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Rob Bell resigns to tour and co-produce a TV show

Correction: The headline and article originally read that Rob Bell is leaving Mars Hill Bible Church to start a tour and plant a new church. He is beginning a tour but does not have plans to plant a new church. Both the headline and article were changed. The Chimes regrets this error.

Rob Bell, founder and pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., announced his resignation to his congregation of 7,000 on Sept. 22. The 12-year-old church that has satellite campuses nationwide will be pastored by one of his associates, Shane Hipps, in the spring of 2012 after Bell finishes his current series on Acts in December.

Bell to start tour and move to Los Angeles

With articles announcing his resignation in publications such as USA Today and The Tennessean, his move is causing controversial blogger reactions across America — especially since Bell shared in his resignation speech his goals for this next phase of his life. These include moving his family to Los Angeles.

“There’s a conundrum of leaving church for Hollywood,” junior psychology major Marcia Simenz said.

She was not expecting Bell to leave Mars Hill Bible Church, however, she sees that through this he will have more of an influence beyond his church.

On Nov. 11, Bell will begin his “Fit to Smash Ice” tour in Toronto, Canada. The tour will contain entirely new content and will be “exploring all the exhilarating ways we stumble and fumble and fail and bleed and limp along and just how good and sacred and thrilling it all is,” according to Rob Bell’s website.

Attracting the mainstream

Bell will also be co-producing the ABC show “Stronger,” alongside Carlton Cuse, producer of “Lost.” This current endeavor “loosely portrays Rob’s life,” according to New York Magazine. It profiles the spiritual journey of protagonist Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, as he becomes a benefactor and guide to others. With this move, Bell will attempt to reach more mainstream media.

Media is powerful and affects your understanding, said freshman intercultural studies major Nicole Concepcion. She hopes non-Christians will wonder why believers are trying to interject their ideals into the mainstream.

“I hope it informs them about who God is; however, discernment is key,” Concepcion said.

Although he was an Internet sensation beforehand, Bell gained national fame earlier this year with the release of his book, “Love Wins.” This year, Time Magazine referred to Bell as a “Christian rock star” in their feature of the pastor for their “Top 100 Most Influential People” issue.

He has recently come under scrutiny because many accuse him of misguiding America in telling them hell does not exist.

Church leaders respond to Bell's announcement

In response, Francis Chan, the former pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., wrote his most recent book, “Erasing Hell,” giving a biblical defense for the existence of hell and a just God. Numerous other pastors have followed suit.

Freshman Logan Williams expressed that if Bell had remained in his position at Mars Hill Bible, he would have continued to be persecuted for “Love Wins.”

“In transitioning his focus to church planting [in California], the ability of others to attack him decreases,” Williams said.

Not all church leaders, including theologian John Piper and Rick Warren, head pastor of Saddleback Church, have been so optimistic about Bell’s motives.

The day Bell announced his resignation, Piper tweeted, “Seriously, as before, may you fare well, Rob Bell.”

Earlier that same day, Warren had tweeted, “Speaking tours feed the ego=All applause&no responsibility. It’s an unreal world. A church gives accountability& validity.”

Biola Bible professor and pastor at Fountain Valley Methodist Church, Dan Nehrbass, said, “there is a danger in speculating Bell’s motives.”

At the same time, Nehrbass also thinks it is valuable other pastors put believers on alert about him.

“There is validity to the criticism in that Bell isn’t accountable to anyone — he is the pastor of the mega church he himself started,” Nehrbass said, concerning whether Bell should receive any criticism for his move.

On a positive note, Nehrbass said Bell has driven people to think about God.

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