On retreat a month ago I took Rob Bells 'Velvet Elvis' with me. As the reviews on Amazon indicate (all but 1 are 5 stars or 1 star), it's the kind of book you love or hate. Mine now has scribbles and underlinings on most pages, here are a few quotes and thoughts which jumped out:
Bell uses the image of doctrines as springs on a trampoline, which are connected together, and have the power to flex and room to move. Christianity is not the springs, it is jumping: “I am far more interested in jumping than I am in arguing about whose trampoline is better.”
Acts 15 ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ – this is how the early church makes vital decisions. They take the decision, take responsibility, but don’t get all grand about it. They leave room to admit a mistake. It’s open.
“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective” there is some Christian music, art, speaking etc. which is truly terrible, and doesn’t honour God. If we label stuff ‘christian’ we end up turning off the radar of discernment. And we miss where God is outside Christendom
“It is impossible for a Christian to have a secular job. If you follow Jesus and you are doing what you do in his name, then it is no longer secular work; it’s sacred. You are there, God is there. The difference is our awareness.”
Bell tells the story of people losing their temper in the car park at church “So I stood up one Sunday and said ‘If you are here and you aren’t a Christian, we are thrilled to have you in our midst. We want you to feel right at home. But if you are here and you’re a Christian and you can’t even be a Chrsitian in the parking lot, please don’t go out into the world and tell people you're a Christian. You’ll screw it up for the rest of us. And by the way, we could use your seat.’ People cheered.”
“Without pain, we don’t change, do we?”
“The goal here isn’t simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom in this world, which is why approaches to the Christain faith that deal solely with not sinning always fail. They aim at the wrong thing.”
Talking about pressure and overwork: “Usually, we pastors can go on. And that’s the problem. We put on the mask, suck it up, and keep going…. But we have to let the game stop.”
“Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. And anything else you do is sin, and you need to repent of it…. I started identifying how much of my life was about making sure the right people were pleased with me. And as this became more and more clear, I realised how less and less pleased I was with myself. … our lives become so heavily oriented around the expectations of others that we become more and more like them and less and less like ourselves. We become split.”
“Sabbath is a day when at the end I say ‘I didn’t do anything today’ and I don’t add ‘and I feel so guity’." You have to let the engine come to an idle, and switch it off.
“I am like you. I have seen plenty done in the name of God that I’m sure God doesn’t want anything to do with. I have lots of reasons for bailing on the whole thing.”
and my favourite: “My question for leaders – and for Christians everywhere – is, are you smoking what you’re selling?” (p 119)