Saturday, 18 September 2010

5 things I love about Rob Bell

Rob Bell is an anathema to some Conservative evangelicals and yet a hero to many Christians in the UK. Here are some of the positives I can see.

Everything from his DVDs to his book covers to his glasses screams "Cool". It is not often you get a Christian speaker / preacher / writer who looks like they just stepped out of an art workshop in some trendy corner of London. I don't think "cool" always means good, but we definitely need less "uncool" in the way some things are presented.

Rob is a fantastic writer. His books are real "page turners". Even if you don't agree with a considerable amount of it, you can't help enjoy reading it. He is a great speaker. His speaking tours sell out and his DVDs shift by the tens of thousands. "Everything is spiritual" is worth an hour of anyone's time, if only to marvel at that amount of knowledge being divested from one brain in an hour while still be interesting!

His Church have "Doubt nights" where you can go an ask questions. I like that. Sometimes evangelicals have everything wrapped up in a way that means if you still have a question hanging over you feel second class. Or in a pastoral setting a tightly packed theological proposition regarding the circumstances you face sounds very hollow and doesn't empathise with the fact it just hurts. I think we could learn something by allowing the defence of truth also recognise and edify the doubts that the Truth came to overcome. The Alpha Course has this in its DNA, but I wonder if some of our other settings could benefit from an approach that allows some answers to not yet be found.

If people like Tim Keller or Mark Driscoll get some limelight because of their ability to grow larger Churches then 10,000 people on a Sunday and 50,000 downloads a week also suggests there is something about Rob Bell that is scratching where people are itching. I think this presents something to learn from those who appreciate his style and also presents a challenge to those who dislike it. Bums on seats don't vindicate a ministry and I would struggle to find 5 things I love about Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest Church in America. That said it does prove that Rob's ministry and style resonates with a wide array of people which is something we can learn from. His ministry is reaching certain people in a way ours is not and that leaves us with questions and a bit of soul searching as to why.

Downloads & DVDs are the main way I know most people have been introduced to Rob Bell. Even his best selling books come second. I often see people exchanging Nooma DVDs, or when something happens or the face a difficulty then something in a Nooma DVD comes back as an encouragement.

Our young people faced a very real tragedy 18 months ago. 20 years ago they may have read a poster with the poem "Footprints on". Instead they watched this.

I would not agree with plenty of things he says, but I can see plenty of fruit from his ministry, plenty of challenge to take on board and actually wonder if some of the criticism of him is "guilt by association" with other elements of the emerging Church rather than what he has actually said.

1 comment:

Jongudmund said...

You should hear him speak live. I saw him in Swansea earlier this year. 2 hours. No notes (that I could see). No mumbling or ums. Everyone on the edge of their seat. And people moved by what he said (including me, which is unusual).

I would argue he is the greatest asset to the church today in terms of his ability to hold an audience. He is also about the only person I would consider taking a non-Christian to see because I would feel safe that he wouldn't embarrass Jesus, the church, or me.