Pastor Rob Bell a featured speaker
I am truly baffled at how evangelicals, of all people, can’t see the positive possibilities that Rob Bell creates by engaging lots of people– lots of non-Christian, agnostic, atheistic, skeptical people– in discussions about God.
Consider: The OWN channel is in 85 million homes worldwide. Oprah reaches millions of people every year, and sometimes in a single episode. What kind of confused evangelical would look at those numbers and say, “You know what would be terrible? If a Christian had his own talk show on that network. That would be really awful news”? What’s more, Bell is known for being someone people enjoy listening to. He’s engaging, he talks in normal English, he illustrates and weaves stories together masterfully. Of all people, evangelicals should know this, because they almost single-handedly are responsible for the 2.5 million Nooma videos that were sold, not to mention his sold out speaking tours and multiple best-selling books. Apparently, that was all okay, but now that he’s planning to bring that same energy and message to people outside of the walls of mega-churches, to the millions of people who haven’t yet heard him talk about God or the Bible or Jesus or pursuing this beautiful, justice-and-mercy-filled way of life, it’s not OK?
That makes absolutely no sense. Not for anyone, but certainly not for evangelicals.
If Oprah calls you up and invites you to share your thoughts on your faith, what kind of a moron would you have to be to say no? Would evangelicals really rather someone NOT be talking about God? Is it really that dire? Is Rob Bell so bad, so different from you, that silence is the better option? Because that’s what evangelicals currently have with broader culture: silence. Crickets. The vast majority of America has tuned them out. What kind of special prize do evangelicals think they are getting by not connecting with the very people they say they want to reach?
Sure, Rob Bell goes for the big picture. He sets a mood, he captivates people’s imaginations and attentions. He’s not holding lectures on minor points of doctrine. Of course, that’s why people are listening to him.
Rob Bell understands how people who are outside of organized religion feel about things. He gets how they see the world. And he gets how to connect how they see the world with how he sees the story of Jesus, the narrative of Scripture, the work of the kingdom. That is fantastic news. We should all send him a holy high-five and tell him to keep talking. Because let’s be honest: American people have about had it with listening to religious anything. They are fed up with the meanness and the judging and the battles with science and the fundamentalism and it’s enough for them to tune out the whole conversation before it even gets underway. If Rob Bell knows how to talk to people about their souls, how to help people examine their lives and think about meaning and purpose and seek to love and care for others, and he can do so while reaching millions upon millions of people, he is not just an evangelical. He is a better evangelical than all the rest of us.