Friday, July 11, 2008

My Visit to Mars Hill Bible Church (Part 2) - (By Nathan Williams)

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Back from Mars (Part 2)

Posted: 11 Jul 2008 03:24 AM CDT

(By Nathan Williams) 

My Visit to Mars Hill Bible Church (Part 2)

Yesterday I began telling about my experience of attending Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI., which is pastored by Rob Bell. Today, I'd like to finish that discussion by talking about the sermon that was preached while I was there.

Unfortunately, on the Sunday when I went Rob Bell wasn't teaching. I guess he gets some time off during the summer to recover from his speaking tour and to prepare for his next one. Instead of having one guest preacher, we had two. I've never experienced tag team teachers, but it was certainly a unique approach.

The teachers for the morning were Don Perini and Jeanette Banashak. Both serve as professors at nearby Cornerstone University. Don is the assistant professor of youth ministry and also teaches creativity. Apparently a class on creativity is required for every student at Cornerstone. Jeanette serves as an instructor in youth ministry at Cornerstone and also recently began serving as an elder at Mars Hill. These two were specifically asked to speak on creativity because it is one of their specialties. They announce a couple of times during the message that they will be teaching a multi part class in the coming months at Mars Hill on creativity.

The dual teaching method creates an interesting dynamic. One person sits on a stool on stage while the other does his (or her) teaching. Instead of one person teaching the first part of the message and the other preaching the second half, they rotate several times throughout the message.

The title for the message the morning I was there was "A Journey to Unleash Your Creative Potential."

Don began the morning by lamenting the fact that as we grow older we tend to play less games and tend to be less creative. The busyness of life creeps in and we no longer take the time to play and imagine. Once Don finishes his introduction, Jeanette asks us to open to Matthew 28 and take a look at the great commission. She reminds us that we are supposed to be making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She makes the connection between the Trinity and the discipleship commanded in the great commission.

Then she asked us to flip over to Genesis 1. She noted that the first verb in the Bible is to create and that obviously our God is a creative God. Since Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are made in the image of God, we must learn to be creative like God is creative. Then she explained that since God is a Trinity the Trinity must hold some clues as to how God is creative and therefore how we should be creative.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that when we entered the worship center we were greeted with quotes on the overhead projectors. One of the main quotes that continued to cycle through as we waited for the "gathering" to start was a quote by Dorothy Sayers. After getting back home and doing some research I realized that much of the teaching on creativity and the Trinity comes from a book by Sayers called The Mind of the Maker. The entire message was based on the idea that every bit of human creativity resembles the Trinity. The creative idea we have is like God the Father, the action that we perform because of that idea is like the Son, and the influence and power of that creative idea is like the Holy Spirit.

Once Jeanette taught this background it was easy to see the shape the message would take. Jeanette taught the philosophy and theology (I use that term loosely) behind creativity and then Dan gave us practical insight into becoming more creative. For example, after Jeanette taught on the idea of creativity and that being analogous to God the Father, Dan taught on the top ten places for creative ideas to come to us. After the section dealing with Jesus and the creative idea being put into action, Dan taught on several habits of creative people.

The ultimate point of the message was for us to learn to be creative and then use that creativity for something useful. The Sayers quote which they kept using throughout the lesson was "…that we may redeem the Fall by a creative act." When one actually begins to break that down and think it through, it's a scary thing to be teaching people. The point of the message was that we can use our creativity to redeem the fall. In other words, our world is in a rough situation. All of the pain and hardship in society comes as a result of the fall. We must use our creativity to fix the problems created by mankind's fall into sin.

Sadly, throughout the message there was no mention of the gospel of Jesus Christ being what redeems men from the fall.

In the end, the tag-team talk consisted of little more than some vaguely inspiring teaching about using creativity to meet the physical and temporal needs of those in our community. Noticebly missing was the centrality of the gospel.

Needless to say, my trip to Mars Hill Bible Church confirmed in my mind what I have often heard said concerning much of the Emerging Church. This movement is really just old liberalism with cooler glasses and a penchant for mystery and postmodernism.

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