Dear Ocho, Thanks For Everything. –Your Former Resident, Bob


Recently I’ve been questioning a lot of things.  I’ve begun to wonder way beyond the assumed point of view that I and the community I’ve come from see things from.  Even the basic questions I’m questioning; who says those are the right questions to begin with?


A boy named Bob is born.  Bob is raised in a town called Ocho; he goes to school in Ocho, learns all the ways of the other Ochons, and goes to Ocho University.  Then he gets a job in the neighboring town called Chi.

The children in Chi are raised in a different way than the Ocho children, but Bob is able to get along fairly well.

Bob moves again, this time to a town nearby called Negen.  Bob finds out that this town is even more weird and he has a hard time getting along.

Because of these experiences Bob gets curious about other places – if these nearby towns are different than his hometown of Ocho, what else is out there?  So Bob dives into books for several years and learns as much as he can about the surrounding world.  His findings intrigue him.  Bob learns that his town Ocho means “eight” in another language.  The neighboring town of Chi means “seven”, and the town on the other side means “nine.”  Bob learns of hundreds of thousands of towns that stretch in each direction.  Every town is so different from the others that in a town like Eighteen they have no word for “food;” the idea does not exist.  Bob comes to realize that everything he has grown up believing about the world is only believed by fellow Ochons, with some basic ideas overlapping with the nearby communities.

They don’t know what a flower is in Fourteen, and in Thirty-Five there is no such thing as a question.  In Forty-Two their language is neither spoken or written.  As relatively close as Sixty-One is to Ocho, their bodies are drastically different, resembling something more like a puddle than an upright figure.  Once we get past One Hundred and Fifty there aren’t any more words in our vocabulary to describe them.


Someone might ask Bob, “So do you still believe in our deity?”  He doesn’t think it’s a yes or no question.  He would like to tell his ignorant inquirer that she lives in a very small view of the world if that is the question she is stuck on, anyway.  But by now he’s used to dealing with people from Ocho so he might say “Yes” just to get her off his back.

There may be no such thing as a stupid question but there are an awful lot of robots who can’t see beyond Ocho’s town limits.  Odds are Bob’s inquisitor will have a series of questions about Ocho’s deities and then interpret his answer in light of her Ocho education.

There’s a reason Bob sleeps late on the weekends.

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.

RELEVANT MAGAZINE Reflections: Rob Bell on Pools


I subscribe to RELEVANT MAGAZINE (God. Life. Progressive Culture.), which arrives every two months. The last subscription I had was to Sports Illustrated, and that was over 10 years ago, so I thought it would be nice to have a magazine delivered to my home every month or two. And $15 for two years isn’t a bad deal.

While reading RELEVANT (why is it in all capital letters? I feel like I’m yelling) I often get new thoughts stirring in my mind, so I thought I’d allow those thoughts to spill over onto (the number of $1 donors has hit a plateau at 6). The first mind-stirring thought comes from Issue 24: Jan_Feb2007 in an interview with Rob Bell (as well as Mark Driscoll, Lauren Winner, Rick Warren, and Erwin McManus). Part of Bell’s answer to the question, How should Christians be involved in the political realm? is this:

In our city they’re shutting down community pools because they say there isn’t funding for it. So there are all these kids, especially in the urban center of Grand Rapids, who won’t be able to swim in the summer. We think that would piss Jesus off. For us it’s not right that on one side of town they’re building pools and on the other side of town they’re shutting them down. That’s an injustice. We think Jesus is about pools.

Is Jesus really about urban kids getting the chance to swim in the summer, or is he more interested in somebody knocking on the door of their house in August and telling them that Jesus offers eternal life so they can go to heaven instead of hell when they die? It all depends on your view of hell, heaven, eternity, justice, and Jesus.

Jesus 2007

It’s a strange thing, isn’t it, that we can do even greater things than Jesus? I wonder if this might have something to do with being “Jesus 2007.”

It’s not that we’re better than Jesus, it’s just that he is more spread out now. When he visited us he came to one plot of land, lived, taught, died, and then rose from the dead, all in that one small geographical location. But being the wise and generous friend and brother that he is, he didn’t abandon us when he left; he only abandoned us physically, so that his spirit could actually live inside of us, so that there is not now just one spirit of Jesus living and walking and talking in one body in the land of Israel, but millions of Jesuses (Jesus-i? Jesus-en?) walking and talking in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Romania, Germany, Iceland, the United States, Bolivia, Uruguay, South Africa, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, China, the Philippines, and hundreds of other countries.

Is Jesus going to look the same in Bolivia as he does in the Sudan, or the same in Turkey as he does in the United States? Did Jesus look the same in Southern Europe in the year 50AD as he looked in Israel in the year 28AD? Already, just a short while after Jesus died and sent his spirit to all the believers, we see them teaching the message differently than Jesus, in a way that the people could understand. If Paul yelled at the Southern Europeans for not obeying God’s Torah, they would have had no clue what he was talking about. So he spoke in terms that they could understand. He became “Jesus 50” to them by reading the popular poets of the day.

So I’m wondering what it would look like to be “Jesus 2007” here in our American culture. Paul’s “Jesus 50” in Southern Europe looked like this:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

Will that work for us in America? Are temples a big part of our culture? What is a big part of our culture? How about movies? Maybe “Jesus 2007” in America would start off something like this:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the best movie producer there is, and he’s writing and directing a story about a woman who falls in love with the wrong kind of man, all the while another man is pursuing her and letting her know that he would do anything for her, even die for her.

Whereas Paul said this:

As some of your own poets have said, `We are his offspring.’ Therefore, since we are his offspring…

We might say something like this:

J.R.R Tolkein and Peter Jackson wrote and produced a story about Sam and Frodo leaving the shire and embarking on an exciting, dangerous quest, involving tragedy and triumph, ferocious battles and tender love. The divine Storywriter has been writing and producing a similar story but on a much larger scale, and actually we have a role in it. It all started in a beautiful garden…

There are many ways to be “Jesus 2007.”

The Story of Reality

Imagine William Shakespeare wrote a play (hard to imagine, I know). It’s such a great play that many people think that actors should be hired to act out the play on stage. The problem is that the play is supposed to be five acts, but we only have the first four acts and the beginning of the fifth in our possession, with hints of how it will end. Most of the fifth act has been lost forever. What do we do?

It seems like the best thing to do would be to hire actors who are well-versed in Shakespeare, give them copies of this unfinished play to study, and then have them act out their interpretation of what they think the fifth act would look like.

In the same way, the story of reality, the story of God, the story the Scriptures reveal to us, is a play with the first four acts and the beginning of the fifth written out for us. We humans have been hired, so to speak, to act out the fifth act of this great play on the stage of life, knowing what we know of the first four acts.

This play was not designed to be read and enjoyed by only a certain group of people, but rather is intended for anyone and everyone. In the same way, the story of God, the story of reality, the story of the Scriptures is meant to set the stage for anyone and everyone to act out the fifth act; it’s meant for all humanity.

Since we don’t have the final act of Shakespeare’s play, it wouldn’t be right to complete the drama once and for all. Even the well-trained actors need to be open to different versions of the play. After all, the play will look different as it is acted out by different people in different time periods. The goal is not to once-and-for-all decide what Shakespeare meant to do in the fifth act.

In the beginning of Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis, (review of Velvet Elvis) he says something similar to this, but he uses the illustration of an Elvis painting instead of a Shakespearean play. Bell then concludes the introduction by saying, “Welcome to my Velvet Elvis” – I.e. this is my interpretation of act five.

Throughout Christian history, and in our world today in 2006, there are many different groups giving their interpretation of act five. Most of them, unfortunately, will tell you not, “This is my Velvet Elvis” or “This is my Act Five,” but rather, “This is the Act 5.”

My goal is to become an actor well-versed in the first four acts so that I can faithfully live out on the stage of life the fifth act.