Rob Bell announced yesterday that he and Carleton Cuse (of LOST fame) will be writing a TV show that has been picked up by ABC. He and his family are moving to Los Angeles from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is only now appropriate for his Mars Hill family to wish him "Farewell, Rob Bell". I wish him serious luck. Hollywood is a mean, ripyouupeatyoursoulandthrowyououtwiththedogs kind of business and if the show doesn't play well, you'll be able to buy all ten episodes of "The Complete Series" at Target for $39.99 in a year or so.
Most Christians I know have become very cynical of this news. Wait, the word "cynical" is too generous.
I've been thinking, though, what my reaction might be if I was all the various types of Christians out there. These are generalized statements and intended to be humorous, so don't get too angry if you fit into these categories:
Reformed Piper Followers - "This guy has been going off the deep end for a long time. When will he learn that Love is not for everyone and that God picks and chooses who He saves? Farewell, Rob Bell. Welcome to your life of fame."
Roman Catholics - "These evangelicals will never understand that the Church, even above God, AND DEFINITELY NOT TV is at the center of all things good in the world."
Nondenominational hip Churches - "Dang, wish we could have thought of that. I guess our Twitter account won't cut it anymore."
United Methodists - "Hey, will someone tell us what to think of this? We can't seem to make up our minds about anything important."
Mormons - "He thinks a TV show is an effective way to change the world? Why doesn't he just run for President?"
Southern Baptists - "At least it's not a woman."
Passion 20somethings - "When can we get Chris and Louie on a TV show?"
Divinity Students - "Bell is too centered on himself and his megachurch obviously isn't big enough for him anymore. Down with the megachurch! Down with the megachurch!"
It seems absurd to me that so many of us might be so quick to judge because of a few website headlines we read. Bell is a phenomenal, charismatic, well-read communicator who happens to have followed a call into ministry off of a chance preaching opportunity years ago. He's been picked as one of the most influential pastors in America and has made it his mission to welcome back those hurt by the church by incorporating relevant and trendy cultural points into his sermons and speaking engagements.
Beyond that, Bell is controversial and not afraid to be so. He borders on being more "spiritual" and less "Jesusy" with the hopes that if he can attract people to a new way of life and understanding of Scripture, he can make better disciples. This, because it seems to be less traditional, is controversial. But Bell is not afraid to be so. People respect that, and because he is quite charismatic, and they follow him. The strongest argument against him is that he lost Jesus, but if you study him carefully...you'll find that it's simply not true. Jesus is a significant part of Bell's theology, rightly so.
Bell isn't as anti-traditional as some have made him out to be. I've seen nearly all of his videos and listened to countless sermons of his and I've rarely come across some sort of exegetical insight that I strongly disagreed with (at last not any more than you might find in any mainline church in any town in America).
It's time we stop thinking of religious innovators (and while that term probably does mean progress, it DOES NOT mean a loss of tradition) as inherently "bad". We must judge the preacher on the content and gifts and less on how we view people who have the same church-style.
And beyond all that, it's time we start approaching ministry and those attempting it from a positive stance, and only after that criticizing his/her work from an understanding of their theology, and not from our own personal bias.
If we fight inside these walls and don't go out there, they'll always find another one. Something is wrong...something is terribly wrong.