Monday, February 14, 2011

Brian McLaren: The Iowa City Interview

Brian McLaren is coming to Iowa City for two exciting events. First, on March 4th at 7:00pm he'll give a FREE public lecture called "Following Jesus in the 21st Century." Then, on March 5th at 8:30am he'll be leading a workshop called "Transforming Christian Community in the 21st Century." Both of these events will feature music, prayer, and a chance to dialogue with this innovative theologian, author, and outdoorsman. All are welcome to Zion Lutheran Church, 310 N. Johnson St., Iowa City. For more info click here.

McLaren stopped by this blog for an interview today. He gives us a taste of his upcoming message plus some other interesting tidbits. Check it out below:

Question: Could you give us a sneak peek into what we might expect on March 4th?

Brian McLaren: The title for my public lecture will be Following Jesus in the 21st Century. That means we'll be talking about three things - the 21st Century, Jesus, and following. Each of those three is important. We need to think about our context - because to be a Christian requires us to be faithful in our contemporary world. We need, in our context, to get a fresh vision of Jesus and his core message - especially because these days you see Jesus be brought in to justify just about anything - war as well as peace, greed as well as generosity, fear as well as hope, short-sightedness and reaction as well as foresight and long-term vision. And having considered our context and the core message of Jesus, then we can explore how following Jesus can make a difference in all aspects of our daily lives.

Q: What impact do you hope to have with your new book, Naked Spirituality?

In a single sentence, I hope the book helps a wide range of people become more vulnerable to a genuine and transformative experience of God's presence in their lives.

I'm really thrilled that the first two professional reviews of the book - from Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal - both "get" that I'm trying to write both for committed Christians, whether Evangelical, Charismatic, Mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox...and for the "spiritual but not religious." That means I have to try to find fresh, accessible language and get beneath the "clothing" of religion to the "naked realities" of the spiritual life.

Q: Do you plan on writing more music in the future?

McLaren: I think if you'd asked my friends back in high school and college, they might have predicted I'd find my career in music. So music has always been a big part of my life, and I can't imagine that I'd ever start composing and writing. Mostly I write music just as part of my devotional life, or maybe as an act of self-therapy sometimes ... but I'm always happy when one of my songs catches on and is picked up for someone's recording, or proves useful in a congregational setting.

Q: Who are some authors that you are currently reading?

McLaren: I'm reading a brilliant philosopher of religion right now, Richard Kearney. And I just finished two books by Jerome Berryman. And I'm almost finished an out-of-print book by one of my heroes, Fr. Vincent Donovan. And ... well, I'm a rather compulsive reader, so the list goes on.

Q: What gives you hope about the future of the Church?

In my travels, I constantly meet creative and energetic Christians - from senior citizens to young adults, here in the US and around the world. They inspire me. And there are more and more of them out there. I know that there are a lot of complacent, reactionary, or fearful folks out there too, but they don't come to my events so much! Also, I think their average age is creeping up, and younger generations aren't signing up to their agenda, so their influence is waning. We may not be at a tipping point yet, but I think it's coming. So I am hopeful most days!

Q: What advice would you give to young pastors?

McLaren: A few things. First, find some peers...people with whom you can be "friends no matter what." We all need a cohort soul-friends, especially when we're leading in challenging times. These circles of friends are springing up all over the place - reading groups, emergent cohorts, informal networks. Second, find some mentors...folks a little farther down the line to whom you can go with your questions and struggles, and who believe in you and support you without trying to make you mini-versions of themselves. Third, and most important, tend to your own soul. Don't neglect the vitality of your own spiritual life. Nobody else can do this for you. Your morale, your heart, your spiritual vitality is your most precious asset, and it's way too easy in ministry to let it slide. I know that's counter-intuitive, but it's true.

Q: What is one question you’d like to be asked, but often aren’t?

It's way easier for me to tell you the questions I'm asked constantly and wish I wasn't! But I always enjoy people asking about the not-explicitly-religious sides of my life...the things I enjoy as a human being. Near the top of the list would be nature and wildlife (I'm a big bird guy these days, but I'm fascinated by everything living - from dragon flies to komodo dragons.) And then there's music...And then there's literature.

Q: Are you a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes? In other words, do you like to pander to your audience? :-)

McLaren: Well, I'm tempted to semi-pander by saying that I'm not a fan of the Huskers or Badgers, but then I might be speaking in Nebraska or Wisconsin soon! To tell the truth, I like sports, but I don't have any teams that I devotedly follow. Maybe some Hawkeye fans will try to evangelize me when I'm in Iowa City?

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