“NET PROPHETS”: Adult Christian Education on Youtube

Harvard Conference Future Church

Several years ago while looking on Youtube I found an interesting video. It was on a conference that had been held at Harvard Divinity School. They had brought together what they considered to be three significant contemporary Christian thinkers. They wanted these three to reflect on the Future of the Church. Under the video was an explanatory paragraph:

“On December 6-7, 2007, the Office of Ministry Studies, Harvard Divinity School, held a conference on the progressive church at the First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden Street. The conference program included an evening opening panel, with three featured speakers, and a full day of presentations and discussions. Speakers included: Marcus Borg, Brian D. McLaren, Diana Butler Bass.”

The videos had only been put up on Youtube on May 27, 2014. I ran into it less than 2 months after it had been posted. It hadn’t drawn many viewers; I think I was about number 36. Even to date, three years later, only about 600 people have watched it since I had.

There were two things that came together that set me off in discovering what other good material might be found on Youtube. The first was my surprise that so few people had found and watched this video of an important issue even though in had been produced by such a prestigious institution. The second came when the three panelists were asked to say what they thought was the greatest need of the church for the future.

Marcus Borg responded saying that for him the greatest thing needed for the renewal of the church today was adult Christian nurture.

What came to me at that point was that there must be talks and lectures on Youtube which could serve that need. If one searched for them, would it not be possible to find material available to any church or church leader? Here were lectures available to anyone who had a computer!

A pastor could select several videos on a topic. No need to take class time to show a lecture, or part thereof, and then have just a few minutes left to discuss it. Church members could watch the videos whenever was convenient, say while sitting in their recliner. Then, having seen the material, they would be prepared to launch into an extended discussion when they gathered for a weekly class.

Someone needed to make an archive of a number of these lectures now available because of computers and Youtube. As far as I can tell, no one else had done it yet. I decided to do so and spent lots of hours searching, watching, and collating. At one point, as I am one who loves puns and acronyms, I first decided that, as these were lectures of contemporary prophets that were found on the internet, I would call the project “Net Prophets”. (That took care of the pun dimension.) Next, I thought of making a structure the videos that would be a program of Christian education and creating what might be called a “Youtube Ecumenical Seminary”, or “Y. E. S.” (That would take care of the acronym.)

The list of twenty persons would make an interesting theoretical faculty for YES.

Old Testament: Walter Brueggemann

New Testament: Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Selby Spong, N T Wright

World Religions: Karen Armstrong

Theology: John Cobb, Alister McGrath

Ethics: Stanley Hauerwas

Sociology of the Church: Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass

Parish Practics: Robin Meyers, Rowan Williams


However, one of the lectures I watched was by Walter Brueggemann. In the Q and A at the end in response to someone’s question he mentioned two books he would recommend: “Subversive Meals” by Alan Streett, and “Galatians Reimagined” by Brigitte Kahl. I made the mistake of buying and reading the “Subversive Meals” book. Since then, my Net Prophet project had been terribly neglected, lying unused. I got into this Dinner Church thing and the Net Prophets have been ‘without honor’, in the words of the Bible.

So, before getting into blogs on Dinner Church, I want to resurrect my lists of videos of the Net Prophets to let you know about them. They are available for your use. Let me know if you find them helpful in your ministry. They can be found here.

Link to Net Prophet list: https://budtillinghast.wordpress.com/list-of-prophets/

Link to Borg’s lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UsXavOeLbQ


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