Why Mainline Christians Don’t Care about Rob Bell

Why Mainline Christians Don’t Care about Rob Bell October 14, 2011

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Rob Bell is leaving Mars Hill Bible Church, which he founded, in Grandville, Michigan. He’s moving his family to California and developing a television show for ABC.  Knowing Rob as I do (I don’t), I’m guessing he’s also working on a movie script, a tour, and probably a time machine.  He’s a person of unique aptitudes.  Thinking that he would stay indefinitely in a parish church situation is akin to thinking that Steve Jobs should have been the manager of an Apple Store.

Zach, a mutual friend of Rob and me (see, I’m only one degree of separation from Rob Bell!), has written a provocative post in the face of criticism that Bell’s departure has received from conservative Christian leaders like Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren.  Zach writes,

In a nutshell, more conservative folks seem to be more skeptical when a successful, well-known pastor decided to leave their churches behind.

Then he continues,

Nowhere have I seen any prominent liberal voice object to Bell moving on. (If so please point me to it)

Well, I’ve got an answer for Zach:

Prominent liberal Christians aren’t objecting to Bell’s departure from parish ministry because they’ve never heard of Rob Bell.

On occasion, I speak to groups of mainline clergy (believe it or not, I don’t get evangelical invitations anymore).  As is my wont, I drop Christian cultural references here and there when I speak.  And it’s become clear to me that most mainline clergy have never heard of Rob Bell.  They don’t know what the emerging church movement is.  They don’t read Jesus Creed.  In short, they are not familiar with anything evangelical, with the possible exception of pastors who appear on CNN, like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.

Of course, some mainliners have heard of Rob, and maybe even read his book(s).  But, as a whole, mainliners read the Christian Century, and they read their own denominational magazines, newsletters, and websites.  They don’t read Christianity Today, where news of Bell’s departure was, ahem, big news.

I am prepared for lots of mainliners to jump all over me in the comment section, protesting that they know who Rob is, and they follow CT on Twitter.  Well, you’re not who I’m talking about!  If you’re reading blogs and on Twitter, you’re not the standard mainline pastor.  Sorry.

If you don’t believe me, take a poll at your next denominational meeting: raise your hand if you can tell me the name of the church Rob Bell founded.  I bet you’ll get about 25%.

In response to Zach, I would venture to say that if mainliners did know who Rob Bell is, they, too, would be unhappy about his departure.  Even more than evangelicals, mainliners are committed to parish ministry — sometimes blindly so.  I imagine that if someone they knew — like Adam Hamilton at Church of the Resurrection (UMC) in Kansas City — left his parish for Hollywood, there would be similar hand-wringing on the Christian Left.

The real tragedy about all of this is how large the rift has become between conservative and progressive Protestantism.  Not that long ago, mainliners were looking to evangelicals like Bill Hybels for advice on planting and growing churches, and evangelicals were looking to mainliners for…um, well, nothing.  But, as our country’s politics have become more polemicized, the two primary versions of American Protestantism have retrenched.


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  • Greg Wack

    Nice blog, Tony. I’ve always had an image of folks on both ends of the spectrum standing with arms folded and looks of extreme confidence on their faces, not even realizing they are standing back to back barely an inch apart.
    I am glad to be enriched by your voice and many others that God asks me to listen to, pray about, and learn from. Perhaps, listening to each other is a much underrated spiritual gift?

  • Tony – Thanks for your blog! You’re probably right about mainliners and Rob Bell, although there are more theological connecting connecting points between mainline denominations and Rob Bell than with more conservative/rapture type pastor/churches. This connection is also probably due to Bell’s connection with people like NT Wright who have endorsed each other’s works.

  • I don’t know what circles you’re traveling in, but I can attest that many mainline pastors have heard of Bell and use his videos and books regularly, not to mention emergent resources (a label which, it should be noted, Bell does not claim). Of course, you were quick to offer caveats which I acknowledge that I and many of these other Bell appreciators fall into, though not all.

    And I disagree with the assertion that evangelicals don’t look to mainlines for anything. I’ve come to realize that the emergent movement is, by and large, made up of disillusioned evangelicals just now discovering theological methods and emphases that mainliners have been using for decades or even centuries. Do you really think that the mainliners (pastors who use such resources in particular) who agree with emergent are doing so because Biblical criticism and social justice are new concepts to them? Sure, we’re behind the curve in terms of ecclesiological models, but the other stuff, not so much. In that sense, it boggles my mind that you want to continue perpetuating this mainline/emergent rift when we could be doing so much good together instead.

  • Paula

    You are probably correct, but I am a mainline pastor who read “Love Wins” and enthusiastically pressed it upon everyone I know. And I said to them, “why don’t we take theology this seriously, and write this clearly, and beautifully? If we did, maybe we wouldn’t have so many members staying home on Sunday because they can get much better cultural/political commentary elsewhere than from our pulpits.

  • Yes. I agree with Coffeepastor. We mainliners have heard of Rob Bell. We use those Nooma videos all the time. (They were always checked out of the presbytery resource center.) It’s just that much of what he is saying, which is apparently news to evangelicals (no hell, social justice, etc.) has been part of our ethos for decades. He’s hip and cool, but the message is not new to us.

  • Since my background is evangelical, I always assumed that mainline churches knew about American Christian culture. Yet when I listen Homebrewed Christianity (one of my all-time favorite podcasts, btw), I’ll sometimes hear Tripp say, “Now for those of you who are mainline, let me explain what Campus Crusade is.” I’m like, “What????? How can you not know about Campus Crusade?????”

    Shows that I’m not much of a mainliner 🙁

  • Zach Lind

    I guess I missed the part in my post where I ask about what Mainline pastors think about Rob Bell. Tony, since you know more about this sort of thing than I do, I’m still waiting for a well-known liberal Christian voice who is on record being critical of Rob’s departure. Because I think that’s the question I asked. 😉

    • Zach, my answer is the same: They’re not speaking out against Rob because they haven’t heard of Rob.

      • Zach Lind

        We obviously have two different views of what the word “liberal” means. I think you’re being a little too cute here. Apparently “liberal” for you means mainline parish pastor and that’s it. Strange. I think you’re ignoring the obvious point I’m trying to make in order to make some other side argument that has nothing to do with my post. How about this Tony? Name any prominent NON conservative voice that has been critical of Rob’s departure.

        • Zach, yes I’m using mainline, progressive, and liberal interchangeably. That’s a shortcut, but it’s not an attempt to be cute.

          I don’t know who a liberal leader would be in American Christianity. Jim Wallis? Marcus Borg? Richard Rohr? You’re right, none of those would speak out critically about Rob’s departure.

          Parish ministry has been idealized in evangelicalism, which I think is your point. I would add that it is similarly idealized in liberal Christianity.

          • Zach Lind

            In the post I’m pretty clear that I’m making broad generalizations between liberal and conservative voices. So if Warren and Driscoll represent the general conservative consensus, I’m looking to more liberal voices such as yourself, Pagitt, McLaren, Trip Fuller, Jim Wallis, Donald Miller, etc. I realize that these guys might not all be extreme liberal/progressive mainliners and I failed to consider by using the term “liberal” as I did that I’d be saying only mainline voices. I think this just boils down to how you and I treat the term “liberal” differently.

          • i’m in pain that Rob is leaving…unless he decides to join the homebrewed christianity podcast since he is local. that old one he did wasn’t too bad.

  • Charles

    …the emergent movement is, by and large, made up of disillusioned evangelicals just now discovering theological methods and emphases that mainliners have been using for decades or even centuries.

    I tend to agree with Coffeepastor on the quote above. As a mainliner who left the evangelical wing several years ago, the disillusioned aspect rings true for me. The small church I am now a part of certainly knows who Rob Bell is. Several have read Love Wins and liked it. A couple of retired pastors and a few who have left the pulpit early even read this blog, mainly for the irony. The irony validating the last half of Coffeepastors quote above.

    It was the theology, even disingenuousness of the beliefs, that lead me to depart evangelicalism. But true theological bliss is not found in mainline denominations either. It’s community that keeps me in the church. And community abounds in the emergent movement and many liberal churches.

  • I think you are about half right.

    This is for several reasons. First, there are several mainline pastors that have a foot in the evangelical world. Especially in more rural places. I would even put Church of the Resurrection among them.

    I think what you are correct in addressing, albeit by indirection, is a generation gap that is especially prominent in mainline circles. I am nearly 40, and at most meetings of denominational pastors in my area, I am the youngest by at least 10 years. (My friend who was from a non-white background always used to joke, ‘its a snow storm out there’ or ‘its a qtip convention'” Most of the people in the 55 or older set wont know Rob Bell well, although some might. They also will probably will be more familiar with Barclay’s commentaries for laity and less familiar with NT Wright’s For Everyone series. They might have read the Shack though.

    They will consider themselves thinking outside the box because they used some contemplative prayer exercise in a teaching station. Older mainliners are very proud that they are thinking “outside of the box” when they are doing something like facebook as well, or have started trying to have a weblog.

    • At an emergent theological conversation several years ago, I was interviewing Walter Brueggemann. In passing, I mentioned The Prayer of Jabez, a book that was wildly popular at the time. Brueggemann had never heard of the book and, in fact, couldn’t remember where Jabez occurred in the OT.

      I was shocked. So, just for fun, I asked him if he’d heard of The Purpose-Driven Life, a book that had at that point, sold over 30 million copied.

      Nope, he said, never heard of it.

      Just an anecdote to show how the mainline and evangelical worlds tend to live in their own silos.

      • If I were Brueggemann I wouldn’t waste my time with The Purpose-Driven Life either. 😉

  • Anita

    I agree with the premise that most mainline churches have no idea who Rob Bell is and could care less what he says or does. But let me offer this too. Even those of us who consider ourselves progressive, who read the publications listed above and more, perhaps silently cheer Rob Bell’s move outside the church. Perhaps more ministry can actually be accomplished outside the church than in it once ministers have reached a certain point. What is that point? I think it’s different for each of us. As a former minister myself, (who left the church clergy life willingly and has never looked back) I see it less as a “sell out” or a “leaving” and more of a movement in a new direction. I personally have more ability to minister to others than I ever did while I was on staff. Who knows what he can accomplish in Hollywood? Perhaps someone like Rob Bell can bring a new view of Christianity to the outside world that views all Christians as dogmatic and hypocritical?

    • Charles

      Perfect, Anita.

    • My thoughts exactly. When Bell helped to found Mars Hill, a thousand folks showed up the 1st Sunday. He’s gone on tour several times – and it’s just him up there talking! If anyone has the talent to pull off some sort of ABC show that integrates faith and culture, it’s him. I’m excited to see how God uses him, on TV or not.

  • Bradley Pace

    I’m an Episcopal priest and have read most of Rob Bell’s books. For my part, members of my congregation and I (those of us who read Love Wins together) were surprised at all the fuss. This is fairly orthodox, mainline theology (a more popular version of N T Wright, I suppose). It’s what many of us have been preaching for years. I’m more…uh…liberal than Rob Bell, I suppose about some things. But I find most of what he says pretty good. At the same time, you are spot-on…we (mainliners) can’t get over parish ministry or even think outside of that box. Good salaries and nice pensions will do that. Keep up the great work Tony.

  • I agree with all of you: mainline theology IS affecting (progressive) evangelical leaders. I think that Rob is an exception — I do not think that he’s reading mainline theology.

    • And let me add that evangelicals looking to mainline theology is a relatively recent phenomenon, and it’s only happening among progressive evangelicals.

      • JoeyS

        Would you consider Anglican mainline? N.T. Wright? Or does he somehow flow between groups unnoticed?

        • I don’t really consider him mainline because 1) he’s British, and 2) most people consider him pretty evangelical in his views.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by mainline theology. Bell references a number of classical mainline guys in “Love Wins,” including Augustine, Origen, Clement, etc. There’s even some more modern references to the likes of Rohr and Lewis. Granted there’s no Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr or even Wallis, but what I like about Bell is that he’s firmly rooted in Christian tradition/history, yet presents it in a very fresh take.

        So perhaps he’s not reading some modern mainline theology, but I think he’s well versed in some classics.

  • Traci Smith

    This is an excellent post. Agree completely.

  • Traci Smith

    You know, I just re-read that previous post and laughed to myself. Most of the time we think that things we agree with are well said. Haha. I just meant I think you’re 100% correct on this one. I know RB because I went to Calvin College and I am all over social media. When I introduced his books in our mainline PCUSA church, people were like “Who is this guy, again?” Other pastors, too.

  • Josh

    I’m from Canada. Can someone please define “Mainline Churches/Clergy/People” for me?

    • Todd

      I don’t mean to be snotty, but try googling “mainline protestant.” The first two results are quire illuminating. You’ll learn about Philadelphia railroads even!

  • I’m one of those mainliners who you predicted would tell you were wrong in your comment threads. Evangelicalism is a movement that cuts right through all denominations. A good half of PC(USA) pastors (my denomination) think of themselves as Evangelical and are more interested in what James Dobson and Pat Robertson and Al Mohler have to say than in our denominational resources. When I go to presbytery meetings I am always shocked how many of these pastors are out of touch with what is going on in their own denomination, but know all about what Focus on the Family has said in the news this month.

    I don’t think the divide is mainline vs. nondenominational evangelicals. The divide is ideological. The Evangelicals in my presbytery don’t know or care about Rob Bell because they have written him off as a liberal. It’s the same reason they don’t care about Jim Wallis or Brian McLaren.

    As for the liberals in my denomination, we almost all know and read Rob Bell. We haven’t spoken out against him leaving Mars Hill because there’s nothing wrong with it. Average stay in a call in the PC(USA) is 7 years, a little longer for a new church development, but the point remains the same. Why should he stay in that one congregation his whole career? In fact, it’s probably best for Mars Hill that he leaves sooner rather than later so they have a chance to develop an identity that proves they are not a cult of personality. Why on earth would I be such a nosy busy body that I would condemn someone I don’t even know for their career choices?

    • I hear you Aric. But wouldn’t you say that in other presbyteries, there would be very low name recognition for Rob?

      • It is probably the case that he’s got pretty low name recognition among older presbyterian ministers – and almost zero name recognition among elders. I’m 30 and every minister I know my age or those in seminary know who Rob Bell is.

        I’d bet the same is true among evangelicals actually. A lot of older evangelicals probably just haven’t kept up and have no idea who Mark Driscoll or Rob Bell etc… are, but they could tell you all about Billy Graham. As many books/videos as Rob Bell has sold it’s not like he’s JK Rowling or something. He hasn’t penetrated so deep into our culture that everyone should know who he is. Sometimes I think we blogger internet types forget what a little bubble it is we live in. I am keeping up with stuff that you and Doug Pagitt and Brian McLaren and Rob Bell and Shane Hipps and Peter Rollins and Jay Bakker and… and… and… are saying, but I highly doubt that anyone in my congregation is.

  • Jason

    Tony, I think you are correct for the most part, especially concerning mainline pastors over a certain age.Yet, there are many mainliners who come from the evangelical world or consider themselves conservative for a mainliner (probably still too liberal for many evangelicals though) who are plenty familiar with the goings on around Bell, E.C. and CT. However, I do think there has been much more cross pollination between what some might call “progressive evangelicals” and “postliberal” mainline folk. I think guys like the late Stanely Grenz and John Franke and their book “Beyond Foundationalism” speak about this and the good things that could/do come from such cross pollination.

  • Hello from the Christian Century. I think a lot of what you say here is right. But for whatever it’s worth, anyone who reads the Century regularly has certainly encountered Bell (whether or not they remember doing so). He was on our cover in 2009, and earlier this year a prominent mainline pastor reviewed his book (also a cover story). Also, we share several writers with CT, and last month we co-sponsored a lecture/dialogue. To the extent that American Protestants have retrenched, they haven’t taken CT and CC with them–which, of course, is a whole complicated subject of its own. –Steve Thorngate, assistant ed. at the Century

  • Greg Wack

    I’m a mainline- United Methodist. My experiemce is that some have read Rob’s stuff and some haven’t. The one’s who have, have also read a wide variety of authors. The one’s who haven’t, don’t generally read anything except for that which they agree with, or need to for a continuing ed requirement. Sounds a bit judgemental, but that’s the reality I’ve learned from conversations.

  • Tony, I’ve got to push back on this one because there is a mainline Rob Bell and her name is Barbara Brown Taylor. Her impact and highly revered status among mainliners is, I think, comparable to the reverie Bell gets from neo-evangelicals.

    She didn’t just leave her church she wrote a book about it–called “Leaving Church”. I have heard virtually no blow-back from mainline friends–most said it’s a must read. At least three seminaries I know have courses that have made it required reading. In fact, the only person I know to express any incredulity at BBT’s decision is a moderate-yet still quite conservative Baptist pastor I know. Perhaps there’s more upheaval than I am aware of. Perhaps the bigger story is that the culture of Rob Bell, though heavily comprised of people (like myself) who left their evangelical moorings for friendlier mainline-ish lands, has mysteriously transcended both left and right into something else. Finding someone else who speaks Rob Bell-like language has become its own shibboleth–one that neither evangelical naysayers nor (non)supportive mainliners will stop anytime soon.

    • Really good point, Trey. I know BBT, and I know and love that book. So, I guess that goes to Zach’s point that liberals respond to someone leaving church ministry differently than conservatives.

      • Zach Lind


  • Tim

    Rob Bell spoke at an ELCA national youth gathering almost ten years ago. His talk was full of grace.

    At the last youth gathering Jay Bakker was a speaker.

    Bell’s “Love wins” book has a trajectory similar to many mainline preacher friends.

    At the same time, we do have our ghettos, not knowing the big shots in other wings of the church.

    By the way, is there a Christ proclaiming competition? We should love one another more than argue with one anothrt

  • what a bizarre reflection on the silos we inhabit as a distraction

  • ohhh Mainline youth ministers almost all use Nooma videos….because their publishing houses make crappy videos. re:form is the only other one that’s usable.

    • toddh

      Yup, yup!

  • I’m a mainliner (not in the tradition of Lou Reed, though), and you are absolutely right.
    What’s more, much of what is novel in the context in which Bell preaches it is what we’ve been saying for a long time.

  • Deb4kids

    I’m currently a Kids’ Staffer at an evangelical church, I grew up in the UMC and our best friends attend Mars. I landed here from Jesus Creed. Given all that..this is an interesting topic to ponder. My thoughts:

    The little UMC where I spent my teen years and at which my husband and I were married is celebrating 150 years next Sunday. Six former pastors have confirmed their intent to attend the event. Five of them pastored this church AFTER we married and moved away. I know of at least two other former pastors from that 30 year time frame who are not on the list.

    My thoughts are 1) Mainline pastors move all the time. And, no, they don’t all stay in ‘parish ministry’. Many move up the ecclesiastical ladder to District, Conference positions that are more administrative in nature and some move out of ministry all together. It just isn’t a ‘big deal’ to hear of a pastor leaving a church.

    2) Mainliners, imo and as a general rule, just have not fallen into the “Rock Star” mentality that plagues evangelicalism. Be it Rob Bell or Jim Dobson or the Prayer of Jabez guy…evangelicals love to put men on a pedestal and blindly follow whatever ‘their guy’ says. Until the next big fade comes along….

    I always wanted to say to my in-laws ” You know there is no Book of Dobson in the Bible, right?” But it was just never worth it. 🙂

  • Barb

    I am a “member” of an ELCA congregation. While evangelical is in our name, we are anything but. In these type congregations there is no place for questions, discussions, etc. Those of us who search for more meaningful Christ centered lives talk among ourselves. The rest are satisfied with business as usual – go to church, SS and volunteer for programs that are mostly to get more members so we can pay for our building. While I have some deep connections with people there I am not really a part of the whole. We have 3 pastors for a worshipping congregation of about 450 (mostly older). They are so busy doing everything that there is no time for interaction. This is a symbiotic relationship – pastors want to keep peace and members don’t want to be challenged. My husband and I are facilitators for a Sunday 45 min. (time is of the essence) study of the gospels. Our thought is this will be the last year to commit to a small ( at best 5 or 6 people) group which just wants us to study and tell them what to think. If I reccommend a book such as Rob Bell’s, the question is usually “Is he Lutheran?” Sad, but true. I am frustrated because my only opportunity to be with a thoughtful group of believers is at a monthly group of Theology on Tap started by a local Episcopalian church.

    • “I am a “member” of an ELCA congregation. While evangelical is in our name, we are anything but.”

      Amen. We belong to an ELCA church, and I am equally bothered by the fact that we practically never go out into community to spread that gospel. I just don’t think that occasional work at the homeless shelter or writing a check to anonymous people overseas is enough. We have fallen in love with the God of programming instead of the God of love and community.

  • Pat Pope

    “as our country’s politics have become more polemicized, the two primary versions of American Protestantism have retrenched.”


  • EricG

    I’m a mainliner who used to be evangelical. Agreed that most mainliners haven’t heard of Bell, but I disagree that they aren’t familiar with the emerging church. McLaren does a lot of work with both mainline denom leadership and churches. My pastor has heard him talk, and talks about his books.

  • Carol Howard Merritt

    Almost everywhere I go in mainline circles, I ask what people in their 20/30s what they rely on for curriculum. NOOMA ALWAYS tops the list.

    I agree with Aric, most younger mainliners know who he is (at least in clergy circles). I love Brueggemann but I don’t run to him for cultural references…

    Can evangelicals name any interesting mainline thinkers under the age of 50? (And saying there aren’t any isn’t an answer. :))

  • Dear Tony,

    1) I was ordained in 1981 in the UCC and have served UCC churches for over 30 years. I spent four days at a UCC Confessing Christ Retreat that discussed Rob Bell’s book and Barth’s discussion of universalism as a article of hope but not an article of faith. (Is the UCC still considered a Mainline church?)

    2) Why should I or any other pastor open up his mouth about Rob Bell’s decision. That is between him and God. It seems those who are opening their mouths on this should pause, take a deep breath and slowly meditate on the Serenity Pray. If this does not work please go to a 12 Step Meeting for people who think that they can CURE, CAUSE & CONTROL everything in life. It is written: “I AM THE LORD AND THERE IS NO OTHER!!!”

    Thank you for your time….


  • It seems that the mainline denominations are mostly like other institutions, ideologically diverse. However, in observing the direction of mainline theology in my church (PC USA), the tides are shifting towards a much more generous theology (to borrow from Brian McClaren). Many of us who have been following this reformation (always reforming) for awhile are very familiar with the reformers such as Philip Gulley, Rob Bell, et al. Real change it seems is messy and happens in fits and starts. This movement is, perhaps, the last best chance to save Christianity from itself.

  • Scott

    Thanks Tony– spot on I think… and I hadn’t really even realized this (until you blogged it).

    I think part of the problem for anyone objecting to Rob’s move is that evangelicals and main-liners alike think inside an institutional ministry box. Ministry outside the box isn’t on their radar… so it seems like “leaving the ministry.” I suppose that’s fairly obvious, but it keeps striking me squarely every time our big church talks about “finding your gift.”

    It ALWAYS has something to do with a bulleted item on the church’s list of ministries.

  • I don’t know how many mainliners pay attention to Bell. We’ve read Velvet Elvis and Love Wins in discussion groups here at First Presbyterian (that would be mainline, I guess), and folks mostly said, “So what’s the big deal about this guy? This is no news as far as we understand the gospel.” Maybe I’ve had a latent mainline emergent congregation all along and didn’t know it. Anyway, good for Bell, if he can manage to get an alternative kind of religious message into the mainstream media. Clearly the church has to think beyond traditional walls, and I doubt that Bell will do traditional television, either.

  • Maybe Rob Bell’s message is just too much like mainline churches, and he “fits in” easily, and thus doesn’t stand out. “Preaching to the Choir.” I mean, for may of us, it’s the message we’ve been sharing all along, rather common sensical, honestly. *Yawn* I am amazed at how Apple-esque this is, people doing the “same old thing” in a different way, and get TONS of attention for it.

    But compared to those he’s preaching to, (evangelicals), it’s a much more distinct contrast, so they get rattled, and we wonder why. Good for Rob, cause he’s hitting the trenches with it, and stirring up those who need it. I applaud his efforts.

    Next Article: “Why Mainline Christians Don’t Care about Tony Jones”

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  • “…mainliners are committed to parish ministry — sometimes blindly so.”

    Dude. No lie… and I say this as a 48 year old, Confirmation Guide in a Lutheran parish.

  • Spec Taytor

    You white people have worse ghettoes than any I’ve ever lived in or visited. As an African American Pastor of 25 years in a primarily white church culture, it’s becoming more clear to me and many of my (black) friends that the the silly “neo” code words, dividing mindsets, and “progressive” theologies that have “emerged” have systemically fabricated a sad and nausiating subculture in themselves, bearing little resemblance to Jesus. Without a clarity of who the actual enemy is, or if there is actually an enemy, sights have been turned on each other and the ultimate object of love and affection has become self. Talk about toxic faith. A remedy: Get off the blogs, detox from the books, flee the “cool” evangelhipsters, and go work in an aids clinic in Uganda for 3 months.

    • In Gear

      I agree wholeheartedly with Spec Taytor’s comments. My father was a missionary doctor to India and poured his heart into healing the sick and teaching them about Jesus. The basics of our Christian faith will never change and yet will always be totally relevant if we just do what Jesus did in simple and loving belief and service. I am a Christian conservative who knows perfectly well who Bell, reads all theological viewpoints and yet cannot understand why we don’t just stick to the message of the Bible in it’s simple yet relevant doctines and exhortations. Why do we need “an alternative religious message” as Stephen Hamilton Wright says? My father knew his theology through and through but in the end it was his service out of his profound love for the Lord that touched the hearts of everyone he metand brought them to a saving faith in Jesus.

  • Alas and anon. Superpastor is dead(huzzah) and Rob Bell is alive and well. We are very excited to see where he takes the new opportunities he meets with in Cali. I’m banking that God has some bigger picture while conservative main stream stagnate

  • Gary Waters

    So, you do not find your own comments about the evangelical/mainline divide to be polemicized? I can feel you creating the atmosphere of love and acceptance so that these wings can better work together. Perhaps we can all join together and sing kum ba yah or the contemporary evangelical praise song to unity (does one exist?). Or perhaps we will start another independent congregation that better reflects our views around the heroic teaching of a super apostle.

    Jesus would be so proud of evangelical triumphalism. You win. You are #1. Remember what Jesus said about that #1 position.

  • Janice

    Well, you’re wrong. I’m a liberal/progressive/mainline Christian (UCC) who is by your definition average, in that I do not read CT, and yet, I HAVE heard of Rob Bell, what’s more, I’ve read his books and put them in our church library (I am the librarian). So I’m not the only one. (Nor is our pastor, who has discussed Bell’s ideas in our Bible study.) You forget, it seems, that many if not most of us “liberals” actually read– news, books, magazines, blogs, even if not CT– and not just stuff that comes rubber-stamped as “officially liberal.” The essence of being liberal is being open to new ideas. And resisting easy “us vs. them” generalizations, which is after all what Jesus was all about.