December 28, 2011
Farewell Rob Bell
Rob Bell's farewell epistle to Mars Hill gives a glimpse into his faith and values.
This week marks the end of Rob Bell's leadership of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bell is moving on to new callings in California including creating a television show.
A few weeks ago he said his goodbyes to the congregation he founded and which provided him the platform to speak to Christians around the world. Bell wrote a lengthy farewell epistle to Mars Hill containing his parting wisdom and gratitude. I've excerpted a few sections of the letter below for you to respond to.
On a big God:
i have tried to teach you about a big God, who holds all things, including us, in an unconditional, loving embrace. i have tried to teach and model for you an unswerving hope and trust, that change and risk and leaps of faith are normal and at times absolutely necessary for our growth and the continued expansion of our hearts. so when, in this change, this loss, this transition, this departure, you have responded time
and time again with largeness of spirit and bigness of heart, with confidence that the God who got you this far is fully capable of taking you the rest of the way, deeply attuned to your own emotions and responses and at the very same time convinced that everybody will be just fine because what could possibly separate us from the love we’ve tasted and experienced, the love of Christ that holds and sustains us all?
On a nuanced faith:
for many people, the simple dualisms of right and wrong and good and bad are the sole prism, the lens, through which they look for God in the world. so if things go well, then ’God is good’ is how the thinking goes, and if things don’t go well, all kinds of questions arise about God and hope and faith and was it all just a grand illusion in the first place?
the life we’ve found together, however, is far more subtle, nuanced, and complex than those simple dualisms, and i’ve seen you discover this deep well of insight as it shapes you in profound ways.
On the divinity and humanity of Jesus:
you have taught me not to fear the full spectrum of human experience but to embrace it, to celebrate it, to wallow in it and soar with it. many Christians are eager to point out that Jesus said he was the son of God and that’s the wedge issue, the crux of the faith, the divisive point you have to take a stand on. i believe he is. and in the same breath, i remind you that he also referred to himself a shocking number of times as
the ‘son of man.’ you know what ’son of man’ means?
now that’s shocking. take a stand on that.
what he stressed, what he thought was a big deal, what he called himself time and time again, was son of man. it is a big deal for a human to be divine, but if you’re looking to provoke, and if you want to focus in on astounding claims he made about himself, how about the mind-bendingly revolutionary claim of the divine being human?
On responding to critics and the emptiness of doctrine alone:
i write this to you because of how many of you have been challenged about your participation in the life of this church, often with the accusation: but what do they believe over there at mars hill?
as if belief, getting the words right, is the highest form of faith.
Jesus came to give us life. a living, breathing, throbbing, pulsating blow your hair back/tingle your spine/roll the windows down and drive fast/experience of God right here, right now.
word taking on flesh and blood.
and so you’ve found yourself defending and explaining and trying to find the words for your experience which is fundamentally about a reality that is beyond and more than words.
so when you find yourselves tied up in knots, having long discussions about who believes what, a bit like dogs doing that sniff circle when they meet on the sidewalk, do this:
take out a cup and some bread
and put it in the middle of the table,
and say a prayer and examine yourselves
and then make sure everybody’s rent is paid and there’s food in their fridge and clothes on their backs and then invite everybody to say ‘yes’ to the resurrected Christ with whatever ‘yes’ they can muster in the moment and then you take that bread and you dip it in that cup in the ancient/future hope and trust that there is a new creation bursting forth right here right now and then together taste that new life and liberation and forgiveness and as you look those people in the eyes gathered around that table from all walks of life and you see the new humanity, sinners saved by grace, beggars who have found bread showing the others beggars where they found it
and in that moment space
remind yourselves that
this is what you
remember, the movement is word to flesh.
beware of those who will take the flesh and want to turn it back into words