What’s Really Happening with Rob Bell

Rob Bell seems to be a touchy subject for a lot of Christians.  So I’m not going to touch any of that… I just wanted to explore about with what’s actually happening with Rob Bell.

Last weekend, we got to have dinner with our good friend, Finn, and his family to celebrate his graduation from Belmont University.  We sat across from this grandparents, and we talked about ministry and churches all night long.  It was wonderful to have the ears and attention of solid, devout Christians who were older, more mature, and knew more than us.  One of the topics that we talked about was this:

Preaching is becoming an archaic, specialized form of communication.  We could only come up with two things in life that are similar in the approach and methods of most sermons: university lectures and formal presentations at work.  As such, it seldom matters how good a communicator is or what their topic is… most people nowadays simply don’t know how to process a sermon.  It’s either too much information or not presented correctly (for me, it’s too slow… I take in much more information in a much shorter time period every day at work).

Now then, if this is a problem for Christ-followers… what must it be like for a new Christian or someone who is just exploring faith and life?  To never have been exposed to a “worship service” before and to walk in and have to follow the lead of the crowd around them and listen in a way that they simply have never done before… is that a good perception ofwhat it means to be learning?  What, then is the point of preaching if not to teach… and if the point is to teach, then what are our churches learning?

So why is Rob Bell being so successful with preaching?  If you don’t think he is, that’s ok.  But there are few people who have as many DVDs of their teaching as Rob does, and less that have gone on tour with their sermons (and then sold them as successful DVDs).

Rob’s teachings are like songs.  They crescendo and repeat and become famliar.  He teaches in a way that introduces you to ideas and concepts like you already knew them.  He’s turning teaching into art.

I don’t want to talk about whether his content is good or not; this isn’t the place for that and – quite humbly – I’m not enough of a Biblical scholar to tell you a valid opinion to your arguments.  But what amazes me is how he turns delivering a message into an art.  Just check out one of his nooma videos; one glance will tell you that he’s got skilled people working to make a short film and they are passionate about doing so.

Rob isn’t alone.  He has a team that put together the message into an artform for those videos – I know, because their names are on the credits.  And in his sermons at his church, he often tag-teams with other speakers, to get the message just right.  Regulary, he turns into a character on the stage, turning to the theatrical.

I’m not sure what’s happening with sermons across the expanse of the church in the United States… but what’s happening with Rob is he’s turning it into an artform.  And I will listen and learn and recall a song long before I can recall a sermon…


2 Responses to “What’s Really Happening with Rob Bell”

  1. great post. i have to agree.

  2. You are correct, Rob Bell is a touchy subject for some Christians.

    I’ve been following the controversy around Bell a great deal lately and I am dismayed by much of the “rocks” being thrown at him. From the exposure I’ve had to his teachings (a couple dozen sermons (via mp3) and several his Nooma) he clearly shows that he has a heart for sharing the Word.

    Anyway, not to go down the path of whether he’s theologically sound, I have to agree that Rob Bell has touched a nerve in our culture and it has as mush to do with how he delivers the message as it has to do with the message. Examine it; the message he’s sharing has been told millions of times in millions church services. Why does he resonate? Because he knows how to craft a message in a compelling and entertaining fashion. That doesn’t discount that there is real substance in his message.

    I made the mistake of saying to a friend who comes from a fundamentalist background that Bell was making the Bible culturally relevant to people today, but I meant to say was that he was delivering it using culturally relevant methods.

    Culture does change. I would imagine if you looked at “church” 200 years ago and church 400 years ago, you would see an “evolution” (if I can use that word). The church I attended for almost 10 years slowly allowed more progressive music into services and by the end of the time I attended that church they allowed electric guitars and drums to be played.

    I think that my kids live in a blessed time because they have access to a spectrum of Christian music that is unthinkable from when I was growing up. And I can say from being a teen, lo’ those many years ago, that music has a huge impact on a teens life.

    I think that it’s only fitting that Christians (young or old) have access to materials that speak to them, that inspire them. As long as it doesn’t change, revised, or water down the substance of the Message.


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