If I had any smouldering worries about whether there’s life after Kent Dobson for Mars Hill Bible Church, they were doused decisively by a powerful sermon from author Glennon Doyle Melton on January 24.
Metamorphei is a year-long sermon series on transformation, and it’s focused primarily on Paul’s letters in the New Testament.
On Being Brave doesn’t spend a lot of time on Paul’s letters, but it does deal with transformation, suggesting that it’s adversity – not tranquility – that transforms us into the people God created us to be, and therefore difficulty should be leaned into and learned from, not run from. The sermon is both challenging and encouraging, and packed with nuggets of wisdom and insight from Doyle Melton’s powerful journey. I’m not doing it justice, so I’ll stop trying.
Just listen to it, OK?
What leapt out at me the most from the sermon came near the end, when she noted that the second-most repeated phrase in the Bible is ‘Remember’.
“‘Remember’ is really important to me because it can mean to recall an old idea, but it also means the opposite of dismember. To re-member means to come back together,’ she said.
That’s great stuff, for my money.
Remember Shane Hipps?
In another Mars Hill sermon some years back, former teaching pastor Shane Hipps noted that human beings are really good at remembering the wrong things and really bad at remembering the right things.
We’re experts at remembering all the things that divide us, and all the things done wrong – both by us and to us. And equally unfortunately, we stink at remembering all the things that unite us, and all the things done right – both by us and to us. We forget Whose we are and that we are loved, and that this love and its accompanying grace, are all we really need.
Hipps’ message served, and continues to serve, as a powerful reminder of why I go to church – to help remind me of what’s truly important about me and about the rest of humanity; and to remind me of what I am called to do in response to that reminder.
When I remember to remember, at least…
Remember Rob Bell?
Back in the opening paragraph of this post, I referred to life after Kent Dobson. ‘Who’s Kent Dobson?’ you ask?
Well, for one thing, he’s the son of the late Ed Dobson – a prominent 20th-Century American Protestant church leader who died late last year of ALS.
But more to the point of our conversation, Kent spent the last several years as teaching pastor of Mars Hill, announcing in November he was stepping down from the post and delivering his final sermon on February 7.
Mars Hill, by way of further background, is the famous Michigan church founded by author and pastor Rob Bell in 1999. I became a fan of Bell through his Nooma video series in the late 2000s and started listening to his Mars Hill sermons via podcast in around 2010, and couldn’t get enough of them. I’ve read several of Bell’s books, but I always thought he preached better than he wrote – so I was severely bummed to find out in 2012 that Bell was leaving the church he started. Adding insult to injury, Hipps – with whom he shared the teaching pastor duties from 2010 to 2012 and who I also really liked – left soon after.
And I remember wondering at that time if there would be life for Mars Hill after Bell and Hipps – forgetting that without exception, every sermon I’d ever heard in a Mars Hill podcast was excellent. Whether they came from guest preachers brought in for a specific Sunday, or from other pastors who normally serve in non-teaching roles at Mars Hill but were ‘called up’ to the pulpit when the regular guy was away, the teachings had always been top-notch at Mars Hill.
And yet, I was downright downcast about the departure of Bell and Hipps.
Remember Kent Dobson?
Then, not long after Hipps left, Kent Dobson was named the new teaching pastor – and to my surprise (although in hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised), Mars Hill didn’t miss a beat, as far as I could tell. Dobson delivered sermons that were consistently insightful, humble, instructive and encouraging.
His year-long 12 Words series in particular helped inspire my ongoing blog series about words, and the aforementioned Metamorphei series he kicked off last fall is similarly compelling. And as soon as I heard that he’d edited the NIV First-Century Study Bible, I asked for it for Christmas 2014 and I still read it almost every day.
In 2012, I never thought I would say this, but I think I like Kent Dobson more than Rob Bell or Shane Hipps. So when I heard last November that he was leaving Mars Hill, I was severely bummed once again.
I mourned – which is arguably a little silly, since I’ve never even met Kent Dobson, and I belong to a church in a different denomination and a different country, two time zones away. But in another sense, I’ve spent so much time eavesdropping on Mars Hill sermons for the past half-decade that I feel like a de-facto member of the church. And regardless of who replaces him, I’ll miss Kent’s particular approach and personality, so I think there’s a measure of legitimacy to that state of mourning.
As it is with Mars Hill sermons, so it also is with many aspects of life. Right now, I’m a little anxious about whether the Cursillo team I’m helping to assemble will come together in time – despite the fact that in the past, we’ve never had to cancel a weekend because we couldn’t get a team together. I often worry about how I’m going to meet an aggressive deadline at work, and then – just like the last 50 times – it turns out to be easier than I thought, or the timeline changes because of unrelated factors.
Experience – to say nothing of a little thing called faith – has taught me that I can count on myself, I can count on the people in my life and I can count on my God – but so often, I forget that.
Because as Hipps said, people are really good at forgetting things.
In light of that, I find it mildly hilarious that I was reminded that Mars Hill will be just fine without Kent Dobson, and that the sky is not actually falling in a dozen areas of my own life, in the same sermon I was inspired to blog about the word ‘remember‘.
Peace be with you.