Rob BellIn a recent Mars Hill podcast, Rob Bell solicited questions from church members, staff and internet listeners.A?A? Joe Hays – a MH youth minister leaving soon for sabbatical – compiled the questions and interviewed Rob with them in the following week’s gathering.A?A? Below are some highlights of the Q&A.A?A? While a number of the question changed between the three sessions, some were similar – in a few cases, I have taken the liberty to concatenate responses from different services into a single response… Q: Did you expect what has happened at Mars Hill, and what are some examples of what is different?

A: I had seen the “giant youth ministry thing”, where if you just get a loud enough band, and you just get a speaker with enough funny stories about when they were young, and you just get a huge crowd and just try to get them back next week.A?A?

I thought, “There’s gotta be a better way to do this”.

What if every kid who came to the youth group was hooked up with a mentor to disciple them?A?A? So every single kid had an adult contact who was leading them.A?A? So, what if you started with a discipleship aspect and not the large performance entertainment aspect, and you tried to get them discipled?A?A? What if you started with ‘every kid here is being taught what it means to be a follower of Christ’?

So these are the impulses that you all took, and you took them farther than I ever imagined – and it’s worked!A?A? How many kids right now are being discipled? [JH: Just under 1000 or so roughly] So, there’s like a thousand kids being discipled.A?A?A?A?Everybody always said ‘there’s only one way you can engage kids, it’s like you have to give a big show’, and we had this impulse, ‘No, we think a kid can be engaged with somebody who loves them and shows them what Jesus looks like in flesh and blood.’A?A? You don’t have to be big and fancy and expensive – it can be pure and raw and real.

That would be one example of an impulse we tried… Q: Why do you see us focusing on a few specific, measurable thingsA?A?[such as XYZ, the current missional focus at Mars Hill]?

A:A?A?I don’t think it’s an accident that all of these people have been brought together.A?A? I cannot believe that God would bring this many people with this many talents, abilities and resources together and that the ultimate thing that would happen in our midst is that we would all feel better about ourselves.A?A? I have to believe that God has brought this many people with this many backgrounds together to affect massive change in our culture that would lead to people saying “Jesus is real”.

The problem in our culture is that the Christian church has little to no cultural voice.A?A? When the church sets itself up as the moral police of culture, that doesn’t work too well.A?A? When the church sets itself up as a political power structure, that seems to get people more turned off.A?A?

Secondly, I would argue that in our culture, the Bible does not have the authority it used to.A?A? It used to be “God says…” and people would culturally be like, “woah, OK”.A?A? It held some weight.A?A?A?A?For a large part of our culture today, “the Bible says”… [gets the response] “so?”A?A?A?A?

So what do you doA?A?in your culture when your central Book has lost its cultural authority, and what do you do when your institution is known for a bunch of things that you don’t want to be known for?A?A? Well, then, how is cultural authority established?A?A? I would argue that authority today is found in joining God, the God of the oppressed, and in serving those who are on the under side of power who have been forgotten, mistreated and marginalized… Essentially, someone else did this about 2000 years ago, and we’re going to love them and care for them and give to them like a eucharist – breaking ourselves open and pouring ourselves out – so that… well, because that’s what Jesus said to do.A?A? There’s no “so that…”A?A? Just because Jesus said to.

And our trust is that when a group of people put the well-being of the world ahead of their own well-being, everybody will have to take notice. [...]A?A? This is not about us – it is not about our ego – it is not like “look, we have the gift of humility…”A?A? That doesn’t work.A?A? The world is desperate for somebody to incarnate Jesus in such a way that it cannot be denied.A?A? That is real.

Q: How would you respond to people who say ‘Will we be sacrificing a message of salvation by serving?’ or ‘what if this is just the pendulum swinging too far the other way?’ orA?A?’If we try to end poverty, will we be leaving Jesus behind?’

A: Those are the questions of someone who is in exile and theyA?A?don’t even know it.A?A? It’s the kind of question you’re left with when you’ve missed God’s purposes in the world.

Bill Gates is giving millions and millions of dollars to relieve AIDS in Africa, and billions of dollars to great causes around the world because the church didn’t beat him to it.A?A? We are ALWAYS telling people about Jesus.A?A? We are telling them about Jesus with our action and we are telling people about Jesus with our inaction.A?A? So we are always evangelizing.A?A? We are always announcing who we believe Jesus is.A?A? We are always indicating – through everything we do – whether we believe the tomb is empty or not.

I think the term ‘evangelism’ can be very destructive, because it gives people the message ‘I’m supposed to be doing this thing over here’.A?A? But if you’re a grandma and I meet up with you and you have grandkids, it will be within 10 minutes that you will whip out of your purse your wallet withA?A?the pictures of your grandkids.A?A? You naturally and instincitively tell people what you love.

If you love golf, I will know in several moments that you love golf, because we naturally talk about what we love.A?A? My experience is that if you are trusting Jesus more and more each day, then your relationship with Jesus and your walk with Jesus… You will naturally witness to this.A?A? How could you stay silent?

So when people say ‘what are you doing for evangelism training?’ I say ‘introducing people to Jesus.A?A? Churches have been giving people artificial – ‘well, there’s three questions I am supposed to ask’, or ‘there’s four points on this pamphlet’ instead of something that is supposed to be this natural, free-flowing ‘I can’t NOT tell you my story’.

The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s rule and reign are expanding, whether that’s your heart, your past, or…A?A? We’ve been inviting people for the past 8 years to trust Jesus.A?A? Jesus can be trusted.A?A? Trust Jesus with your past, with your sins, with your doubts, with your anxieties, with your suicidal thoughts, with your checkbook, with your relationships, with someone who’s hurt you and you need to forgive them.A?A? For eight years we’ve simply said ‘You can trust Jesus wherever you are on your journey.’

And the Kingdom of God is holistic in nature.A?A? It’s everything from the right words spoken at the right time to a glass of water brought to somebody who doesn’t have water.A?A? The Kingdom of God is ANYWHERE things are the way that God intends them to be.

West Michigan is a sick religious culture.A?A? It’s sick.A?A? It’s got all the marks of the Pharisees that can’t encounter something without trying to shove it into a box and labelling it.A?A? he Kingdom of God transcends whatever petty, shallow religious labelling systems we’ve made up.A?A? It’s simply bigger than wider than that.

side effects of clomid, purchase lioresal. buy nolvadex online cheap, purchase dapoxetine. Q: What is theology’s role at Mars Hill?

A:A?A? Theo is the Greek word for ‘God’, and ology comes from ‘logos’ which means ‘words about’ – soA?A?theology is ‘words about God’.A?A? We all do theology all the time.A?A? Everything you do – everything I do – is rooted in what we believe about God.A?A? So, your understanding of money, of sexuality, of interaction with the earth, with each other, how to forgive someone that has wronged you – it is all rooted in our theology.

I would say that for us, from the beginning, everything at Mars Hill is rooted in theology and in ‘what is the truth here’.A?A? We are passionate about living out…

Actually, I’ve never said anything new here.nA?A? I haven’t ever said anything that hasn’t already been said by all sorts of people across the ages.A?A? There’s even a maxim among the rabbis, ‘if it’s new, then it’s not true’.A?A? Nothing here is out of line with orthodox Christianity.A?A? With us it has always been ‘what is the deep stream of orthodox Christian thought that we can swim in here.’

Q: What would you attribute to some of the criticisms about Velvet Elvis or Sex God, or our view of salvation or heaven and the view that it is here and now and a physical place we go to when we die?A?A? How does Mars Hill decide “what we believe”?

A: First off, I have never, ever, tried to create controversy.A?A? That’s lame.A?A? We’ll leave that to whoever’s on TV right now creating something.A?A? The issue for us has always been truth.

I think some people, when they say ‘well, that’s questionable theology’, they should be honest and say ‘actually, I’ve just never heard that before.’A?A? When people masquerade their ignorance as somebody else’s improper theology, that’s just arrogance and it’s wrong.A?A? We take this very seriously here, and everything is with the elders and leaders here – and lots of leaders within our community.A?A? I will often take a teaching to the elders and have them review a version of the teaching and ask them ‘what do you think?’ andA?A?to poke holes in it.A?A? We have lots of friends around the world – great Christians – writers, thinkers, theologians, [and we ask them] ‘what do you think about this’?

I have no interest in having long, boring discussions about what the Bible is.A?A? I would much rather us try toA?A?do what it says to do.A?A? There are certain people who, until you say certain things about the Bible – they want to discuss over and over and over again what the Bible is, and we’ll never keep them happy.A?A? I don’t think the point of the Bible is to argue endlessly about what it is, I think the point is to study it and to then do what it says to do.

And our commitment to the Bible?A?A? Every week we gather here and we open the Bible and we study it.A?A? Is there something more?

I also think that with some other folks, it isn’t enough to trust Jesus.A?A? They also want to make sure that everyone else is going to hell.A?A? And so they say it’s faith, but it’s actually fear.A?A? And the scriptures say that perfect love casts out fear.A?A?A?A? It is not our job to go around deciding who’s going to hell and who’s going to heaven.A?A? Jesus would have said ‘that is your job’ if that was our job.

Obviously, you can resist grace and the love of God.A?A? We see it around us all the time.A?A? Obviously, people can resist.A?A? But this odd religious impulse – that it’s not enough to trust Jesus, but I need to condemn everybody who’s not like me to hell – is a sick, twisted thing that comes from – I would argue – from a deep despair and a fear that simply has no part in the Kingdom of God.A?A?

Our job is to invite everybody to trust Jesus, and I will never back down from that.

Q: What challenges do you have for Mars Hill?

A: I would say that we have a historic opportunity inA?A?that all truth belongs to God.A?A? It is not owned by the Republicans.A?A? It is not owned by the Democrats.A?A? It is not owned by the liberals.A?A? It is not owned by the conservatives.A?A? All truth belongs to God.A?A? And God has set us free in Christ.A?A?

Our culture worships at the altar of duality.A?A? Everything that comes to people – ‘Is it this, or is it this?A?A? Is it conservative or is it liberal?A?A? It it modern or post-modern?A?A? Is it emergent or is it non-emerging?’A?A? And the Kingdom of God – “how God wants things” – transcends whatever divisions our culture has created.A?A?

We, as a church, will remain aggressively non-partisan.A?A? The gospel has political edges to it.A?A? So when a person says ‘oh, no, Jesus just came for the personal’ – [I say] ‘then why did they kill him’?A?A? There were deep political edges that had implications.A?A?

The environment and our care of the earth is not a Democratic party issue.A?A? It is a Genesis 1 issue.A?A? If I met a woman today who is pregnant and thinking about terminating that pregnancy, I would introduce her to about ten women in our congregation who would tellA?A?her their stories, and IA?A?say ‘we areA?A?desperate for you to not make that choice.’A?A?That is not a Republican issue.A?A? That is an issue ofA?A?’we want to affirm life, and we believeA?A?mistakes and redemption become opportunities for grace’.A?A? So – any side that wants to say ‘we own this issue’ -A?A?if it’s true you only own that because you borrowed that from God.

I’ve had people say – ‘well, if you’re saying that, you must be against theA?A?President’, or ‘if you’re saying that, youA?A?must be for him’.A?A? I’m trying to articulate the way of Jesus, and I don’t really care who is for it or against it – I just want to get the word out so that everyone can do it.A?A? If you take the gospel seriously, it will always feel lik youA?A?are flirting with various political parties, because it is not surprising that different groups would grasp different dimensions of God’s truth.A?A?A?A?’Well, if you’re advocating for the poor, that seems to be a Democratic thing’, or ‘if you’re advocating micro-finance that seems capitalistic – is that a Republican thing?’A?A? As far as we know, it’s true and it doesn’t belong to anybody, because it belongs to God.A?A?

Can we be a church that transcends all of the ways our culture tries to divide us?A?A? What we are trying to do here at Mars Hill is to say that there is a truth that is not the swinging of the pendulum.A?A? It is the kingdom of God and it transcends all of the ways we try to divide ourselves.A?A? The beautiful thing here is that truth and love seem to be winning.A?A? I would beg this community to consider that when Jesus is fully on display, it won’t fit ANY of your boxes, so just toss your boxes out now.A?A? I am only trying to come from one perspective: Jesus.A?A? NOBODY will co-opt this stage or this community or hijack the agenda, which is that jesus would be put on display for the whole world to see.A?A?

I would beg this community to consider that what we are doing here is inviting ourselves to be a part of something our culture has not seen:A?A? ‘OK, it’s nice that you have that disagreement, and it’s nice that you have that ‘thing’, but let’s take communion together and then let us break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for the world.A?A? So,A?A?I would beg our community to have no fear.A?A? There is nothing to fear – Jesus can be trusted, so let’s go…


This entry was posted on Friday, June 29th, 2007 at 7:13 am and is filed under Religion/Philosophy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Comments so far

  1. Shua on June 29, 2007 3:35 pm

    I was only able to skim through this whole post here at the office, but I think Bell showed great insight in his answer to the question right above the last one. “I also think that with some other folks, it isn’t enough to trust Jesus. They also want to make sure that everyone else is going to hell,” is one of those scary-true statements.

    Glad to have you back posting, and prayers to you and yours.

    - Shua

  2. Russ N. on June 30, 2007 1:21 pm

    thanks for taking the time to write this out. The podcast is even better when you hear the emotion and the passion in his voice for putting action to his faith and encouraging Mars Hill (and those that listen by podcast) to do the same.

  3. Natalia Economides on July 1, 2007 4:46 am

    I am trying to get the study guids for Velvet Elvis Chapter 4 – Tasseles and cannot access this. Please can you e-mail them to me soonest… Thanks you.

  4. Cindy on July 6, 2007 8:03 pm

    Great post. I like how Bell cuts through political parties, and different sides of issues, and he is right, in the end all truth belongs to Him.

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