You read it right.
Rob Bell is irrelevant. As in, not relevant. Like, at all.
Just take a look at the official trailer for his new book:
Did you feel that? Exactly. Nothing. No shock. No awe. No rush of excitement at the danger or controversy or sheer hipness of it all. It’s just…alright.
Now, I’m clearly not in the advance-copy pipeline, but I’d be willing to bet that this book will be just as irrelevant as Rob is. There won’t be anything in there that Pete Rollins hasn’t already written with more heretical punch and virtually-nonsensical Irish parabolic wit. Not even Rob’s noncommittal hipster wolf cut in the video can save this thing from the IKEA bin of vanilla okayness.
So let me be the first, er, second to say…Farewell Rob Bell.
Fare thee well in your journey out of the land of theological flame-warring and indulgent pastoral fanboy adulation. Fare thee well indeed. Fare thee well in voyages beyond the familiar shores of Twitter excommunication (though there will still be a good bit of jerky neo-reformed Twitter mocking). Fare thee well, aging, surfing Friar Bell.
And fare thee well in your arrival to a new place entirely. A land where controversy and ultrahipness are no longer required in order for you to make something truly meaningful, substantial, helpful, worthy, creative, beautiful, life-changing. The place where all the scars earned from scathing blog posts, two-timing business partners, and angry church members have resulted in an older, less popular, irrelevant, more grounded, happier, more soulful Rob Bell. Indeed, fare thee well in this journey to an uncharted territory, with fewer ironic frigid backdrops for videos, but more streets and rooms and sun and sand for living authentically.
Sure, the authentic Rob Bell may be just alright and a little bit vanilla.
But so am I.
And for that reason, even though Rob Bell is irrelevant, I love him more than ever. When I read James Wellman’s recent biography Rob Bell and a New American Christianity, I was indescribably moved by Rob’s journey from pastoral king of controversy to over-it author and dad and leader. I saw much of my recent journey in Rob’s, complete with stories of betrayal and heartbreak and a dream ending and finding hope in an unknown future being written even as I write this (and even as Rob wrote What We Talk About When We Talk About God). Rob’s story of whittling Mars Hill Church’s membership down bit by bit with every opinionated book he wrote (especially that one about love winning), and losing his grip on his Nooma creation at the prying of treacherous friends, and finally deciding to just let go of these accomplishments and open up to what the mysterious God has next, literally carried me through days and nights of immense sorrow and disappointment, opening up blessed cracks for the light of hope to come pouring back in.
I’m forever in Rob’s and Wellman’s debt.
And when James suggests in his account of Rob’s life so far that the sum total effect may indeed be a new kind of Christianity for Americans like you and me, and maybe even a way beyond the idealistic vision of emerging church that shaped the last 15 years (and the creation of Bell’s Mars Hill and my Dwell), the hope becomes brighter still.
Sure, that video is just alright.
The book won’t be anything all that new or surprising.
I know I won’t even agree with it all.
But I can’t wait to read it.
Rob Bell is now irrelevant to a Christian pop culture that thrives on scandal and slickness.
And for that reason, I’m quite sure that he is more important than ever.
What say you? Think Rob Bell is irrelevant?