Nice to see Time Mag honoring Rob Bell. [HT: Eugene Cho who i got to meet recently in Seattle]. Rob has gotten a lot of criticism recently, much of it from churches that want to have the same genre of success that Mars Hill enjoys. But in my opinion, Rob Bell has done really well. I have never met him, nor been to his church and I only took a quick glance at one of his books – “Sex God”. But I did sneak into the local Baptist church up here in Scotland to see what the Wednesday night Bible study (middle aged and older) folk were watching and there was a Nooma video on. Rob is a great storyteller. And from what I have heard, he is a great person. I think the Baptist youth group also went through his videos.
There is one video named “Bullhorn Guy”, where Rob talks about a street evangelist. I am not that evangelist – that was someone else. But I was a street evangelist for many years and in many countries so I found it interesting that there was so much discussion on this one.
And if you happen to come across the Bullhorn Guy on the web (Fighting Fundamentalist Forums, for example), well . . thats me. I am not a street evangelist anymore, having swapped my bullhorn and soapbox (and guitar, magic tricks, sketchboard, ventriloquist dummy named Wally, and other paraphernalia accumulated over 5 years) for a keyboard and mouse . . . but I would not be opposed to pulling the bullhorn out again if it was culturally appropriate. And in most cases, I agree with Rob that those moments would be very rare. Actually, I would like to do more ambient video projection on buildings but thats another story.
But back to Rob. He seems pretty sound theologically, despite the attacks. I know John MacArthur chewed out Rob’s wife in his book for a comment about the Bible. I never heard how Rob’s wife responded to the criticism. I guess I was wondering what would happen if we were to put other well-known pastors’ wives up on the stand and question them. How well would Mrs MacArthur answer the questions? How well would anyone’s wife [or husband] respond?
I do need to explain that the churches we are starting and encouraging are different animals than Mars Hill. They start small and grow [emerge] in an organic fashion without transfer growth and certainly not with a chunk of people handed over from another church to kick-start them. These churches don’t have pastors or paid leaders and they generally don’t own buildings but sometimes they do rent space for communal gatherings, or residential communities, or art-space, or business enterprise, but not necessarily a ‘worship service’. These groups are usually local, small, integrated in the community [missional], and not always visible to the public as an official group or organization. Their goal is not to attract people to an event but rather to penetrate the community with the love of God and embody the gospel as well as communicate it. The term “emerging church” is normally applied to churches like these and it makes sense that Rob Bell does not use the term to describe his community. Although there are some that put his church in that category and it may be that the term is broad enough to encompass models like this, especially when the term describes mindset more than model.
But we read the same Bible and follow the same Jesus and are asking similar questions of our culture. And I recognize the same spirit that inspired me back when i was doing a seeker-model church 15 years ago. Although, I need to confess, not nearly as well as Rob.
Anyway – credit where credit is due. Well done Rob!