Saturday, July 08, 2006

Who Is This Pastor?

I didn't even know about this guy, and apparently he's a huge phenomenon:

What do you think?

Sounds downright edgy and cool and interesting to me. But of course you will probably be able to persuade me pretty quickly that he's too evangelical, that he's not grounded in a community of accountability, and that Our People would never take to this kind of contemporary scene. Because, of course, Our People are all about books and words and sitting in small circles at worship where they can sip their coffee throughout.

And we just don't like the idea of reaching 10,000 people at one time, do we. We want to make sure to check out every individual who walks through the door to make sure they're properly One Of Us in belief, communication style and ideology before really letting them in.



Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

I wasn't thinking any of those things. It wasn't clear to me from the article what the actual content of his speeches were, but the idea of a lecture circuit isn't foreign or strange in my eyes. The only thing I worry about is if he is talking about science from a scientific perspective or from a purely "look this proves God exists" perspective. Because the latter is not always scientifically accurate. The article didn't say.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

Is there any point in reading that article if you've already decided what I'm going to think about it and told me?


Blogger Berrysmom said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Aola said...

I've never heard of him either but he does sound interesting.
The only Mars Hill that I know of is the one in Seattle.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Mars Hill: See Acts 17:16-34. King James Bible name for the Areopagus in Athens, where philosophers and many other talky types hung out. Paul delivered a big sermon there (see that passage in Acts). Evangelicals tend to be the ones who quote the passage and use it to name churches and organizations. It's partly about the meeting of faith and reason. Or gets interpreted that way. Christianity (or the Gospel) in the public square and all that.

I looked for the Mars Hill church you mentioned in Seattle and found it, and also a Mars Hill College (Baptist) in NC.

So what's the UU version of this dude, content-wise? A lot of the "emergent church" movement (I'm not saying he identifies with that movement, but he looks and sounds like it, a bit) just seems to be the same-old same-old in hip clothing. Evangelicals have often been much better at electronic communication and contemporary music, but does that change the message? Interesting that "conservative" Christians are often better equipped in contemporary media and "liberal" Christians more resistant to it. (Ow, bit fat generalization, plus the terms "conservative" and "liberal" don't fit a lot of people. Like sacramental high-church radical Christians. But with a little wiggle room, the generalization about who's new-media-friendly often fits.)


Peace to all (with zest),

Caroline Divine

Blogger Lizard Eater said...

Cool. Of course, I watch "The Apostle" and fantasize about being a UU version of Robert Duvall.

Without killing anyone, of course.

Blogger fausto said...

The problem with a "congregation" of 10,000 is that it's not a congregation, it's an audience. And he's not a "pastor", he's an entertainer. He may be an effective entertainer of large crowds, but a congregation is a gathered (i. e., "congregate") community. One that depends solely on the personality of its leader for its health and continued existence doesn't possess the kind of congregational polity that keeps us going.

If you don't think so, look what happened to Theodore Parker's 28th Congregational Society. Didn't work then and won't now.

Blogger Jaume said...

Ten thousand? Bah! That's hardly a basketball game audience. Ask my favorite squelcher of liberty of religious thought within the church, J. Ratzinger (aka Benedict XVI), how to address ONE MILLION and use not a shopping mail, but the fine City of Sciences and Arts in Valencia...

Blogger CK said...

Our speaker this morning was a Christian (not even a UU Christian!) and spoke about god (as well as god as the Transcendent Source). He is part of the interfaith group that our church belongs to, so we share some "belief, communication style and ideology."

However, he also is a black man (and our congregation is highly white) who speaks in a combination of poetry and a style that is very atypical for us (that is, not a lecture, but an emotive appeal). His background is very different--grew up in the foster care system in East St. Louis and is going to Aquinas Theological Institute (which is Catholic).

So, although we might argue that we let him in to prove our tolerance and so on, I would rather think that we are trying to grow as a congregation in terms of whose voices we interact with.

This doesn't address the 10,000 people at a time, but it does go to the cynicism some people (not naming names so as not to feed the trolls) have about Unitarian Universalism.

And I lost count of the number of times he used the G-word.

Blogger Matt said...

I'm based in the UK and have heard of Nooma. I have family who are devout, yet very contemporary minded, Christians. They are in their early twenties and visit a church which is one of the largest in England.

They showed me one of his DVDs some time ago - it was made up of a series of 12 minute slots contemplating on aspects of faith.

In the slot I saw, he visited various places where music was played - not just overtly 'trendy' place but orchestras - I can't remember exactly his point but it was looking at our relationship with God. I found it very thought provoking, very moving and very accessible. I can certainly see why it so popular.

Blogger Matt said...

I would also add that we should not be fooled into thinking the 10,000 all gather on a Sunday, he gets up to the pulpit, says his piece and they go home.

My understanding is that Mars Hill is run in the same way as the church I mentioned in England - they rely on a central campus and church building/s as a centre point for a large network of house churches. The campus and church train people to lead the house groups etc Yes people do go there for large services but understanding is that the regular activity is devolved to house groups.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I think it's far too easy to say that this man isn't a pastor but an entertainer. If I was the Lead Pastor of a huge congregation, I would still be accountable for training and nurturing and supporting the other pastors. And for supporting the staff in all ways.

The reports from mega churches is that they gather their unifying strength from small groups. How insulting to assume that every member of a megachurch is just going to be entertained! Fausto, are you really willing to make that claim?

Caroline D., there are really no analogs among the UUs, because of our typical sniffing dismissal that it's impossible to have a "real" church experience in a mega-setting. So we mostly assiduously avoid using the media in a savvy or contemporary way, because, you know, we have to have six committees talk about what MESSAGE we're going to promote first.

And we just don't have that many super charismatic ministers who have such a powerful. evangelical sense of who we are as to draw huge crowds. Rob Hardies is one, and I think we should put him on TV pronto. He is AWESOME, and it doesn't hurt that he's also gorgeous.

Also, I have never once heard any Unitarian Universalist so much as mention the Emergent Church movement in any of the collegial gatherings I have ever attended. It seems to come up only among the blogging UUs.

Blogger Matt said...

might be helpful...

Blogger Eclectic Ascetic said...

I haven't heard of Rob Bell, but thanks for the posting. I might go to his New York City show/service/lecture/event. I like to see some of the pastors who are doing things that draw people in; sometime when I'm in Houston I'll go to a Joel Osteen service. Not that we can take notes and adapt this to Unitarian Universalist congregating, but I believe we need to find better ways to communicate to those in the pews. Rob Bell's whiteboard-only approach is unusual in not having multimedia--I think we should use the electronic bells and whistles of the modern classroom if we're to hold the attention of young adults.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Hot damn, this Rob Bell is in fact officially an Emergent Church type. Emergent Church being a broad term of course. There's one in my Southern city which is small and cozy, so size is not the thing as much as style. How I found out is during a Google search where I happened upon this, a roundup on Emergent Church in Christianity Today, the mainstream evangelical magazine.

Thanks, PB, for the comments. Yah, I always joke that the Reformation gave us two major things: the Bible in the vernacular and governance by committee...

I am not too surprised there is not much conversation about Emergent Church among UUs. I'm not wild about the conversation about it in my Episcopal church family, because I think there isn't enough of an analysis of what's (not) going on in the Emergent circles re: race and gender and forms of leadership. But it's something to note and get to know and I'm trying to overcome my instinctive responses and at the very least get informed, since it's part of the U.S. church scene right now and is appealing to younger types. (Gawd, I'm feeling middle-aged.) Which doesn't mean I won't keep the critical eye, but like the megachurch phenomenon, it's something we need to know about and understand, 'cause lots and lots of folks are headed there and it's good to know why.

More on all this sometime...


Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Aiee, Blogger cut off the end of the url I posted. Here it is again, and in case it gets cut off again, what got cut off is the very end, which should be html .

Blogger CK said...

Caroline Divine,
You can go to and turn those URLs into something shorter. Or, if you want to turn a word (like into a hyperlink, just type this

[a href="http://URL HERE"]
then the word

Replace the [ ] with < >

Handy tip to make URLs less ugly.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

CK, you rock. THANKS. I have been wondering how one does that!


Blogger Not Your Usual Missionary Position said...

I'm a struggling Episco & just about fainted when I heard Barbara Brown Taylor left the Episcopal Church. Gosh, who's next? I'm curious about CPC and wonder if anyone has any information, experience with them.
The Center For Progressive Christianity


"Sometimes the Church is enough to make Jesus want to drink gin out of the cat bowl"
--Anne Lamont

Blogger St. Casserole said...

Thanks for pointing out Rob Bell. I haven't heard anything about him until your post.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Oonie --

Re: CPC (Center for Progressive Christianity). There are Episcopal churches that are members, e.g. one you know, Good Shepherd in Berkeley, CA. But there are others, in North Carolina and many other states -- and of many denominations.


Caroline Divine


Post a Comment

<< Home