Thinking Out Loud

January 19, 2013

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Weekend List Lynx

Lots of stuff that can’t wait until Wednesday!

  • This one is must reading. Matthew Paul Turner asks former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Shane Hipps all the questions I would have asked about the church, hell, Love Wins and the man he succeeded at MHBC, Rob Bell.

    “This is one of the biggest misunderstandings.  Rob doesn’t have a position or a concept of hell, he is an artist exploring possibilities and making unexpected connections, not a theologian plotting out a system.  In other words there is nothing to agree or disagree with.  It’s like saying I disagree with that song or that painting.”

    Read more at MPT’s blog.

  • CT’s story of the week concerns gay students at Christian colleges. That’s not a typo.

    “Leaders at Christian colleges and universities around the country told Christianity Today their schools are rethinking the way they address the needs of [same sex attracted] students on campus.”

    Read more at Christianity Today.

  • If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you might remember “visitation” by pastors and church elders. These days, you’re more likely to get a house call from your doctor.  David Fitch’s guest author Ty Grigg thinks you might not have anybody drop in these days:

    “It is not a cultural norm to have neighbors or even friends over to our homes for dinner.  If we want to be with people, we go out.  The restaurant has replaced the space that home once occupied in society.  Typically, for younger generations (40’s and under), a visit will be at a coffee shop or to grab lunch.  In our suburban isolation, the home is too much of an intimate, sacred space for most non-family members to enter.”

    Read more at Reclaiming the Mission.

Other links:

  • Canadian readers will remember a national pre-Christmas story involving the theft of $2M worth of toys from a Salvation Army warehouse in Toronto. Here’s a follow-up on how the organization is working to protect itself by having a solid ‘whistle-blower’ policy
  • Want a taste of that theological educational experience you missed? RegentRadio.com, the internet broadcasting arm of Regent College, frequently offers free lectures by its professors. Currently it’s wrapping up a twelve-part series with Gordon Fee on the Holy Spirit in Pauline Theology with a new lecture available each day.
  • We linked to this about six months ago, but it’s worth a revisit. Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed links to a 9-minute video where an orthodox priest explains various theories of atonement.
  • Sarnia is a Canadian city across the river from Port Huron, MI.  Pastor Kevin Rodgers blogs at Orphan Age and reminds us how a shared meal is a great way to build community.
  • USA Today religion editor Cathy Lynn Grossman looks at the larger religious issues in Monday’s Presidential inauguration ceremony.
  • A New Jersey substitute teacher is fired for giving a student his personal Bible as a gift after the student kept asking where the saying, “the last shall be first” came from.
  • New blogs we’re watching this week — okay new to us:
  • Talk about California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day: Our closing shot this week is from a Facebook page dedicated to books. The picture combines two of my favorite passions: a day at the beach and reading.

Beach Library

November 25, 2012

Rob Bell Alive and Well in Orange County, CA

Filed under: media, ministry — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

In my part of the world, when reporters for mainstream media venture into stories of Christian interest, they tend to get it wrong. How refreshing to read Kalefa Sanneh’s profile of Rob Bell and find all the right words used in all the right places. You couldn’t ask for more insider understanding, regardless of Sanneh’s perspective which, for the record, is not known to me.

The lengthy article in the November 26th issue of New Yorker is not available online if you’re not a subscriber; like me you need to venture to the proverbial newsstand to get a copy. Some of the profile covers what is old ground for most readers here: The history of Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI) and the fallout from the book Love Wins.

There was some newer information, however.

Bell was reported to be working with Lost producer Carlton Cuse on a faith-oriented project called Stronger, for which ABC-TV had purchased rights. However, they failed to get approval to move to the next stage, shooting the pilot episode. Currently, they are working on a faith-themed talk show and have already done some tapings in Los Angeles.

There’s also some good coverage of CraftLab, a mini-conference Bell put together for a small group of 50 pastors in a motel conference room overlooking the Pacific Ocean, complete with surprise guests, surfing breaks and communion. Reading between the lines of the article, one senses that perhaps Bell misses pastoral ministry.

…Rob Bell is 42-years young, and while he may have fallen off the radar of a few over past months, he is not exactly down for the count; in fact, one suspects that anyone who bid him ‘farewell’ might have been a bit premature.

July 24, 2012

Rob Bell: Exploring The Spirituality of Wonder

Yesterday’s comments here notwithstanding, I am all in favor of embracing the mystery of God. As we get several years on in this faith journey we tend to lose the element of awe and wonder.This is a short video, and reactions online — see below — have also been equally shorter — except for this guy who dissects it to the nth degree — the five below are among the few longer than a single sentence.

July 15, 2012

Rob Bell to Return to Print Early March 2013

Not getting your weekly Rob Bell fix from the Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) website?  You’ll just have to wait until the first week of March, 2013.  The title is What We Talk About When We Talk About God, publishing from HarperOne.   Sorry, no further description available.  The same week, HarperCollins Children’s Publishing is releasing Love Wins Teen Edition. Hey, youth wrestle with doubts and the existence of hell just as much as adults, right?

Of course if you can’t wait for either, there’s always the Rob Bell Reader, a selection of all his books — just to whet appetites — available for free for Kindle.  But there’s nothing actually new there. I’ve pictured it below just to drive book collectors — who see the image but have so far skipped this paragraph — a little crazy.

July 6, 2012

God’s Will But Not God’s Desire

Several days ago at Christianity 201, I shared an audio clip of someone reading  C.S. Lewis on the subject of free will. Lewis talks about that are freedom actually is God’s will, but within that freedom we can choose wrongly, or choose the thing that God would not necessarily desire.

Rob Bell approached this subject in a chapter titled, ‘Does God Get What God Wants?’ in his controversial 2011 book, Love Wins:

In the Bible, God is not helpless, God is not powerless,

and God is not impotent. Paul writes to the Philippians that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Once again, God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it…

…God in the end doesn’t get what God wants, it’s declared, because some will turn, repent, and believe, and others won’t. To explain this perspective, it’s rightly point out that love, by it’s very nature, is freedom. For there to be love there has to be the option, both now and then, to not love. To turn the other way. To reject the love extended. To say no. This perspective allows that while God is powerful and mighty, when it comes to the human heart God has to play by the same rules we do. God has to respect our freedom to choose to the very end, even at the risk of relationship itself. If at any point God overrides or co-opts or hijacks the human heart, robbing it, and us, of our freedom to choose, then God has violated the fundamental essence of what love even is.

So here, with all its British flavor, is the 3-minute C. S. Lewis reading.  As I stated to C201 readers, this was posted on YouTube on the ‘Islamic Worldview’ channel. I’ll leave it for you to ponder that one.  (For those of you reading on mobile devices or dial-up or limited data plans, this takes mere seconds to upload.)

I’ve watched this several times now, and would love to memorize this so that I could present it others.

The version of this at C201 also contains a full video clip from Ravi Zacharias.

December 30, 2011

Rob Bell: The Goat Has Left The Building

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:26 am

Rob Bell: The Final Word

No, we’re not calling Rob an old goat.  It’s a reference to an early sermon series on Leviticus that was also preached at Willow Creek, which is approximately where Rob appeared on our radar many years ago. A bit of an in-joke I’ll admit.

But on December 18th, Rob gave his final address to Mars Hill Bible Church in Granville, Michigan; which he titled, Dear Mars Hill and spoke about the power of a letter.  Just think, if John Piper was there he could have said, “Farewell, Rob Bell.”  But I digress.

You can catch the download from the menu of recent sermons at this page, or for all you non-downloaders who would rather see a .pdf file of the printed text — not to mention discernment ministries that might want a copy to mark up with red pen — you can catch that at this link.

To Rob and Kristen: Looking forward to the next chapter.

To everyone else: Yes, Rob Bell has left.  Really.  And someone knows this for sure.

October 16, 2011

Rob Bell Pens Response to the Responses

In keeping with our policy of all Rob Bell news all the time, here’s the latest:  HarperCollins will release a paperback response to the critics in February 2012 simply titled The Love Wins Companion.

Bit of a cover similarity, don't ya think?

Here’s the 411 from the publisher:

For anyone who wants to delve deeper into Rob Bell’s bestselling Love Wins, the expansive and accessible Love Wins Companion offers scholarly support and critiques, resources for individuals, groups, and classes, and brand new material by Rob Bell himself. As Love Wins continues to become a touchstone for thousands of readers worldwide, controversy surrounds the book’s arguments. Author Brian D. McClaren wrote that with Love Wins “thousands of readers will find freedom and hope and a new way of understanding the biblical story,” yet USA Today observed that “Bell has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation.” Here, in The Love Wins Companion, Rob Bell offers commentary on the positive and negative attention his groundbreaking book is receiving, delivering a crucial supplement to one of the most important books since the Bible.

For those looking to go deeper with Rob Bell’s bestselling pioneering book Love Wins, this companion offers:

  • Insights and commentary by theologians, Bible scholars, scientists, and pastors
  • Deep analysis of all relevant Bible passages on heaven, hell, and salvation
  • Detailed chapter summaries, discussion questions, and Bible studies for individuals, groups, and classes
  • Excerpts from works throughout Christian history illustrating the variety of teachers also debating the issues Bell wrestles with
  • New material by Bell on his mission for the book and how people can take the next step

October 4, 2011

Rob Bell Hollywood-Bound

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 am

When you read tomorrow’s link list, you may decide there are other stories more worthy of being highlighted like this one, but 2011 has definitely been the year of Rob Bell and his book Love Wins. Agree or disagree with him, but the guy knows how to shake up the party.  And now, following his resignation from Mars Hill Bible Church, comes word he’s off to Los Angeles to team up with the producer of Lost.

There are a number of places I could source this from, but I thought I’d direct you to Jesus Creed because of the comments you can examine following a synopsis or two from other sources…

From Nellie Andreeva:

Carlton Cuse has teamed with author/pastor Rob Bell for Stronger, a drama project with spiritual overtones, which has been sold to ABC via ABC Studios in a hefty script deal. Stronger, which the former Lost co-showrunner and the founder of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church are co-writing and executive producing, revolves around Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. Music is expected to be a big part of the show, which features autobiographical elements as Bell is a former musician and played with rock/gospel bands in the 1990s.

And Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

New York’s Vulture site reports that the show will be loosely based on Bell’s life story as a musician and eventual founder of his church, Mars Hill Bible Church. The show will feature a musician named Tom Stronger who ends up becoming a benefactor and spiritual guide, the site reports. Josef Adalian writes:

While based on biblical principles, Bell’s brand of spirituality is not about hard-core evangelical, fire-and-brimstone teachings. Instead, his goal is to service folks’ spiritual needs without the overlay of religious dogma (see also: Oprah). Stronger is similarly expected to explore spiritual themes but without being as on-the-nose as other recent series that have tackled these issues, such as 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There’s also expected to be a narrative twist to the project that will make it a bit unconventional, but for now, that detail is being kept secret (this show is from a Lost-ie after all).

After an eight-stop tour called “Fit to Smash Ice,” Rob and family will be moving to the LA area.

…now read the comments people left at Jesus Creed…

Today’s essay question (15 points): Is there any argument from scripture for being a big fish in a small pond versus being a small fish in a big pond?

The related question here is, by this move does Bell stand to gain a much larger platform or lose a much larger platform? 

September 28, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx

Into each blog some links must fall

  • Pat Robertson’s recent comments about marriage and divorce weren’t his only interesting pronouncements recently; he also said that the earthquake-produced crack in the Washington Monument was a sign from God.  
  • Clark Bunch at Master’s Table had a link to a very interesting article at a Southern Baptist blog site, where Dave Miller, in part 15 of an ongoing discussion, looks at the issue of Christian liberty.
  • Actually, I’m really enjoying Dave Miller’s writing and want to recommend another article to you which looks at the issue of “who’s in and who’s out.”  Are they “real” Christians if they believe in open theism, or approve of homosexuality. And what about Catholics?
  • Catch an interview with Rachel Held Evans on NPR (National Public Radio) which looks at her “year of Biblical womanhood” experiment/adventure.
  • Termed Ragamuffin Gospel author Brennoan Manning’s final book, All is Grace is a collection of his personal memoirs. View the book trailer.
  • Pete Wilson tackles the idea of multi-tasking.  Some of us are proud of ourselves for being able to do the mental juggling act, but a report says we actually lose productivity.
  • At C201 this week, a piece about why you should pray out loud; and a piece which deals with the idea that nobody should hear the gospel twice before everyone has heard it once.  And a varied collection of quotes about grace.
  • Dave Wainscott has an interesting review/promotional item about the book Jesus Freak by Sara Miles, titled, If you want to see God, sit in the smoking section. Not sure on the timing of this, but the January, 2010 release may be about due for a switch from hardcover to paperback.
  • Also in our time travel department, I noticed someone had recently linked to the home page for the Christian rock music documentary Bleed Into One, but the homepage has a 2008 copyright.  I’d never heard of this film, though it looks informative. Did this movie release?
  • I really thought that the news item here about Rob Bell leaving Mars Hill Bible Church would have produced more comments; but perhaps everyone has tired of talking about Rob.
  • Anyway, if you missed Monday’s update, it looked something like this: “So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly.  Hills that is…”  Okay, Rob Bell isn’t going to Beverly Hills, but we do know he’s going to California as per this (ABC affiliate) WZZM channel 13 report from his Sunday sermon.
  • I love author interviews; this one’s a month old, but Meg Moseley has some Q&A with Abingdon Press author Linda Clare, an author bucking the Amish fiction trend with books about Native Americans.
  • Catch a sample of Chrstine Wyrtzen’s series on Hosea; one dealing with God as unchanging; or the one containing this quote: “When Christianity thrives and being associated with a notable church brings public reward, pretense flourishes.”
  • If you want to get into the extreme sport of blog surfing, check out the section with “Links – WordPress…” in the blogroll here. You’ll get the complete range of anything tagged “Christianity” (which seems to completely update the top ten every five minutes), “Jesus,” or “Church.”  Remember, not everything you read is necessarily in favor of Jesus or Christianity, or whatever search term you use.
  • Here’s the top ten Christian songs on Christian radio as reported at Mediabase and published in USAToday. You can follow the action at this site. Click the USAToday .pdf file option.

    1  Steven Curtis Chapman  – Do Everything   1,141
    2  MercyMe – Move   1,123
    3  Matthew West – Strong Enough   1,040
    4  Jamie Grace featuring tobyMac  – Hold Me   1,025
    5  Jeremy Camp – The Way   1,013
    6 Aaron Shust – My Hope Is In You   1,009
    7  Chris Tomlin – I Lift My Hands   943
    8 Afters – Lift Me Up   886
    9 Matt Maher – Turn Around   882
    10  Laura Story – Blessings   868
  • And lastly, this item which I deliver to you without comment for your own consideration…

September 24, 2011

Rob Bell to Leave Mars Hill Grand Rapids

It’s hard to imagine “the shed” — the large area occupied by the former shopping mall’s former anchor department store in Grandville, Michigan — without Rob Bell and his assortment of props and interactive sermon elements at center stage; but starting in January, 2012, that may become reality with Thursday’s announcement that Bell is leaving the church he founded a dozen years ago.

As things now stand, the majority of Sunday teaching responsibilities would pass to Shane Hipps who came to the church two years ago after pastoring Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Hipps is the author of the Zondervan book, Flickering Pixels, a book about how technology shapes society.

Here is the announcement from the church website:

September 22, 2011

To our community of attendees, listeners, and supporters:

The infamous quote “change is the only constant” certainly holds true at Mars Hill. We have experienced ongoing changes that have improved and transformed—as well as at times unintentionally created tension or heartache within our community. And now, we have another significant change to hold together.

Feeling the call from God to pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities, our founding pastor Rob Bell, has decided to leave Mars Hill in order to devote his full energy to sharing the message of God’s love with a broader audience.

It is with deeply mixed emotions that we announce this transition to you. We have always understood, encouraged, and appreciated the variety of avenues in which Rob’s voice and the message of God’s tremendous love has traveled over the past 12 years. And we are happy and hopeful that as Rob and Kristen venture ahead, they will find increasing opportunity to extend the heartbeat of that message to our world in new and creative ways.

Rob and Kristen started Mars Hill and helped create a church that removes the barriers to meeting Jesus. And while we recognize that no one person defines a community, we acknowledge the impact of Rob’s leadership, creativity, and biblical insights on our lives, and face a deep sadness at the loss of their presence in our community.

Rob will be addressing our community in both Gatherings on Sunday, September 25, to describe his journey and call to pursue a new venture. For the remainder of this year, he will be teaching our Acts Series several times with his last teaching being in December.

As we plan for the future, Shane Hipps will continue to teach our community and we will be inviting other familiar voices to teach on Sundays during the spring of 2012.

We continue to be amazed by the grace and trust of the community we serve. Your voice and heart will be important elements of how we move forward together as a community of believers. We invite you to continue on this journey with us and ask that you would join us in prayer while we carefully discern what lies ahead for the Mars Hill community.

Grace and Peace,
The Elder Team, Ministry Leadership Team, and staff of Mars Hill

The September 25 podcast will be available for download on Tuesday, September 27.

Meanwhile, at RobBell.com, the author/speaker/pastor has announced another road tour for November, “The Fit To Smash Ice Tour” with initial dates in the northeast United States and Toronto.

Have I ever told you the story about the smoke machine at the wedding? Or the time I hit my head and had to be told who I was? Or the one about Eleazar and the elephant?

I didn’t think so. Which means it’s time for a tour. Over the next year or so I’ll be out on the Fit to Smash Ice Tour with the good chance I’ll be somewhere near where you live. As usual it’s several hours of entirely new content I haven’t given before, exploring all the exhilarating ways we stumble and fumble and fail and bleed and limp along and just how good and sacred and thrilling it all is.

I’m hoping to break some new ground on this tour, going places we haven’t gone before. I want you to be inspired, provoked, challenged and moved in all kinds of new ways throughout the evening so that you leave Fit to Smash Ice.

But a caution comes from this voice, quoted at USAToday’s religion online page:

It’s not uncommon for megachurch pastor-authors to consider leaving church leadership, according to Rick Christian, president of Alive Communications, a Colorado Springs, Colo., literary agency that represents megachurch pastors. At a certain point, some feel more like a CEO than a shepherd, Christian said, and can be tempted to leave the headaches behind — especially when they’re making good money from royalties.

But he encourages them to go slow and remember that “there’s something inherently great about the accountability that comes with” leading a congregation. Authors who leave that world incur new risks, he said.

“You can have somebody who leaves for the wrong reasons and becomes a lone ranger,” Christian said. “They’re just running and gunning for the Lord on planes, in hotels, zipping around at 30,000 feet. You can lose touch very quickly.”

Others agree parish life keeps communicators grounded. Elaine Heath, associate professor of evangelism at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, noted a long history of leaving the parish for wider outreach opportunities — even Methodism founder John Wesley gave up a settled pulpit to be an itinerant preacher.

But in today’s world, she said, book tours and online virtual relationships are not enough to sustain a pastor’s moral authority.


Update – September 26 — “So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly.  Hills that is…”  Okay, R. B. isn’t going to Beverly Hills, but we do know he’s going to California as per this (ABC affiliate) WZZM channel 13 report from his Sunday sermon.

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