Rob Bell on Words at #fantastical

Here are my notes on Rob Bell’s message Friday morning at David Crowder’s Fantastical Church Music Conference. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything Rob is saying here, I think it is a very interesting conversation around the importance of words in worship.

Rob Bell, Friday morning

Thesis: Words can be used in lots of ways.

Consider what we are doing when we speak and for the worship leader to place words on peoples’ lips; creating physical unity (breathing) in the room with singing and responsive readings.

Creating a space for both joy and release and unity

Words can be used for definitive precision and technical description (e.g., auto mechanic giving diagnosis and remedy for your car)

Words can also be used as:

  • Parable – story that is ‘thrown alongside’; to particularize the universal
  • Poem
  • Rant – Job 38: God’s response to ‘the chatter’
  • Story
  • Lament – fully-orbed spirituality; God can handle your depression too; there’s Sunday but before that there is Friday, without Friday the world says ‘real life isn’t like that’
  • Proverb
  • Remez – ‘to hint’; quote something people knew but only quote the first half so that people fill in the second half; the power is in what he doesn’t say
  • Question – Jesus answers people’s questions with another question

In many communities, words have been reduced to definitive precision and technical description at the expense of other forms

Sometimes, metaphors and non-technical language help us get more at what needs to be said and expresses it more accurately

Atonement language

  • Ephesians 1:7 – “in Him we have redemption through His blood…”

o   1st century economic language

o   Something that was lost has been bought back with greater worth

  • Romans 4:25 – “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”

o   Legal concept

o   Somebody had taken the punishment so that they could be set free

  • Colossians 1: “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things”

o   Relational language

o   People that were at odds were brought back together

  • Hebrews 9: “He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself”

o   Temple imagery

o   Offering something of worth to make sure I am on your good side, God

  • 1 John: “this is the victory that has overcome the world…”

o   Battle and conquest imagery

o   Two opposing armies are in conflict and Jesus has beaten the enemy, death and evil, through His death

  • Ephesians 1: “in love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ…”

o   Familial – Adoption language

o   Babies could be discarded easily in the first century Greco-Roman world

These writers are looking at the world around them and then saying, ‘it’s like this…’

So when we’re talking about the cross and the resurrection, which one is the ‘correct explanation?

“What’s biblical is to become an acute observer of the world around us and using images, metaphors, and pictures that are familiar to your setting.”

“We need a new generation of people who will come up with the new metaphors and images for a world the desperately needs that.”

1.       Ancient example: Exile & return from exile: do you ever feel in your heart that you are in some strange way far from home? Jesus brings us back home to the Father

2.       Modern example: Connectivity: Genesis story of connection with our Maker, our world and one another; sin disrupts our connection; Jesus restores our connection

Enthronement language [kings, servants, robes, crown Him with many crowns, bring forth the royal diadem, majesty, splendor]

  • Songs written that way were often written in monarchic cultures
  • “I’m not saying throw it out. I’m saying, at times enthronement language seems odd to us and other people because it doesn’t communicate.”

Three-tiered language [descending, ascending, up, down, above, below]

  • Upper tier: the heavens; gods making decisions that impact us
  • Middle tier: earth; where we live
  • Lower tier: somewhere under the surface; place of demons and evil powers
  • Questions of cosmology of past versus cosmology of the present
  • What are the new metaphors and images?

“We have to, as a generation, embrace the brilliant, beautiful challenge before us: to do the work…the contextualizing, the image producing, the story creating so that we will be true to the gospel task.”

One thought on “Rob Bell on Words at #fantastical

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s