He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, (not to be confused with the other Mars Hill), the creator of Nooma and writer of many books including the infamous 'Love Wins'. Michael Patton had an interesting recent reflection called "Why we love C S Lewis and hate Rob Bell?"
I can remember where I was when I watched the first Nooma film called Rain and being very moved by it. After that, for a season, I came across his films everywhere as people showed them to youth groups, at church events and even in services. While I was living in Canada for a summer some years ago I gave someone the film 'Matthew' when they told me of their suffering following the suicide of their brother. It helped them grieve. Some time later they became a Christian I happily heard.
I am not with him on everything by any means, but it is unquestionable that Bell has had one of the greatest impacts on the cultural landscape of contemporary Christianity as anyone around. You've got to have a bit of pluck to preach through Leviticus as your first sermon series. There are those who don't think he's frightfully sound and on some things he's not, but the fact this annoys some in certain tribes so much seems to be all part of his enormous appeal and it'll always get you a gig at Greenbelt.
I do particularly love his recovery of the discipline of Sabbath that he shared in the edgy Velvet Elvis and each of us should probably have his quote on our fridge doors to remind us to take rest weekly and seriously (especially if you are a work-a-holic evangelical pastor as Bell is/was. Only you can decide if the 'was' refers to evangelical or pastor:)
"There are so many layers to the healing of the soul. One practice that has brought incredible healing is the taking of a Sabbath. Now when we read the word Sabbath, most of us think that the real issue behind the Sabbath isn’t which day of the week it is but how we live all the time.
I decided to start taking one day a week to cease from work. And what I discovered is that I couldn’t even do it at first.
I would go into depression.
By the afternoon I would be so . . . low.
I realized that my life was all about keeping the adrenaline buzz going and that I was only really happy when I was going all the time. When I stopped to spend a day to remember that I am loved just because I exist, I found out how much of my efforts were about earning something I already have.
Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.
Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.
Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, “I didn’t do anything today,” and I don’t add, “And I feel so guilty.”
Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get ahold of me.
Jesus wants to heal our souls, wants to give us the shalom of God. And so we have to stop. We have to slow down. We have to sit still and stare out the window and let the engine come to an idle. We have to listen to what our inner voice is saying."
Bell then took his theology on the road and played rock stadiums for Emergents. But the truth is it all really kicked off when he decided to write his book on heaven and hell called 'Love Wins'. He went global. We've been there and tweeted that.
Recently though, a friend recommended a talk he gave to Mars Hill called New Venture New Calling which I listened to and really enjoyed on a car journey. There are surely few better communicators around whatever you make of the content of his sermons (many of which have blessed me over the last decade) and books. This tells you the whole story of Mars Hill and announces the story that is yet to begin for him in LA.
Grace and peace to you Rob for the next thing. I am quite sure this is not the last we will hear of you, despite Piper's famous tweet. You're probably not done yet.