Is Rob Bell Really Cynical About the Local Church?

Rob Bell photo by Kevin Syes

Last week, Rob Bell did a special book event at The Viper Room in Los Angeles, which was livestreamed online to 1,500+ viewers around the world. Bell’s publisher HarperOne put on the event to promote its re-release of Bell’s earlier books with new matching cover designs, as well as to announce that Bell’s next book What We Talk About When We Talk About God will be coming out in March 2013.

Bell spoke for over an hour and then engaged in Q&A with the live and online audience for another hour. Many of the questions for Bell had to do with local church ministry, and his answers drew both positive and negative responses from those listening/watching.

So, what exactly does this have to do with missional church? Well, keep in mind: Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which Bell and his wife Kristen (not to be confused with the actress of the same name) founded together in 1999, was one of the first to use the language of “missional communities” for its model.

Rob Bell Still Painting Livestream photo by Greg StevensOne online viewer @KeithMDavenport tweeted, “#RobBell is really talking about the Missio Dei and the fact that all Christians are participants in God’s redemptive work.”

However, another person following the #RobBell tweetstream (as it started “trending” worldwide), @DavidUrzi tweeted, “Reading these tweets about what #RobBell is saying show me how cynical & disgruntled he is about the local Church.”

So what exactly did Rob Bell say that elicited these two very opposite reactions?

Here are some of the top tweeted church ministry-related quotes from Rob Bell’s “Still Painting” talk last week:

  • “Whenever you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, that’s holy ground.” (via @PastorMelissa)
  • “There is always someone better, so you have to find your move and do your thing.” (via @PaulDazet)
  • “Being a spectator is actually a sport in our culture.” (via @3grd)
  • “There is a higher intention for humanity … that we would give, serve, connect, create, poured out … so others can find life.” (via @PastorMelissa)
  • “The really warped thing is when the church is where secrets are kept and not unloaded.” (via @BrandyGlows)
  • “Some churches become shadow managers … Where we pick what shadows to focus on instead of our own.” (via @PastorMelissa)
  • “If you want to know what a church should look like, go to an AA meeting.” (via @KeithMDavenport)
  • “The only models for church leaders is work, work, work & die … That doesn’t work.” (via @PastorMelissa)
  • “The Jesus message is bigger than any doctrine, dogma, or denomination.” (via @PastorMelissa)
  • “The clergy/laity system is tragic to the church — all ground is holy, all tasks are sacred.” (via @PaulDazet)
  • “What Jesus does is destroy temples.” (via @PastorMelissa)
  • “Undo the so-called sacred/secular dichotomy. We are all ministers in the space we are in.” (via @TravisKeller)
What do you think about what Rob Bell said? To get the quotes in context, watch the whole replay of “Still Painting” currently looping on Livestream:

Check out my full curation of “Still Painting” tweets, links, photos, and videos!

What Does "Missional" Mean? Answer: A Subtle but Significant Shift
Is This The Link Between Mission and Liturgy/Worship?
A New Metric for Missional Engagement: Love
Reading the Bible Slowly in Missional Community

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