Archive for the ‘Brian McLaren’ Category

Reading Books for Free (and I’m not talking about the library!)
July 16, 2008

Because my blog is one of the top blogs in the universe, and because I am fabulously famous (which was the goal in starting a blog in the first place), I’ve started to receive free books as part of The Ooze Select Blogger Network. Yes, that’s right, I’m “select,” and you probably aren’t. Sorry. And don’t even think about being select until you start having at least five or six different people coming to your blog. And I mean every day.

[As an aside, I recently watched What Would Jesus Buy? and when Reverend Billy prays or conducts credit card exorcisms (yes, you read that right) he calls God the “fabulous creator” – or something like that. I like the word fabulous. Rolls off the tongue. I’m a fabulous blogger. Sounds good. Maybe it should be The Ooze Fabulous Blogger Network…I’ll see what I can do about that…]

So anyways, I’ve started receiving books in the mail with the expectation that I will read them and write about them on my blog. This is great news for you! Not only will you be reading a blog that’s part of a select fabulous blogger network, you will also be receiving free advice from me about books you should or should not be reading! Free advice from a fabulous blogger! You are very lucky people.

Alrighty, let’s get down to business. Here are my first reviews.

Hokey Pokey, by Mathew Paul Turner
Yep, the first book is called Hokey Pokey. It’s written by a former editor of CCM magazine and the book is about issues related to vocation and calling. These are issues I think about a lot. I’m not sure, but perhaps because I think about these issues a lot, this book didn’t do it for me. Turner is a good writer and has some good things to say, but no big revelations. And let me tell you, I need big revelations – especially when it comes to this topic. But if you are interested in a book to get you started thinking about vocation and calling, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Feel, by Mathew Elliot
I only made it through half of Feel, but I actually did like what Eliot is saying. He’s basically trying to debunk the myth that feelings are always to be discounted. He is particularly interested in showing that the Bible does not support this way of thinking. I agree. However, I thought the book was repeating the same thing over and over. After reading half the book I just had a feeling the second half was going to be the same as the first. I decided to trust my feelings and skip the second half. But if this stuff interests you, I do recommend the book (or at least the first half of it).

We the Purple, by Marcia Ford
Marcia Ford believes we’re in the midst of a growing revolution of sorts – the growth in the number and influence of independent voters. Ford is an independent voter and is quite proud of it. And very excited. But I’m not as excited. I have nothing to say about this book. I only read a couple chapters. I wasn’t interested. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later. If you want to read a thoughtful review from someone who actually did read the book, check out Makeesha Fisher’s review of the book (by the way, I agree that it’s probably a good idea to read a book before reviewing it. I’ll try to follow that rule.)

Songs for a Revolution of Hope, Volume 1
This is not a book, so I did not read it. But since it’s a cd, I did listen to it. Songs for a Revolution of Hope is a collaboration between Brian McLaren and Tracy Howe of the Restoration Project. It’s a cd that tries real hard to produce a different kind of worship music for the church. As you know, typical worship music is something I definitely have a problem with, so I really do appreciate what this project is trying to do. However, I just couldn’t get into it. I like the lyrics to the songs (for the most part). I like the sounds. But I just have this block against worship music. Sorry. I love McLaren and I love what he’s trying to do here. Please go and check out this cd. Or at least check out the lyrics. It really does represent a good change in direction for worship music. I just have a problem.

Well, that’s it folks. I’m sorry there are no strong recommendations here. I’m just now starting to read the next batch of books provided by the Ooze Fabulous Blogger Network. I am hopeful there will be some good ones. Right now I’m reading The New Conspirators by Tom Sine and Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh. I’m particularly excited about Rapture Ready.


The Everything Must Change Tour (Part 2)
February 26, 2008

In Part 1, I tried to summarize some of this past weekend’s Everything Must Change Tour with Brian McLaren, which took place in Dallas on Friday and Saturday. In Part 2 I’m going to give more of my own personal reaction to the conference.

The Overall Message

Regarding the message of the conference, I’m completely onboard. I’ve read Everything Must Change twice now and I’ve really bought into McLaren’s line of thinking. (If you haven’t read the book or heard about the book, basically, McLaren is proposing that Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God should deeply impact the way we as Christian’s think about and act on the world’s biggest problems. You can read a great summary of the book at Mark’s blog.) However, having read the book twice before the conference actually made the conference less exciting for me. I must say I was slightly disappointed that much of McLaren’s talks were summaries of portions of the book. I probably should have expected this but I really would have loved for the conference to have focused on how to respond to the message in the book. With that being said, I did really enjoy the sessions and I thought they were excellent. They just didn’t impact me as much as I would have liked because I was already quite familiar with much of the material. This isn’t really a complaint – just a little bit of a personal disappointment.

The Format and Tone

McLaren and his fellow Deep Shift cohorts definitely worked hard to create an event that went well beyond mere intellectual discussion. There was considerable music, liturgy, art, personal interaction, and times for reflection built into the conference. This was great. Personally, I didn’t connect with the music very much, but that is probably primarily due to my own issues. I could tell that the music leaders and McLaren were wanting to move past typical worship music. While I appreciated this, I still didn’t quite connect. However, I did really connect with a lot of the liturgical aspects of the event and the artistic portions. These aspects of the event really added to the overall impact of the message. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and time that obviously went into planning the integration of these various elements.

The Communal Element

Because much of the information presented during the event was very familiar to me, I was especially glad that I was able to connect with various individuals at the event and meet a number of new people. This probably was the highlight of the weekend for me. To all who I met and connected with this weekend, I hope we can stay in touch and be resources for one another.

One note regarding the audience present at the event. I was really surprised that the audience was much older on average than I would have expected. Perhaps this was because there were a number of people present from the host church…? I don’t know, but it did make for an interesting community of people present for the conference. In addition, my impression was that many of the people present were there to explore McLaren and his ideas, rather than already having bought into his message. I don’t mean this in a positive or negative way, I just thought it was interesting.

Overall Impression

In conclusion, I’m really glad we were able to go to the conference. However, even though I know Brian did not intend this, I did come away overwhelmed and even slightly dejected. The material in the first two sessions is really overwhelming and disturbing. I would have liked more help with how to respond to the message. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is a desire for more. I feel like we needed more time to work through helping each other think about how to integrate the message into our lives in productive ways. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate McLaren’s call to believe the message (and disbelieve the suicidal system) as the first step. I guess I’m just wanting help in moving beyond just believing into real action.

All of this is actually something I was thinking about even before going to the conference. The week before the event I reread Everything Must Change and was really struck by the need for practical help. I do not mean this in the “five steps to change the world” sense that Brian was really trying to avoid. Rather, I think it would be very beneficial for a book to be written (or something like that) that would give some very practical examples of ways people are living the change in their own lives. It wouldn’t have to be big things. In fact, I prefer small things. Small things that average normal people like you and me can begin to integrate into our lives. I think this would be helpful to many people. There were actually a number of people I talked to at the event who expressed being overwhelmed and/or even depressed after hearing the first couple messages. This was certainly not McLaren’s intention but I think it is evidence of a deadened imagination among many Christians in today’s world – this is certainly the case for me. I think many of us have been going along in the suicidal system of this world for so long, and with such a lack of attention and concern for the world, that we have little creative imagination for seeing what change might look like in our own lives, and in the world. This is what I am thinking about more than anything after this weekend. I’m even wondering if there is something I can do about it, something I can work on to help with this situation – not just for my benefit but for the benefit of others as well. In fact, I think this fits perfectly with Brian’s desire to inspire a hopeful revolution. I want to be a part of this. The time is now. In fact, perhaps some of these thoughts I just expressed describe how I should move forward from here.

The Everything Must Change Tour (Part 1)
February 25, 2008

Brooke and I just spent this past weekend at the Dallas stop of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change Tour. Going into the event, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited to go and was glad there was a good group going from the Emergent Waco cohort, but I really had no idea what to expect. This was probably good and bad. Good because I was open to anything happening. But bad because I probably did have some subconscious expectations that didn’t end up getting met.

It was clear that a lot of work went into planning the event. Here’s a bit of an overview for those who might be interested.

On Friday night there was one long session which included music, art appreciation and reflection, alternative worship, and an excellent overview by Brian of the suicidal system he presents in his book (if you would like to read a great summary of McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change, I highly recommend the one Mark put together).

Saturday began with a Q&A intended for Emergent cohort members and church planters. This was probably my favorite scheduled part of the event. In fact, I would have been perfectly thrilled for this to continue all day long. I’ve heard Brian speak multiple times but my two favorite times with him involved extensive Q&A – I think a much more complete picture of Brian’s vision comes through during these times.

Following the Q&A was Session 2 of the conference. This session was entitled “Which Jesus” and largely paralleled the similar discussion in the book. I really enjoyed this session because it helped bring to life this part of the book for me in a new way. Again, Mark’s summary of the book is a good place to go for more info if you haven’t read the book yet. Session 3 was a panel discussion involving Brian and four local leaders who discussed their work and hopefully spurred people’s imagination to see ways to be part of the change already being promoted by local faith communities and organizations. The session ended with a slideshow presentation by Brian in which he gave the audience a “tour” of the D.C. war memorials and used this as a basis to touch on the security/peace crisis he talks about in the book. I thought this was a really creative and helpful way to engage this topic. During the lunch break Brooke and I joined a short informal Q&A session with Brian which mainly continued the discussion regarding war. The main part of the discussion was related to just war theory. Brian responded with a call to peacemaking, and without saying his specific opinion on just war theory, he did say that a just war is certainly better than the alternative. He also talked about the need to add the Geneva Convention as a continued progression of just war theory. Lastly, he questioned whether it is even possible for today’s America to be part of a “just war.”

After lunch there were two more sessions before the conference came to an end. Session four was facilitated by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw, who was Brian’s partner in leading the conference. This session primarily focused on provoking reflection and used an art collection called “Nude Truths” as a way of guiding the reflection. I appreciated that throughout the event there was a focus on reflection and conversation. During each session there were times allotted to discussing the topics with others around you. While this is sometimes awkward, I did think it was good and led to some helpful conversations (at least for me). In session four I also really enjoyed the artwork as an aid to reflection. I thought it was very helpful and fit with the overall tone and theme of the conference.

The final session was led by Brian and focused on the “revolution of hope.” I thought this session was a great way to end the conference. Much of the material in the first two sessions can be quite overwhelming. I think Brian did a good job in this last session to call people to simply believe in a new way, to believe that change in possible, and to embrace the call of Jesus to be part of the work of the Kingdom of God. Brian specifically said he did not want to tell everyone what to do in response to this conference, he said he did not want to give us the five simple steps to changing the world, or anything like that. Instead, as in the book, he called us to simply disbelieve the suicidal framing story we are part of and to embrace and believe Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. He did give some practical examples of what it might look like to begin to change, but he was very careful not to place a huge burden on everyone, which I really appreciated. Instead, he proposed that this is a matter of changing direction and beginning to make small changes, as possible.

Wow, I just wrote a lot more than I set out to write. I think I’ll save my more subjective reaction to the conference for a follow up post. Hopefully this post served as somewhat of a summary of what the conference was like and what it involved.

Go to Part 2