Thinking Out Loud

November 9, 2010

Rob Bell — Drops Like Stars — The Video

It’s been over a year since I reviewed the over-sized coffee table book, Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell; a review of a book where the format left me somewhat puzzled and where I eventually retreated to quoting other bloggers‘ treatment rather than forge ahead with my own.

Fourteen months later, I am delighted to report that the video is a much more focused product and a much more satisfying experience.   We sat through a non-stop viewing of all 2 hours and 5 minutes of this electrifying lecturesermonperformancemessage, presentation.   Whatever you call what he does, this is Rob Bell at his best.

And did you note the length?   The video Everything is Spiritual was 70 minutes, while The Gods Aren’t Angry was 90 minutes; but this time around Bell pulls out all the stops and passes the two hour mark — sans notes — in a way that keeps the audience riveted to their seats.

The subject matter crystallizes here as well.    While everyone else is writing as to the “why” God allows suffering; Bell starts farther down the road and takes our crisis situations as a given, and then asks the question, “So what do we do next?”    He proposes five areas where there are “gifts” which may be imparted to us for that part of the journey.

I know there are people reading this who find the prospect of a two hour sermon rather daunting, but I would suggest you simply don’t know Rob Bell.   For those who find him somewhat controversial, I looked, and found this presentation more palatable to those kept awake by fears of doctrinal contamination.

I think that the video presentation also will connect strongly with people who have a bent for fine art or sculpture or literature or music; as the arts play heavily into Bell’s illustrations, analogies and quotations.

But the supreme connection here will be made with people who find themselves in crisis, or in a valley; or are slowly emerging from one.

The Drops Like Stars Tour Film is now available from Zondervan on DVD at $19.99 U.S.   The large coffee table book has now been released in paperback, also at $19.99 U.S.   His next book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and Every Person Who Has Ever Lived releases on April 1st, 2011.

October 1, 2010

Brian Doerksen’s Live Worship Experience

So here I am in the most unusual position of reviewing an Integrity Music worship DVD which is not available in the United States.   Not so far.  Truly, that doesn’t happen very often.

I’m talking about Level Ground a new two-hour worship video event from Brian Doerksen, the Canadian worship leader and songwriter best known for songs such as, Refiner’s Fire, Come Now is the Time to Worship, You Shine, Today (As For Me and My House), Light the Fire Again; and many, many more. I’m a huge fan of his Today DVD — imagine watching a series of songs while actors re-enact Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall — and was not disappointed by his newest take on producing a worship video.

You know the criteria for good worship DVDs right? Great worship songs. A tight band. Memorable song introductions. Good camera shots of the audience and worship team.   Lots of cheering at the end of each song.

Forget all that. On Level Ground – The Live Experience, Brian focused on the idea of intimacy in worship. Recorded over two evenings, Brian brought together a much smaller group of people to a barn located on a B.C. nut farm.   These are people he knows; people that he and the worship band are doing life with, and throughout the video, he introduces about a dozen of them and allows them to tell their salvation story, or as he puts it, their “grace stories.”

With all this background, Brian’s friends become your friends. You worship along with people you know, as the smaller crowd means recurrent crowd shots of the same individuals.*

Wait! Let me qualify what I mean by “crowd shots.” There is no crowd. No audience. The band is placed around the floor of the barn interspersed among the worshipers. No musicians are on a stage or platform. The title song reminds us of the saying that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross;” and the arrangement of the musicians on all fourteen songs stands as a reminder, a reinforcement of this principle.

Welcome to the place of level ground
Welcome to the place where grace abounds
We all need mercy
We all need mercy
Welcome to the place where none can boast
Welcome to the place compassion flows
We all need mercy
We all need mercy

By its own admission, Level Ground is a hybrid; part concert, part worship experience, part talk show; with the visual additions of fine art and dance.   Of the 14 songs, almost all new, my favorite was “Whatever Comes,” a reminder that no matter what the evening news has to say about the world, God is with us.

Whatever comes
Cultures will rise as nations fall
Troubles will challenge and assault
Your Word will stand above them all
Whatever comes
All we cannot comprehend
Disasters will break the pride of men
And you will be faithful to the end

Almighty, immortal,
Love is on your throne
Sovereign, in control
Unchanging, prevailing
Though the nations rage
You’re still the God who reigns

Here’s a six-minute preview of the video on Vimeo.

For readers outside Canada, if all of this has piqued your curiosity, until this one is released, I can’t recommend the Today video strongly enough.

Read a review of Brian’s book on the subject of worship, Make Love, Make War (David C. Cook)  here.

*Knowing the stories of the people you’re worshiping with — Is there a theme here?  Check out yesterday’s review of The Strategically Smaller Church.

Level Ground is also available (and will presumably be also released in the U.S. later) as an audio CD.

No “nut farm” jokes were used in the preparation of this review.

July 20, 2010

Francis Chan Meets NOOMA in Basic: Fear God

The production team that introduced Rob Bell to a new audience in NOOMA, Flannel, is teamed up with Cornerstone Church (Simi Valley, CA) pastor Francis Chan for a minimum of seven DVDs under the series name, BASIC.

The differences are somewhat superficial, but there are a few of them:  Switching from sky blue to basic beige, modifying the packaging by including a color booklet, adding a second feature, and changing distribution from Zondervan to David C. Cook are some of the differences.

The similarities are the more striking, and they are but two:

First of all, the good news:  Chan’s message about fearing God merges well with the film production team at Flannel pulling out all the stops for an elaborate production that is visually very simple, but guaranteed to evoke one of the primary fears we all have, fear of water.   The musical score is also of the quality we came to expect from the Bell videos.    You almost wonder out loud how they did it, and you are rewarded with one new feature, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the video that is as visually engaging as the film itself.

Second, the not-so-good news:   The BASIC series will do for Francis Chan what NOOMA did for Rob Bell in terms of awareness and publicity, but for those of us who knew a pre-NOOMA Bell and know a pre-BASIC Chan, it’s easy to wish that instead of these short-form teachings, they simply packaged up some of Chan’s best sermons into quality teaching, long-form DVDs.  Where NOOMA doesn’t represent the “Best of Bell,” neither is BASIC necessarily going to give the world the “Best of Chan.”  Both are phenomenal communicators who can’t be contained in a 10-14 minute video.

In other words, just as a few of knew there was more to Rob Bell than we saw in Dust or Luggage or Rain; so is there so much more to Francis Chan than we get to see on Fear God. However, having said that, I think Chan has a better chance of allowing his teaching to transcend the short-form film medium.

There are some great discussion options available here to youth group leaders, who made up the core of the NOOMA market.   They should find BASIC equally useful in preparing youth and young adult meeting theme preparation, and like NOOMA, it will probably bleed over into an older demographic as well, and even the occasional Sunday morning service.

I’m looking forward to seeing this series develop.


June 14, 2009

I Watched a Gaither Video and I Liked It

Filed under: Humor, music — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:20 pm

It’s my wife’s fault.   She brought it home with some items left over from a yard sale her ministry organization was running.

Mark Lowry4Last night, I watched a 2005, 2-hour DVD, Mark Lowry Goes to Hollywood.   It doesn’t have the “Gaither Gospel Series” banner across the top and doesn’t feature the Homecoming Friends, so technically speaking it’s not a Gaither video, though it was mostly music and no doubt follows the same formula.  I did enjoy it.  But if someone offered me a ticket for the next time the Homecoming tour passes through our part of the world, I’d probably suggest giving them to someone with a greater appreciation for the genre.   It’s still not entirely my scene.   Call it denial.

Lowry is a wonderful treasure belonging to the Christian community at large.    In one of the all-too-few spoken bits on this DVD, he reminded me of comedian Robin Williams.    Kinda guy you’d love to spend an hour with, but not over dinner, because you’d be spitting out your food from laughter.  He’s proof that you don’t need ADD to be in comedy, but it sure helps.

However, it also struck me that Mark is a man of spiritual depth.   He knows his Bible, yes; but its words have also traveled that distance from head to heart.   The concert also featured The Isaacs, Lordsong, Stan Whitmore, Michael English, Reggie Smith, Bill Gaither (of course) and the Remarkable Choir.    It did leave me wanting to hear more from each of them.

Nonetheless, I will still insist that I have yet to watch a Gaither gospel video.   One has one’s reputation to protect.    And don’t you tell anyone.

…Here’s a homemade clip someone put on YouTube from the DVD that’s one of my favorite parts, where Mark Lowry describes surviving a tornado in a houseboat.  “I would have had a lot more fun if I’d known I was going to live through it;” he quips.   It’s the first 3-4 minutes of this seven minute clip.


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