I frequently speak at conferences and retreats, as well as in churches. I mine the riches of the past, finding wisdom for today in the movers and shakers of the 2000 years of Christian history.
No dry academic, Gary is an engaging speaker who held his audience right to the end. With his rare combination of an historian’s mind and a pastor’s heart, … His winsome style, poignant illustrations and deep appreciation for the Reformed heritage undergirded a very practical presentation for all those wanting to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
–Bill Ditewig, Minister of Adult Discipleship, Mission and Evangelism, Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Santa Ana, California
My current topics are
1. Finding a Way of Prayer that Fits: Kneeling with Giants
My book Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers (InterVarsity Press, 2012) explores ten approaches to prayer, each one rooted in a major branch of the Church, each one distinctly different from the others, and each one capable of renewing your relationship with God.
We invited Gary to lead us in how to pray and be leaders of prayer, but what we got was so much more! … what he said and what he did was so compelling and transforming.
—Sarah Dyck, Discipleship Consultant, Presbytery of East Iowa
Nothing tops the joy of helping people discover of ways to draw close to God that really fit their needs — “new” ways to them, but ways that have already deepened the faith and strengthened the discipleship of millions.
I choose particular approaches, and the number of approaches, to meet the needs of your group. Plenaries explore the role of prayer in the Christian life as well as introducing specific ways of praying. In a workshop or retreat setting I include opportunities to practice and reflect on one or more of the approaches.
2. Community for Mission
A whole lot of Christians long for “real community.” We think we know what we’re looking for.
What we don’t know is that Christians around the world and across the centuries have had many approaches to being Christian community. In my research I look at ten of them.
- In every case community looked different.
- In every case community deepened people’s love for God.
- In every case community was the catalyst for service and mission in the world.
Community in these great movements of the past was so intentional, so transformative, that our 21st century experience can look pretty empty.
“Gifted teacher and speaker”; “Thought provoking historical analysis of the relationship between community and mission”; “Great launching point for starting to evaluate our own current call to be the church.” These are just a few of the comments following Dr. Hansen’s lecture series on community and mission.
–Rev. Kathie Jackson, Assoc. Pastor, 1st Presbyterian Church, Columbia MO
Knowing more about the amazing examples of the past can free us from the limits of our own imaginations. We can’t recreate the community life of past movements. But they can help us set a higher bar. We can incorporate aspects of what they did as we follow Christ toward new and rich and vital community for mission today.
Gary Hansen’s focus on how ‘community catalyzes mission’ had a major impact on our congregation as it reassesses its identity … intellectually stimulating and practically engaging.
–Rev. Dr. Rich Hansen, Interim Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, MO
I would love to work with your group to explore the ways your community life can be transformed — for deep discipleship and powerful mission.
3. Christianity as a Second Language
Christians in our culture are no longer familiar with the core teachings of biblical Christianity. We just don’t speak the language any more. Many stop at the beginning point: we set out to follow Christ, and that is good, but he wants us to grow up into confident, competent disciples. We need to become fluent in Christianity — knowing what we believe, and able to speak of it to others.
Our neighbors and friends want to know, and need to know, that Christian faith makes sense.
On this blog I post regularly on the Heidelberg Catechism. It is a 16th century summary of biblical Christianity that has been used and loved to teach the faith ever since. I have my own take on why it is useful today.
Whether you agree or disagree with the Heidelberg Catechism on any given question, you can be sure that it was written by native speakers of the Christian faith. We can bring our own perspectives into conversation with them.
By talking thing over with fluent speakers of Christianity we are learning the language — our own 21st century dialect, but the real thing.
In the process we’ll be better equipped for faith and mission. The Catechism does a better job than any text I know at helping people grasp, and express, the shape and richness of the faith that has already changed their lives.
I’ve had a number of recent speaking engagements on the topic because my denomination has been in the process of developing and approving a new translation of this 16th century theological summary. I worked on that committee, and also wrote a small book on the topic in the “Being Reformed” adult education series.
I would love to help your group become more fluent in the Christian faith.
4. Past topics
Over time I’ve spoken on quite a number of other topics:
History, including the whole history of Christianity, and the history of the Presbyterian Church.
Particular theologians and writers, including John Calvin, Augustine, and Julian of Norwich
Issues in theology and spirituality, including
- “Great themes of Reformation theology for today,”
- “Reformed Spirituality,”
- “Priesthood of all believers in Luther’s theology,”
- “Were you there? The events of Holy Week in art”
- “Predestination” (Hey, they asked for it!)
Hosts have Included University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, LaSalle Street Church in Chicago, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, as well as at regional and church events in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and elsewhere.
If you would like to check on my availability for your event, please use this contact form: