecting too much. I needn’t have been. Rob was spectacular – he did an ‘overview of the history of the story of God’ using what he termed the four locations that are key to the Bible. Those are – if you’re interested – Egypt, Sinai, Jerusalem and Babylon. Everything else is tourism I guess. I can’t do it justice of course – but I can say that it entirely upended my view of how Old and New Testaments fit together. Previously I’d kind of looked at them as an unwieldy first volume and a much punchier sequel… now they’re more like two sheets of overlaid acetate. The scales fell from my eyes.

Simultaneously, Rob used the stories in Acts 11 and 14 about the criticism he received in Jerusalem for his methods, then displayed in action in Lystra, as a metaphor for our work with young people. There are often people in the background who talk of the importance of religious tradition, and are forever trying to hold us back and call us to account – at the same time, we are also trying to journey into the culture and lives of real young people, and reflect Jesus to them in a way that makes sense. That’s what Paul faced; it’s what we face today.

A key question then – Paul asked, what would it look like for the Jesus movement to break out in Lystra (and in Acts 14 we find his answer – he practically re-christens God!). We need to ask – stripping away some of the traditions that we’ve added over time, what would it look like for the Jesus movement to break out in Brentford, or Swindon, or Grimsby, or Belfast? In all those places, culture and youth culture are subtly different. So Rob’s call was for us to reimagine what it looks like for true church to appear there, I guess.

Tons of phenomenal stuff anyway – I may post more when I’ve had a chance, as Rob would say, to ‘let it all marinate.’

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