My journey toward Calvinism was gradual, and so was my departure.
My wife and I quietly left our neo-Reformed church, not entirely sure what we were looking for. A friend from our old church predicted we’d be back before long.
Instead, we ended up at Mars Hill (the Michigan one, not the Seattle one). To my neo-Reformed friends, it’s OK to roll your eyes and say, “Well, that explains a lot.” I used to look at Rob Bell and Mars Hill the same way many of you do.
In fact, I thought about telling this story without mentioning Rob or Mars Hill by name. My guess is that some on the Reformed side will be tempted to dismiss what follows, purely because of the association with Rob Bell. Anyone who’s been part of the Mars Hill community knows what I’m talking about; Rob even alluded to it in his final sermon (top of page 7).
But Mars Hill is too important to this story to leave unmentioned.
Anyway, during my Calvinist days, I dismissed Rob as just another trendy pastor with a knack for saying what people wanted to ear.
Then Rob spoke in one of my seminary classes. (This was long before he had become one of Time’s 100 most influential people.) I was struck by how poorly he fit the populist megachurch pastor stereotype. He seemed to draw large numbers in spite of his best efforts, not because of them. Refusing to put a sign outside the church (there isn’t one to this day), spending the first year teaching through Leviticus, etc. He wasn’t taking his cues from the church growth consultant’s playbook, that’s for sure.
So we came to spend three-and-a-half very formative years at Mars Hill. During this time, Rob said two things that ended my journey with Calvinism.
(How’s that for leaving you hanging till the next post?)
Part 8 of this series can be found here.