Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


This is my fourth post on some reflections from my time with Rob Bell last May.

you can find the first 3 here:

1. Preaching and sermon development.
2. Sabbath and soul care
3. Dealing with criticism

This one will be #4 and some thoughts on Reading, thinking, brainstorming, and Idea Mining.

Whatever you think or believe about Rob, I think you’d be a fool to say he isn’t well read or doesn’t think outside the box in some very creative ways.  He surely does both of those things and whenever I find myself within earshot of someone like that.. I soak up all I can about some of their patterns and where they generate those ideas and learnings from.  I loved the stuff he was sharing to this end.


If I am stressed out, slammed, and can’t get ahead…. ahhhumm…  then I shouldn’t be surprised when ideas drop like flies.  I have to create space in me for creativity and you have to create space in you.  This means protecting our best time for our best stuff.  It means taking care of your own life and soul.  It means post #2 above is critical to hearing ideas, brainstorming, and giving ourselves time to flush them out with God.   Take a break.  Go for a walk.  Leave it and come back to it. Give ideas time and space and visit them often.  Think day to day, not marathon and don’t underestimate the power of brainless space for fabulous conclusions over time.

“If you’re preaching on Sunday and starting prep on Thursday, that sermon’s probably gonna suck.”- Rob


For example, Rob said the fundamental questions when designing a service are:

“Can we create an experience that messes with the proverbial follow up question of ‘Great, now what’s for lunch’?”
“Can we create experiences where when it’s over, it’s not over?  Preaching should start, not end a discussion.”
“Can we mess with the ‘now what’ question?”

Rob suggested that the basic question behind creative thinking is:  “God is in this place, but am I aware of it?”  So, we open our eyes and ears and go digging.  Here’s some questions to do that:

“How did this make me feel?… pay attention to all your senses when wrestling with ideas.” 

“What did I find intriguing?  What spurred my curiosity recently?  What are people becoming a connoisseur of?  What does that tell me about them, the human condition, and of God?”

In preparation for one weekend service, Rob and his team asked, “How can we help people dump their spiritual, emotional, and lifestyle baggage?  Literally.”

Their answer to this was that one year, at good Friday, they told people that they could come in from 3-9pm and just dump whatever was holding them back from God. So for 6 hours, people came in and dumped alcohol, computers, pictures, notes, you name it… they dumped it.   In an empty room with one cross lit up in the center and some music playing.  It was a culmination of a series called “leaving Egypt”.  Then on Easter Sunday, when they came back this HUGE pile was GONE.   I think they showed a time lapse video or something of the stuff being hauled away… but it was evidently massive and so literally moving for people.  [This is the kind of idea stuff that comes up when we start breaking the mold and asking better questions… the kind of stuff no one ever forgets.]


You have found this true.  I know you have.  We’ve all said this, “I can’t get anything done here.”  Wherever “here” is for you.  If you have young kids, you probably cannot prepare a sermon at home.  You might love to work in a coffee shop or you might just be interrupted 47 time by people who see you.  Your office might be a haven of productivity… but mine is a constant space of interruption.  I have to be in it and interruptible regularly, but I also have to get out, get away, and think.  Often, these can’t be done in the same space.  Just admit it, and go find somewhere to think and pray and get r done. I sometimes lock myself in our youth room instead of my office to do this some days.  There’s a big table in there and the students are in school and I don’t have my office door open and yeah… game on.


We got to spend several hours one day listening to the chief creator/producer of the TV show Lost, Carlton Cuse.  I’m not much of a TV buff, but it was a kick to listen to how a show is written and such. But bottom line, it’s 6-10 writers in a room, 450 million dollars an episode, and 425 employees feeding and creating and running with ideas that created that show.

To this end, they talked a lot about the ridiculousness of a tv show or a sermon or a talk hoping to be really really great when it’s been prepared by only one person hulled up in a study somewhere.  Got me thinking about the huge value of team sermon prep and some things I recently heard Perry Noble say on the subject.  But here’s some stuff Rob and Carlton said:

  • A well organized group will out-produce and out create any individual any day.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.  In fact, embrace it.  To achieve anything of importance, you have to risk failure.
  • If you have good people around your table and everyone is passionate about it, trust it.  
  • Beware of the twin poles of procrastination and perfectionism. Avoid both.
  • Use NLQ’s =  not a leading question.  In other words, ask one’s you’re genuinely curious about, not one’s you’re secretly trying to pitch an idea through.   
  • Turn off your cell phone.  Distractions and a lack of presence destroy creativity. 
  • Don’t squash the ideas of others.  Let the craziness sit for a while and springboard off of it. 
  • Learn to love the process of discovery, not just the end product.
  • Search for the simple that lies just beyond the complexity of things.
  • You know you’ve read enough commentaries on a subject when they start quoting each other. 
  • Find better sources and read the best of the best on a subject.  Look at reviews.  Once you find some good stuff, find out what they say is good and go read that.  
  • Read widely, it’s great for idea stealing.  Pick up a sports mag, a fashion mag, a news mag, etc… 
  • Don’t linger on the internet.  Fly in, get what you need, fly out.  It’s a productivity pit if you stay too long.  SOOO… get off my dumb blog now and go make some great stuff :))))

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