Eugene Cho

rob bell in time magazine

Honestly, I haven’t read any much of Rob Bell’s stuff – just the soundbytes.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I have this weird thing where I don’t like to read too much stuff that’s written by people that are still alive.  Is that bizarre or what?  So, I can devour C.S. Lewis, Augustine, Nouwen, St. Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther King Jr., Lesslie Newbigin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, David Bosch, etc. but I have a hard time enjoying contemporary authors that are loved by others: Piper, Bell, Marva Dawn, McLaren, Lauren Winner, McManus, D. Miller, and others.  N.T. Wright, Eugene Peterson, and Scot McKnight may be the few exceptions. 

But with lots of christian leaders and pastors scolding each other in sermons and at conferences and calling one another heretics, maybe I should read some of the stuff that’s out there to see what the pointing is all about.  Sadly, Rob Bell is an example of someone that is being unfairly labeled as a heretic.

I know many that enjoy Rob Bell.  While I can’t speak in depth of his books or podcasts, I have heard a little about his holistic theology and read bits and pieces here and there — and they resonate with me.   For a guy that’s hit “rock star” status, I also appreciate his sense of humility.  I don’t know Rob personally but I like knowing that Rob will never ever get on the hypothethical reality show: Pastors Gone Wild.  Ultimately [through his ministry], people are being drawn to Christ and that’s a beautiful thing.  I think I would enjoy his stuff…someday.  But, I do hope he lives a long long long life.  Anyway, for those that are interested, a good article about Bell in the recent edition of Time Magazine:

Bell, 37, is guilty of none of the negatives. He is largely apolitical, thinks that only those with gay friends are positioned to judge homosexuality–and he tinkers marvelously. At 28, he founded a megachurch that threw out the conventional sermon-and-worship service and instantly drew thousands of attendees. He has sold hundreds of thousands of books with titles like Velvet Elvis and Sex God that find the sacred in the profane. [Read full article here]

Filed under: emerging church, religion, ,

28 Responses

  1. elderj says:

    I tend not to read much by people who are living either… I think my training as a historian biases me a bit, and probably makes me a little bit cynical a la “there’s nothing new under the sun.” But I’ve seen the Nooma videos and have had a detached pseudo-intellectual appreciation for them. I don’t think I could stand to be in a church like that though. It would drive me batty!

  2. Rob says:

    I have listened to a few of his sermons. He is very witty and engaging. There is something that bothers me about him that I can’t totally put my finger on. I think we mistakenly tend to elevate charismatic church leaders like Bell to “Rock Star”.

  3. andrew jones says:

    thanks for the link. i blogged the article. nice to meet you in seattle!!!!

  4. Dan says:

    If it makes you feel any better, you’re a heretic too. 🙂

  5. Jeff Lam says:

    check out their “xyz” initiative on their website at they are doing stuff to fight poverty via microfinancing… pretty interesting stuff.

  6. Dan W says:

    I keep thinking back to a certain denominational youth event I was at about 4 years ago, Night after night they served up bland speakers giving nice little youth talks. Then Rob Bell got up and exposited the Word, using a lot of history and theology, and the youth were spellbound. He was the only speaker who asked them to open their Bibles, he was the only one who truly preached the Word; and he was the most popular speaker of the entire week. I’ve been a “fan” ever since.

    btw, I’ve been called a heretic quite a lot lately, as well. Don’t tell Novak.

  7. johnnypeepers says:

    False prophets operate as Satan’s emissaries. The message and the charisma will lure many to eternal damnation.

  8. fresno dave says:

    thanks for the link/

    One thing ilove about Tob Bell:

    “Welcome to church,now get the hell out!”:

  9. hermipowell says:

    I recently wrote a post on my impressions after reading some of Rob Bell’s book Sex God. If you get a chance check it out and tell me what you think. Thanks.

  10. chad says:

    eugene….what do you make of the last line in the article?
    “Backstage recently in Manhattan, he acknowledged that the exertions aimed at “large crowds and good book sales can be at odds with” the creativity he associates with “the Eucharist, the breaking yourself open and pouring yourself out.” Fans hope that as with the Nooma he can find a way to reconcile two seemingly disparate story lines.”

  11. SolShine7 says:

    I don’t know much about him outside his Nooma videos. And I really enjoy the ones I’ve seen.

  12. Matt Jones says:

    I think you need to break the habit! Peterson, Wright, Fee, Houston (and many more)! Amazing writers that can say such profound things in so many different ways. I can’t get enough. That is not to say that those who have passed on can’t be read over and over too! 🙂

  13. michaelbreza says:

    Anyone that is striving to be “Christ-like” and live out their faith will be scrutinized. My friends and I discovered Rob Bell’s work while we were in college (Penn State – Alliance Christian Fellowship ). His material has helped produce conversations that ultimately glorified God. People surrendered their lives over to Christ because Rob Bell presents the tenets, values and practices of Christianity in an applicable way. He tries to be real with people. No facade, no hidden agenda. He admits his faults, his struggles, his needs for grace, and his desire to honor God. College students were able to grasp these concepts and Christ pierced their calloused hearts and said “Come.” In the end, that is what matters.

  14. saviourmachine says:

    having read Velvet Elvis, engaged int he watching of many of the Nooma videos, and reading an interview with him in a book about emerging ministers. I have found that this is the man that i tend to fashion many of my ministry skills after. he has a profound knowledge of the Word, and for all intensive purposes is headed the right direction for any Christ-Follower. That being said, as a minister myself i find that i am atacked at times for feeling and speaking the way that i feel and speak regarding many modern issues. Take for instance the apolitical issue, trying being a Charismatic minister and dealing with the issue of voting quazi-democratic in previously elections. Makes for interesting convos int he church corridors. Also try having to deal with having been friends with many people of alternative lifestyles. What many mainstreamers fail to understand is that just because a person is homosexual by preference, they are a human by design, and Christ gave us the strictist order to Love our neighbor as ourselves, sounds odd that Christians would use the term “I Hate homosexuals” when Christ Loves them. But you can’t judge a book solely by its cover, from personal knowledge of Him and reading his works, I see nothing of hypocrisy in Rob Bell. Thanks for the link to the article. I will enjoy reading this one.

  15. Blake says:

    Boy, I must have had my head in the sand for quite some time because I’ve never heard of Rob Bell. Now that I have it seems I have a lot of catch-up reading to do.

  16. e cho says:

    chad: it reads like the classic situation where the editor just cut off something in mid-thought which happens all the time.

    he works with a publisher and others that obviously want him to do well with book sales and speaking engagements and at times, it may seem incongruous with his personal theology of kenosis, humility, etc.

    for the record, you can do both and i think he’s doing it well.

  17. I wish people would stop analyzing how engaging someone is (or how boring) and evaluate the truth value of what they are saying. As Augustine said, “a thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently. ” But perhaps no one believes in truth anymore. Regardless of charisma, or appeal, I want to know if what Bell is saying is true. In relation to what the Scriptures say, I have many issues with his theology. I believe that he is addressing a very real problem in the chruch; that of dead orthodoxy; but his solution is incorrect.

  18. mark says:

    Samuel wrote:
    >I believe that [Rob Bell] is addressing a very real
    >problem in the church; that of dead orthodoxy; but
    >his solution is incorrect.

    Samuel, have you a better solution? Now is the time to share it?

  19. Orthodoxy is not the problem. The problem is pastors who are not praying, who are not close to the God they respresent. When they realized that God’s power was not in their orthodox methods (because they had a head orthodoxy) they had to rethink their methods. Instead, they should have gotten on their knees and sought God. In an attempt to be relevant, they are rethinking the only relvant thing, the Word of God. This will only lead many souls to hell…that is, if they even believe in it anymore.

    At any rate, one with more authority than I has already given the correct solution: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
    -Paul 2 Timothy 4:1-9

  20. Mark says:


    first you said “dead orthodoxy was a very real problem ” and then you said
    “Orthodoxy is not the problem”. You are leaving me a bit confused.

    I asked you for solutions but all I can see in your response is
    a restatement of what you think the problems are and even
    your restatement of the problem seems confusing.

  21. Mark:
    Don’t you see that there is a difference between orthodoxy and dead orthodoxy? Orthodoxy is not the problem, the deadness is. That was my distinction, and the difference is just as marked as the difference between a living man and a dead man.

    What I’m saying is, we need the power of God’s Spirit to accomplish anything in the church. On the day of Pentecost, what saved 3,000 people was not a friendly atmosphere, a “relevant” message, or upbeat music. What saved 3,000 people in one day was the outpouring of the Spirit of God following the preaching of the word. This whole concept of the Holy Spirits work, an emphasis on the work of Christ, etc., etc. is completely missing in Bell’s theology (and emergent theology in general), and that is why I can have no part in it. Bell and other emergents are simply treating the symptoms and not the disease. It is like treating cancer with tylenol. Am I making sense?

  22. L T says:

    hey e cho.
    thanks for the article link.
    there’s so many celebrity pastors/leaders now due to the easy accessibility of information via media/internet. i try to get a feel every now and then on what it is that people are drawn to and i try to not get in any of the mud slinging. there’s so much of that going around as you mentioned. with celebrity status comes great responsibility. i kinda think that perhaps having an opinion may somehow keep them accountable.
    also btw fyi, there’s a great article in GOOD magazine on Joel Osteen. The mud-slinging doesn’t get juicier than with this guy.

  23. e cho says:


    The comment that the “whole concept of the Holy Spirit’s work, an emphasis on the work of Christ…is completely missing in Bell’s theology (and emergent theology in general)” is a gross overstatement. Again, I don’t know enough of Bell’s theology to speak deeply of his theology but I’m tired of the exaggerations about the so called emergent theology.

    From what I can gather, Bell may not have your hermeneutic but as he leads his church and global attention is drawn to him, he is doing what I gauge to be the most important thing…He is pointing people to the work and person of Jesus Christ. He is calling people to be followers of Jesus.

  24. The Hipper-Than-Thou Pastor

    The Hipper-Than-Thou Pastor. Rob Bell i TIME Magazine. (via)

  25. todd says:


    keep reading the classics….at least a relatively steady diet….helps to keep us grounded….so glad you like bonhoeffer….



  26. […] Rob – for better or worse – is a Christian celebrity.  He’s a good guy and I very much dig his humility.  The dude is not arrogant or self seeking like someone I know who has a self-righteous pharisaic image of himself praying on his blog banner.  But honestly, I am amazed how globally popular and influential he is as proven by his books, NOOMA videos, packed out speaking gigs in venues like the Paramount Theater in Seattle, and even a recent write up in Time Magazine.   […]

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the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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