“I think we need to reclaim the prophetic poetic preaching voice. We need to reclaim that moment when that person speaks, and it’s the words of God, and everybody knows it. It’s a beautiful thing. I want to reclaim it as a revolutionary art form that really does have power to transform communities and cultures. I want to see the poets and the prophets and the artists grab the microphone and say great things about God and the revolution. I think a whole art form has been lost that needs to be recaptured, a grand ambition for the art of preaching.”
I went searching for an example of authenticity today. We’ve got to understand just what this idea means. Authenticity. Not hiding from the world. Not ruled by fear of what we don’t understand. Not ashamed to say, I don’t know, but let’s serach for the answer together.
“Jesus is Jewish. I thought he was Christian. So then I started reading [the Bible]. I thought, There must be a whole world of stuff in there that I’m missing. And there was. There are thousands and thousands of pages of ancient writings that Christians are oblivious to.
“One of the distinctive things about the Jesus revolution is they never blasphemed the gods of the cities, and yet the whole city became Christian. That has unbelievable implications for what Christians are doing right now—preachers bashing Hollywood [musicians, artists, homosexuals, ad nauseum]—When you tell the story well, you don’t have to. It’s clear. Not that there isn’t a time and a place when you have to call things what they are—”
Authenticity. Willingness to engage. Courage to accept the black hole of mystery. Unafraid of the world’s stink, that they might hear. Undeterred by pharisaical outrage, that the “saved” might be revolutionized too.
These thoughts come to you by way of a fairly revolutionary guy named Rob Bell, to whom I was recently turned on by a co-worker. He was interviewed by Leadership Journal for the Spring 2004 issue. Check this out.
“A lot of Christian preaching isn’t really seriously about story. I don’t want to conquer mystery. I want to celebrate it. And in the modern era we have ‘Seven Steps to Prayer,’ ‘Four Steps to Financial—whatever.’ Those all, I assume, have their place. But what often happens is God gets shrunk down in the process. In the effort to boil things down, God gets boiled down. And there have to be spaces where mystery is simply celebrated.
“The true orthodox faith is deeply mysterious, and every question that’s answered leads to a new set of questions. A lot of preaching tries to answer everything. At the end of the sermon, people walk out with no more questions.
“The rabbis believe that the text is like a gem: the more you turn it the more the light refracts. I heard a guy one time say, ‘Oh yeah, I got a sermon on that verse. I got it pretty much nailed.’ ‘What? Are you out of your mind? You have that nailed?’ I just endlessly turn it.”
“Sometimes I hear people say, ‘The church isn’t here to entertain.’ To entertain means to hold people’s attention, which is clearly something teachers throughout the Scriptures are doing. They engage and capture attention.
“But we’re not here to amuse. To ‘a-muse’ means to ‘not think.’ And it’s wrong to prevent people from pondering or distract them from thinking. I’m not here to amuse. But of course I want to engage people. I have something to say.”
May we all say something as unashamedly revolutionary through our writing.