Sunday, May 27, 2007

Velvet Elvis blog

Sunday the Day of Pentecost 2007

This was part of a RevGalBookPals discussion.

Velvet Elvis coverMonday (technically, but they've announced they'll post the discussion this afternoon) will be the third book discussion—this time it's Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. I said Christianity for the Rest of Us gave me hope; this book gives me a kick in the butt while affirming what I've been trying to tell other people and trying to convince myself for the past few years. I finished reading Velvet Elvis late Thursday afternoon, and for this (maybe first?) blog I'm writing out of my head (literally, most likely) and heart. After reading what the other RevGals have to say, maybe I'll blog again in response.

Rob Bell is founding pastor and current pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan. A few year later as I edit this post, I've unlinked to the church's Narrative Theology Statement because I don't know what's going on there and finding out does not interest me.

Just as a Velvetized Version of Elvis is an interpretive repainting, repainting the Church into a new look and new vision forms the basic idea behind this book. In Christianity for the Rest of Us I found hope about the Protestant Mainline; Velvet Elvis tells me my hope may be outside mainline confines. On page 11 he mentions the picture the church of Martin Luther's day had been painting and presenting. Regarding these 21st century days, oh, I know a lot about the picture the church has painted of itself and maybe even moreso, the way outsiders to the church have viewed and interpreted that picture. Page 14: "What I do know is that this pursuit of Jesus is leading us backward as much as forward," that evokes the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the way the Roman branch of the church says along with us "reformed and always reforming" plus the numerous 19th century Restoration Movements with the plethora of churches and church bodies they spawned.

A few thoughts from pastor/author Rob Bell:
  • Page 10, about artists who don't sign their entire names, "Because when you're this good, you don't even have to write your whole name." Exactly God's situation and position!
  • Page 13: it's not about making (photo?)copies of the same picture over and over again.
  • I love his citing some of my favorite (not!) experiences: the person who is so into scripture yet insists on her own personal Jesus that lives in her heart; the individual who decides to find out "what the Bible really says" after reading a slew of commentaries and interpretations.
  • And I love the way Rob Bell talks about experiences of life coming together when the moment is full and complete—if even for a split second; he calls those times "Holy ground"; I love the way that phrase implies heaven come down to earth raised up to heaven.
  • Rob Bell tells us he doesn't do 9-5 office jobs well, that he is creative. That's my story, too—I can do routine jobs like cleaning, etc., but whatever the content of the office work, it pretty much kills me, although there have been a scant handful of exceptions.
  • I love his discussion of Christian needing always to be a noun rather than an adjective—I read the same in at least one of Robert Farrar Capon's books, and the idea probably isn't original with either of them, but it long has driven me nuts hearing people talk about a Christian this, Christian that or a not-Christian whatever.
  • Maybe more than anything about this book, I love reading the same theological vision and scriptural interpretations as I hold (humility from humble moi) from Rob Bell, someone I'd consider a relative theological conservative.
The book's author cites the usual wisdom that one needs to hit the bottom before being able to change, rebuild, whatever. Yes, but—in my experience, you can't do it alone. As Oprah told a teenage girl on one of her shows I watched two or three years ago, "You know you can't do this [life] by yourself." Jesus asked the guy by the Bethsaida pool, "Do you want to be healed?" The guy answered, "Sir! There is no one to pick me up and put me in the pool after the angel stirs the waters." Exactly!

Recently I've been remembering the devastating, generally extremely destructive Cedar fires we experienced in this general area during fall 2003. "We experienced" because the sky, filled with soot and smoke from relatively far away, turned into a range of unusual colors and the sun became dark. But not all that long after the Cedar Fires finally stopped being a constant topic of local and national news and face-to-face discussion, one of the weather reporters showed us the plants and flowers that were sprouting and growing in the fire's wake; he reminded us some plants can't germinate and won't grow at all unless they're touched, seared and transformed by fire! And doesn't that describe every one of us?

Rob Bell mentions how a garden naturally becomes a city when life goes the way and grows the way God created it to. I hadn't thought of that inevitability! I think of what a weed I've been, too, but that's one reason I've survived and definitely thrived in many cases!

Today is Pentecost Sunday 2007; I know in my head and especially in my heart that I can retain some involvement with the mainline church(es) that had been a gift to me and that had called me a gift, but I also need radical trust that the Reforming, Renewing Pentecostal Spirit of Resurrection will start repainting my life and world really soon. I am so excited about going wherever the Spirit calls me and carries me!

repainting into a new reformation?my amazon review


  1. Hey,

    I just finished a series on Rob's book "Velvet Elvis" that I think you'd enjoy at:

  2. thanks Leah... good comments, thoughts, energizers... does the word "mainline" just mean "boring, non-pentecostal, 9-5, hierarchical, set-in-their-ways", can't discern the wind of the spirit even if it is a hurricane? Maybe we need a new name...


thanks for visiting—peace and joy to all of us!