Rob Bell: The Sobering Look, When Elder’s Rethink Their Decisions

Monday is for Discussion

Rob Bell Profiled in New YorkerMentor to Rob Bell, Ed Dobson speaking of the day, years ago, when a group of elders called Rob Bell out of California to take over the Saturday night young-adult service of the church with doubts about the depth of his knowledge of the Word of God.

“Not all of the elders felt like I did – some of them were concerned that he was inexperienced,” Dobson recalled about the start of Bell’s ministry in Grand Rapids. “But I told them, ‘Look, he can communicate. He really doesn’t know the Bible, but, if we can add the Bible to his communication skills, we’ll have a winner.’”   (Excerpt from THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE)

Opps. Sounds like Ed Dobson won the day on green lighting Rob Bell over his fellow elders and now has some regrets. We all make mistakes but it was for good reason that God inspired the Apostle Paul to write these words in 1 Timothy 3:6 (ESV): 

“He [an elder] must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

Church Planters:  

  1. Be careful who you are becoming.

  2. Be careful who you place in leadership.

  3. Be careful who you place in the position of teacher.

Senior Pastors and Elders:

  1. Ditto

  2. The senior pastor, lead pastor, teaching pastor, lead elder or elder chair is not the “pope” of the congregation. Make sure you are wise in your choices of who to place in leadership.

All of Us:                    

  • Cultivate humility at all times.

This post has been amended to reflect the context of Ed Dobson’s quote more accurately. I had misunderstood the context of the quote and assumed that Ed was referring to sending Rob out to plant the church in 1998. The quote actually refers to the call of Rob Bell to come and take over the Saturday night young-adult service from which Mars Hill would eventually emerge. The more accurate context not only does not change the overall counsel of the post (it strengthens it) or the warning that the whole Rob Bell / Mars Hill story is for the body of Christ. My apologies for not being more accurate, Please continue to pray for Rob Bell. He needs the body of Christ now more than ever.

6 thoughts on “Rob Bell: The Sobering Look, When Elder’s Rethink Their Decisions

  1. Sounds to me like a case of backwards priorities. If a leader has hidden the Word in his heart, the Holy Spirit will pull it out as necessary. Paul claimed that he was not a glib speaker but there no question in anyone’s mind about the depth of his knowledge of the Word of God.


    1. We so often forget that Paul’s disciple-making / church planting / Kingdom advancing strategy relied on the simplicity and power of the message proclaimed rather than on personal charisma and rhetorical splendor.


  2. My personal choice for greatest missed opportunity in church history: failure to invite the spiritually gifted, personally charismatic, innovative, possessed of massive communication skills — Simon the Sorcerer. Omission of invite to Jerusalem Conference was the start.

    Bell may now be openly apostate; but while we had him “he ran well”, he did a lot of good things, he “made you think”, which is never a bad thing. Is it? Hey, “no pain, no gain”! You have to break some eggs to make an omelette, n’est ce pas?


    1. Chas,
      God is perfectly capable of using bad theology, bad men, even jackasses (thinking Balaam’s ass) to accomplish whatever he desires whenever he wants. (After all, he uses me, and I have been all of those things.) Nevertheless, there are principles that need to be applied and the NT is pretty clear on what they are, 1 Timothy 3:6 and context being just one. Are you saying we should just dismiss these verses because somebody is a talented communicator and can draw a crowd?


  3. Chas, I see what you mean. We shouldn’t demean everything Bell has ever said or did, because most of it was good. He helped the poor, the wounded, the hurt, something we as a church could do well to learn from. He also made you think, and not judge others before we examined our own hearts and lives. However, Pastor Marty you are also right in saying that maybe in context of 1 Tim 3:6, we shouldn’t be quick to thrust a recent convert or just anyone in the pastorate. However, we should be not so quick to throw the baby with the bathwater so to speak, but continue to not only speak the truth to Bell and to others like him, but also to DO truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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