Rob Bell: (Emergent) is not a word we use


Taken from a interview with Rob Bell Some people from the outside looking in would say that your church is perhaps characteristic of a lot of churches that are springing up in America, in England, around the world, based out of some sort of dissatisfaction with church as we know it and need to re-invent it somehow, and need to – you used the word “strip it down.”  Various terms are used: Emerging Church, Emergent Church.  Is Mars Hill, the church that you pastor, is that an Emerging Church?

Rob Bell: We don’t ever use that word because in our particular context, unnecessarily creating labels – are you in, are you out?  are you one of them or not? – seems to work against the spirit of Jesus.  We would much rather put out the bread and the cup and take communion together and talk about the Christ who unites us and who wants to heal each of us so that we can be his hands and feet in the world.  So I don’t really care what of these endless little stripes and labels you wear.  Can we all do this together? (mimes holding bread)  Can we all agree on that?  So yeah, that’s not a word we would use. But how do you feel when it’s used of you?  Would you feel uncomfortable with that tag?  I hear what you’re saying.

Rob Bell: Yes. Just because it’s a tag and you don’t want any tag.

Rob Bell: If it’s a tag that refers to those who are serious about what I would argue is central to the Christian faith, which is the endless hard questioning of what does it mean to be the people of Jesus here and now in this place, in this time – what does it look like to be the hands and feet in this city, in this day and age?  Well then that’s a conversation that’s not exclusive or even new to Emergent, and it’s the conversation that must endlessly be had with every community in every generation.  So if that’s what they’re talking about, great.  But if it’s some sort of group over here who believe they somehow stumbled upon the keys to everything and everybody else is clueless, well then that’s just simply not helpful at all.


Rob Bell’s November tour called the gods aren’t angry started November 5 in Chicago and concludes in Grand Rapids on December 2.  Bell’s tour from last summer, Everything Is Spiritual, was released on DVD this week.

John Piper on the Emergent Church

John Piper

The following is an excerpt (full mp3 here) from a panel conversation (With Justin Taylor interviewing Tim Keller, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll) at the Desiring God Conference 2006, which took place on September 29. John Piper was asked about the Emergent Church, and after shocking the audience by saying a curse word (Justin said Mark must be rubbing off on him), he said this about a lunch conversation that he had with Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village:

I just kinda kept going back on my heels, like, I don’t understand the way these guys think, and so there are profound epistemological differences – ways of processing reality – that make the conversation almost impossible; just kind of going by each other. My question sort of is, how profitable would it be to press on with that when your worldviews seem to be so different and your ways of knowing seem to be different, the function of knowledge in transformation, what the goals of transformation are – all those are so different that I’m not sure we would get anywhere.

These words by Dr. Piper caused me to wonder if this is the reason why some leaders are not in the habit of dialoguing with a lot of their critics, because how profitable would it be when your worldviews are so different? I for one don’t think that Brother John should spend a lot of his energy in dialogue with people who come from a totally different angle (although some is healthy), because it takes him away from focusing his attention on the things that he really feels passionate about. It reminds me of Nehemiah 6:3 – “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”

Pastor Piper is doing a great work. I hope that he’s open to correction, yet always working hard at the work he’s been given.

Rob Bell: Response to Criticism

The following is an excerpt from an audio teaching by Rob Bell to the Mars Hill Community:

“Be careful of people who grab a line from an interview with me and wave that one line around. “What about this? He said this.” Understand that an interview is hours of talking, and that the media can write anything they want. Does that make sense? Please understand that you can take any line, isolate it from its context, and make the person be saying all kinds of things that they never intended to say. Or at least isolate it from the context of the words.

Please understand that there are blogs, and rumors of blogs, and people on blogs can write anything they want. People can write anything they want, and they can be as unbelievably hurtful because the internet is a safe, anonymous place for cowards.

And so please be careful of taking things that are being said as if they’re etched in stone. They’re not. It’s a website. It’s an review. That’s all it is.

We need to be careful that we don’t get dragged into things.

For those of you who take heat, here’s a phrase that I think is very helpful. Four words: Historic Orthodox Christian faith. Perhaps a simple line that would be helpful to people is, “At Mars Hill, we are trying to live out historic orthodox Christian faith. Where do you see that we’re not…”

“Well, you talk about questions.”

Show me where questions aren’t central to the Scriptures. Show me – whatever you’re talking about – where it’s not part of historic orthodox Christian faith.

So the real question is how are we going to respond, because we’re just getting started. There will be more praise, and there will be more Pharisees. I would respond with two words: love wins.

I deeply appreciate some of you who have entered into the public fray. I don’t read any of this, I’m told that some of you have written letters to the editor, you’ve gone on the internet, and your love and support for this place and for me personally, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Some of you are like, “Come on, what are you saying about us?” That means more to me…but I might ask you to reconsider, simply because I don’t know how much it helps. Some people, no matter what you say, have a hardness of heart and aren’t going to change.

Please be very, very careful who you engage with.

Some people simply have questions, and simply want to discuss. Wonderful. But some people are miserable, and they use religion as a crutch to avoid dealing with their misery and their pain. And what gets masqueraded as Christian faith is not. And we need to be careful spending all sorts of energy engaging with people who don’t have any interest in coming along on the journey with us.

I would ask you before you engage – and there’s nothing wrong with engaging – to perhaps ask, “Could I redirect the energy I’m about to spend towards somebody who’s never, ever heard that God loves them?” And let us be the kind of community who engages in the right kinds of discussions, but otherwise we’re too busy loving people with the transforming love of Christ to engage in the mudslinging that goes on. You are too valuable to me, and your time and your energy, you’re too valuable in our community to end up in some sort of theological kung-fu with somebody who ultimately thinks they’re right. There will always be Pharisees. God’s on the lookout for disciples.”

–Rob Bell, 9.11.05