Grandville, Michigan – Rob Bell, author of the best-selling and controversial book Love Wins, returned Sunday to the church he founded over a decade ago, marking the first visit since he left two years ago.
The congregation of Mars Hill Bible Church welcomed Bell, who spoke at both the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. As the church had been in a teaching series on “The Ten Deadly Sins,” Bell was assigned the topic of sloth by Pastor Kent Dobson.
“[Sloth is not] stillness, rest, play, Sabbath or reflection,” he said. “[It is rather] saying ‘no’ to the endless potentials and possibilities of the life God has given you.’”
Bell had left Mars Hill in 2011 shortly after releasing his book Love Wins, which was criticized by many for its universalistic teachings that claimed the majority of Christian doctrine on Hell is “misguided and toxic.” However, he asserts that his departure had nothing to do with controversy over the book.
“Some idea that we were forced out is absolutely untrue,” he told the Grand Rapids Press.
“He decided [to leave] because he wanted to go do something else, not because of internal pressure or internal disagreement,” agreed Dobson. “Everyone in the leadership was sad to see him go.”
The “something else” is a new talk show called “The Rob Bell Show,” headquarted in Los Angeles, California.
“We want to talk about the things that matter most,” Bell told the congregation Sunday while introducing the program. “We want to talk about our brokenness and our struggle. We want to be inspired. We want to hear stories.”
“I want to take elements of this, what you’re experiencing here,” he said. “I want to put it all in a blender, and throw in a little ‘Lost,’ maybe some TED Talk and maybe some Letterman and do something that’s never been done before.”
The rights to the broadcast, which Bell has been developing with Carlton Cuse of ‘Lost,’ have reportedly been bought by ABC.
In addition to speaking at the church, Bell also spent time at Schuler Books and Music, signing copies of his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God.
“I believe God is for every single one of us, regardless of our beliefs or perspectives or failures or mistakes,” the book reads. “I want you to see the radical, refreshing, revolutionary forness that is at the heart of Jesus’ message about God as it informs and transforms your entire life.”
“We were terrified to seek anything [religious] because we thought for sure we’re going to Hell,” stated one couple that came for the signing. “We thought we already knew the end, so why keep looking?”
“[Bell’s teaching] gave us the opportunity to put aside our fears long enough to actually have the experience [of Christianity] ourselves,” they continued. “It’s nice to at least have the courage to stay open minded enough about it.”
However, not all are enthusiastic about Bell’s writings or that fact that such books are so prevalent and popular in Christendom.
“The best-selling books in Christianity today are almost categorically across the board emergent books,” lamented Pastor Eric Ludy in his sermon The Evil Side of Artistic. “Entire tables will be set up in Barnes and Noble entitled ‘The New Christian,’ and they’re all this [type of emergent] thinking. So, I’m not talking about a little side project … This is the thinking that is permeating the Church of Jesus Christ.”
“What has happened to our Gospel?” he asked with concern in his voice. “You do not tamper with the truth, otherwise you are tampering with the Son of God who gave up His life. This was precious blood that was spent. Precious! And we [need] give up our blood to protect this message.”