Rob Bell News

From Nellie Andreeva:

Carlton Cuse has teamed with author/pastor Rob Bell for Stronger, a drama project with spiritual overtones, which has been sold to ABC via ABC Studios in a hefty script deal. Stronger, which the former Lost co-showrunner and the founder of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church are co-writing and executive producing, revolves around Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. Music is expected to be a big part of the show, which features autobiographical elements as Bell is a former musician and played with rock/gospel bands in the 1990s.

And Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

New York‘s Vulture site reports that the show will be loosely based on Bell’s life story as a musician and eventual founder of his church, Mars Hill Bible Church. The show will feature a musician named Tom Stronger who ends up becoming a benefactor and spiritual guide, the site reports. Josef Adalian writes:

While based on biblical principles, Bell’s brand of spirituality is not about hard-core evangelical, fire-and-brimstone teachings. Instead, his goal is to service folks’ spiritual needs without the overlay of religious dogma (see also: Oprah). Stronger is similarly expected to explore spiritual themes but without being as on-the-nose as other recent series that have tackled these issues, such as 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There’s also expected to be a narrative twist to the project that will make it a bit unconventional, but for now, that detail is being kept secret (this show is from a Lost-ie after all).

After an eight-stop tour called “Fit to Smash Ice,” Rob and family will be moving to the LA area.

"I am so glad you are addressing this issue. The favoritism shown by church leaders ..."

Christian Nepotism (Michelle Van Loon)
"The author wrote: "Piper has convinced millions that gender, rather than newness of life in ..."

Mimi Haddad Responds To John Piper
"I’ll get into more of John and Tremper’s reading of the flood as we go ..."

An Ancient Document (RJS)
"Man, Patheos/Disqus is IMPOSSIBLE on an iPhone.The rest of my comment was going to contrast ..."

Thanks To Deborah Haarsma

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Robin

    I am assuming this is the “broader audeience” he intended to reach when he left the pastorate, and I’m no Bell fan, but I just find this kind of disappointing.

    To turn aside from (full-time) service to the church in favor of more lucrative ventures misses the mark for me. I feel the same way about Rowan Williams and N.T. Wright. The Church is the main thing, building up the church and its membership should take priority over academia or music of film…for those who are called to the ministry.

    Maybe he feels like GOd has cancelled his ministerial calling, or something analagous, but if he still believes he is called to full-time ministry, this is a poor substitute compared to Mars Hill.

  • Kelly

    Obviously, I can’t say much about it until I watch it, but I hope I am not made to feel obligated to like it or support it, hammered by enthusiasts like I was when The Passion of the Christ and Fireproof came out.

    As for this particular project. We preach Christ crucified and raised by God, not “spirituality.” I COULD BE WRONG, so don’t whap me, but I think this kind of project misses the point.

  • Tim

    Whoever tells the better story changes the world!

    World views are powerfully shaped by art.

    Blessings to Rob and family as he undertakes this risky adventure. Maybe he’ll find success. Maybe the show will flop. Even an excellent failure will be worthwhile– should that happen. I say “go for it!”

  • phil_style

    “I can’t say much about it until I watch it, but I hope I am not made to feel obligated to like it or support it”

    just because it has a “christian” message, does not make it good art – a factor that many christian-based publishers seem to forget…

  • rjs


    I don’t think it is fair to lump Tom Wright in here. His career has moved between the academy and the church all along and he has moved back to the academy to finish up projects that are hard in the context of Bishop.

  • Being a pastor myself, it seems to me that too many view a person who leaves the pastorate as some kind of failure or statistic. This mentality pressures men to stay in the pastorate longer than they should.

  • Robin


    Fair enough on Wright. It just seems to me like there is a kind of thinking, which Bell may or may not be guilt of that goes like this. “I’m called to the ministry, so I am going to go to seminary and become a pastor until a really great opportunity comes along like writing books, being a professor, etc.” When in my view serving the church directly is superior to the book and movie circuit. “if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”

    It is like people want to make a name and then cash-in in a different arena.

  • Karl

    A friend of mine made a good point this morning.

    In just about any vocation other than the pastorate, if a person has a passion related to her/his vocation and begins to write books about it, gets this kind of offer and leaves to pursue the dream of being an author/artist conveying the same message to a broader audience and is following what she/he believes to be the leading of the Holy Spirit . . . we celebrate that person’s accomplishments and affirm them taking that step.

    But if the person is a pastor, a significant portion of Christians will consider him a sellout.

  • Kelly


    Being a pastor is not like every other vocation. Nor should it be.

  • We often complain about culture and hollywood. So either creating culture is ministry or it isn’t. Nothing in scripture says that ministry happens only in the church, or that pastor is the highest calling a person can have.

    Bell is at heart an artist. So I am all for him being in a place where he can create art.

  • Richard

    @ 7

    I never heard Bell describe this as leaving “ministry.” That seems to be a very narrow definition of ministry if the only way he can stay in ministry is to remain a pastor at the church he planted.

    I actually think it speaks to Bell fulfilling his role as an “equipper” that Mars Hill will be ready to continue its ministry as a congregation rather than being lost as Bell leaves. The church (local and universal) is and needs to be bigger than the pastor.

  • #1

    Can I say it again:

    Rowan Williams HAS NOT said he is standing down. It is all, at this stage, rumour.

    It is also not fair to compare Tom Wright’s decision to this either. His calling is to the church, as an educator.

  • Eli

    If you only view the church narrowly as the building where you worship and a minister as someone who facilitates it, then I’m afraid you’re missing the mark there. God calls each of us uniquely according to our giftedness to serve the body in whatever capacity He desires (Eph. 4). What does it speak to the millions of Christians who don’t “pastor churches”? By your definition they aren’t serving the church or are less important to the body than its leader. But the Bible’s definition of church sees it differently: “God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to the member that lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:24-25). Each of us are called to minister according to our gifts, whether you’re an artist and writer like Rob Bell, a business person in the marketplace, a custodian at a school; it takes all of us working together as the Church to “bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:9-10). I don’t always agree with Rob’s theological views but I would never question a fellow believers desire and ability to minister to the Church according to God’s will over their lives.

  • Robin

    I understand that Bell’s calling may have changed, etc. It just (without knowing specifics) reminds me of Sarah Palin quitting her job as governor to write books, be on TV, and make millions of dollars.

    If his calling has changed, this is undeniably a good move. If it hasn’t, if this is a “strategic” decision then I just have a queasy feeling…and not because I like Bell or even want him in ministry, I just don’t want Christians or Ministers thinking that serving the church itself is “the minor league” where people wait until they get called up to “the big leagues” (Seminary, Writing, etc.)

    The church itself is the big leagues.

  • SJA

    I agree with Daren (6). Intimations that any pastor who leaves the church has forsaken his or her calling tend to frighten me. As a pastor, I have a visceral reaction of fear when I hear that kind of thing.

    And that’s leaving aside the contingent using this as a chance to say “See, I TOLD you Rob Bell was a bad egg.”

    There is a limited appropriate context for expressing concerns about a pastor leaving the ministry, and it is if that pastor is your pastor and you are on a board of elders, leadership team, etc.

  • Cody

    I agree w/ Daren#6. Whoever said that being a pastor is the most ‘Christian’ thing you could ever do? Isn’t the representation of Christ and the telling of the Christian Story supposed to be occurring in all sorts of cultural contexts? So why should we knock a person’s desire to go and do exactly this?

    Pastors tell people all the time that their vocations matter– that the Church needs good engineers and teachers and artists (and TV show producers!) just like these people need the Church. But for many of us, we only say this, we don’t really believe it.

    I’m excited to see what Rob is able to do in this area of culture. On a weekly basis there is the opportunity to create space for tens of millions of people to re-imagine what their life might look like if reinterpreted through the lens of Christian virtue (even if it is not explicitly conveyed as ‘Christian’).

    There’s no doubt that this is going to be a tempting arena for Rob, with all sorts of competing worldviews pulling on him, his family, and his vision for the show. But don’t you think he realizes/anticipates this? Granted, this won’t make it any easier. It may be a huge success. Or it may crash and burn. Only time will tell.

    But let’s not take such an isolationist perspective on Christians contributing new cultural artifacts (such as TV shows). I doubt this is going to merely copy what other shows have done. If it’s consistent with Rob’s past pattern of work, love it or hate it, I think this project is going to venture into some new territory.

    My hope and prayer is that it inspires individuals and communities to follow in the life and death of our resurrected Lord.

  • I’m glad that Bell is taking this chance to engage a wider audience. Given his love and understanding of how to communicate through good art, I have hope that this won’t be another piece of poor Xian attempts at art.
    But with that said, I’m quite skeptical about it succeeding, in part because I’m so jaded against telling these (?) types of stories through this medium.With that said, I don’t think this is the only thing Bell will be doing.
    I’m excited for him and wish him and the Kingdom well.

  • Robin


    I realize that God has called believers to exercise their spiritual gifts in different vocations, and I fully affirm that the believing plumber who does his work with integrity before the Lord is honoring God and serving the church through his vocation, just as much as the Christian pastor.

    I am talking about, specifically, people who are called to full-time ministry seeing other greener pastures as superior to their calling to direct ministry.

    Paul was called to be an apostle and minister to the churches. If he had said “You know what, I think I could have more influence by opening a philosophical school and introducing pagan philosophical students to the philosophy of Christianity in a secular setting” or “You know what, plays are really what drives the current culture, I’ll quit preaching and write a bunch of plays which introduce Jesus through the format of Greek tragedy.”

    If he had done either of those things, though called to be an apostle, his ministry would have been a disappointment. However, if any other Christian who didn’t have such a calling undertook them I would leap for joy. It is the fact that Bell believes he has been called to full-time ministry…and sees a television series as a superior way to exercise it (instead of the church) that troubles me.

  • Kyle J

    I’m with Tim (#3).

  • Echoing Daren’s comment, our hard-wired response to someone leaving full time ministry as an automatic “bad thing” is not only frustrating but a full departure from our response to ANYONE else in similar circumstance. If I am a successful salesperson, lawyer, business owner and my heart’s desire is to write a book or make a film…and I uncover and pursue that opportunity…AND it succeeds OR fails (to some degree), my closest friends point to me and say, “Look at that – he’s going for it – he’s becoming exactly who he was made to be.” But if a pastor comes alive in the pursuit of a new “anything” that isn’t “on the mission field,” he is immediately perceived as leaving his calling…walking away from the church. What if the time pastoring (for Bell, for anyone) was just a part of God’s development plan: a season of leadership and impact that has great weight and kingdom importance AND is now complete – how does that diminish either season? Can’t this be more of a “job well done, good and faithful servant…now go do THIS..?”

  • roy

    Thanks for posting, Dr. Scot. It’s encouraging to see pastors trying to influence others who are not so easily “reached”. It’s inspiring, to be honest. I don’t think he’ll stop “being” a pastor. That’s who he is. He’ll get to pastor people that aren’t going to church for many, many different reasons. Good on him.

  • Stephen W

    As someone who works in the film industry, it really annoys me to hear people (not just here) making out that this move is somehow a betrayal of Rob’s calling. To categorise it as “turning aside from (full-time) service to the church in favor of a more lucrative venture” is the kind of thing that really hacks me off.

    What’s wrong with followers of Jesus working in film and tv? It’s just as valid a call as pastoring a church, itinerant preaching, teaching theology or whatever else. And you know what, this industry is crying out for it – not for people to make bad “christian” art, but to be part of the scene, generating ideas, sharing a different world-view, and shining a light in what sometimes can be a very dark place.

    It’s been obvious for years that Rob is highly creative and has a deep appreciation of storytelling. This seems like a natural step for him and hopefully he and Carlton Cuse can do something different, interesting, that challenges people without ramming religion down their throats. This could just turn out to be great for both the industry and the church, y’know?

    So bring it on, I say.


  • Robin

    I want to say one more time that movie-making in and of itself is not a less valid calling that being a pastor. Neither is being a plumber, or school teacher, or fireman. If that is what God has called you to do, by doing it well you bring great glory to God.

    What I am saying is that if your calling is to the pastorate…television, or academia, or book-writing, or being a seminary president are venues for exercising that calling. If you are called to the pastorate, the church is the best place to exercise it, and you shouldn’t leave that venue voluntarily…unless of course God changes your calling.

    I’ve got no issues with pastors leaving for multiple reasons, in fact the only possible reason I have for disapproval is if they see other pastures as greener than service to the local church. If he has motivations besides that then I wish him well.

  • What will happen when/if the ratings tank? If they do, will we see T & A, malevolent beings like out of a role-play game, ‘reality-show’ shallow episodes, guest appearances by stars, product placements, and bashing of fundies and other easy targets, fashioned as stereotypes for us to hate?

    And will this show in any way provide a real challenge to the Western vaguely-Buddhist-quasi-Universalist set of approaches to spirituality which rule the day in our media? (That is our real long-term problem.) Or will it be as Oprah was, at first a clear challenge to it but gradually morphing into its prime platform?

    Real questions, no answers, only wild guesses. Maybe we should just sit back and enjoy the show. (If, unlike ‘Lost’, we can follow the story lines…)

  • DRT

    Excellent opportunity for Christianity if you ask me.

    One never knows how far one can go until one risks going too far.

  • Robin

    I mean to say “television…are not superior venues for exercising that calling”

  • Amos Paul

    The idea, folks, is that Rob Bell pursued his calling to gather and be the leader of a large quantity of God’s people. He then left that position (something which ought be done after *very* serious consideration!), and did so, publically, to pursue ‘change’ and ‘strategic opportunities’. Leaders are and should be extremely responsible with the positions they assume, and why.

    And, of course, Bell’s popularity and potential to have left for serious money-making opportunities puts him under even greater scrutiny in the public Christian world. But don’t act like he’s innocent in this. He’s made his departure and subsequent positioning all very public. In essence, he’s invited public opinion. Presumably, because he wants an audience.

  • Karl

    Robin, Kelly and others:

    You seem to believe that once one is called to pastor a church (be it a small local/shepherd role or megachurch-teaching role like Rob), then one is never released from that assignment and sent elsewhere to do something different. Why would this be so?

  • Stephen W

    “He’s made his departure and subsequent positioning all very public. In essence, he’s invited public opinion. Presumably, because he wants an audience.”

    How d’you figure that? He’s made it known to his church (as he should). That people who aren’t in his church can access it via said church’s website is beside the point. As far as I’m aware he has not made a public statement about it at all, nor has he invited public opinion. And to suggest it’s so he can “get an audience” is more than a little judgemental.

  • Eli

    As a full time minister I can tell you that the church is absolutely not the “best” place to exercise my gifts; it’s out in the world. That’s precisely how Jesus designed the church to grow and the kingdom to expand. The church dies when its people only look inward; it flourishes when faithful brothers and sisters choose to minister on the streets, in schools, in film studios, and in homes. That’s what creates the kind of unity Jesus desires for the church; your judgements of what is best, superior, higher, lower, or disappointing do not.

  • Amen to both of your last two posts, Stephen W.

  • Robin


    I know that callings can change,etc. Maybe he was called to be a pastor and now God has called him to film. Fine, my ONLY ISSUE would be if he believed he was called to be a pastor (or full-time ministry, or however you want to splice it) but saw making television shows as a superior venue to the church.

    And I know everyone supports this instinctually because he is “creative” and all of that, but let’s just change it up some. Imagine instead he said “I’m called to the pastorate, but what the church really needs is money, so I’m stepping down as a pastor to go work for Goldman Sachs so I can make lots of money and donate it to missions and mercy ministry.”

    Of course we would be thrilled if real Goldman Sachs employees decided to give millions to such causes, but would we really be excited about a pastor stepping aside from preaching the gospel to make money to give to such causes?

  • Robin

    Why this topic is important to me: I cam to Christ through a campus ministry in college, and in that campus ministry most of us who had come to Christ either didn’t grow up in church or weren’t that tied into it. And for the first few years of my Christian life we really looked down on the church and thought it was inferior. We thought that “really spiritual” people got involved in campus ministry, after all our campus minister had more influence in our lives than our pastor. We looked down on the people who went to church but didn’t attend our campus ministry, we looked down on the leaders in the church compared to our campus minister, and we saw the work of the local church (soup kitchens, caring for the homeless, child ministry, elderly ministry,etc.) as inferior to us sharing the gospel in the dorms. Skits were more spiritual to us than Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

    In other words “the church itself was the minor leagues, and we were the major leagues.” Making a television show that will be seen by 10 million people is not superior to preaching the gospel to 10 congregants, or baptizing a new believer, or volunteering in a nursing home, or building a wheelchair ramp. It isn’t inferior either, if that is what you have been called by God to do.

  • Amos Paul

    @29 Stephen,

    I’d call the sheer quantity of articles relating Rob Bell’s every move and why in this series of events evidence that he wants this to be public [,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.&fp=bb19496d2570d6e8&biw=1080&bih=649].

    They can’t publish all of that and interview him at every turn if he doesn’t want them to.

  • Amos Paul
  • Kelly


    I have philosophical problems with the megachurch model, but I will say that I have admired Bill Hybels and Rick Warren for founding churches and then staying there. To me, starting a church which amasses 10,000 people and then leaving it to move across the country is problematic. But, hey, who am I? Seriously. It’s just my opinion based on my view of the pastorate. I’m not saying he’s a criminal or going to hell. I disagree with his decision. I think if you start a church and God is blessing it, you stay.

  • Amos,

    I’m having a hard time following your thinking. Just because the media is obsessed with something (in large part because of the heresy-hunting particular groups did earlier this year) does not mean that Bell is seeking publicity on this matter.

  • Stephen W


    It’s just as bad (if not worse) the other way round. How many people has God called to a particular vocation but have instead decided that they must pastor a church, ’cause clearly that’s the “holier” option?

    How much better would the financial industry (or film industry) be if more Christ followers worked within them? A friend of mine worked on a very big feature recently, and in a company of 200 was the only Christian. I find that to be fairly normal across the film industry, but I don’t really understand why.

    As for Rob, would you agree that it’s OK for him to leave a job in one industry in order to take up a job in another? I guess you’d argue that depended on what God was calling him to, but listening to his talk on Sunday it’s clear he believes this is the direction God is calling him in. And again, it makes a huge amount of sense because his heart has always seemed to be for a wider “audience” than the church.

    Which should be true for all of us.

  • Stephen W


    What Henry said.

    I’m seeing a lot of articles written about Rob leaving, I’m not seeing Rob participating in them.

  • Amos Paul

    “Hey Rob, can we run an article on your recent departure? Maybe do an interview with us? What are you doing next? We’d love to publicize it.”

    Option A: “Sure, I’ve got no problem putting all of this in the public spotlight. I’ll take all the publicity offered to me.”

    Option B: “No. I believe that I’ve adequately communicated my departure and its reasoning to my church community and the church in general enough already. I don’t want this to become a public spectacle.”

    All Christian outlets and many secular outlets running several articles each later–my conlcusion.

  • Stephen W


    “Hey everyone, apparently Rob’s leaving Mars Hill but isn’t available for interview. Does that mean we can’t publish our article now?”

    “Uh. Your fired”.

  • Stephen W

    “You’re fired”, even.

  • Robin


    If he feels like God is calling him out of the pastorate and into this then there are no issues.

    My concerns aren’t even about Rob, it is the “potential” that people have to think “being a pastor is all well and good, but the real superstars in Christianity are the ones who teach at seminaries, or minister on campus, or on the mission field, or write books, etc.”

    I just don’t think the pastorate is a consolation prize, and I don’t think it is a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things “get a megachurch and then you can do the speaking and book tour circuit.”

    I think that ministry in the local church (not in the walls, but with the congregants) is the best possible place for people called to the pastorate…until God calls them elsewhere.

  • Amos Paul


    I’m also with you here. While I present just one man’s opinion… Rob Bell can leave for whatever reason he wants. But I don’t appreciate the pastorate being viewed as some sort of ‘lesser’ opportunity within the chosen field of full time church ministry. Every pastor is uniquely privileged to have stepped into the leadership of God’s holy, universal church.

  • The apostle Paul was a apostle, evangelist, church planter, writer, theologian, mentor to shepherds/elders/pastors, and regularly engaged with popular culture (synagogues, Acts 17, Mars Hill, ahem). I think this proves working for “the church” is a lot broader than keeping an office in a particular building.

    This is only one of Bell’s projects; books, tours, and continuing teaching is certainly all service to church universal (theological disagreements withstanding). And participating in a medium that is one of the most easy conversation-starters in the Western world (“Did you see ‘—-‘ last night?”) is a service to church, I think.

  • Amos Paul


    The apostle Paul called himself an Apostle, not a Pastor.

  • bill crawford

    It seems this illustrates a common view that the church is just one form of ministry, no more special than film-making, writing, sales (which is my current calling).

    However, it seems that the church is much more central to God’s purposes, and the calling of the church to proclaim the gospel, serve the wine and bread, baptize is the primary means for God to extend his kingdom. God’s people gather to then scatter into their respective vocations.

    As for calling to be a pastor: Christians use the term “calling” (whether rightly or wrongly) to speak of someone pursuing ministry in the church in a way that is seldom used when someone pursues law, medicine, or bus driving. I can’t think of an example of someone being “uncalled” to the office of pastor (unless they disqualify themselves due to moral failure, doctrinal error, infirmity.)

  • Nathan


    yes. It would be fine to go leave to make tons of money to resource ministry. It seems that it would be a rare occurrence, but on what basis could we say that’s a bad move?

    I mean, where’s the fire here re: Rob Bell?

    It’s not like he’s bringing shame on the Church the way finger-wagging moralists/polemicists do when it comes to cultural engagement. (think certain protestant popes.)

    Neither is it like he’s blowing our credibility by being exposed as a hypocritical blow-hard. (think other fallen protestant popes.)

    Besides, the church doesn’t rise and fall on the presence of any single person doing gospel ministry.

    the disciples got all in a tizzy about what other people were doing. Jesus’ answer:

    “What is that to you? Follow me.”

    If this tv venture works out, I don’t care.
    If this tv thing flops, I don’t care.

    Why? Because I’ve got enough to work on myself.
    And, in grand vainglorious scheme of things, Rob Bell is as significant as any other celebrity pastor of whatever theological stripe. Which is to say, for me, not at all.

  • Stephen W

    Amos @46,

    Lot’s of church leaders (especially in the States) call themselves “Pastor”.

    Very rarely does that mean that they actually are, in my experience. It is a much misused title.

  • RobS

    Is this the scariest part?

    “Instead, his goal is to service folks’ spiritual needs without the overlay of religious dogma (see also: Oprah).”

    I wouldn’t want to be lumped in with Oprah if I believe the exclusivity of the Bible–as she does not seem to based on numerous comments and videos of her beliefs. It’s OK to say the Bible has exclusive tones to it. It leaves no room for any solutions but Jesus and His atoning work.

    Naturally we haven’t seen the show, but if ABC is promoting it, then I’m not (immediately) very confident that Jesus will be a core element of the program. Only because that’s the trend line of modern TV program…

    But let’s hope for something interesting that’ll be effective for Jesus in a unique and creative way. It’s very possible Rob Bell and Carlton Cuse have a spark to do that.

  • mason

    i was going to stay out of this…BUT…the word “pastor” is only used one time in the entire NT. we have built an entire “position” within the Church on one single verse while neglecting all of the other callings. this is simply a mistake. we would not do that with any other teaching or doctrine in the Church. Rob was simply fillinf one of the roles within the Body of Christ for a season. maybe that role was signficant maybe we have made it more signficant than it should be. by that i mean, we look to pastor’s to have all of the answers and to be the professional Christians. we put way too much pressure on pastors to be something that the Bible never calls for them to be. we have lumped all of the callings into one job..”pastor” yet that is one of many callings within the church. there are places for teachers (N.T. Wright. there are places for evangelist (Billy Graham). there are places for charity (Mother Teresa), etc. why are we so quick to judge what God’s calling is to Rob. Rob was never a pastor at Mars Hill, he was a teacher. I believe Mars Hill had a pastor or pastors on staff to handle those duties. now Rob is leaving to fulfill another role within the church…why do we make this so much harder than it has to be??

  • Wyatt

    #51, exactly. Then I would ask, why do we care so much? Does it really or will it make that much difference? I will say, no.

    Ok. So Rob Bell is out of Mars Hill. Let’s move on. It’s beginning to look like the Michael Jackson watch. Goodness gracious.

    God will do what He wants, with whom He wants, when He wants, where He wants and how He wants. And honestly, Rob Bell is just another person in the Body with certain gifts.

    Peace out.

  • Amos Paul


    You’re equating the *word* pastor with the concept pastor. A pastor is someone who tends God’s flock. They are leaders, overseers, administrators, and, very often, teachers of church communities. This role is discussed far more than ‘one time’ both in the new and, in its own way, old testament.

  • A whole lot of armchair quarterbacking going on in the comments. Let’s a take a breath here and trust for a moment that Rob knows the difference between the Holy Spirit and a paycheck folks…

  • MatthewS

    It is possible for good art to communicate good theology.

    I was recently reading a little about Albrecht Dürer. A respected artist from the Northern Renaissance. An “excellent” person according to Martin Luther. Good art lives on and one can point an audience to God through it.

    Whether that has anything to do with Bell and TV or not, I have no idea.

  • GSY

    I hope that any who are questioning Bell’s motives would take the time to listen to his explanation at Mars Hill this Sunday. (

    He sees this new ministry as a continuation of a call he has been following for a long time. It has taken different forms, and this is a new one. And not one he was looking for. He was quite happy at Mars Hill.

    I hope he has truly discerned the call of God, and pray that through him the Kingdom will continue to grow.

  • Jim

    I have mixed thoughts about this whole thing and I will share some of them here.

    First, I am really concerned about how people think he is doing something “wrong” by leaving a Church to be involved in a project like this. I think it puts too much emphasis on how “pastors” are more valuable than others.

    Outside of Christ Himself, the majority of us probably hold to the idea that Paul was the most influential person in the New Testament. In his life, he continually took various journeys to various places and didn’t normally stay in any one city for very long.

    We find that he preached the Gospel from Jerusalem to modern-day Albania! And Paul did so as a tentmaker, not a full-time missionary or pastor! He was reaching a broader audience than he would have by just staying in one place. Could Rob Bell be looking at television to reach a broader audience? Can he not find a creative way to use media to preach the Gospel? Of course he can.

    I think part of the problem stems from our idea that people are “called” to certain ministry vocations and positions. While God does equip us with spiritual gifts, can someone gifted with leadership, prophecy, pastoring, etc use those gifts outside the Church?

    I admit that I am slightly worried for Bell as well. I admit this because with everything that has happened after his last book, if instead of reaching the world with the Gospel message, the world is reaching him with its viewpoints. Will he be able to stay focused on God in Los Angeles which is the modern-day equivalent of Corinth? Moving there, will he find a good Church to ground him and will he have accountability?

    I pray that he does because I feel that strategically speaking, he can reach a broad audience that few of us would ever have an opportunity to reach! Instead of being critical, we should all be praying for him in his efforts and his faith so that this show can be a way for the story of Christ to shine brightly.

    Psalms tells us to continually tell of God’s deeds. We are to continually tell our testimonies so that He can shine. Bell has a wonderful opportunity to do it and God bless this journey!

  • Jay

    It seems to me that Bell is merely leaving one stage for a different one. From what I have seen of Mars Hill (though to be fair, never in person) it is more of a theatrical, artistic display than it is a ‘church’. Am I opposed to Bell’s move? Not really, it seems like a parallel move more than entering an altogether new venue.

    There have been a lot of comments regarding the office of ‘pastor’ and maybe someone would like to clear up what a pastor is, and what a pastor is not.

    My understanding is that a pastor is one who leads a congregation by the proclamation of God’s word, and rightly administers the sacraments. Is Bell leaving a vocation of proclaiming the word and rightly administering sacraments? I’d say no, but who am I?

  • Tim

    As I mentioned earlier, the TV show might be a hit and it might bomb. It might tell a better Story and it might not.

    What I find disheartening in the church is when someone tries to do something “out of the box,” even before the person has started, there is criticism and “Monday morning quarterbacking.” Are we not allowed to try things? Are we not allowed to fail?

    I’ve been a lifelong Jesus and church person. Often I hear the Jesus Voice saying, “take a risk!” and the church voice saying “you better watch out!” Let’s have a little humility in terms of where the Spirit might be leading Rob. We are not Jesus. So let’s be gracious.

  • I find it impossible to make judgments about what Rob Bell is going to do (and certainly what his motives are) when it is still in the future. Further more, I know that God will not judge me or us for what Rob Bell does or does not do but God will judge me and us for what I and we do (Rev 22.12). So are far as Rob Bell is concerned, I wish the best for him and hope that his new ventures will help further the mission of God for the sake of God’s glory.

    Grace and Peace,


  • Scot McKnight

    What K. Rex Butts said.

  • Brian

    Isn’t this just part and parcel of Protestant – particularly evangelical – ecclesiology? I mean, hey, if you can just up and “start a church” then surely you can pack up and leave one.

  • May God continue to prosper Rob and his family in all that they do. Even in LA. I wonder what him and Erwin can concoct in that big city?

  • Kaye

    Thanks, GSY, for the link. Good stuff.

  • Kaleb

    I think some of comments on this post prove what many non-christians have none for quite some time… and that is that there are many judgemental Christians out there; oh and it is not compelling in any way shape or form and it even makes some Christians want to run away from being associated with the ‘christian’ title, not Jesus-just you. Congrats Rob on being able to use your gifts in new ways!

  • Joe

    Those who are questioning and exploring the concept of “pastor” are on the right track.

    what did Bell do as “pastor” of Mars Hill – I am unfamiliar with the history but it seems as though his main role as a pastor was to communicate – via is words/videos/management.

    Was he ministering to the sick and dying (perhaps at the beginning he was..but I don’t know). Was he administering the sacraments?

    None of this is said as judgment. It just seems to me that Bell was/is essentially a communicator. To take that to work on a project with Cuse seems like just another step – like collaborating with a visual artist.

  • Bob Young

    Robin (#7, etc) – it amazes me the insight you have into Rob Bell’s reasoning and motives. How did you come by this? Is it your spiritual gift to discern this, or did you take some kind of special course? It baffles me, because I’m unable to do that, but I have a hunch if I got good enough at it I could then criticize and condemn people’s choices without having to worry about Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 7 because, after all, it’s a spiritual gift… yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • Tim

    @#60 K. Rex Butts

    To agree 100% and take it a step further, “Why do we need to make judgments?”

  • Taylor

    … because if we didn’t, we would assume Thomas Kincade should be appreciated on the same level as Michelangelo. we all make judgements all the time. Not judging in the biblical sense then seems to be to refrain from making a judgment on someone’s eternal state, that is, making judgements that only God should make. I’d also suggest that judging motives is difficult and ought to be done with caution (see the apostle Paul).

    In that regard, I’ll reserve appropriate judgement until I’ve seen the show, but based on Bell’s existing tendency toward ambiguity, and Hollywood’s tendency to mute any polarizing message, I’m not anticipating much more than crossover Christian music has achieved.

  • DRT

    I wish that I could say that I am shocked by the comments on this thread, but all I can say is that I am disappointed.

  • Steve

    67. Ah, the Christian virtue of sarcasm…

    For Bell, I wish the best. I hope that this venture is successful in reaching a wide audience and perhaps they can begin to ask those questions that can only be answered with “Jesus”.

    For Christians, I wish that we could get past the point where all you have to do to bring out the fangs and venom, on any side of a discussion is say “Rob Bell did/said/looked…”

    So many bigger fish to fry than this.

  • Robin Rhea

    Bob Young,

    I said in post #7 and have said multiple other times that I do not know Bell’s specific motives for this move. And my disappointment and concern is not about Bell specifically. Overall, I am generally concerned by an apparent attitude in evangelicalism towards the church, namely that the church is a place to get some credibility so that you can move on to bigger and better things.

    When I first heard about Bell, as well as when I first heard about Francis Chan, this was my immediate fear. If his motives have nothing to do with that mindset, hallelujah. My main point is that whenever I hear about ANY pastor leaving his church for something bigger and better things, this is my immediate fear.

    I have no specific points to make about Rob Bell or any other pastor. I only want to make the general point that the pastorate is not a consolation prize, and it is not a stepping stone to “really spiritual stuff” like writing books.

  • Robin Rhea

    It was probably a mistake to discuss the general discomfort I have when pastors leave the local church for more public, non-church ministries on a thread regarding Rob Bell.

    My discomfort and disappointment over a general pattern has been taken as a specific criticism of one pastor whose motives I cannot ascertain. Next time I will stick exactly to the given topic.

    So how do I feel about Rob Bell leaving Mars Hill? (1) depends on his motives (2) I hope the show doesn’t suck (3) Meh.

  • Robin Rhea

    And Thomas Kinkade is what every Christian artist should aspire to.

  • I can’t help but think that news about a guy who wrote a convoluted book about hell where you never can quite tell where he is going or what is going on teams up with the guys who launched a show about hell that you never can quite tell where they are going or what is going on seems like a hoax? Call me crazy.

  • Tim @ #68 We don’t.

  • DRT

    Robin #73, the problem is that Rob is no ordinary pastor, and therefore comments undermining the motive for his departure become, immediately, seen as a personal attack of sorts. Rob has shown that he can engage the public in ways that none of us here can do. So I give him quite a bit of latitude.

  • DRT

    …pls let me add on to my 77. If Al Mohler were to take his show on the road then I would suspect that he is trying to take his message to a big audience via popular appeal, not that he is trying to make money off his popularity.

    I believe accusing Rob Bell of greed is just beyond the reasonable attack.

  • Robin Rhea


    I didn’t accuse him of greed. I said that I think SOME PASTORS see the church as a “minor arena” whereas things like (1) being a professor (2) writing books (3) being a seminary president, etc. are “major arenas”…and I didn’t mean to accuse Bell of having this mentality, it is just that when I see any pastor make such a transition I get a little disappointed and wonder if they have it.

    I feel the same way about Francis Chan’s recent decision, I would feel the same if David Platt chose to leave church ministry, and I would feel the same if John Piper went back to teaching at seminary. God might be calling them to do it, he might be calling Rob Bell to film, but I can still be disappointed, and a little fearful that the church is being seen as an inferior ministry opportunity.

    Like I said, my response went beyond (1) what do you think specifically of Rob Bell’s move? to (2) what do you think when you see Christian pastors leaving church ministry for “broader audiences”?

  • Stephen W


    Why would you be disappointed if God called someone from “pastoring” a church into a different vocation? Surely God using people’s gifts in the best way at the right time is a good thing, no?

    Similarly, why the fear that church is seen as an inferior ministry opportunity? Why not just accept it as a different ministry opportunity?

    In my experience the opposite tends to be true anyway and church seems to be regarded as a superior ministry, whilst those in other industries are often criticised for wasting their calling/gifting etc. rather than “serving God”.

  • Steven

    Rob Bell has left ministry to make a TV show about… himself. Shocking. Don’t mistake me for a reflexive Bell hater–I’m just as critical of the celebrities ideologically opposed to him (Read: Driscoll). But one has to be rather starstruck not to deem a “World Tour” and vaguely autobiographical “drama project” as betraying a healthy dose of narcissism. Don’t worry though, the future will be “glorious” as he reaches his wider “audience.”

    “He deserves to be called a theologian who understands God in what is visible, namely suffering and the Cross.” –Luther.

    If Luther were with us today, he’d probably say that he Spirit is at work in the day to day grind of small churches serving their communities. The Spirit is at work in the villages of northern India and the house communities of China. The Spirit is at work wherever people live humbly under the Cross.

    I dare say the Spirit is not on a world tour. At least not one you can see with your eyes. The “pastors” or “artists” that seem the most important and visible at the moment are, in all likelihood, entirely forgettable in terms of impact for the Kingdom. A hard concept for celebrity worshiping Americans, but one that deserves our reflection.

  • Do the media really want to make light of “Stronger” as a semi-autobiographical story of Rob Bell, especially with Rob Bell’s background as a Rock musician in the 1990’s? I used to have a CD of his band, Big Fil. Let me just say that Rob is a much, much better artist, painting with words as a preacher than as a musician. Songs such as “I’m not your Grandpa” and (ironically) “Swing me over hell on a cornstalk” were their main “hits.”

    All that aside, the concept for the drama does sound interesting……

  • Jason Lee

    #3: “Whoever tells the better story changes the world!” ditto

  • He’s just following the formula to fame and fortune like so many others…
    step 1) Write an ‘innovative’ (cough… heretical?) book
    step 2) sell lots because it is edgy and controversial… and people eat that up
    step 3) tap into Hollywood and TV