There has been a bit of controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book I playfully like to call “I’m a Universalist and there is no Hell” (I like to call it that because evidently that should have been the title based off the reaction by a particular group that made all kinds of judgments about it prior to it’s actual release). However, the actual title is Love Wins. I thought about doing a post on the book itself once I had it read, but I’m not sure that we really need any more voices adding to the clatter. And boy has there been a LOT of clatter. So, first, I assume if you want to know what the book really says you will probably actually read it and think for yourself. Second, I don’t presume to think that anyone cares what I personally think about it, although if you would like to hear my thoughts I’d be happy to share. What I find interesting is not the book itself, it’s almost exactly what I expected. Rather what I find interesting is everything that has happened in regard to it’s release. But first, some caveats. I’m trying hard not to defend nor condemn anyone, yet I don’t want to pretend as if I’m a completely neutral spectator, so let me tell you a bit about myself.
“get ready, God is preparing you for something really, really small” – shane claiborne
In a moment of indiscretion I did something horrible in college. I applied to a large university. Now I really say that as a joke, because in actuality I don’t have anything against this particular institution. As a matter of fact I rather like it a lot as well as it’s cross state rival. However, I applied and was accepted to this institution and I thus I began the gauntlet of requirements being part of the school necessitated. Park in this are, then walk/run all the way across campus to get the TB test, then head over to a different corner of campus to file the change of address form, after that make sure to go see a counselor over at a different part of campus, then you can go back to your first area to actually register, etc. etc. And there was this sense that if I were to make one misstep in this horrible process filled with red tape that I was unworthy to be part of the institution. And of course no one was going to help in any way. Often times employees would refuse to give any clearer directions than go to the such and such building, which is great if you know which building that is and/or where it’s at, no help at all otherwise. So I did everything. I did it all right, I filled out my change of address forms and moved just down the road from the school.
Then one day I received a notice that my classes had been dropped. I go to investigate and find that despite me doing everything right, they had sent my bill to the wrong address, and since it had not been paid my classes had been dropped. Now the classes were full and I could not get any of the classes I needed. This was all due to their mistake, they were even able to find the change of address form I had filled out and submitted.
At this point I decided I did not like being treated like a number rather than a person, so I transferred to another smaller school where people were helpful and you felt like a person.
Now I don’t think institution number one is evil or anything like that, I simply believe it’s large. And when things get too large people become smaller and smaller, worth less and less. There are great advantages to being large, but there are also drawbacks.
I think by and large in the U.S. we tend to think that bigger is better, and we fail to see the impact that small things can have. But over and again in the scriptures Jesus seems to refer to the Kingdom of God in terms of small or hidden things, bursting forth and changing everything else (mustard seed, etc). When we look at Jesus we see that he did draw large crowds, but it also seems like whenever the crowds really start to grow he begins to teach things that will thin them out (John 6).
I don’t deny that God wants to do big things in our world. The mustard seed does grow and spread, the disciples were told they would preach in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. However, I think that God might be even more concerned with the small things, that’s where the big things begin. At the same time, a mustard tree only grows so large, then it reproduces. While the disciples were told that they would do big things, those big things were to happen through the making of other disciples.
Again, don’t think I’m demonizing big. There are advantages that come with being big, I’m well aware of it. However, often the good that comes with being big comes at the cost of our humanity, so it’s important that we find ways to grow smaller while/if we grow larger. Very often we forget that often times the big things that happen take place because of a few very dedicated people. Jesus’ core was 12, um . . . make that 11 disciples and a few women. And yet they completely changed the world as we know it. I think Mother Theresa said it best, that we can do no great things, only small things with great love. But that small things with great love can change the world.
About a month ago I started a new blog series that I hope to continue in the not too distant future. It’s full of really good stuff. However, shortly after I started it a lot of things happened and life has become quite hectic. So, for all our friends out there I just wanted to give a quick update.
Over the last month Katie has truly started her new job as well as another semester of evening classes in pursuit of her Master’s Degree. Cari started Kindergarten, so we are working diligently on learning our letters and simple words. I turned 30 and collected money to help provide clean water for people in Africa who could likely die without it. Also, I’ve been independently ordained thanks to some great friends, Don Brock and the great folks at Synergy Ministries, thank you so much, it means more to me than you know. My Parent Project® classes have started and are going well which takes up another evening, and I got called from a local community college to teach an Ethics class which I am absolutely loving. It may not pay much, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually earned money for having so much fun. On top of all of this, I plan to start a small business doing full service web hosting and site design. I have to wait until September to get a business license, but getting everything done on that has been taking some time as well. The plan is to offer web hosting for $5/month. However, what I’m really excited about is that I want to offer to churches a full service package where I do a custom site build to what they’re looking for and I do updates each week for $30/month. With a one year agreement I will build the site for free. My hope is that I will be able to help small churches that don’t have the money or technical resources to have a quality site that is regularly updated get exactly what they want and need that the large churches pay thousands of dollars for.
So, life is hectic but really great. Once we get more into the rhythm of all these new schedules and adjustments I’ll try and continue the series.