Two Days with Rob Bell – Part One

Chris Estus

The following is a guest post by Chris Estus. Chris is an “Aspiring Emergent.”  He left the friendly local mega-church in 2011 to start Pioneer at Asbury – A worshiping community of people in, in need of or interested in recovery. His worship CD – The Chris Estus Band can be sampled at  His email is This report of Chris’s experience is posted with Rob Bell’s permission.

After one particularly nasty gig at a swingers club, I knew I had to quit the bar band.  I called my 12-Step Sponsor the next morning and told him I needed a new musical connection.  He suggested that I pray.  I prayed and then went to the mega church that I had been attending.   I opened the bulletin to an advertisement stating “Worship Team Needs Guitarist – Auditions On Wednesday”.  My sponsor is a genius.

After a few years I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage that every Mega Church Contemporary Christian Praise and Worship Artist aspires to.   Once in one’s lifetime, it is taught, one should go to Sydney for the Hillsong Conference.  Since I am blessed and highly favored, I have attended 3 times and I loved it.

Last year, while trying to ignore somebody sharing in a 12-Step meeting, I received an email announcing 2 Days with Rob Bell in Laguna Beach, CA.  Since my current journey from Buddy of the Mega Church Pastor to Aspiring Emergent had been (and still is being) initiated, encouraged, informed and affirmed by Rob Bell books, films, videos and podcasts, I got out my credit card and signed up immediately.   Last week I made the journey for the 3rd time and I loved it.

In both sets of journeys, I have discovered and experienced aspects of the human search for identity, belonging and mission.  Our dual-consciousness might cause us to look at these gatherings through the lens of wrong/right, happy clappy/new orthodoxy or spiritual consumerism/spiritual intellectual elitism.  My aspiring emergent, recovering sober alcoholic, conflict avoidant, co-dependent consciousness helps me look at both movements as collections of people longing for direction and connection.  Strangely, the Spirit of Joel Osteen resides in both worlds, and I love it.

Darlene Zschech was the worship pastor, the face and voice of Hillsong Church.  She is the spiritual mother, mentor, big sister, favorite aunt and baby sitter for a generation of worship leaders, singers and musicians.  Her presence, tone, words and countenance are sincere and connecting.  She makes you feel like a member of the team and part of something significant.  She and her husband Mark, along with Pastor Brian Houston, started Hillsong Conference in 1989 as a venue to champion the cause of and equip the local church around the world.  Each year the roster is filled with the big names of Mega Church Christendom i.e. T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyers, Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Chris Tomlin, Delirious to name just a few.  Each year, 25,000 or so of us would travel from around the world to fill the basketball arena and other venues at the Sydney Olympic Park.

[Read more…]

Oprah Loves Her Some Rob Bell

I’ve heard this was coming for a while, and now it’s here. Oprah has picked Rob Bell‘s latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, as the first book in her new “Super Soulful Book of the Month Club.” Here’s what Oprah says about Rob:

[Read more…]

Two Podcasts, No Waiting

I took some time away from the blog this weekend, due in part to a power outage caused by major thunderstorms in Minnesota. I also spent most of Saturday tracking down a swim raft from Craigslist, floating it into the lake, and subsequently vanquishing all comers who attempted to dethrone me as King of the Hill.

But we awake Monday to two Homebrewed Christianity podcasts featuring items of note:

[Read more…]

Rachel Held Evans: A Woman’s Voice

Rachel in a big pulpit.

It’s tough representing your entire gender.

I feel the pressure every time I climb those super-intimidating stairs to stand behind one of those super-intimidating old-school pulpits to give a sermon I spent extra hours preparing because a small part of me still believes I’m unworthy to give it. I feel it every time I post a blog or write an article or publish a book, every time I give an interview or am asked to speak.

“We wanted to feature a woman’s voice,” a well-meaning conference planner will inform me with excitement, as if mine is sufficient to capture the experiences of 3.5 billion human beings.

I’ll desperately scan the program for another woman’s face, trying to shove the old adage from Clare Boothe Luce from my mind: “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.”

Luce’s insight, illustrated brilliantly by XKCD, is not a helpful one to share with a perfectionistic overachiever who takes herself way too seriously and who retreats to the company of complex carbohydrates when she’s nervous, which is to say, all of the time.

[Read more…]