Eugene Cho

rob bell is going hollywood and i give him two thumbs up

In honor of the greatest movies critics the world has ever known (that would be Siskel & Ebert for you young folks), I am giving “two thumbs up” to Rob Bell and his news of going Hollywood to help create a new TV show on ABC called Stronger.  [click here for RSS readers]

Most of us are familiar with Rob Bell and his book, Love Wins, which was the single reason why Christian bloggers saw a huge spike in their readership this past February. I won’t lie. I jumped on the bandwagon and wrote an entry entitled – What the Hell? – and got 1,329,143,143 hits on that post.

And just last week, Rob Bell got more attention when he announced his resignation from his church, Mars Hill. I’m not linking to MH’s press release out of fear that it’ll crash their website again. My blog has that much power.

And like that fated incident when people were reviewing his book, Love Wins, without actually reading the book, I thought it was comical that people were criticizing, condemning, commenting on the reasons why he was stepping down from full-time pastorate

But now we know:

Rob Bell is indeed going Hollywood.

According to the news via Deadline:

Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer of Lost)  has teamed with author/pastor Rob Bell for Stronger, a drama project with spiritual overtones, which has been sold to ABC via ABC Studios in a hefty script deal. Stronger, which the former Lost co-show runner and the founder of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church are co-writing and executive producing, revolves around Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. Music is expected to be a big part of the show, which features autobiographical elements as Bell is a former musician and played with rock/gospel bands in the 1990s.

For the record, I think they’re making a mistake with the title of the show. They should call it “Found.”

Boom. I’m brilliant.

Anyways, my early take: Two thumbs up.

Here’s 3 reasons why I give it two thumbs up:

1. Lost.

Enjoyed Lost. And Carlton Cuse was the executive producer of Lost. I didn’t watch every single episode like my crazy maniac friend, Chris Seay (who actually wrote a book entitled, The Gospel According to Lost), but I marveled at the way it encouraged dialogue about spirituality, faith, and hope.

And last time I checked, dialogue and conversation – especially in a marketplace of ideas and philosophies – are a great thing.

I will knock you out if you say that Lost was the most demonic TV show – ever – like ever – in history.

2. Create. a. Better. Story.

We love to knock on Hollywood and all that “junk” it creates and blah blah blah. I certainly do. We criticize and then wonder why Christians can’t create compelling art blah blah blah.

Boom. Here’s an attempt: Kudos to Rob Bell in helping create a different story. Hopefully, a story that artistically, beautifully, creatively, mysteriously…points to the One.

While it’s very different (and challenging), I very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to and at “non-Christian” venues and conferences. While the content is different from what I would preach at my church and at Christian conferences, I always hope and pray that in sharing my story and “presentation”, many might be fascinated by my Master. It’s for that reason that I’ll be at Chicago this Saturday to speak at TEDxHanRiver. Say a prayer for this brother.

3. Our calling is bigger than being a pastor.

I want to respond – in part – to those that have half criticized Rob Bell for “leaving ministry.”

Who’s leaving? He said that?

As if ministry can only take place in ministry? As if only pastors in the church can engage in ministry? Whah?

It’s not that I support pastors leaving the pastorate altogether. I would hope that anyone and everyone – on some committed level – would be part of a local church. This isn’t just for pastors but for everyone.

But I think we can also celebrate the reality that everyone has multiple gifts within a larger calling to participate and advance the Kingdom of God.

Meaning, for pastors, our lives are not solely and exclusively contained in totality in our “work” or “calling” as a pastor.

Meaning, I hope our lives are more than just our calling to be a pastor but in being alive, we participate holistically in all the Kingdom of God is about and the Spirit is doing to advance the Kingdom.

Even if that means going to Hollywood.

What do you think?

* Hey Rob: I was a theater major in college. I’m good. Text me. TTYL. ~ Your BFF

* And for the record, I love my church but I’m just going to say it very clearly. If an NBA team calls me to play point guard for them, I’m gone. Just saying.

Here’s the full story:

Carlton Cuse has teamed with author/pastor Rob Bell forStronger, a drama project with spiritual overtones, which has been sold to ABC via ABC Studios in a hefty script deal.Stronger, which the former Lostco-showrunner and the founder of Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church are co-writing and executive producing, revolves around Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. Music is expected to be a big part of the show, which features autobiographical elements as Bell is a former musician and played with rock/gospel bands in the 1990s.

Cuse and Bell met at the 2011 Time 100 gala — Bell was a 2011 honoree and Cuse had been on the magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010. The two immediately hit it off and soon concocted the idea for Stronger. While spiritual, Stronger won’t be supernatural. It will touch on the spiritual side of people’s lives much like the final season of Lost did and like Bell has done in his career as a pastor speaking to congregations of more than 10,000. Bell last week announced that he will be leaving the Mars Hill Bible Church in December to move with his family to Los Angeles. The series with Cuse is one of many things Bell plans to pursue, including touring and writing more books. (His most recent tome, Love Wins, is currently on the New York Times bestseller list.) Bell’s expertise is expected to add authenticity to the project, which won’t be straight and square like previous spiritual network offerings, including Touched By An Angel and 7th Heaven, and is also expected to feature a healthy dose of humor. Because the genre is missing from TV at moment, the networks have pursued projects with spiritual elements. Marc Cherry’s Hallelujah was picked up to pilot at ABC last season and is currently being redeveloped. In addition to Stronger, Cuse has another project, Civil War drama Point of Honor, in development at ABC. Co-written by Cuse and Randall Wallace, Point of Honor was sold late last year and remains in consideration. On the feature side, WME-repped Cuse is writing an African action adventure movie for 20th Century Fox with Shawn Levy attached to direct and Hugh Jackman to star.

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31 Responses

  1. Sorry Eugene, you may have a shot at a smaller role because I’m pretty sure Desmond already has the lead in this one. I mean, he was Jesus:

    • Eugene Cho says:

      dang it. hard to compete with jesus.

      but i’m ok with a smaller role as long as i keep my ‘stache.

    • daniel so says:

      @Benjamin – Des!! I knew I always liked him. This would make him, like, the ultimate Constant, right?🙂

      @Eugene – Thanks for sharing this post. I’m guessing this news will stir up another round of Tweets and blog posts, but I’m thankful for your voice in this conversation. We sorely need this kind of redemptive thought and speech.

      I’ll say it again, though: if you bring your stache to Hollywood, you gotta go full handlebar!!😀

  2. dean says:

    One thing that Rob Bell has done better than any other pastor that I am aware of is create dialogue around spirituality, while pointing people to Jesus. I can’t wait to see what this becomes.

  3. Chris says:

    But what kind of “spiritual overtones” Emergent Church overtones or true biblical ones??

    • Andrew M. says:

      probably true “biblical” ones since bell has never been part of the emergent church. never. people who don’t read him put him that group because… actually not sure why. bell has distanced himself time and again.

      • Mimi says:

        Thanks andrew for pointing us in the right direction! Bell is not the emergent church, and neither is the church he founded. He also is not “stepping down” from mhbchmi, but attempting to reach a larger audience (just in case anyone was wondering)…

    • Just curious, which “Emergent Church overtones” are unbiblical?

  4. Dan C. says:

    I like his imagination. But not sure there’s always something of substance “underneath”. I miss Francis Schaeffer — Although I didn’t always agree with him — he had the uncanny ability to articulate a clear theology with the arts, culture, history and philosophy. “How Then Shall We Live” is a classic that will be hard to beat.

  5. I love the “FOUND” title suggestion. A much Stronger title. Hoping great things for this show. And will be praying for your Ted Talk. That is a great opportunity.

  6. djchuang says:

    Oh, my, giddyness. I’m ready a lot of giddy undertone in this lengthy tome passing off as a blog post. And, it’s not that Rob become a rock star, he always was, and now Nooma will gets a new life too.. Wow. Stay tuned.

  7. Kurt Peterson says:

    While I do not heap the weight of this comment all on Rob Bell because God leads in mysterious ways; I think it is a significant symbolically that evangelical superstars do not see the church as worthy of their life’s work. Bell went from pastor, to video star, to a star in a traveling show of some sort (I am not sure what “drops like stars” was), and now to Hollywood. I realize that west coast evangelicals are enamored with the movie industry; and it is clear that many Christians are called to creative cultural ministry like film production. That being said, what does it say about evangelical ecclesiology and our understanding of pastoral call when we laud or most visible figures for leaving the ordained ministry of the church to produce television shows? As we search for ever-larger audiences, perhaps we lose the church in the process.

    • I agree with you Kurt. In the scope of global missions and pastoral calling, I’m not so sure about Rob Bell’s move. But I’m usually not sure about anyone who downgrades on a cardinal doctrine like hell.

    • I don’t think PE is lauding Bell for leaving the church to produce a television show as much as he is giving him kudos for following God’s call on his life, wherever that might lead him – even into the cesspool of Hollywood television (where more Gospel hope and light is desperately needed). PE makes this clear in point 3 above. For some, the call to be a pastor might only be for a season.

      I do agree with you that Bell is searching for “ever-larger audiences,” but my question would be, “to what end?” If he’s just wanting more attention for himself then I say that’s caving to the sin of pride. However, if he’s seeking a larger audience for the sake of making the Gospel known – putting the Gospel message in front of a larger audience – then I say praise be to God.

      Only time will tell which is the case.

    • Isaac says:

      I don’t think Rob Bell (nor P. Eugene Cho) is endorsing that visible figures within the church simply go off and make television shows. I think that Rob Bell is fulfilling a role that very much fits his skill set. He’s a brilliant preacher and a great church planter, but he’s also very culturally savvy with an ability to reinvent mediums.

      I’m a youth pastor at a local church. Based on the number of students at my seminary who serve at local churches, I think that they are definitely filling that particular need. What we need more of, in my own and honest opinion, are people who can minister outside the context of simply the local church. We need people to minister with television, film, concerts, because the people that most often desperately need Jesus wouldn’t dare step foot in a church. We need QUALITY things that preach the gospel of Jesus that can stand up against material that only preach worldly things.

      And I’m pretty tired of watching hokey Christian films that go straight to DVD. Just sayin’. Christians need to plunge into culture and redeem it for God.

  8. Ben Zabel says:

    Breaking News: Rob Bell switches to Dunkin Donuts from Starbucks for his daily coffee. Many people attribute this to his views on Hell. Source close to Bell says that his view on He’ll has corrupted eery decision he will make for the rest of his life!
    Shouldn’t those who disagree with Love Wins be glad that he’s not pastoring a church any more???

  9. Tony Lin says:

    When I first saw you post this I thought it was a joke. But now that I think about it, it makes sense… I heard rumors that The Prayer of Jabez guy also went to Hollywood to develop a TV series out of it but it never got picked up.

  10. Brian LePort says:

    Thanks for making these points. I admit that when I first heard he was going to Hollywood I thought negatively of it, but your points are important one’s and I think your correct that (1) we need good Christian art and Bell may be one who can bring that and (2) there is more to ministry than pastoring (I should know since I’m not a pastor).

  11. […] Cho shares some great insights about living and telling better stories. My wife and I, as we serve our church, seek to awaken the God-given dreams of each member of our […]

  12. Jeremy Berg says:

    Eugene – the Timberwolves might be desperate enough to draft you. Love from MainStreet Cov in Twin Cities.


  13. […] Well, Eugene Cho, fellow Covenant pastor has the right take on this.  So, enjoy his perspective HERE. […]

  14. […] Rob Bell is moving to L.A. to work on a TV series with the creator of LOST, and Eugene Cho gives him two thumbs up. […]

  15. Isaac says:

    Thankful for your support of Rob Bell. I’m a youth pastor down in California (I think you actually met my close friend this year! She’s a musician) and I wish Christians could have enough courage to speak into the world with quality art, music and film. Bravo.

  16. […] opportunities (like writing, touring and producing a TV for ABC) You can read through the article here. The second post is from’s Josh Griffin it’s called […]

  17. […] & Ebert for you young folks), I am giving “two thumbs up” to this film just as I gave two thumbs up Rob Bell about his news of going Hollywood to help create a new TV show on ABC […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love. don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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