The Church on the Other Side

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This was my first book (originally entitled - against my recommendation - "Reinventing Your Church"). This book introduces all the topics I explore in my other books, and many churches have used it for group study, finding it a helpful (and gentle) introduction to the conversation about Christian faith-life-mission and the emerging postmodern culture.
Click here to purchase The Church on the Other Side.

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Potential Speaking Topics

Here are some topics that Brian is eager to address with your group:

1.  The Seventh Story:

This material draws from two new resources. First, Cory and the Seventh Story  is a picture book for young readers (ages 6-10) and grown-ups too, co-written with Gareth Higgins and illustrated by Heather Lynn Harris.  Second, they've produced an adult version of the book, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, and the End of Violence.

These books explore how six stories frequently dominate our lives, and they invite us to consider a seventh story of peace and conviviality. Brian (joined by Gareth and Heather, if you desire) would love to speak to your group about this important content. He (or they) can present this material in a variety of formats, including Sunday mornings, one to three Saturday seminars, etc. If you're interested, we can also explore ways to bring parents and kids together to have a multi-generational story-sharing experience.

2. A Theology of Creation:

Brian's book The Galapagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey (October 2019) is one part spiritual memoir, one part travelogue, and one part theological reflection in and on an amazing place. He has developed four lectures related to this book that will be of interest to clergy groups, college students and seminarians, and church groups alike. Each lecture can be presented in one or more sessions, as desired.

1. Creation Theology and the Contemplative Mind: Over recent centuries, the Christian faith in the West has largely held to an "evacuation gospel," focused on escaping earth for heaven. But in the last century, as theologians have begun to Jesus' "transformation gospel" of the Kingdom of God, we have turned our focus back to the earth and our place in it. This lecture (which can be combined with contemplative practices) explores how creation theology naturally supports a contemplative mind characterized by "seeing things whole," seeing things in motion, and seeing all things in God (and God in all things).

2. Creation Theology and the Activist Mind: Creation theology also encourages a sense of responsibility and commitment to the earth and our fellow creatures, including not not limited to humans. We'll consider how the emerging field of creation theology can integrate contemplation and action.

3. Evolution, Biological and Theological: By taking a deep dive into the work of Charles Darwin, Tielhard de Chardin, Ilia Delio, John Haught, and others, we'll consider how biological evolution and theological evolution can be in a mutually-enriching conversation, and we'll explore how this conversation can revolutionize our churches.

4. How Christian Churches Can Help Build Ecological Civilization: In light of the multi-faceted ecological catastrophe that we are in the process of creating, we'll consider the role of churches in preventing, minimizing, and recovering from the catastrophe.

3. The Great Spiritual Migration

Brian's 2016 release, The Great Spiritual Migration, is another excellent subject for lectures and interaction. It provides a wide range of possible speaking topics that can be presented in one, two, three, four, or more sessions of 40-90 minutes (with Q & R). Sessions could include:

- System of Beliefs or Way of Life?
- Our Congregation as a School of Love
- Is God Violent? (Discovering God 5.0)
- Reading the Bible as Adults
- Organized Religion and Organizing Religion
- Christian Faith as a Spiritual Movement
- Christian Activism as a Congregational Practice

4. Faith After Doubt/ Do I Stay Christian?

These books (to be published in 2021 and 2022 by St. Martin's Press) will address two critical challenges Christians face -- keeping faith in the presence of doubt, and navigating the complexities of Christian identity. Brian is happy to speak on these subjects as he writes and edits these projects.

5. Rediscovering the Bible and Christian Faith Afresh

We Make the Road by Walking (1 - 6 sessions) offers spiritual seekers, ex-Christians, and long-time Christians from diverse backgrounds a common understanding of what it means to follow Christ. It is based on 52 short chapters that can be read privately or aloud in a group setting – a class, small group, or even a newly-forming faith community. The sermon/chapters are organized around an adapted form of the church year. As they give readers an overview of the biblical narrative, they introduce readers to a series of short creeds or confessions of faith. Each sermon/chapter includes group conversation questions. This material can be focused in several different ways:

1. Rediscovering the Bible - facing problems in our traditional ways of reading the Bible, and exploring promising new ways.
2. The Bible is Too Important (and Dangerous) to Be Left to Those Who Don't Think Critically About It - ways to take the Bible seriously and read it faithfully without interpreting it rigidly.
3. Seeking Aliveness: The Biblical Narrative - an overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation
4. Guided Tours Through the Bible - various ways of understanding the Biblical narrative
5. Five Under-appreciated Themes in the Bible - Ongoing creation, mercy not sacrifice, violence reduction, healing a fractured world, joining God
6. Practicing Liberation - with participants seated around tables, Brian trains people in leading small groups who engage the biblical narrative in fresh ways.
7. Reading the Bible Afresh - Brian uses specific passages (some highly problematic) to demonstrate fresh ways of interpreting the Bible.

6. Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World

Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (1 - 5 sessions)
Brian’s 2012 release offers a fresh diagnosis of the problem of interreligious conflict – not the differences among faiths, but a common characteristic they share. He suggests that nominalism and secularism are failed attempts to address this shared characteristic, and explores how Jesus’ original message addressed it. He then outlines a four-part action plan by which Christian leaders can move beyond both hostile religious absolutism and weak religious relativism, embodying a new kind of Christian identity, robust and benevolent, strong and hospitable. This material can be presented in one to five sessions.

7. Spirituality Across the Life Cycle

Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words (1 - 6 sessions) closely connects to two lectures/worships or series of lectures/workshops. First, Brian can present on “Four Stages in the Spiritual Life.” He introduces a framework for spiritual growth that goes from simplicity to complexity to perplexity to harmony. He can give this presentation in one or two sessions; it has been enthusiastically received in a wide variety of contexts. Second, in one, two, four, or six sessions, he can present the twelve spiritual practices, each centered in a simple word: here, thanks, O, sorry, help, please, when, no, why, behold, yes, and silence. More time means more opportunity to actually experiment with the practices. (In more traditional language, the twelve practices are invocation, thanksgiving, worship; confession, petition, intercession; aspiration, desperation, lament; meditation, surrender, and contemplation.)

8. A New Kind of Christianity

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (1 – 6 sessions), as the subtitle suggests, addresses ten questions, five primarily theological and five more practical. Brian can address a single question in an hour session, and he can give an overview of all ten questions as well. Brian enjoys weaving Bible study, small group interaction, and Q & A into these sessions. Here are the ten questions:

1. The narrative question: What is the shape – the arc, the storyline, the plot – of the biblical narrative?
2. The authority question: How does the Bible have authority?
3. The God question: Is God violent?
4. The Jesus question: Who is Jesus, and why does he matter so much?
5. The gospel question: What is the gospel – and how do we reconcile Paul’s gospel of grace with Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom?
6. The church question: What are we going to do about the church?
7. The sex question: How can we deal more productively with complex sexual issues?
8. The future question: How can we gain a more hopeful vision of the future?
9. The pluralism question: How should Christians relate to people of other religions?
10. The what-do-we-do-now question? How can we translate our conversations about these questions into constructive action?

9. Jesus Today

Everything Must Change (1 – 4 sessions) and The Secret Message of Jesus (1 - 4 sessions)
Based on Brian's 2006 and 2008 releases, these presentations explore Jesus' central message of the kingdom of God: the meaning of the kingdom in Jesus’ day, the way Jesus communicates the message in parable and prophetic action, and the implications of the kingdom message for people and churches today. Brian explores two important questions: 1) What are the world’s most significant problems? and 2) What does the message of Jesus have to say to these problems? After identifying four top crisis (the planet, poverty, peace, and politics/religion), he relates Jesus’ message of the kingdom to each one, leading to a call to action.

10. Public Worship as Spiritual Formation

Drawing especially from Brian’s book Finding Our Way Again, this presentation explores such concepts as "ancient-future worship," the meaning of ritual, liturgy as group spiritual formation, and leadership as exposure to "masters of practice," to help leaders plan and lead public worship more effectively - with the goal of authentic spiritual formation in mind. (With 2 or more sessions, more experiential practice can be incorporated.)

11. Onramp to the Postmodern/Emergent/Convergence Conversation (1 - 3 sessions)
This presentation, which has been given in dozens of settings around the world, gives historical, philosophical, and theological background to the concepts of paradigm shift and postmodern transition - in a fast-paced, understandable, and highly visual way. 2 or 3 sessions recommended, with plenty of time for Q & A.

12. Why Don't They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others (And Yourself)

This presentation or set of presentations is especially for communicators -- writers, pastors, teachers, political leaders, activists, and others engaged in the delicate work of changing minds (beginning with our own). It is based on a short E-book Brian is preparing for release in early 2020.

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