Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living the text intensive – learning from Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and U2

I’m teaching an intensive – Living the text – in a few weeks (11 -15 July). It has become a bit of signature course for me. I first taught it at Fuller Seminary in 2006, again in 2007, then at Tabor in 2008, a couple of times in Christchurch and finally a segment by distance last year at the University of Otago.

So this is number 7 and it’s been fun over the last few days to update the readings, ponder the case studies, hit a few refresh buttons and consider what we can learn from the likes of a Rob Bell or a Brian McLaren or a Bono Vox about communication.

There’s still space for a few more, so if you want a week of story, community and creativity that seeks to resource the use of the Bible in local church communities, then drop me a line.

Here’s the plan for the week

The text today: The text as strangely familiar
Case study: U2‘s Bullet the Blue Sky; Rob Bell “Resurrection”

Imagination: Community
Case study: Communal lectio divina by Brian McLaren

Environments: Spirit2go
Case study: Show and tell from the Taylor grab bag

Storytelling in theory: Storytelling in practice
Case study: Amateur Godly play

Sunday’s coming: Structures, preparation
Case study: Participant offerings and discussion

And here’s the course blurb: This course will explore the communication of the Biblical text in a contemporary world, with particular missiological reference to the use of the Bible in a contemporary context. It will apply theological insights around text, community and culture, to the task of maintaining and communicating the integrity of the Biblical text with reference to postmodernity. This course will take for granted skills in expository preaching, and deliberately seek to critically explore other ways to engage and present the Biblical text.

Posted by steve at 11:29 PM


  1. Ive got the Godly Play dvd kits if you want any of them, there’s three in total with Jerome going through a couple stories in each…

    Would be interesting to compare Brian Mclaren’s Lectio stuff with that of Mark Yaconelli and Jenny Baker etc…

    That being said, I’m interested in how most of the “words” are from male voices, Rob, Brian, Bono and the boys, have you considered using Jenny Baker’s Tune in Chill Out, or similar? Or are you using other female voices that communicate the biblical text in the contemporary world?

    I’ve started using Lectio as a practice when “leading” worship in congregations over here, when I used to do it in small groups only, having to recreate it for a group of 80 people of a number of languages and nationalities and ages from 1 and up I’ve found the results to be quite fun.

    Comment by darren — July 1, 2011 @ 12:32 am

  2. Yes, I went to bed pondering the male thing, wondering whether I should drop a really good example from either Rob or Brian or Bono in order to add a female example. Then I wondered which 2 of the band U2 should drop in order to bring in gender balance.

    Then I reflected on the fact that the Biblical text we are working with throughout the week is Luke 1:39-45. Not a male in sight.



    Comment by steve — July 1, 2011 @ 8:19 am

  3. 🙂

    that’s a lot of pondering…

    esp on the way to sleep 🙂

    another thought…

    there were two males…

    not in sight

    but in womb…

    yet… how often do we reach for male voices to describe the passages which talk about female experiences…

    I was just thinking that it used to be that we’d call women’s voices for the contemplative stuff, so when thinking of lectio we’d head to female contemplative voices, and perhaps then to male voices on the textual/redactional biblical studies and perhaps using mclaren or jones in this way is a little out of the norm, but then again… how often have we started paying attention only after males have said it (even if the practices came out of male dominated groups/monasteries)?

    I don’t know, it’s a struggle…

    at least i find it a struggle

    Comment by darren — July 1, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  4. What would be your top 3 examples of women communicating – in non paper ways (ie video or audio) that make useful teaching points?

    Just to give you a feel of my criteria; I chose the Rob Bell video of resurrection because it is short – 4 mins visual. So it raises a great question – what would you say in 4 mins

    I chose the Brian Mclaren because it is him, in a strange country, guest speaker and over 45 minutes he does a lectio with a group of strangers. So it says – hey, we can do communal lectio in pretty much any context.

    I chose the U2 thing because of how they take a song and recontextualise it. So it says – how can we contextualise – using the DJing concept – our original texts.

    My bibliography has the following women examples –
    Blue, Debbie, Sensual Orthodoxy, Cathedral Hill Press, 2003.

    Drane, Olive M. Fleming, Spirituality to Go. Rituals and Reflections for Everyday Living, Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 2006.

    ____________________, Clowns, Storytellers, Disciples. Spirituality and Creativity for Today’s Church, Bible Reading Fellowship, Oxford, 2002.

    Rose, Lucy Atkinson, Sharing the Word. Preaching the Roundtable Church, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1997. 

    Rowell, Gill, The (Spiritual) Adventures of CyberCindy. Paternoster: Carlisle, 2003.

    Rose, Lucy Atkinson, Sharing the Word. Preaching the Roundtable Church, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 1997.

    (some great eg’s but they are on paper, so much less interesting for students than video and audio)

    And back to my question – what top 3 examples of women communicating – in non paper (ie video or audio)ways that make teaching points.


    Comment by steve — July 1, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  5. Stirring stuff, Steve. Thank you for being one of the few who does bother to think regularly about including women’s voices in your teaching. The fact that material made by, or featuring men is so much more abundantly available is of course due to many reasons, and some of them are about prejudice (not yours) against women. But I also take this is as much a spur as a slur – am thinking about what could be done by me and others to get our work into other formats than books alone.

    Keep in touch with Jenny Baker’s work at Sophia Network: she rounds up all sorts of interesting stuff, as well as writing some herself.

    And thanks for the inspiration of these posts.

    Comment by maggi — July 15, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

  6. Kind words Maggi.

    As a class during the week, we work with the same Bible text, coming at it from a different perspective each day – Dwelling in Word, lectio divina, touch, smell. The text I choose is Luke 1:39-45, Mary and Elizabeth, deliberately chosen to ensure that women’s voices are part of us everyday.

    I have linked to Sophia network on twitter this week. Plus I also used the The story of everything, from Jonny’s blog, which does have a women narrator. Small steps I know.

    Please be spurred – I’d love to have some new case studies for next time I teach the class,


    Comment by steve — July 15, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

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