Well, here we go again. Let’s see what happens in the blogosphere regarding this recent bit of news.
If you haven’t heard, Rob Bell is leaving his church. Moreover, it now appears that we know, at least in part, the impetus for Rob’s departure.
Now, I’m not going to attempt to decipher Bell’s personal intentions. I don’t know the man; in fact, I’ve never even met the man. And, to be sure, we should remember the hailstorm that came when bloggers began attempting to decipher his recent bestseller, Love Wins, a bit too early (which, in retrospect, was more often than not a critique of his public promotional video, which I am convinced, in the end, was appropriate). Still, it is with a bit of trepidation that I try to offer a few thoughts regarding the public news of Bell’s departure.
What concerns me most is what appears to be a relinquishing of any kind of Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, accountability-infused pastoral ministry.
Let me explain.
First, in regards to relinquishing a Christ-exalting gospel-centeredness, all that has been offered regarding the spirituality of Stronger is that it will include “spiritual overtones”. What does that even mean?! (I suppose that is on par for Bell, though, as he leaves us with more questions than answers.) Instead of providing a robust, Christ-centered gospel, we are left with vague and opaque “spiritual overtones”. I have no doubt that Bell wishes to share “the message of God’s love with a broader audience”; however, if Christ is not intrinsically present, then there is no salvific value to any of it. If we relinquish the gospel, it is because we have relinquished Jesus Christ, for he is the gospel. I’ve written previously about what I think the message of the gospel is, so I will leave you with that.
Second, Bell (along with others) has already been criticized for leaving his ministry to “pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities”. Now, if you are being called by God to pursue something else, you better do it. Moreover, we ought to pause when questioning someone’s calling, for only God and the individual know their true calling (in these situations I often remember the statement made by my Bibliology/Prolegomena professor regarding claimed spiritual experiences; he said, “You cannot tell someone that they did not experience what they claimed to have experienced, for only God and that person truly know what, or if, they have experienced). And yet, my concern, to echo Stetzer and Warren, is the potential for ego-feed and/or lack of pastoral accountability in completing future projects. My hope and prayer is that Bell will come under a good church to keep him accountable as he pursues these future strategic opportunities.