Yesterday I listened to Rob Bell’s sermon from two weeks ago called: “The Village Elder.” He takes almost an hour to expound a robust theology of aging while remaining fresh and innovative for the kingdom. I cannot recommend this particular sermon enough!
In this talk, Rob tells of a story from a year ago July (2009) when Mars Hill hosted: Poets, Prophets, and Preachers. On the first day of the event, Rob was made aware of one of the attendees’ situation. He was a pastor at a church about 8 hours away from Grand Rapids. His phone had a message on it, so after one of the sessions he went to listen to it. The call was from the Pastor that he answered to. For attending the Rob Bell conference, and associating with Mars Hill, this pastor was fired. There are several problems with this situation, for instance the reality that Rob is probably one of the most biblically sound preachers in America. But, rather than go on a rant defending Rob, let me continue to tell the story.
During the last session of the conference, Rob shared what had happened with the other pastors at this preaching conference and called them to give an offering to help tide over the finances for this fired pastor for a few weeks. When they had taken communion and given the offering, there were two big milk crates full of cash. He literally walked out of the conference with a backpack full of cash! These women and men who are mostly ministers, gave about $10,000 to support them!!! Talk about kingdom! But then…
When the fired pastor went home, he had been scheduled to preach in church the following Sunday. He had a team of friends who had helped him prepare a large prop for the sermon and had invested time into the message. So they urged him to set up in his backyard with the prop and to preach the sermon anyway to some friends that Sunday at a BBQ. Fifty people showed up! So they asked if he would want to give them a sermon from the Bible the following week. And at the second BBQ they had 300 people in his backyard! Then they asked, can we come back again next week? By week three, 1,000 people showed up! The neighborhood was clogging up with cars and there was no room in the backyard, so a friend of his who works for the city opens up the nearby stadium so that they can have room for everyone. After the first three weeks, it was clear that God was really up to something. So they continued to meet each week in a rented building. And within several months (not years), they had enough offering to purchase an abandoned opera house to meet in. But then…
Rob had lunch with this fired pastor a couple of months ago. He wanted advice on how to process what God had been doing since the conference, which was only one year ago. At this lunch, this fired pastor informed Rob that the previous week, 10,000 people had shown up!!!! This was within one year of that first BBQ. And the week that Rob prepared for this sermon, he got a phone call and was told that the Fire Marshal showed up and they were literally having to turn thousands of people away because so many were coming, wanting to hear about Jesus!
Sometimes, getting fired from church can be how God takes a broken situation and transforms it for the kingdom. Sometimes, what seemed like a great injustice, can be redeemed for something much more beautiful than the mind can ever comprehend. As Mike Yaconelli famously spoke about- “getting fired for the glory of God!”
AFTER THOUGHT: A few readers have suggested that it is not fair to have this kind of a story without any details about the “who” and the “where.” It seems that Rob chose to not reveal the name of this pastor with intentionality. Perhaps, this pastor is not ready to be the ‘next big thing’ in the Christian ‘celebrity’ world and so Rob chose to not put him in the limelight? Who knows. Ultimately, this is a story that should inspire us that in spite of seemingly hopeless circumstances, new life can occur! I for one don’t need ‘evidence that demands a verdict’ to embrace both the truth and beauty of this story. *But, if you want some facts, the picture of the money is from the actual conference… so there is a start