It has taken me a while to write this blog because Rob Bell is so controversial. This will not be about his controversy or a debate about him. If you have no idea what I am speaking about google him and you will be enlightened within seconds.
I was first introduced to Rob Bell (he is one of the people who I always refer to with both names, just like my best friend Meg Barry) back in 2003. My church showed his first Nooma video, Rain during service. It was ten minutes long and so interesting and good that I probably fell in love with him right then and there. He would eventually release another 23 Nooma’s for the series. I would be in two different small groups that did a study on some of the films. His first Everything is Spiritual tour was in 2006 and I went to it. I will never forget it was at Mississippi Nights on the landing. He had this gigantic white board that he talked and wrote all over. I looked around and the workers were totally enthralled in what he was saying and listened to every word. Afterwards my friend Dianne and I went up and asked him to sign our copies of his first book, Velvet Elvis. He looked at my book and said this is one of those illegal copies I heard about, but have never seen. I could have died right there and crawled into the floor if it were possible. I had gotten the book from a Crossings, a Christian website so after that all of his books have come from Amazon. Only I would have an illegal copy and then ask Rob Bell to sign it.
Once podcasts became available I started downloading his sermons and burning to CD’s to listen in my car. If he wasn’t speaking that week, I listened anyway. It’s how I heard about Ed Dobson. I do believe he was a retired preacher that guest spoke. He also had been battling ALS for eight years at the time. He was still doing well and had a lot of mobility. He spoke about it one week and I remember burning a copy and sending it to my friends husband who has since passed from ALS. I just looked Ed up and discovered he passed away 12/26/2015 and lived with ALS for 15 years. This makes me sad as I never did meet him but I remember the year he attempted to live as Jesus did. It’s crazy to think of burning CD’s to listen to as now I can just load them in my phone and listen to them via my radio. Technology has really gone crazy in the last twenty years.
Rob swears he came to St. Louis last year but if he did I missed it. All of the other times he has been out on speaking tours they have been too far away. This year however, I discovered he was going to be in Tulsa Oklahoma at the same time Emily was going to be in Norman Oklahoma for Physical Therapy clinical’s. So I googled how close they were and informed her I would come visit her while she was there because I would miss her. She said nice try, you just want to see Rob Bell. Busted! The night before the event I made the mistake of googling him because it had been a while. The controversy surrounding him was now off the charts. It seems as if Love Wins was just the beginning. I hadn’t really followed him much after he left Mars Hills, after all he wasn’t preaching so I had no CD’s to make. Anyway I started questioning if I should even go the next day. I mean I might get sucked in and come out a horrible person or something. However I paid a hundred dollars for this eight-hour event so I was going simply because of that. I did the math wrong in my head and left too late from Emily’s to make it on time. It was an hour and forty-five minute from her place to the event. I showed up ten minutes late but he had just started. I of course had to run to the bathroom because I had drunk 24 ounces of coffee on the way over. His venue was Cains and looked like it would be the perfect place for country line dancing. It very much reminded me of Mississippi Nights ten years ago in Saint Louis only this time the chairs were in a square with him in the middle. It was how Mars Hill was set up. (I visited his church back in 2009 on the way home from Niagara Falls.) I quickly realized I was glad I had come.
The day was about his book How to be Here and he said a lot of people leave and quit their jobs. That at some point every one will have their ah ha moment and he then said you’re welcome. Well I couldn’t imagine quitting my job because I love it. I have also tried to leave at least three times and I got a big fat NO from God. No he didn’t speak to me but other things happened that were directly related and I knew I needed to stay right where I was. So in October I will be on Women’s Health for sixteen years. I am not sure where the time went. The day came and went and I never had that moment until the next day when I was driving home trying to take in everything I heard the day before. Hello, my moment was ten minutes in when I knew I made the right decision to show up. Rob Bell was still the Rob Bell I remembered from the videos and the sermons. And yes he has said some crazy off the wall stuff but don’t you think people said the same thing about Jesus back in his day. No I am not saying Rob Bell is Jesus (look I am crazy but not that crazy) and I am not saying if he is right or wrong, I am just simply pointing out that some of the same stuff said about Rob, may have been said about Jesus. There is one thing he said that really made me think and still has me freaked out. He said to the people who believe in Left Behind, he does not. He feels that Jesus already came back when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. that he was supposed to return in the disciples lifetime and that would be his way of doing it. I was like wait a minute, you mean I have no hope of Jesus returning now and saving me from this crap known as the mess of the world we created. That sucks. But I have also had an issue with Left Behind theory anyway. Why would the people who rejected him who are still living get a second chance to accept him when everyone else who died were already sent to hell. Talk about unfair. However it just shows how little anyone really knows about what is to come. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong. Maybe he is a whack a doodle sent by the devil, maybe he’s a great speaker sent by God.
One last thing and then I’m going to stop typing. He spoke a little bit about what happened after Love Wins came out. It was weird while he was talking I could feel his pain. I feel this is most likely because I never realized what it might have been like for him when the Christian community (many who were close friends) just cut him off and acted like he no longer existed. He said churches would contact him stating they had written seven page papers about why his book was wrong. There were actually people picketing him and I got the feeling (just my feeling) that he was pretty much run out of the town we grew up in. And no matter who you are, how close you are to God that has to hurt! My own church never mentioned his name again after the book came out. I spoke to him after the talk and had my picture taken with him. I told him I did not bring a book because of what happened the last time. He cracked up laughing. We discussed his leaving the church and he says it seems like so long ago and he’s glad to be gone. I bet he is because the longer you are in a church the more and more things you tend to find wrong. Everyone criticizes everyone and it just gets stupid. I am sure he is more happy just going around meeting people and talking in this environment. How did Jesus interact with people? In a building with rules and religion? Nope out in the crowds. Again Rob Bell is not Jesus it’s just interesting the parallel. I swear if anyone publishes something saying I called Rob Bell the next Jesus I will lose my mind. Oh wait I lost it years ago.
Mole Moral ~ I’m glad I listened to my gut and went. Rob Bell no longer calls himself a pastor as he does not have a “church” with a set group of members. It was thought provoking eight hours.