What is Mars Hill About?

There’s risk in pointing out to the world one 15-second snippet of a 30-minute teaching.  There’s more risk when that teaching comes forth from a specific community rooted in a specific geographic location with a specific history.  And there’s even more risk when that community is often criticized either fairly or unfairly.

That being said, there are some people who are genuinely curious about what kind of place Mars Hill (Grandville) is.  The teaching from yesterday by an elder, David Livermore, gives an excellent, albeit brief, peek into what’s going on amidst the Mars Hill Community.

“Mars Hill is not first and foremost an edgy, cool, hip, trendy church.   Mars Hill is not first and foremost about Rob Bell.  Mars Hill is not first and foremost about our wonderful staff or our faithful volunteers.  It’s not first and foremost about some great guest speaker that we might have come in.  It’s first and foremost about Jesus.  Last I checked Jesus is still on the throne.  Jesus is still working here.  Jesus still has good things for us to be about.”

The entire podcast can be downloaded here.

Which One Is Right?


Perhaps it would be a good idea, fantastic as it sounds, to muffle every telephone, stop every motor and halt all activity for an hour some day to give people a chance to ponder for a few minutes on what it is all about, why they are living, and what they really want.”

–James Truslow Adams

It would be good to have an overall view of things, like an aerial view, so that I can fit any aspect of life into the bigger picture. This seems easy but is actually incredibly difficult, especially if you read a lot of books. Eight years ago I had more direction than I have today, simply because I didn’t know much, and if you don’t know much than you can’t be too confused. But because I’ve learned so much the past few years, it’s very confusing trying to piece all of these things together.

John Piper has based his life and ministry around enjoying God. Rob Bell and the Mars Hill Community make it their aim to put Jesus on display. These are different. If they weren’t, then John Piper’s ministry would be called “Putting Jesus on Display Ministries” rather than “Desiring God Ministries,” and Mars Hill wouldn’t be called a “Jesus Community” it would be called a “Desiring God Community.”

Brian McLaren wrote a book series about a new kind of Christian. Cornelius Plantinga bases his theology around a Creation-Fall-Redemption model.

Can you be a new kind of Christian who puts Jesus on display within a Creation-Fall-Redemption model while desiring God?

Ravi Zacharias’ ministry is called “Let My People Think.” We don’t think enough. Boaz Michael and the folks over at First Fruits of Zion focus on bringing Christians back to the Torah and obeying its instructions. We’re not obeying God like the Bible commands. Dallas Willard believes what’s missing in Christians’ lives is discipline. We’re not being disciples of Jesus like we should be.

This is just seven ministries. There are thousands more who focus on different things. All of these different focuses cause confusion in a guy like me who simply wants the big idea. Is there even a big idea? Of course all of these people and their ministries are in agreement on a lot of things, but apparently not enough that they explain their thoughts on life and God in a similar way, otherwise we wouldn’t have seven different names and agendas from seven different men, plus thousands more, would we?

So if we stopped the world for an hour and let everybody think about what it’s all about and why they are living, how many different answers would we get? Ask seven Christians with big ministries and you get seven different answers.

It’s very confusing. I think I’m getting C.ADD – Christianity Attention Deficit Disorder. Maybe I’ll go watch Joel Osteen.


Way of the Masters’ Todd Friel on Rob Bell and Salvation

Todd Friel

Todd Friel has a radio show called Way of the Master. A lot of people know him as the guy who did the Bullhorn Response video to Rob Bell’s Nooma Bullhorn. The following is a conversation with a caller named Sara on the January 12, 2007 show:

Todd Friel: So what’s happening today, Sara?

Sara: Um, well I’m wondering exactly – and I’m glad you brought up all this Rob Bell stuff because I’m just getting, like, I posted your, uh, Bullhorn Response on my Myspace, and I’m just getting this flood of comments just completely freaking out cause’ all these people love Rob Bell and they’re just flipping out on like your video. And what exactly is the line between, like, bad theology and heresy?

Todd Friel: That’s an extremely important question, Sara… (talks about T.D. Jakes not believing in the Trinity…)

Sara: What about, um, like I had an email conversation with, uh, Nate Dawson from the Mars Hill Bible Church, Rob Bell’s church…

Todd Friel: Right.

Sara: And, like, they believe in holistic salvation, and just, weird things like that…

Todd Friel: I don’t even know what that means.

Sara: Would that be heresy, like…?

Todd Friel: Is holistic salvation, that, what, he heals every part of…I don’t even…

I actually like Todd. He’s a funny guy and I think we’d have a fun time hanging out. But I also think he’d be wise to look a little more into the Bible’s broad concept of salvation rather than preaching the version that’s been passed down to him.

Nothin’ but love for brother Todd.

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 Amazon.com 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