Sunday I used Rob Bell’s NOOMA Bullhorn video with our youth group. To be honest, I’ve not had a lot of exposure to Bell. Word of his whirlwind preaching tour–with its concert like crowds–reached even to the New York Times this summer, and frankly that article was my first glimpse into his ministry. I read a few blog comments (Such as Andrew‘s), but it wasn’t until I visited my Presbytery’s church resource center that I checked these resources out.
Bullhorn is Bell’s argument that the core religious message of Christianity isn’t hell and damnation to those who fail to repent, but treating all others with love and respect. As we love others, so we love God, Bell argues. And God loves everyone: you, me, the ax murderer, the child molester. Everyone. And so ought we. Loving doesn’t mean approving of what people do, necessarily; it means treating everyone with respect and acknowledging that God loves them as one of God’s creation.
The video is nicely packaged, fairly short (this one is 12 minutes), and worked well with this age group. I previewed three others (Luggage, Dust, and Matthew), and I’m not so sure they’d work for our youth group (given that we are both middle and high school aged youth).
I really like these resources, at least for discussion starters and getting into some foundational topics of the faith. I’ve read some critique of the NOOMA videos, with the core argument (so far as I can tell) that Bell doesn’t go all that deep. That’s true, but the intention doesn’t seem to be an academic lecture. From the four or so that I saw, there’s actually a lot going on in them, and a good discussion leader can mine these pretty deeply. Another critique is on style, suggesting that Bell is inauthentic, pretending in the video to be speaking extemporaneously when, in fact, the videos are highly scripted. But this doesn’t seem to bother me very much. Our youth picked up on this immediately, and I doubt any critical watcher would be seriously fooled.
So I’m pleased, and I plan to use the other videos in other venues. I suspect that a few of my church members will have their guard up regarding anything put out by Zondervan (which in my mind has some great and some awful publications to its credit, but is particularly strong on the emergent front), and if they found out that these videos were shown at a recent Promise Keepers event they’d probably have a strong guilt by association reflex, but so far I’ve not seen anything theologically that I find questionable. On the contrary, they’re compelling.