Welcome to the What If Project. Off the bat I'll let you know that if you want to know more about the project, head over to the ABOUT section and you can read a little bit about what it is and how it all came to be; you can also check out EPISODE #1 of the podcast for an even deeper look as I talk through some of the bigger pieces of the vision. And, of course, don't forget to check out (and like!) the What If Project Facebook Page.
For now, though - WELCOME. It’s awesome to have you here (thank you for dropping by!), this is the first official blog post and I couldn’t be more excited about where this whole project is headed.
Today I don't want to do much, just wanted to ...
(1) Give you an overview of what to expect in the upcoming weeks.
(2) Talk about my target audience.
(3) And lay down a simple ground rule.
If you’re coming here AFTER listening to episode 1 of the podcast, you’ll remember I mentioned that the episode was recorded back in July at the Wild Goose Festival and that I was still trying to iron out what the Fall was going to look like as I'm juggling my dissertation, finishing up my last class (12 papers and 10 books!), being a dad, working, etc, etc, etc.
As promised, those things have been ironed out and we're ready to go.
Ready? 4 things:
For the next 4 months (September - December) on the blog we’re going to be deep diving into one of my favorite books of the Bible - the Gospel of Mark. Mark is an interesting book because once you get to know some of the background of the stories and see some of the big themes that develop throughout, you begin to see that the writer of the book is telling us the story of Jesus in a radical and transformative way.
More on that next week.
Each week (posts will go up MONDAY mornings) we’ll take a look at a different story in Mark and explore some of the background and context of that story and probably come away with some takeaways and applications and ideas that are far different than the ones we’d normally come away with.
I can tell you without a doubt:
Boundaries will be pushed.
Questions will be asked.
Doubts will be raised.
Radical declarations will be made.
... After all, this is the WHAT IF project, remember, and so one of the questions we explore is, “what if there are ways of understanding the stories of the Bible that are different than the ways we normally would?”
(NOTE: there are some blog posts up before this one, they’re ones I brought over from my Medium site, which is where I was sharing some ideas prior to whatifproject.net.)
Those posts will then bleed into the podcast and YouTube videos. For the podcast, each week there will be an audio version of the blog post (in case you don’t have time to read it) and over the course of the Fall a couple of interviews with some people who I have a lot of respect for (right now I’m aiming for 1 in September and 1 in November, but MIGHT be able to get 1 up in October and November as well) where we’ll likely talk through a story or 2 from Mark OR whatever it is that the guest is working on - a book, a project, a ministry, etc.
And then next year (starting in January 2019) there will be one interview on the podcast every month, AND let me tell you - there are some great ones on deck that I'll be recording this Fall).
You'll notice there isn't much production in the podcasts - not many intros, a pretty standard outro here and there, and not much music in between segments. Other podcasts you hear might have an introduction piece before every episode and an ending piece and music, and there will be some of that for the interviews I do, but not much for the solo podcasts. To be honest, for this first season of the project I've decided to not pour as much energy into the producing / fancy pieces and have instead decided to pour my energy into developing good and helpful content.
... And finishing up my doctoral degree.
... And being a present husband.
... And fathering a toddler.
... And working a full-time retail job.
It's a work in progress and will definitely develop over time.
Anyways, here's where you can find the podcast:
Same with the YouTube videos - they will be short unedited vlogs where I’ll be talking through some ideas I’m wrestling with in Mark and will share some ways that the book is impacting my own life - at home, at work, in my community, etc. I might record it while I'm driving home from work (I work at an Apple Store), walking into work, on a break at work, at my desk, on a morning walk with my daughter. It'll vary. These will go up on a bi-weekly basis for now (on FRIDAY mornings), possibly a weekly basis early in 2019.
(**NOTE: The first vlog that’s up now is called “The Surplus of Meaning”, which has nothing to do with Mark, but gives another piece of insight into the What If Project. Check it out HERE.)
(4) ONLINE SMALL GROUP
And lastly, don’t forget to take a look at the groups page as registration closes on SEPTEMBER 3 for an online small group experience that will run from September 16 - November 18. A small group of people from various places in the United States will be working through the book of Mark using N.T. Wrights study guide, “Mark For Everyone”. There are 20 chapters in the guide and so we’ll work through 2 chapters a week and then come together on Sunday nights at 9PM EST via Zoom (video chat) to talk through what we’re learning, pray for each other, and even share communion together on occasion.
Click HERE to sign up and I’ll send you some more info today.
OH - the obvious question - why the obsession with Mark?
I’m actually taking a class at school right now (my very LAST class before graduating in May!) and the big final assignment is a 20+ page “Markan Theology Paper”. Basically, I’m looking at the book of Mark through the lens of the What If Project and am approaching each verse and each story with the idea that “maybe there are ways of understanding this book and these stories that are different than the ways in which we typically do”, and so some of the blog posts and material from the podcasts and vlogs and group study will most likely make their way into the paper.
So there you have it - a brief overview of what to expect in the upcoming months.
(1) Blogging through Mark on a weekly basis.
(2) Podcasting through Mark (weekly) along with a couple of interviews.
(3) Vlogging through Mark on a bi-weekly basis.
(4) A Small Group experience around the book of Mark. (Seriously, sign up.)
Excited? I am.
And last, but not least:
My Target Audience AND A Simple Ground Rule
Here’s the thing, and I’ll say this right here, right now - this project is not for everyone.
It’s just not.
And I’m OK with that; and I hope you are too. Some of the stuff I’m going to share is going to light some people up, especially those who might label themselves as fundamentalists, conservative Christians, Evangelical Christians, etc. The way I’m learning to read my Bible and the things I’m taking away and applying to my life, it’s just different than anything I’ve ever experienced before. And to be quite honest, 15-year ago Glenn would call 36-year old Glenn a blazing heretic. 36-year old Glenn, though, has learned (very painfully so) to extend grace to 15-year ago Glenn because 15-year ago Glenn was doing the best he knew how to do.
He was the guy that would invade chatrooms (remember those?) and “defend the Truth”.
He was the guy who memorized his systematic theology book (Wayne Grudem, still on my shelf).
He was the guy who knew all the answers in Sunday School.
He was the guy who would warn you to watch out for “false teachers”.
He was the guy who would fact check sermons in church on Sunday morning and write on MySpace (remember that!) about all the heretical pieces of the pastors sermons.
He was the guy who would see the Bible referenced in a post on Facebook that he didn't agree with and go full force into the comment section.
... That was me.
My faith has evolved, though. It’s grown. Some places have widened, other places have shrunk. Some new things have appeared and some old things have disappeared altogether.
All that to say, my target audience is NOT the above-mentioned church people.
I’m not out to try and persuade anyone to change their ideas or change how they read the Bible.
I’m not on a crusade to build a following.
And I’m certainly not out to debate with anyone. If you’re looking for that kind of website, there’re tons of them out there.
My target audience, rather, is the group of people who after reading the Bible for x-amount of years or hearing about God for their entire lives have come to a place where they realize that what they’ve learned and how they were taught to read and understand their Bible just doesn’t work in the world they’re living in.
Think of it like this.
Imagine mainline Christianity to be a gigantic cruise ship where everyone is having a blast. The music is loud. People are laughing. The food is great. The weather is perfect. The lights are bright. Everything is amazing.
On that ship there are not only people who are having a blast, but people who just don’t seem to get what all the fuss is about and they absolutely hate it. And so rather than join in the fun, they hang back - they feel alone, isolated, and just not very much into the party. When the party is hopping on the main deck, they’re off to the back trying to avoid the crowds. And maybe the crowd is just so loud and so crazy that they just can’t take it anymore and so they jump off. Or maybe they get pushed overboard by the excited passengers who are sucking in every moment on the big Christianity Cruise Ship and not paying much attention to the others who don’t seem to get it.
In that scenario, the What If Project is a little life boat or tug boat behind the big cruise ship that’s picking up the people who fell off or jumped off - the people who don’t understand the big pieces of mainline Christianity ...
The people who have issues with believing that the God of the Old Testament would command the Israelites to commit genocide against the Canaanites or that He would wipe out the entire world with a flood.
The people who are tired of explaining those atrocities away with the age old “well God can do that because He’s sovereign and can do whatever He wants”.
The people who dare to wonder that maybe those stories aren’t historical fact, that maybe there’s something deeper going on.
The people who refuse to worship that God kind of God.
The people who are tired of easy, systematic answers.
The people who are tired of seeing Romans 13 fiascos on the nightly news and in their churches where verses and passages of the Bible are ripped out of context and used as weapons to isolate and hurt the people who Jesus reached out to the hardest.
The people who think that salvation is something different than just believing in Jesus so you can go to heaven when you die.
The people who don't believe in eternal suffering for the wicked.
People who wonder why the church is so big on getting people in their doors but not always that big on helping the needy in their community.
People who dare to believe that there’s nothing wrong with the LGBTQ community, nothing sinful about their sexuality, and that they ought to be welcomed and affirmed and treated like everyone else.
... Not only am I one of those people, but those are the people I’m targeting and so I won’t respond to trolls. Simple as that. If you come on to the What If Project Facebook page, my own Facebook page, or whatifproject.net and set out to argue/debate/get on your soap box/whatever, I won’t answer you. And if the posts are nasty, they’ll just be deleted.
It’s not that conversing isn’t valuable (it is and I’m happy to have conversation where we share ideas and thoughts back and forth), it’s just that I’ve decided not to put energy into social media debates and have (instead) decided to pour it into reaching out to, welcoming, and generating dialogue with people who are losing hope in the church, their Bible, and God - the people who have jumped ship.
I guess you could say it like this - my goal isn’t to convince the critics, but to give the thirsty something to drink and the people who fell off the ship a place to dry off and get warm.
And so that’s the one ground rule: no trolling!
After all, we can go forward hand in hand to share the love of God without seeing eye to eye. If you can't, well, then work on it.
This is a safe place to explore, doubt, ask questions, and let the Bible and God and faith frustrate you, aggravate you, mold you, shape you, and bring out the very best in you. And bring out the best in you, IT WILL. That collection of ancient writings and the God who mysteriously breathed life into it will grab you and (if you let it) will change you so that you can change your world.
OK, glad that's over.
See you next week as we dive into (yup, you guessed it) Mark with an important look at what was going on in the world at the time the story was written and how those events can completely change how we read it.
Thanks for dropping by, much love to you.
PS, here's all the links you need to find everything related to the What If Project!
Facebook Page (like it!): https://www.facebook.com/whatifproject.net/
Twitter (follow!): https://twitter.com/whatifproject2
Podcast (iTunes - subscribe!): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/what-if-project/id1397047558?mt=2
Podcast (Stitcher): https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/what-if-project
Podcast (Google Play): https://play.google.com/music/m/Ig2vi3cpg4di5slcgqzsbly4r6e?t=What_If_Project
YouTube (Subscribe!): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpoPiOKecuaJZP9O85TPW7Q?view_as=subscriber
Small Group (Join!): https://www.whatifproject.net/discussion-groups