Interesting article about Rob Bell

STAR POWER | A HIGHER CALLING: His message packs the house

Preacher electrifies audiences with a spiritual journey

July 30, 2006

BY DAVID CRUMM

FREE PRESS RELIGION WRITER

America is discovering another home-grown Michigan star who wrapped up his first, triumphant North American tour this weekend — sort of like the breakout tours years ago by Madonna, Kid Rock or the White Stripes.

There are differences, though. This 35-year-old, curly haired guy, whose sold-out tour closed on Saturday at Indianapolis’ American Cabaret Theater, doesn’t sing. He does what might be called standup, but he doesn’t tell jokes.

He’s the Rev. Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, one of Michigan’s largest churches. Since late June, he’s been walking out on stages in a different city each night to preach the longest sermons that most people have ever heard.

Andy Imdieke of Ann Arbor arrived for Bell’s show at the City Theatre in Detroit on Friday and expressed some skepticism. “I’m Catholic and, if a priest speaks more than 10 minutes at mass, most of us start checking our watches.”

Two hours later, after Bell had preached about everything from the creation of the universe to the ultimate meaning of life, Imdieke shook his head in wonderment and said, “That didn’t seem like two hours, that’s for sure. It was such a refreshing look at our faith — I could have heard more.”

That’s generally what crowds have said throughout Bell’s nationwide “Everything is Spiritual Tour.” Bell’s gee-whiz style, laced with wry humor, has managed to link the book of Genesis to theories in quantum physics to an impassioned plea for the world’s needy.

As he talked in Detroit, he used a marker and whiteboard to sketch diagrams of molecules, planets, stars and God’s creation of humanity. Just in case anyone was feeling dizzy, he quipped, “Don’t worry. There’ll be aspirin in the bar afterward.”

Overall, Bell sold out 24 of 25 shows in bars, music clubs and theaters in a huge circle of the United States he made by tour bus. Tickets cost $10 and the nearly $45,000 in profits is going to Water Aid, a worldwide charity that provides safe drinking water to the poor.

Along the way, press coverage was glowing. A story in the New York Times quoted Andy Crouch, an editor at Christianity Today magazine, calling Bell “a central figure for his generation and for the way that evangelicals are likely to do church in the next 20 years.”

The Christian Century magazine went even further, reporting that “some people predict that Rob Bell … will be the next Billy Graham.”

The Chicago Sun-Times called him “a maverick minister who has discovered a revolutionary way to communicate the gospel to a new generation.”

There were even fresh twists on old jokes in the news stories, like: Did you hear the one about a pastor who walked into a bar — and sold it out? That’s pretty close to what the Houston Chronicle wrote after Bell packed a 350-seat bar called Numbers. So, is he a big star yet?

Before his show in Detroit, Bell laughed at such notions. “This isn’t about me,” he said. “It’s about engaging people with fresh and true ideas about spirituality.”

He’s aware that public reactions could turn against him, he said. The Sun-Times reported that “detractors have accused him of championing a postmodern fad, of relativizing scripture, of elevating form above substance.”

Those critics couldn’t be found in Detroit on Friday night, but Bell knows he’s regularly poking his fingers in the eyes of fundamentalists. In his road show, he dismisses creationism, the idea that the world literally was created in six days. And he argues that the Bible’s message is more about helping the world’s poor than about personal success.

Bell said that, even though his own nondenominational church is often described as evangelical, he doesn’t like to use that word anymore. “The word evangelical has been hijacked by people with a loaded political agenda.

“What got Jesus angry was poverty, institutional racism and religious people who were indifferent to suffering people,” Bell said. “And what got Jesus very angry were religious people going around proclaiming who was in and who was out of God’s kingdom.”

Such words aren’t likely to make friends among other evangelical leaders, but Bell’s Detroit crowd was an amazing array of Protestants and Catholics, including many who said they use his best-selling series of short movies, called “Nooma,” in their evangelical Bible study groups.

Bob and Melanie Kuntzman of Lake Orion own all 13 of his 11-minute films and have used them to spark discussions in Bible study groups with Catholic and Protestant friends.

Bob Kuntzman said he likes Bell’s no-nonsense style. “My favorite thing about him is that he drives home his points so clearly that, when he’s done, you can see an aspect of your life that God really wants you to work on next.”

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4 Responses to “Interesting article about Rob Bell”


  1. 1 Monica August 14, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Hi there,im from Taiwan,and i also became a christian about 4 years ago,i just want to let you know that i like your introduction by Brennan Manning.Its really true,cause Im going through some difficulty right now,and i believe its a way that God wants to push me to grow stronger.God bless !

  2. 2 Mom August 14, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    Andrew,
    This is a good article. I enjoy reading about Rob Bell.

  3. 3 Monica August 15, 2006 at 6:46 am

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your reply.Actually im a lonely christian at home,cause im the first generation christian in my family.Its not easy,there are a lot of spiritual fights around,cause my family are still worshiping the idols in the house, and i live with them.Now days i have a big struggle with my spiritual growth,for the past one month ive been losing sleep at the night before Sunday service.So i couldn’t make it the next morning.I can’t feel the holy spirit,I dont know where to start from my bible,i dont know what to say to God,but im still trying pray from my heart,its good to find a christain freind like you online.

  4. 4 Monica August 16, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Andrew,Im using MSN
    ml0725@hotmail.com
    i added yours already,ill see u there,God bless~


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