Rob Bell: "I Was Not 'Forced Out' of Mars Hill"

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Author and former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church Rob Bell said in an interview last week that the church gave his new calling "unconditional support."

Author and former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church Rob Bell is setting the record straight about his decision to leave his position. Bell said in an interview with Michigan Live last week he was not “forced out” of Mars Hill because of controversy surrounding his book, Love Wins. Rather, Bell and his wife made an independent decision to follow a calling from God to California for a new ministry opportunity.

The Christian Post wrote that a late 2012 article in The New Yorker implied Bell’s book created a huge rift between himself and the congregation, causing thousands to leave the church as a result. But Bell said in the recent interview that “the people at Mars Hill were unbelievably supportive and encouraging,” “even when we said they were leaving they were incredibly gracious and kind and loving,” and “some idea that we were forced out is absolutely untrue.”

Bell said a misinterpretation of a comment his wife Kristen made was taken out of context in the article. She had mentioned that the couple suffered “a cost, and part of the cost was we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing at Mars Hill” for publishing the book. But Bell insists that this cost was the realization that they wanted to fulfill a different mission in a different part of the country, calling the mistake “a misquote of the highest order.”

“Kristen and I had a profound sense of calling that there was the next chapter of our lives ahead of us,” Bell said in the interview. “And that the next stage was, how can we talk about the Jesus message to a world of people who aren’t currently listening.”

Kent Dobson, current pastor at Mars Hill, agrees. “It is true of course that he received backlash from Love Wins, but not directly from the community, certainly not from the leadership,” Dobson said. “He decided (to leave) because he wanted to go do something else, not because of internal pressure or internal disagreement. Everyone in the leadership was sad to see him go.”


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  • Mark

    I would like to hear from those who attend or left Mars Hill what they think of this.

  • Kathy Verbiest Baldock

    If you were a consistent listener to Mars Hills sermons, which I was and am, it was VERY easy to hear what was happening. Rob Bell’s account in this article is accurate to what was evident in the sermons around his exit. My opinion, any person of moderate intellect and empathy would hear and feel the resonance of truth in the words spoken from the pulpit on the issue. No cover up, just new direction.
    Of course, if you don’t happen to LIKE Rob Bell, there is always a rock under which you can find dirt.

    • Jamie

      So, if we don’t “like” Rob we should crawl under a rock? I don’t know the man personally. I just highly disagree with his interpretation of Scripture.

      • Tod Thompson

        I’m not a Rob Bell defender by any means, but I think you misread what the lady said. She didn’t say anyone should crawl under a rock. If anything she was saying people should not crawl under rocks to get dirt on people.

      • Kathy Verbiest Baldock

        NOT what I said. Read closely. And THIS is how disagreements begin.

    • Joseph

      Good point. I think Rob Bell has said many great things, but the finding of dirt is not contingent upon simply not liking him. Things can be found on Rob Bell because he has actually done and taught things contrary to scripture. And not just from his recent book but in sermons I have heard. Misleading people which in the Bible, is grounds for rebuke with the aim of restoration. Rob Bell has been refuted by average church goers as well as prominent religious leaders, so this isn’t just about not liking the guy. I would love to have coffee with him and I think he is a great communicator. Pastor’s could learn a lot from his demeanor. Espeically those who comment on articles. :)

      However, the scriptures call us to test the spirits. The Bereans were commended for examining the scriptures to see if the teaching was from God. I like your spirit in terms of defending the person of Rob. I agree wholeheartedly. This commentary is more about what he teaches. And the point of my post is that I believe he has become untrustworthy as a teacher of the Bible, and therefore whatever direction he claims from God is suspect. The same person who teaches that you have second chances after death cannot be trusted in my opinion to be hearing from the Holy Spirit at all except to repent of unbiblical teaching.
      In the end, I am not Rob, nor the Holy Spirit, so how can I say what lead him or not. This is just my opinion.

      • Joseph

        One PS- I realize that this article is more about Rob’s stepping down,( which happens in the church often), than his teaching. I may have gotten off topic with my comments and for that I am sorry. If the story is true, glad to see it wasn’t covered up or a false testimony. If that’s the point of this report, cool. Only the church leaders at Mars Hill know differently I suppose.

      • cesarstm

        100% agreed.

    • AgainstTheWall

      Rob obviously never taught on the epistles of John or you would not have heard nor felt the resonance of truth in his words spoken in the pulpit. Sometimes ignorance overtakes a person of moderate intellect and empathy. This is why you should never trust a man’s word over God’s word. It is too easy to take a scripture or several scriptures out of context to support a false doctrine or teaching. It is all too common. I encourage eveyone to write down the scriptures used in a sermon and follow up with a study of your own. Look at what God’s word says around it before and after, learn why it was written and who it was written to and what they were trying to tell them especially if it is an epistle. If it is a gospel writing let the full parameter of the scripture talk to you, not just one small piece of it. It also helps if you compare it to what other scripture says about a topic- is it consistant.This will help avoid accepting false teaching. Just trying to fight the ignorance that leads to suseptibility to false teaching such as this. Of course this might require you to take a pen and pad to the service with you but it is worth it in my opininion.

    • Dave Ekstrom

      Christian faith is not just a feeling or a set of duties. It also involves revealed truth. Whenever anybody teaches something contrary to the truth of Scripture, they need to be opposed. But those who stand for God’s word are always painted as the bad guys who aren’t loving. It ought to have nothing to do with liking or disliking the person. Bell taught Universalism, a doctrine the Church has considered to be heretical for 2,000 years. Bell says the Bible is inconsistent. It has different story lines. Is that ok?

      • S.

        Thank you soooooo much for calling it that: UNIVERSALISM! Amen! The bible is a sword the divides even bone and marrow. To understand that this universalism is really a form of pity and pride which gravely are opposed to humility, love and grace is where the truth of God will divide and win the heart or the enemy will put to sleep the church with false doctrines! If you pity ones sins then your pride to help them FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEM-SELF is puffed up knowledge and you have become in defiance with the death and resurrection of the cross! Humility sees Christ Jesus and the cost He paid to set us free from ALL SIN AND DEATH and it sees the sins that are shackling the person.
        As ambassadors for Christ (really for ANYONE) our person is a mere reflection of who we represent NOT subtlety of what WE think feel and determine is good for the moment’s soulish taking!
        When will the Christians arise???

  • Joseph

    Rob called out of being a Pastor? What happened to his calling to into BEING one? I don’t want to come across as shallow or judging, email is unforgiving in tone, but its hard to trust Rob at all. He clearly is following his own theology, rethinking doctrines of faith. So what is to stop him from following his own heart in terms of calling?

  • Shocked @ the continued focus!

    Does it really matter? This is not news worthy. His book was heretical, time to move on. Past time for him to move on, hopefully spreading less damage.

  • Dave Ekstrom

    What’s the point of this post? To publicize his new book?

  • Ben

    where is the love that we should love one an other, Jesus say love one another as I have loved you! not one of you offered to pray with this rob bell not one why, what would any of you would have done when Paul called the pillories of the church a bunch of hypocrites, I am so disappointed. Ben

    • Joseph

      Ben, I understand your plight. I mentioned some positives about Rob, even how I would love to have coffee with him. Does that count? :) I have prayed for Rob too. There is no way to contain in emails all any of us think about this. The issue and topic at hand is focused here on a response to the article. My prayer if any is that Rob will see the Truth. No one who has posted in this discussion has condemned Rob or attacked him I don’t think. Your heart is cool in this though. Thanks for the reminder to balance out replies. If anything, pray for all of us Ben that we would be mindful of speaking the truth in love…as the Lord tells us.

      • Ben

        Joseph thanks for answering my post, i have no idea who this Rob is but or what He has done but he is a brother in our Jesus, do we have differences yes we do, I love a good discussing on the bible I get to know a lot just by asking questions, but i don’t like tearing each other down just because we disagree. We all have the Holy Spirit however He deals with each one of us how He knows best to deal with us.
        Am i making any sense? Yours in Christ Jesus Ben

        • Joseph

          Ben, no problem. My suggestion is that you definitely do research on Rob Bell and his teaching if you wish to engage in this discussion further and perhaps you will understand the posts more. Also, I want to encourage you to not be offended too quickly when you hear rebukes amongst even believers. If accurate, we do have a Biblical mandate to do so. You will find Paul refuting Peter publicly, also the Apostles rebuked others, and even Jesus. However it must be scriptural vs. just personal. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 also lets us know that one of the purposes of sound doctrine is to refute and correct. I think this discussion has been one of the better ones I have read here in some time. Not emotionally charged but from a standpoint of righteousness.

          Last thought on loving our brother, etc. : It is loving to speak the truth in love. It is also very loving to refute false teaching that could potentially result in someone being deceived. Church discipline, which can result in someone being removed from the church is at face value pretty harsh, but its goal is restoration. Therefore, it is with love in mind that Rob Bell is in fact being refuted. HIs teachings are false in regards to his book Love Wins, and actually causes damage to others. Is it loving to ignore? No, its not. It would be the most unloving of all.

          We could all stand to think before we speak and take a breath before we react, for whoever is without sin can cast the first stone, right? But, with the Word of God firm we can stand against lies and false teachings. If I am coming across here in ways that are still not helpful or sound still unloving, let me know and I will try better. Or someone else can comment and assist if they wish. I appreciate your heart Ben. Thanks for encouraging us to have love in mind even when rebuking. Under those guidelines, love can truly win.

          • Ben

            JOSEPH i would like to talk with some one that knows who he or she in Christ Jesus. Like i said there so many wonderful saints out there and I would love to meet all of you. yes we do have difference’s and we should discuss are differences. if there is such a difference’s between any believer than we as apart of the body according to math 18-15;20. talk to that saved person one to one first. Joseph I have been forgiving much by the Blood of Jesus and I am not the only one the word says those who have been for giving much love much, those who have been for giving less love less. it breaks my heart to see such judgement s that i have read. every one believes they are the annoined and have the right to judge, ok shouldn’t it be lead By God Himself, after all He was the one who truly paid the price did He not? I am going to get this of my heart, in my spirit I see a lot of post and the one who is posting wants to be so prophetic. any way thanks for hearing me out. Ben in Christ.

          • Joseph

            Thanks Ben. Again, there is no wrong in Biblically refuting and correcting, We are to rightly judge truth and lies. And since Rob Bell is in the public light, there is also plenty of room to refute publicly. Pastors HAVE gone to him privately and personally, yet he still continues. And I just read today on Rob Bell’s open confession in support of gay marriage. I don’t know if I can post a link here, but if you look up Rob Bell on the Huffington Post you will see an article about his coming out in support of gay marriage. If there is any doubt that Rob is being lead by a false spirit or is in fact a false teacher, this revelation of his position should end all question. It is love Ben that refutes people who mislead and deceive others. You would protect your family from a threat would you not? And if you did, is that judging? Is that mean or unloving? No, its love that protects and defends against wrong. Ben, your heart is clear and I thank you for it. If I met Rob Bell, I would be kind and I am sure he is a very nice person. But I would not take any spiritual direction from him nor endorse him. God bless Ben, and thanks everyone for patiently reading through these posts.

          • Ben

            Joseph, Rob Bell is not the only one, Ok He is for gay rights let us pray for him, I would pray for wisdom and knowledge so than we will know the mind of the Lord, this is called word of knowledge I am sure you know about it. Father in the name Jesus Joseph and I are praying for Rob Bell to be released from the spirit of perversion and bondage may you be glorified through the Death and resurrection of Jesus, amen and amen.Ben

  • Rev Allen

    Gal. 1:8. I can pray for him and reject his teaching and warn others to do the same. 2 Tim. 3:16

  • Ross

    It is our duty to stay alert, discern, rebuke and still love folks. To that end it doesn’t mean we are to tolerate false doctrine. Nor is perpensety within the body. It’s to be cast out into the darkness. Even if we have to distance ourselves from them, or remove them from our midst so as not to add any more yeast or otherwise any more heretical, non biblical teachings to have effect on the body of Christ. That is true love, to remain true to our first love, and not concede to teaching other than the one we heard when we first believed. On the other hand if someone is leading the congregation astray, and in their departing we say God Speed, we are complicent in their evil work. We certainly can’t simply put up with it. And I agree that his coming out in support of gay marriage confirms that Bell is for a universalism, humanist, false doctrine and in effect is calling God out, even mocking Him, that he is misunderstood though He is quite clear that this world will be judged. His wrath will come. Rob Bell is saying that the wide road leads to salvation, and we know that to be false. Christianity is not convenient, though the world would rewrite it to be so. Christianity is for many offensive, as the truth is offensive to those who rebel against it and are living contrary.

  • Ross

    Does Matt. 5:29-30 apply here?

    • Ben

      HI Ross, how many times did you have to plug out your eyes out or cut off your hand,

      I am not making fun of you. are we to cut away all sinners as a bad eye or a bad hand. the truth i can’t get an handle on these verses. I would hope some one will explain it to me. Ben

  • BandGuy

    It is a shame that he wasn’t fired outright. He is a heretic.