Robert Holmes Bell, Jr. will host a new series on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) titled The Rob Bell Show beginning December 21, 2014. Considered one of America’s most progressive spiritual and controversial leaders, Bell will spark riveting conversations with live audiences and on-camera storytelling. This bestselling author and former megachurch pastor plans to “shine a bright light on the topics we most want to talk about but do not know where to begin” in this new self-help show.
In the early 90s Bell and his wife, Kristen, moved to California from Illinois so he could attend Fuller Theological Seminary and pursue his desire to teach. After graduating from seminary the couple relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be close to family and study under Pastor Ed Dobson. In 1999 Bell branched out to start a “new kind of community” called Mars Hill Bible Church.
Under Bell’s leadership Mars Hill was one of America’s fastest-growing and progressive churches. In 2011 he was added to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. The former pastor, who founded his church at the young age of 28, remained the leading man of Mars Hill until he stepped down in September 2011.
Bell believed at that time his season at Mars Hill was over and it was time to move on and continue his vision elsewhere. This was around the time the bestselling author received great fallout from his book, Love Wins. Bell has always been a controversial and out of the box thinker, however this book caused a major controversy within his church and the evangelical community at large. Love Wins offers a differing viewpoint of traditional teachings surrounding heaven and hell. This angered many Christian leaders while others found that it addressed an overdue conversation about some traditional interpretations of Scripture.
The former pastor has expressed being frustrated with the current state of evangelical thinking. He said it is often politically intertwined and very narrow. Bell believes too many people have been turned away from the church by Evangelicals because their teachings do not actually shape people into being more compassionate and loving. The controversial teacher said:
Evangelicals have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive, and we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.
While appearing at the Viper Room in July 2012 the Sex God author answered an audience question about the church and gay members. His forward-thinking response triggered more controversy for the author. In his answer to the audience member Bell stated:
Some people are gay, and you’re our brothers and you’re our sisters, and we love you. We love you… Gay people are passionate disciples of Jesus just like I’m trying to be, so let’s all get together and try to do something about the truly big problems in our world.
In a later interview in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral the Velvet Elvis author said, “He is for love… period!” He is for marriage, fidelity and love; whether it is a woman and a man, man and man or woman and woman. Bell said the ship has already sailed and this is the world we are now living in; it is important to affirm people where they are.
While Love Wins deals with traditional teachings of heaven and hell, his latest book What We Talk About When We Talk About God speaks more concerning the reason current culture and the church resist talking about God. This book was written to show the world how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future. When speaking of his latest book Oprah Winfrey gave high praise and said:
Rob Bell is shaking up the way we think about God and religion.
Through his time of leading the progressive and well-known Mars Hill, teaching the critically acclaimed short film series called Nooma, working as a bestselling author, making appearances on Oprah’s television show and multi-city tour many people have come to know and love Bell. He has the distinct ability to engage topics that matter most without the traditional method of condemnation. The Rob Bell Show, which airs December 21 on the OWN network, will continue conversations which others have found controversial.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)