(Photo: Facebook/Rob Bell)
To usher in the release of his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell spoke at a live streaming event at Brooklyn's PowerHouse Arena in New York City Tuesday evening.
His talk revolved around the theme of his book and his belief that the current culture is resisting conversation about God and seeking to reconnect with a God who is "for us, with us, and ahead of us." Bell stated that the purpose of the book is to introduce new ways to talk about God.
Bell, who formerly led Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, told those in attendance at Tuesday's talk that he believes Christians are seeking to move forward with their faith and shedding a doctrine-centered God in search of a God who can connect with humans at their most flawed existence.
"For a lot of people in our world today, God has become about believing the right stuff so you don't get in trouble," Bell told the audience.
"I think what we all desire, more than anything, is we want to see the depth that is right here, right now, but we're moving so fast, and we've got so many strange ideas about what matters and what doesn't, that we have this intuitive sense that we're missing that which has been here the whole time."
He continued, "It's so easy to become cynical and jaded, but the really compelling thing to me, the interesting thing, is to become the kind of person who sees."
The former church leader added that he hopes the book will inspire readers to become aware of a God who is both present in everyday life as well as in the future, and that humans will recognize this God as a "divine pull to a better tomorrow."
During his hour-long talk, Bell shared a series of stories and how one can realize a greater divine depth in everyday events, such as the creation of new life, a delicious meal, or a meticulously-crafted piece of artwork.
"There are certain moments when we come aware of this unbelievably precious, mysterious, hard-to-define gift that we call life," Bell told the audience, asserting that these moments serve as proof that God is present in our lives.
"In the modern world, I think one of things we are going to have to face is we are not the masters that we were taught we are," he remarked.
Bell formerly served as senior pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., before he and his wife Kristen decided, in late 2011, to leave the church to pursue a new spiritual calling in California.
As Bell told those attending his Tuesday evening talk, while he was pastor of his former congregation, he realized one day, when driving to Mars Hill to deliver the Easter Sunday sermon, that he was questioning the existence of God.
"I realized the conceptions that I have of God weren't working for me," Bell recalled. "I had this strong sense of reverence, of something else going on. Some of the dogmatic conceptions I had simply didn't work anymore."
"Through that experience of coming face to face with the possibility that we are alone here and there really is no point, I came to find new understandings of God which filled me with life," he added.
This realization is what inspired Bell to move to California to develop a faith-inflected talk show with Hollywood producer Carlton Cuse, and to write his most recent book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God.
Bell has received criticism for his previous books, predominately Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which was described by some as "heresy" because it questioned the existence of a literal and eternal hell and the evangelical teaching that only those who believe in Jesus Christ go to heaven.
The former church leader returned to his congregation at Mars Hill Bible this past Sunday to kick off the nationwide tour for his new book, which was officially released on March 12.
Along with The New York Times best-seller Love Wins, Bell has previously written Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drops Like Stars.
The pastor was also listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in 2011.