(Originally published May 22, 2006 as a review on Amazon.)
Out of my desire to pursue the move of God, I couldn't help it: I bit the bullet train of trendiness. Having heard all the bubble-gum, trendy, counter-culture rage about this morsel, I finally decided to pick it up.
In my hand it felt like an Ace-of-Base cassette tape but went down like a banana-mint smoothie.
I am wrestling and stirred over Rob Bell's `Velvet Elvis.'
Maybe it's the coffee.
Maybe it's the white processed sugar tantalizing my A.D.D. dendrites.
Maybe it's just the time of the Lord.
I couldn't put it down last night and at the first reading am almost finished with it. It is now Monday morning and I have a literary chaffing you-know-where.
Now, I am no beatnik, turtle-neck-wearin', kumbaya-playin', adjective-stacking, relevant-church post-modernist post-er child.
I may be from Florida, but I ain't stoopid: the church is outdated, irrelevant and losing people.
There is little to no power to change, nor is there any love to guide.
The community that is relevant which Rob Bell describes offers a peripheral hint at the answer.
To which question?
How can I, a person called to ministry, affect change today?
I know I am called to work in the service of the Lord, but what can I offer Americana that they do not already despise?
Why is the church always 20 years behind of world?
Why is church attendance expected to drop by 50% in the next 3 years?
I want to serve, but I can't stand even attending a church.
The real question is this.
What will my church, ministry, or life look like?
The tools of man that have been handed down are outdated like using a cracker-jack decoder ring to save the Captain Planet generation from a MySpace transmutation.
I don't think the answer is The Relevant or PostModern Church, but it has to be a flesh-and-blood community that is relevant.
Why are ministries lagging?
They unplugged their TV and forsook reading the newspaper decades ago. Now, the only people they attract are others who jumped into that same time capsule.
They are the only ones who get each others jokes about Ovaltine! (Was that EVER funny?)
Why are many young adults 32 and under walking away from many Sunday services and shaking their head in befuddlement?
They are wondering what the solution is.
Truthfully, they really are wondering what the question is.
Why do I find ex-pastors wearing crocs drifting through Wal-Mart at 3 in the morning, staring through the Glade Plug-ins, their bed-head bald-spot in disarray with Cheezits and milk in the cart that shopped them through their insomnia?
Why do I have to call their name three times before they jump out of their comatose?
Why do they just spill forth with tears from their blood-shot eyes that the mission is not getting done?
Why does it chafe me when many pastors indignantly ignore rational questions like the validity of the word, the general lack of miracles in the Body, and why 90% of the service is unanointed and irrelevant? The reply "pshaaw-you've-been-studying-those-post-modernists-you-need-faith" is a NON-ANSWER.
Because it's irrelevant.
Times New Roman size 12 is out.
Arial size 10 is in.
What Rob Bell offers so progressively is a loving, cool-headed, faith-building rational hope for this new move of God.
He offers tangible answers like why I should believe the Bible as inerrant and true even though it was compiled by many stinky-cheese men over centuries of Dateline-worthy debate. Nugget after nugget after nugget like stuffing your mouth with chocolate, cashew, and caramel turtles, ignoring the cries of your mom "Gustas, save some for later!"
Why didn't I get that in Sunday school as a boy?
Felt boards and macaroni necklaces worked for a bit and Jonah was an easy book to swallow, but it is inadequate and antiquated.
The generations facing the challenges of a progressing society would like some rationale.
Not because they are demanding and need answers, but because they need to be equipped to face a world that demands rationale.
Rob Bell is, I believe, the guy in the crowd pointing to a way to get us over this critical hump.
Many of the leaders from time-gone-by have led us into HUGE and undeniable revelation, but the masses have crammed into a critical crunch where the craggy, inorganic walls caught us claustrophobically, cornered and cramped.
With a timid inquisitiveness bordering on sarcasm Rob Bell is asking "uhm...why don't we try the door?"
If I could summarize `Velvet Elvis', I would say that it is literary-opulent judo; using the forcefulness of our off-balance opinions to floor us. It is a CSI: Las Vegas aha!-moment where the cool jumpy scenes reveal that the cause of death is self-inflicted. It's a Carmen Sandiego meets Mr. Rogers meets Captain Obvious fondue pot you have GOT to dip in.
But you tell me, "cause after all, the rest is just commentary, right?"