Many of our readers understand this headline immediately.
The rest of us need to understand it, because Rob Bell and Nooma films are on the cutting edge of a worldwide revolution in Christianity — in the purest sense of “revolution” — a turning around, a complete rethinking of all the heavy baggage we’ve attached to the core of Christianity, a freedom to move, to explore the larger circle of faith and to refocus the energy that flows from the core of our Christian faith in fresh directions.
At ReadTheSpirit, we are quite literally spinning around the world ourselves. Occasionally we’re doing that in person by traveling far and wide. And, even when we’re working from the Home Office in Michigan, on a daily basis we are restlessly moving here and there as we try to spot fresh, helpful spiritual voices to share with you.
And, frankly, this Rob Bell is popping up everywhere. No matter how far we travel, we keep bumping into Rob Bell and Nooma waiting for us!
While visiting Scotland’s remote Iona Abbey, on a pilgrimage last month, we found Rob Bell waiting for us on the bookshelf of the warden of Iona — who is reading Rob’s books as he contemplates the future of Iona itself.
It seems you can’t go anywhere in sacred realms, these days, without tripping over Rob’s trail. At the no-holds-barred celebration of arts and spiritual creativity in a remote desert of Nevada in August — just about as far from evangelical realms as one could imagine traveling on the Earth — at an enormous event called Burning Man — well, you can guess what happened: At the vast Burning Man Temple, we bumped into spiritual seekers covered in the white-as-snow desert dust from the exertions of reaching this remote site — talking about the influence of Rob Bell in their lives.
1.) Rob’s got a NEW Nooma — just released!
2.) Rob’s hitting the road again — with a tour called “The Gods Aren’t Angry.”
3.) And, Rob’s making interfaith connections through the “ONE” campaign, which is giving away copies of his Nooma, called “Rich,” to congregations that sign up to participate in the Nov. 23-25 ONE Sabbath campaign.
Want to know more about the new Nooma?
IF you want to jump right to our review of the latest Nooma — (so new that Amazon didn’t even have an image of the new cover on it’s site when we reached our daily deadline) — then CLICK ON either the cover above (which Nooma producers sped to us so we could give you a peek at it) or click on Rob’s face (at left) — and you’ll jump to our reviews and our ReadTheSpirit Amazon store where you can buy copies.
IF you’re new to this subject, here’s the background you need to know: Nooma is the brand name of Rob’s direct-to-DVD mini-sermons that would rank among the publishing industry’s Best Sellers — except that Rob and the Nooma production team are so innovative in this project that there’s pretty much no standard publishing-industry category in which to rank their sales.
But let’s express this another way: Hundreds of thousands of people around the world already have paid money to buy Rob’s mini-sermons on these DVDs. Yes, you read that sentence correctly: Rob and the Nooma team are SELLING sermons. Tens of thousands of pastors give away free sermons every Sunday and wish more people would show up to hear them — yet hundreds of thousands of people are buying these sermons. Intriguing, hmmm?
Nooma films are short — usually just over 10 minutes — and they’re produced with high-end, Hollywood-quality production values. They come packaged with discussion guides that are unlike discussion guides you’ve seen in the past. The guides, also published with high-end graphics, are laid out much like a children’s storybook. There are bright colors, big pictures and small blocks of text.
There aren’t any instructions to group leaders in the Nooma guides. There aren’t any numbered questions to ask. The photo of Rob at left — with the text over his cheek — is a sample page from the discussion guide with the new film, “Name.”
This is an important “new thing” in the realm of spirituality — and, whatever your faith may be, it’s worth picking up a Nooma — or two, or three — and checking out what these creative folks are doing.
So, That Brings Us To: Want to know more about Rob and ONE?
Well, I’ve been reporting on Rob and his Mars Hill Bible Church near Grand Rapids, Michigan, for years through the Detroit Free Press. And, I have always reported that many of Rob’s new directions in ministry form natural bridges with people from other faiths, even though that idea is unusual for pastors of big, evangelical megachurches.
The new Nooma, “Name,” does have a strong Christian message — but major themes in the short film draw material from the Hebrew Bible and the story of Jacob. Moreover, the central spiritual themes Rob highlights in the film are universal.
For example, at one point in the film, Rob says: “Where we’ve been and what we’ve done has shaped us into who we are today. So we have to embrace our story, our history. … You must claim it because it’s yours. Only when we can own our own history for what it is — the good, the bad, everything in between, can we ever begin to answer the question: What is your name?”
And that’s truly one of the important principles of cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue, if those conversations have any chance to deepen into a meaningful relationship within a diverse community.
It’s only natural, then, that the “ONE” campaign — which is a truly interfaith effort to focus religious communities’ attention on the millions of needy people in the world — would wind up connecting with Rob’s work.
Kathy Apotheker, marketing director for Nooma, told me on Wednesday that Rob’s film, “Rich,” has become a key part of the ONE Sabbath campaign — focused on worship services across the U.S. on Nov. 23-25.
“Groups who sign up on the ONE site to be part of ONE Sabbath will be getting a copy of ‘Rich’ and a more detailed study guide for that Nooma, which they’ve written up,” Apotheker said. “They’re encouraging congregations to use ‘Rich’ as a part of their Sabbath weekend reflections.”
CLICK HERE to jump to the ONE site and read more about this.
Finally, Want to know more about the TOUR?
In July 2006, Rob revolutionized the concept of on-the-road evangelism.
Rather than partnering with churches across the U.S., setting up tents in open fields or touring with any of the centuries-old trappings of evangelism, Rob booked comedy clubs, small theaters and show bars around the U.S., where he would come out on stage and give a long talk. No music. No multimedia. The entire program was just Rob talking on stage with a giant “white board” behind him where he made notes and drew sketches.
The shows sold out. Crowds were mesmerized.
In Detroit, while reporting for the Detroit Free Press, I realized that the crowd was so quiet and so focused on what Rob was saying on stage that a photographer way in the back corner of the theater — using no flash or special lighting — wound up disturbing people with the soft clicking of the distant camera shutter. Now, that’s a “mesmerized” and “focused” crowd.
The new tour is similar. It’s called “The Gods Aren’t Angry Tour.” Like the “Everything Is Spiritual Tour,” the new tour makes a big circle of the U.S. It starts Nov. 5 in Chicago, then moves to the West Coast. By Nov. 16, Rob’s in Texas for a couple of nights. He heads East from there. He’s in New York City by November 25.
For Midwest fans, he’s in Indianapolis November 30, Cleveland on December 1 and Grand Rapids for what most likely will be a triumphant final appearance on December 2. If you’re a fan in metro-Detroit, you’re out of luck this time around — unless you drive to one of those three Midwest cities.
We’ve found the best link to tour info for you: CLICK HERE and you’ll not only see the whole schedule, but there are links to download “Posters” for the tour.
STAY TUNED to ReadTheSpirit for more on Rob and Nooma and the tour in coming weeks. Also, very soon, we’ll have news about another Rob Bell DVD — a documentary video of “Everything Is Spiritual” that’s going to be released very soon. Plus, we’ll be talking with Rob as he makes his way around North America.
Please, tell us what you think! Email me personally by clicking here. Or, click on the Comment link in our Web site and post your thoughts for other readers.