Potential Speaking Topics
Brian’s 2016 release, The Great Spiritual Migration, will be Brian’s preferred focus for the next few years. 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
Brian can also speak on material from his previous books:
1. We Make the Road by Walking (1 – 6 sessions)
This book 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.
2. 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.
3. Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in Twelve Simple Words (1 – 6 sessions)
This book (released in 2011) 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.)
3. A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (1 – 6 sessions)
As the subtitle suggests, the book (released in 2010) 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?
4. Everything Must Change (1 – 4 sessions)
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 religious violence), he relates Jesus’ message of the kingdom to each one. This presentation ends in a call to action.
5. The Secret Message of Jesus (1 – 4 sessions)
Based on Brian’s 2006 release, this presentation explores the theme of the kingdom of God – central to Jesus’ life and message. It explores 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.
6. More Ready Than You Realize: Evangelism in the Emerging Culture (1 – 4 sessions)
This presentation, based on one of Brian’s most popular books, uses a real-life email conversation to help people understand the questions, objections, fears, and needs of people in the emerging culture. This is one of Brian’s most popular presentations.
7. Public Worship as Spiritual Formation (1 – 2 sessions)
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 more sessions, more experiential practice can be incorporated.)
8. 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.
9. Churches Emerging (1-2 sessions)
Brian recounts the development of the “emerging church movement,” summarizes problems with the term, provides an overview of what emerging churches have in common, addresses common criticisms, and invites people to become participants in the church that is emerging. This presentation draws from his book A Generous Orthodoxy.