25 March 2007

Brian McLaren to speak in Pretoria

I gather Brian McLaren is one of the gurus of the emerging church movement, and I've just had news that he will be speaking in Pretoria soon, but there is quite a hefty price to attend his lecture, so I would really appreciate comments from my emerging church friends on whether it's worth shelling out 150 bucks to go and hear him. As a missiologist I feel I ought to keep informed about such things, but is he a good source of information?

Start: 3 May 2007 - 18:30
End: 3 May 2007 - 21:00
Organiser: Sean Callaghan
Contact details: sean@melvillejunction.net

Public Lecture and Q&A – The Secret Message of Jesus. Cost: R150
Venue: NGK Universiteitsoord, Pretoria. 105 Duxbury Ave, Hillcrest, Pretoria.

The "secret message of Jesus" label worries me a little too -- it sound gnostic.


C. Wess Daniels said...

I've never heard him speak but he is a leader and is worth checking out. You may want to save the $150 and buy a couple of his books, they are quick reads and would give you a good picture of what he's doing.

Steve Hayes said...

C. Wess Daniels,

Thanks for that. I'm also looking for recommendations on whether I should recommend it to South African missiologists generally, very few of whom seem to know anything about the emerging church movement, or at least very few did when I first found it in the blogosphere and asked about it.

Cori said...

I would strongly recommend reading the book 'The Secret Message of Jesus' and make up your mind from there. I've loved everything Brian has written and have also met people who have interacted with him and describe him as extremely apporachable and open to discussion around his books. So if the book strikes a chord (either positive or negative), going to see him and chatting with him about it would be a treat.

I don't know much about gnostisism but Brian's book (The Secret Message) doesn't strike me as anything too off the beaten track!

I would probably not reccomend for someone to hear Brian speak unless they have read the book - or at least one of his books. I had the feeling the talks were directly related to the book, thus making reading the book almost a prerequisite...

Last note - the R150 includes food, making the expense more worthwhile?! My husband and I will definitely be there!

Roger Saner said...

Hi Steve

Brian isn't a missiologist - sorry! However, it must be noted that centre of the the emerging church conversation is about ecclesiology, specifically "missional ecclesiology." We're incredibly grateful for the insights from missiology as to how to "do church". Alan Hirsch has been most helpful in this field for me, as his emphasis is:
Christology -> Missiology -> Ecclesiology

I'd still recommend going to the Brian McLaren thing - he does have some interesting things to say but I'd say it would be quite valuable to also meet the other people who'll be there (like Cori). Plus I'd love to hear your thoughts afterwards :)

As for gnosticism - yes, the book title probably does imply that: luckily it's very far from it! Check out the local site we set up which details more about the book...

ps - the cost has also been reduced to R50 if you book online before Easter...

Roger Saner said...

pps - last year in East London I recorded Brian talking about some of the things he mentions in the book (including some contextual cricket-talk: not bad for an American!). The audio quality isn't great (*sigh*) but you can listen to it at http://podcast.futurechurch.co.za/

Matt Stone said...

Personally I think of Brian as a good storyteller and communicator, but not the deepest thinker or innovator.

I have thoroughly enjoyed his novels like A New Kind of Christian (sort of an emerging church Celestine Prophecy) but been left a little disappointed by his more straight works.

He is worth checking out, if merely to keep abreast of things, but don't have too high expectations in terms of missiological insights.

I have not read The Secret Message but when I heard him speak after its release I got the impression he was trying to tap into fluff bunny curiosity over gnostic gospel and DaVinci Code Jesus alternatives.

The problem with the vast majority of the emerging church, and Alan Hirsch himself has spoken on this, is precisely that they often put the ecclesiology before the missiology. Alan and Mike's book was advanced as a corrective and though it is popular some still drag heels with the harder hitting aspects. I'd suggest you have more radical contextualization happening in Africa. The US is one of the least postmodernized western countries at the end of the day. But, as I said, still worth checking out.

Steve Hayes said...


It sounds like something worth attending then, and Ill try to be there - hope to meet you and your husband if I make it.

Steve Hayes said...


If the day ever comes that missiologists only study other missiologists, then they might as well stay in bed!

But it seems to me that the emerging church movement is something of missiological significance, especially with all the talk of "missional church" so I'm interested in hearing more from someone involved in the movement and who knows something about it. If you don't mind, I'll quote some of your comments on the "Christianity and society" mailing list, where quite a number of missiologicsts hang out, to encourage them to attend.

Cindy Harvey said...

I'd read Generous Orthodoxy. I'm not sure I'd go hear him speak...I've heard him, and I'm not a fan of rambly talks. He's more a conversationalist. Great writer. And I think I'd have to disagree with Matt, (with all due respect!)that Brian *is* a deep thinker, and has that unique gift of being able to boil down the 'heady' knowledge into accessible language for coddled americans like myself who are used to being spoon-fed their doctrine.

I appreciate him as an american because he signifies 'out loud' what many of us from the standard evangelical background struggle with regarding how we articulate our faith. He is a questioner at heart, wrestles deeply with God, and I relate to that. He is also extremely likeable, and very humble. He's strikes me as a fella who doesn't need to have it all figured out, and goes around encouraging others in the Church not to fear asking the hard questions. I don't know how relevant that would be to an international audience, but he's been a needed voice within the evangelical movement in the US. If you went, you'd get a good idea how emerging leaders in the US are processing and trying to assimilate these 'edgy' thoughts into churches without being divisive...at least on purpose.

Paul Walker said...

Thanks for stopping my blog Steve. As I said there, I've not heard him speak and would agree with some previous commenters who have suggested he is more of a provocative storyteller than a deep theological thinker.

I've read most of his books. The New Christian trilogy was by far the best. The 'Church on the Other side' is also really good.

I was disappointed in the Secret Message of Jesus, frankly. It felt like a book written because he felt he needed to write a book - or was it that his publisher wanted him to? That's the problem with 'gurus' - they have to keep churning out books even when they have said what they needed to say!

Steve Hayes said...

Matt, Cindy & Paul,

Thanks very much for the additional comments. I'll try to read one of his book, and will probably try to get to hear him . Not knowing him at all, it is useful to have the different views.

Steve Hayes said...

I've just checked the Unisa library, and there are only two of McLarn's books:

The Church On The Other Side : Doing Ministry In The Postmodern Matrix

Reinventing Your Church / Brian D. McLaren. 1998

The Scylding said...


Go hear him. And then blog about it. I haven't read him, but he is mentioned in the blogcircles I travel in - and then, even if you disagree with what he / emerging church movement says or does, one needs to know what's out there - especially as they claim the title of a postmodern church / deconstructed church. From what I've read (and it is not much), I personally am not in favour of the Emerging Church - especially when it comes to sacramental / liturgical concerns. Maybe you can ask him some questions in that regard, if there is a question time?

Rev Sam said...

FWIW I'd say save $150, invest some in one of his books (Generous Orthodoxy maybe) and spend the time reading it. I don't think you'll find it particularly challenging or enlightening, but I could be wrong. (I didn't, but I greatly enjoyed the experience of reading it). I can't believe he'd charge that much to hear him speak though - seems distinctly dodgy to me!

The Scylding said...

Is that $150, or R150 (about US$20.68)? If the latter, there is no way you'll be able to buy one of his books with that amount...

Steve Hayes said...

Scylding & Rev Sam,

I'd like to read A generous orthodoxy, partly because I'm Orthodox, and though I don't think Brian McLaren is the best one to judge on my Orthodoxy, he might have interesting things to say about my generosity.

I hoped I might find the book in the Unisa library, but they don't seem to have it, and I'm not sure where one would buy it. It seems (from what Roger says above) that if one registers in advance the fee is only R50.00 (about US$7.00), which would probably be cheaper than the book.

Steve Hayes said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I found them very useful.

One footnote - I looked in bookshops in Hatfield for books by Brian McLaren, and drew a blank.

cobus said...

At least some of his books are available at the TUKS library. So for those registered there, check them out. Also, you might try interlendings if your registered at UNISA.
I won't recommend Finding Faith though. It's available at TUKS, but I didn't enjoy his apologetic tyle of writing. New kind of Cristian I'll recommend.
Will be attending the Pretoria session as well as the camp before that.

Steve Hayes said...


I'm not registered at Tuks, so that's probably no good. It's probably too late to order from Amazon. Perhaps the organisers will have some on sale at the meeting.

Roger Saner said...

Steve, with regard to missional ecclesiology being the heart of the emerging church conversation, check out Scott McKnight's evaluation - especially the italicised paragraph on page 9.

I don't know if any of Brian's books will be on sale, but loot.co.za is a great (local) site which stocks his stuff.

Not sure I'll be at the Pretoria one but it just might be worth the trip to hang out with you and Cori and Kevin and Cobus... :)

JohnC said...

Hi Steve. This is my first ever reply to a blog. I enjoy blogs but just haven't bought into the concept that I need to get involved in conversations and then when I feel strongly about something and feel I should reply I wonder if it will make any difference and feel that I would probably only do it for myself. But now I want to say something! Thanks for the inspiration!!
I am struggling to hear a single voice in SA saying something negative about McLaren and the Emerging Church (EC). Our denomination (NG) are seeing him as some new hope (I want to say saviour) for all the woes of the church. SO here is my opinion: don't go to listen to him. Read a book or two and listen to some talks of his on mp3. And - as a missiologist buy this book: PARADIGMS IN CONFLICT - by David J Hesselgrave. (Got it through Kalahari). He does not have the EC as focus but 5 of the 10 key questions he handles has direct "answers" to many of the issues that I discern are vitally important. The main one being do we follow Jesus or Paul as missionary model. Really excellent chapter. the EC follow Jesus and ignore what the epistles have to say. I think this causes many concerns and problems. We support a missionary in a closed country and he has come under the influence of McLaren through a church in SA. The change in him has been scary.
For the EC to focus on the missional impact on society here and now (which I think is vital for mainline churches to get right) that have moved away from Scripture (and yes I do see a hint of gnosticism!). Some of the things that are re-interpreted ( with some in the movement denying it completely) is the Authority of Scripture, hell and Satan, Cross as atonement for sin, Sin, eschatology, exclusivity of Jesus. These things all have massive implications for mission in the 21st century.

Steve Hayes said...


Well I'm glad something I wrote persuaded you to come out of lurk mode and say something!

I've already booked to hear Brian McLaren speak, so I'll be there, and i haven't been able to find any of his books, so it will be a chance to hear what the "emerging church" people have to say. I'm interested to hear that the NGK regard him as the great hope. I wasn't aware of that, though I assumed friom the venue that at least some NGK people thought he was worth listening to. Once I've heard him, I'll comment in my log, perhaps.

I'll also take it as an opportunity to meet a couple of people whose blogs I read. Sometim,es that is more interesting than the speaker!

I'll see if I can find Hesselgrave's book.


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