"Napkin Theology" an Example of One Man Influencing Culture Creatively
- Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Last year I started kidding with my students, saying, "Yeah, this is something where next time you're at Starbucks and you want to talk theology, whip this out! You can do this on a napkin." So we as a group started calling this "Napkin Theology." I don't know if I came up with the title or one of my students did. It's just something that both last year and this year has been a part of class the students have really enjoyed. So I thought, okay, this is something I could put in a YouTube format that may be creative enough to get people's attention. It's short, so hopefully it's memorable, it communicates a certain skill - the ability to communicate what you believe, or to think about faith visually. The bottom line for me is kind of one of my soapboxes: seminary takes too long and costs too much, so there's gotta be a better way to start doing theological education. And although I wouldn't claim Napkin Theology is the last word on anything, I think it can be a helpful first word.
CW: What kind of feedback and response have you seen so far?
Ward: Overall I'm pretty pleased. You know Daniel Wallace of Gull Lake Ministries has talked about including one or multiple videos into the training they do up there... a pastor friend of mine who's in Colorado - I just got a Facebook message from him just a few minutes before you called - he's going to use one of them this Sunday in his message. I also just went and looked at some of the statistics with some of the videos just to see what's been happening with them, and a couple have some blog links and things like that. So, they're starting to spread. It's a slow process, and I'll also admit too, I think it requires a very specific taste (laughs). It's not necessarily mass media by any means; you've got to have certain kinds of interests, and maybe even a certain whimsy to get your theology on a napkin.
CW: You mentioned that much of your material comes from the classes you teach at The Brook Hill School; do you have any others you're coming up with anew now that this has kicked off?
Ward: We're in the middle of what I'm calling a Worldview series right now, and I'm definitely going to play that out for a while. Again, I'm not the last word on any of this, but I really enjoy thinking in terms of Christian worldview; that's something I discovered when I was in seminary. It's a relatively simple concept that has great explanatory power. And because I teach that here, I also do some work with our faculty on trying to teach from a Christian worldview, how do we do that, what does that look like, what are the presuppositions we need to have in order for that to work... So Christian worldview's something I think about a lot. Of course, I'm not a professional philosopher, so I do so haltingly and awkwardly, but I do think I have a gift for taking big ideas and making them consumable. So that's one of the things that I just do. In my spare time I kinda think about these things, and go, "Gosh, how could you communicate this?"
CW: Do you have any advice on how others can act upon urgings from God or gifts that they have to create, to influence culture, to evangelize, to get the message out there in new and fresh ways?
Ward: Well I guess I could start with an anecdote: Robbie Jones - who's the videographer for the project - when I got the idea I called him, and reminded him about the scene from Blues Brothers, where Aykroyd says "We're on a mission from God"? (Laughs). I was trying to use that to say, "Man, we got a mission." I don't know if that's gonna motivate everybody, but it seemed to work on him. In a nutshell, what do you do? I think you have to recognize two things: 1) What are your gifts? 2) What are your resources? For me, I know I can take relatively complex ideas and put them in a consumable fashion without reducing them to silliness. And then, too, I have a very good friend who's a videographer! And I'm not afraid of digital technology, I'm kind of intrigued by it, so with those things in mind I thought, well, let's just give this a shot and see what happens.
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