Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Poets, Prophets & Preachers: Monday Afternoon

What do an Irish theological maverick and a former Porsche advertiser have in common? They are friends with Rob Bell and have something to say to preachers.

The late morning session was with Peter Collins. Reminded me of a hobbit. Smeagol, before he found the ring. And Shane Hipps reminded me of a famous actor who has been in some movies I watched, but whose name completely escapes me. Anywhooo...

Peter in his own eccentric way tried to open up preachers to the idea of the social self - to whom are we preaching, who are we as preachers, within what context are we preaching.

For example: is there any irony in railing against corporate America while sipping coffee in Starbucks? Is there any irony in resenting the influence big business has on American politics while we shop at Wal-mart? Is there any irony in our despising radical fundamentalist violent Islamic extremists while going out to the movies to watch American Pie or Saw?

If preaching is going to change somebody, we can't just try to convince the mind or heart of a woman or man, we must convince the deeper self, the inner core, the gut of a human being.

Christianity is about revolution and insurrection: revolution in that the whole structure is changed, and insurrection in that we live out that change in our own little world until the whole structure is changed. And preachers need to recognize the difference between minor modifications in behavior and insurrection. Are preachers trying to get people to escape out of the ironic living, or stay in it, but with an altered attitude of cynicism or angst?

It is worth noting that Peter spews out ideas briskly with a thick brogue. The ideas are dense and layered and provocative and interesting. The kind of ideas that are hard to get down on note paper, the kind of ideas where when you are done with the session, you know you heard some good stuff, but not sure what to do with it. Seeds were planted, though...

Peter did remind me of the potent idea of kenosis: the idea that Christ emptied himself God became incarnated in Jesus. Preachers are to do kenosis: we empty ourselves so that God can fill the space, and thus use our words to create space where people can empty themselves and be filled with God. In becoming full of God we become fully human...

This Poets, Prophets & Preachers event is definitely provocative...

After lunch then, we listened to Shane Hipps the former Porsche advertiser point out to us all the different ways that media shape the message. The message changes depending on the media that is used. The gospel gets changed depending on what media is used to proclaim it - whether shouted from the street corner, blared through the radio, displayed on the television or blogged on the internet. The media we use matters - though it is neutral. The task is to understand what we gain and lose depending on what media we use - and take this knowledge into account when we use it as preachers to proclaim the gospel.

For example: watching television engages the right side of your brain, but watching a film movie in the theatre engages the left side of your brain. Reading a document engages the right side of your brain, staring at a picture engages the left side of your brain. Depending on the communication event, the left side of the brain process the data different than the right side.

The church has been so much focused on the "word" as the primary means for communicating the gospel, we have not learned how to use "image" very well. Since we live in a new digital age, the church better learn quick how to adapt and learn to use "images" well. Words will always matter, but images matter just as much - actually more because images are more memorable than words.

Here's some more stuff from Shane:
Advertisers use images not essays to sell stuff.

Images always win.

What do images do? They foster a shared experience.
What do words do? They unleash the imagination.

Use media; don't be used by it.

We live in a multiple layer of communication eras: The reformation "word" era, the radio/tv broadcast era, the internet era... none is better or worse - but they are reality.

Become better students of preaching by better understanding the reality of the age we live in, and the reality of how to communicate in this age we live in.

Learn the art of surprise. New insights, introduce curiosity, present another angle.
Learn the art of letting go. Don't have a vested interest in the outcome.

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