This is part one of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014.
The second week of February I was able to get down to Laguna Beach to attend a 2-day event with Rob Bell. It was an amazing chance to back up from the week-to-week grind and get some perspective on where we are going and what my role is in all that God is doing with The Grove. I’m going to blog about it just to process some things for myself, and put this out there for anyone who is googling the event in the future and wondering if it’s something that would be helpful for them. I’m not sure he’ll do anymore because of new Oprah-tunities that are coming Bell’s way, so this may be more for me than for the internet, but having it on my searchable blog will be helpful.
If you don’t know of him already, Rob Bell seems to be every former baptist’s favorite heretic. He was a regular, ordinary, run-of-the-mill conservative evangelical who planted a church in Michigan that took off and created all sorts of hype around him. From there he started making videos called Nooma, that became Zondervan’s hottest products. Finally, Bell started writing books that got him in increasing amounts of trouble with the conservative evangelical machine. The final bridge burner was Love Wins, where Bell (through a whole series of non-committal questioning) basically proposes a protestant universalist purgatory. I first listened to Rob Bell at a Youth Specialties conference way back in 2003 and it was so amazingly helpful to me that I have been listening and reading almost everything that comes out over the past decade. It’s interesting to me to see the transition in him (just like you can see in other pastor/leader/authors, i.e. Brian McLaren and Don Miller) away from the church and towards an individualistic expression of what it is to be a Christian. A lot of the noise around these leaders is about their liberal transitions in their positions on the bible, salvation, politics and, (the noisiest) homosexuality and Christianity. The deeper issue, I think, is the transition in their thinking from a Christianity that is rooted in a tradition that you join and it helps define you, to a Christianity that is rooted in traditions that are self chosen and self defined.
So, it wasn’t especially for theological orthodoxy training that I went down to Laguna Beach – which Bell announced anyways when he talked about how it is not his desire to be more orthodox-er. Rather, I appreciated Rob Bell for his ability to express in words the inclinations I tend to have about God, Jesus, what it is to follow Jesus, what Christian leadership looks and feels like and how preaching sermons is a beautiful art form. I learned an incredible amount in a short period and have many threads that I need to follow and work through that will take all year. So, it will take a whole series of blogs, but it should at least be interesting!