GRANDVILLE, Mich. — Kent Dobson, who took over the leadership role at Mars Hill in 2012 after controversial author and speaker Rob Bell left the congregation he founded, has now also decided to step down, stating that “being a pastor is not who I am.”
“My place here has not felt right, like I was wearing someone else’s suit that didn’t quite fit and I tried to get it tailored and maybe I had shoulder pads from the 90’s or something. I don’t know,” he told the congregation on Sunday. “It just felt like it didn’t quite fit me so well.”
Dobson said that he feels restless and uncomfortable around “too much God talk.”
“I’ve felt restless, but I’ve always felt restless and a bit homeless when it comes to church and when it comes to God talk,” he explained. “When I hear too much God talk, I start to feel like (shudders) [it’s] too much religion. I don’t know; it gives me a restless feeling. A lot of times I feel like an outsider at my own party.”
“I have always been and I’m still drawn to the very edges of religion and faith and God,” Dobson continued. “I’ve said a few times that I don’t even know if we know what we mean by God anymore. That’s the edges of faith. That’s the thing that pulls me. I’m not really drawn to the center. I’m not drawn to the orthodox or the mainstream or the status quo.”
Dobson, the son of Ed Dobson, who formerly pastored Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, said that while Mars Hill is not “in alignment with [his] own passions,” he is not leaving the congregation because he doesn’t think it isn’t “progressive enough” on the issue of homosexuality. Dobson’s brother Daniel identifies as homosexual.
“It is true that my views are progressive, … but I’ve never felt that Mars Hill needed to think like me,” he stated. “I never felt like Mars Hill, like other kinds of churches, that I needed to come down the mountain like Moses and draw a line in the sand and say everybody’s gotta be like me or they can hit the road. … I am open and affirming but I always have been.”
Dobson said that he is not sure what is next, but that he will be transitioning out over the next few months.
“Mars Hill is going to have to find some new teaching voices. It’s just time,” he stated. “I feel called to a greater mystery that I do not know, that I do not understand.”
Rob Bell, who founded Mars Hill in 1999, left the congregation in 2011 shortly after releasing his book “Love Wins,” which was criticized by many for its teachings that claimed the majority of Christian doctrine on Hell is “misguided and toxic.” However, he asserted that his departure had nothing to do with controversy over the book.
Dobson is formerly a teacher at NorthPointe Christian School, and has appeared on broadcasts for the History Channel and Discovery Channel. His 30-minute announcement to Mars Hill may be viewed here.