Ok, I’ll admit that I’m an advocate of Rob’s teaching and his church, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids MI.
If you’re still left with any curiosity, you may be interested in the podcast of their last Sunday’s service, where Bell was interviewed in a rather straight-forward fashion by one of their youth ministers. Those who want to know what he and his church are all about should take a listen. *note* skip the first 15 minutes – it’s an intro by the interviewer telling the church he’s leaving to go on a trip and about the next youth leader. The rest is a compilation of the interviews from their 3 services.
Here are a few points of note for me:
1) The central focus of Mars Hill is, and always has been, to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ. I think you get a sense that Bell really does his homework, theologically and historically, and isn’t afraid to question cultural norms and practices. I’ve followed up at various points to cross-reference and have seen a few sites of people trying to pick apart his theology – I haven’t found anyone doing a credible or convincing job of it yet. Most critics seem a little bitter that people don’t buy a lot of the party line any more.
2) Mars Hill is aggressively committed to remaining non-political. The issues and concerns of Jesus Christ and the church for effecting change in the world are bigger than our politics. Environmentalism isn’t a Democrat thing, it’s a Genesis thing. Abortion isn’t a Republican thing, it’s a life thing. The church isn’t the place for political discussion or promotion; rather, the church should be the model politics looks to for how to govern/live. If a particular party ascribes to something similar to their direction or beliefs, it’s picked up on something of their vision for living the way of Jesus. That shouldn’t be surprising. I wish James Dobson would follow suit.
3) When asked what he would ask/desire of the congregation. “Don’t be afraid” is what he says. I’ll paraphrase the rest: You follow Jesus, who rose from the dead and promises to be with you, so what is there to be afraid of? I think this is an interesting request. Most of the regrets I have in my life are things I was afraid to do or to try.
4) Mars Hill isn’t micromanaged by Bell and it’s not set in stone. Bell reiterates that following Jesus Christ is a journey and Mars Hill is a church committed to that journey. Things can change. This makes me sigh in relief. Try getting a denomination to change. It’s not going to happen until your kids graduate from college.
His advocacy of the other ministers and ministries of the church and their roles is refreshing. It was cool to hear of another unorthodox method they have going – to set up a mentor for every kid in their youth programs…from day 1. Rather than spend the time and effort to get a spectacle for kids, they’re spending time…with the kids. Bell credits the M.H. staff for working outside the box and taking initiative for programs like that.
5) He’s planning a series on God and environmental stewardship. You can check out the comments on Relevant Magazine’s recent article to see why this might be a poignant topic. I think I’ll revisit this soon.
6) His thoughts on what’s important in his personal life. He talks about how, in a mega-church setting, he’s managed to keep his perspective/sanity. For him, it boiled down to making sure his family comes first. I really respect this. It’s encouraging to hear that he finds his daily routine (making sandwiches for his sons, walking them to school every day, having a set routine to spend time with them) to be one of the most important things in his life. He also talks about his wife as having a huge influence on what he’s doing and the direction they are going.
Why is this interesting to me and/or anyone!!!???
Because it’s rare enough to find a church that seems to “get it” and get it done. Many people have held a suspicion that most of the traditional methods of church don’t really work and aren’t headed in the right direction. Mars Hill isn’t the answer, but they are doing a good job of pointing to the answer – Jesus Christ and modeling how to live how he taught and lived. This should be lauded.