Rob Bell’s NOOMA Video

Last Friday night at T.N.Tea, I lead a discussion using a NOOMA video.  I have read Rob Bell’s name on ‘emerging church‘ websites and in some blogs, but I haven’t read anything by him or know much about him.  I did kow that he did these videos, but I hadn’t seen one until April brought it home frm the Christian Book Centre on the salesperson’s recommendation.

The video we viewed is called ‘Bullhorn’.  Basically, it’s Rob Bell narrating his encounter of a street preacher who shouts into a bullhorn at passersby about sin, hell, and repent while trying to hand out pamphlets.  Bell sits on a bench while talking to the camera, interspersed with flashes of ‘Bullhorn Guy’ getting ready to preach (I don’t imagine that this is the actual guy because I wouldn’t think he would allow himself to be followed around by a camera in a film criticising him). He speaks in a conversational manner that may have been prepared, but gives the impression he is saying all of this off the cuff.  It’s not a lecture, but then again Bell isn’t presenting different viewpoints. This is his message.  In the background slow but still ‘alternative’ (I guess) music plays.

Bell says what many of us likely think we when pass by someone angrily shouting in a bullhorn with a ‘turn-or-burn’ message.  Bell explains what he believes is wrong about the message and the approach.  Bell believes Jesus’ primary message is about love and would rather attract people with God’s love rather than preaching wrath and hell.  Bell points out that no one seems attracted to Bullhorn Guy’s message, as no one stops to talk to him and no one picks up his leaflets.  Bullhorn Guy’s message is fear (he wants to ‘scare the hell’ out them), and likely does more to hurt than help the Kingdom of God.

The video generated good discussion, as no one seemed sympathetic to Bullhorn Guy (a couple of us did say we feel sorry for him – including me!).  Unfortunately in the little time we had and the fairly large group size didn’t allow us to go into some of the things we mentioned (in particular, what about the attractiveness of Jesus as Bell mentions against other religions that can be attractive, too).

Judging by the way Bell speaks and the music in the background, this leads me to think that the video is aimed at 16-30 crowd, but my group of mostly over 60 seemed to follow him and enjoyed the video.  The video itself was about 12 minutes long – not a bad length.  The DVD also came with a booklet of questions, which could have likely been done on two A5 sheets, but the producers jazzed it up with photos from the video.  So, the 20 page booklet had 2 questions on a page opposite a quote from the video.  I don’t know if that was necessary. The price was £8, which I feel a little too expensive for one video, even if I can use it in other areas.  I had hoped it might have 3 or 4 on there.

All-in-all, I recommend if you are looking for a good discussion starter, even if you disagree with Rob Bell.  I find videos good because people feel freer to disagree with a distant figure rather than a person talking in front of them.

On a side note, as far as Rob Bell, my blogging friend Nick Norelli at Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, who hasn’t read much Rob Bell, either, has said on his blog that he will review a book by him.  Nick isn’t the emerging type, so I will be interested to see what he thinks.


7 thoughts on “Rob Bell’s NOOMA Video

  1. I like these videos a lot and think that Bell is a great preacher/communicator.

    The thing that ‘bugs’ me about the ones I’ve seen is that – in my opinion – they are sermons on a CD with some flashy editing. But then the ’emerging’ people all scream that preaching is dead and no one wants to listen to them.

    So, I guess my questions are:
    1) Bell is undoubtedly a gifted preacher; will the ’emerging’ generation listen to a sermon as long as it’s given by a gifted preacher?
    2) Will they listen if the sermon comes complete with video and audio they recognise?
    3) Or is the most important thing that the preacher isn’t there?
    4) Or is some combination of 1, 2, 3?

  2. Yes! Pam, you have hit on the thing that has been nagging at me this whole time! Thank you! It is a sermon! Knowing that, I don’t know what to make of it. I sat through the video, hoping that Bell would speak to ‘Bullhorn Guy’, get a conversation going with him. But, that wasn’t the purpose. I still like the video overall, though, and can still be a good discussion starter. But, it seems strange using a sermon as a discussion starter.

    Those are good questions for the ’emerging’ folk. Maybe flashy editing/music/images take it out of the sermon category (for them).

  3. I would recommend giving Rob Bell a shot. His first two books were excellent, though of course not everyone will agree with everything that he writes. He also has a new book that was just published, the one you saw on Nick’s website.

    I’ve seen many of the Nooma videos, some are better than others. I think the one entitled Breathe is probably the best one of the bunch, though there are a few that I haven’t seen yet. Rob Bell basically challenges people not to be content with the status quo, though I would go so far as to call him emergent.

    You can be confident though if you purchase one of his books to read, it is worth the money for his ideas, and then you can simply pass it on to others as I’ve done. He’s probably been the most influential Christian writer/teacher that I’ve been exposed to in the past two years and I recommend reading at least one of his books to get a better idea of where he’s coming from.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Nathan. If the church buy another video, I will try to find the Breathe one. I was searching to see what it is about and found it on Google Video (looks like the full episode). Like I said, the largest obstacle here is the £8 ($16) price for each NOOMA.

    I will think about getting his book, but I may do it after Nick reviews his book! I don’t typically read from the emerging/post-evangelical side of the church because they seem to be fighting battles I am just not understanding. But, that’s no reason not to try! Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. WILL!!!!!! Whats up man!?! Blog too?! Nice.
    I have wrestled with the bullhorn type guy. My personal conclusion was that it reminded me of the Apostles coming to Jesus saying “hey, this guy is preaching in your name, tell him to stop”. (big paraphrase) Jesus tells them at least he is preaching for us. I have found that these guys may not convert a listener, but we never know.. however, it oftens creates conversations that may not always be broken. Coworkers make a off hand comment about Christians which gives me a quick opening to talk a little about my faith.

    As for emergent.. I really struggle with this one. On one hand, some good ideas, very involved in the community, however they seem to throw a grenade at traditional teaching and say God is who the group says he is. A very slippery slope when you remove the scripture as foundation.

  6. My main problem with all things emergent is the lack of oversight or accountability that I perceive in many of these community groups. I can relate to much of the disillusionment, but that doesn’t mean we should be out on our own with virtually no accountability like some of these places have done.

  7. Charles: Welcome to the blog! You make an interesting point, and one I hadn’t thought of. I guess the question becomes, are they ‘for us’ or ‘against us’? Is this the message of Jesus and does it scare people away from encountering Jesus? Then again, as you say, it may lead to conversations Bullhorn guy didn’t anticipate. [Which reminds me, did you see ‘Brother Jim’ our freshman year at USC?]

    Charles & Nathan I agree with both of you on the emergent church. They seem to be more interested in conversation than anything else. The Methodist General Secretary over here has said that the emergent church is 8 malcontents who meet and Starbucks to see what happens. The no accountability thing is very worrying.

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