I grew up in the church and after nearly 30 years of weekly sermons, bible studies, sunday school, kids events, youth events, as an attendee and volunteer, the message can sometimes feel a bit redundant, albeit still good.
In my 20’s my mind was asking lots of question and pondering ideas that didn’t have specific answers. Yet, it felt there wasn’t always room for these kind of thoughts within the church walls.
Then, I read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell, and he asked a lot of the questions I had been thinking. And he seemed to be comfortable leaving the questions unanswered. That was something new to me. Taking Christianity from this formulaic process into accepting the uncertainty and questions that will never have answers while still managing to live comfortably within the unknown, and sometime incongruent ideologies.
So I’ve read all of Bell’s books to date and they’ve challenged me greatly and helped me grow in my faith in God. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t. But what does that matter. His writing’s have helped me forge my own path with God, in relation to my experiences that I’m having on this earth.
I have much respect for Bell and his passion for imitating Christ’s core principles of love, mercy, grace, compassion…
When I was living back up in Grand Rapids, MI, around 2009, I ended up attending Mars Hill, the church Bell founded. He preached like he wrote. More out of questions and challenging thoughts that drove you to do your own inquiry and pursuit. I loved it. He was bringing something fresh and new to the stories I had heard hundreds, if not thousands of times before.
His writings and teachings have done a lot to push me forward in my relationship with God and my relationship with every other person I come in contact with. And for that I am so very thankful. He doesn’t seem afraid to ask the questions that often get shoved under the rug. Living comfortably in the uncomfortable is such an exciting way to live and engage life.
So, when I recently read “Rob Bell and a new American Christianity” by James K. Wellman, Jr., I wanted to share my experience with Bell’s writings. And I think the book closes in a perfect summary for this blog post, in Bell’s own words…
“i write this to you because of how many of you have been
challenged about your participation in the life of this
church, often with the accusation: but what do they believe
over there at mars hill?
as if belief, getting the words right, is the highest form of
faith. Jesus came to give us life. a living, breathing, throbbing,
pulsating blow your hair back tingle your spine roll the
windows down and drive fast experience of God right
here, right now.
word taking on flesh and blood.
and so you’ve found yourself defending and explaining
and trying to find the words for your experience that is
fundamentally about a reality that is beyond and more than words.
so when you find yourselves tied up in knots, having
long discussions about who believes what, a bit like
dogs doing that sniff circle when they meet on the sidewalk, do this:
take out a cup
and some bread
and put it in the middle of the table,
and say a prayer and examine yourselves
and then make sure everybody’s rent is paid and there’s
food in their fridge and clothes on their backs
and then invite everybody to say
‘yes’ to the resurrected Christ with whatever ‘yes’ they
can muster in the moment and then you take that bread
and you dip it in that cup in the ancient/future hope and
trust that there is a new creation bursting forth right here
and right now and
then together taste that new life and liberation and
forgiveness and as you look those people in the eyes gathered
around that table from all walks of life and you see the new
humanity, sinners saved by grace, beggars who have
found bread showing the others where they found it
remind yourselves that
remember, the movement is word to flesh.
beware of those who will take the flesh and want to turn it
back into words.
In the end, the only true test of faith begins and ends in an incarnation – love made real through actions. All else is straw.”
I don’t “get” a lot of the Bible, but this I know. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and to love others. And when you do for others, you do for Him (Christ).
So, to put it simply, I choose to follow Christ and the Gospel of Love. I think most would agree that’s a good route to journey…