Mars Hill interviews Rob Bell…

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 know me very well, you’ve probably heard me talk about his books, Velvet Elvis and Sex God. If you haven’t, you need to read these.

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.




Filed under religious propaganda

10 responses to “Mars Hill interviews Rob Bell…

  1. Hey Wayne,

    Nicely written. I listen to the podcast every week too.

    I’ll take you up on point 1) – I just finished writing a series on Rob’s book “Velvet Elvis” that I think you’d be interested in.

    Read and join in on the discussion at:

    My overall opinion of Rob and Mars Hill is still forming so feel free to challenge me.

    Michael Krahn

  2. Thank you Michael,

    Welcome to the wayne-o-sphere (not to be confused with terror or thunder domes).

    I will take you up on your offer. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for challenge and growth for everyone. With respect to a previous discussion, I will note that sometimes responses may take a while, please be patient, as I try to be as thorough as possible while maintaining my pension for stupid humor.

    My point 1) had several parts, but I will assume that you are referring to the “does his homework” part. The Jesus following part is openly stated and fairly easily documented, but the theological accuracy and thoroughness part is readily debatable and one I would enjoy reviewing.

    I gave your series a quick once-over yesterday and will begin with a point about the term “rabbi” and the rabbinical tradition. I seem to remember, and I will re-read and quote for accuracy, a point that you dismiss some of Bell’s credibility because he uses the term rabbi in discussing Jesus – citing that rabbinical tradition hadn’t yet existed.

    This is a fun one for me, as it involves delving into Jewish history and our traditional conceptions of Jesus. So here we go…I disagree.

    I will start with a note from my good friend Wikipedia:
    “The title “Ribbi” was borne by the sages of ancient Israel, who were ordained by the Sanhedrin in accordance with the custom handed down by the elders. They were titled Ribbi and received authority to judge penal cases. Rab was the title of the Babylonian sages who taught in the Babylonian academies.”

    This is part of the “Historical Overview” section on the term Rabbi. It appears to point to the tradition that preceded the formal rabbinical tradition.

    I would argue that Bell’s use of the term is legitimate in that there was an established oral tradition of teachers and disciples referred to with terms which a modern reader could easily substitute the word “rabbi.”

    I hope this discussion doesn’t slog down a boring trail of semantics, but I suppose you have to start somewhere.

    I will depart in search of specifics.


  3. Hey Wayne:

    I’ve tagged you for a meme because I’m silly that way. Read about it here:

  4. Hey,

    It’s me your “blog-promoting friend”. Sorry, I just revisited your blog yesterday and saw your reply.

    I’ve got you in Bloglines now so I won’t miss any posts.

    …to be continued…

  5. Mark

    Hey, Wayne, nice reply above about the rabbinical tradition and how one shouldn’t get their panties all in a bunch over how Rob Bell uses the term.

    I noticed on another conservative Christian blog that they found one of Rob Bell’s sermons from May ’95 where he was talking about how breath and spirit are the same word in Greek and Hebrew and Rob was explaining that he believes that the simple act of breathing affirms the existence of God but then he casually mentioned how Yoga instructors emphasize breathing and the conservative Christians just went nuts over that. They freaked out. I just have to laugh at that up tight silliness. Why can’t some Christians just “take a breath” and relax? LOL!

    Thanks, Wayne, for providing mature, educated and rational comments to the public discourse.

  6. Thanks Mark,

    I remember listening to that sermon. Yoga instructors, huh. Darn their astute observations and pleasant demeanors! It actually helped me improve my running technique (awareness of breathing, that is).

    Thanks also for the encouragement. I’m not sure I’d use any of those descriptions, but I appreciate it.

    Last night our pastor reminded us of a great G.K. Chesterton quote. When asked by The Times of London what is wrong with the world…

    Dear Sirs,

    I am.

    Sincerely yours,
    G. K. Chesterton

    I’d be an ass if I didn’t admit to being just as bad as the Christian Yoga critics (I totally grew up that way). I think most Christians could use a few months of Yoga sessions (maybe we’d calm down a little). It’s pretty funny, though.

  7. Mark

    Hey, Wayne,

    I get the impression from surfing your blog that you live in or near NY city and are familiar with the art scene. I will be in New York next weekend. What three art/philosophy/political experiences would you recommend I visit while I’m there? This will be my eleventh visit to New York so all the usual tourist stuff has been done already. I do enjoy going by the TKTS booth and picking up tickets to several of the broadway shows whenever I’m in town. If you know of any really cool plays that are far off broadway then also please let me know.


  8. Pingback: Rob Bell and Mars Hill Resources | Solar Crash

  9. huh, I just realized there isn’t an email contact on either this or my portfolio site. I’ll have to fix that.

    …and apparently I don’t have anything to do at work today.

    Unfortunately, I’m leaving town Friday for holiday family visits, but I’d love to get coffee or something next time you’re in town – cause obviously you have good taste.

    Well, I don’t really know what’s going on in general, but if you’re interested in contemporary art, I can possibly help.

    Time Out New York, the Village Voice and the New Yorker are good resources for what’s going on. I’m actually clueless, but am interested in seeing the Screwtape Letters, which is getting rave reviews and was extended through Jan6.

    I’ve already written about the Richard Prince show at the Guggenheim Museum – I liked it.

    There are some good art shows up in Chelsea right now. Everyone seems to be raving about the “Masks” show at James Cohan Gallery. Here’s a link:

    If you just click on the Chelsea link in the neighborhoods section, you’ll get their picks for what is really interesting out there – it’s fairly reliable. Generally, 24th st is always worth checking out, as it’s the uber-blue chip galleries and always has something interesting.

    Here are the galleries I’d check out this weekend if I were in town…going from James Cohan and walking downtown. I cram it into about 2 hours and a good walking workout.

    25th st -James Cohan – skim picks there, briefly
    24th – skim through everything but mike weiss
    23rd – Leo Konig and Goff+Rosenthal
    22nd – Protech, Marks, 303 should all be good shows
    19th – Zwirner is always note worthy
    10th ave – Bellwether

    not that you have to do any of that – I needed to see what was showing anyway.

    Taking the L train to Williamsburg (bedford stop) is always a good alternative to Manhattan in New York. Food (Dumont, Sweetwater, Bonita) there is great and Spuyten Duyvil is my favorite bar hands down.


  10. Pingback: Rob Bell links | the spiritual blog

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