(Photo: Rob Bell/Vimeo)
Mars Hill Bible Church founding pastor Rob Bell has written a farewell letter to the members of his congregation – thanking and warning them, and also making a confession.
“This church, this place, this community, was once simply a hunch. A dream. A vision. A picture in the mind of a new kind of church for the new world we find ourselves in,” he stated.
According to Bell, it was through the congregation that he was able to experience the joy of creation. “I will never be able to fully, adequately explain what it has been like to have imagined you, conceived of you – this church – and then have you exist.”
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” he added. Bell also expressed gratitude for the responses of grief and support over the news of his departure. He told the congregation that this was significant and meaningful.
“Any change, even if it's good, is always a form of loss, and loss must be grieved. That's the only way it works,” he revealed. “You expressed your grief and then went on to make it very clear that whatever we would be up to next, you were cheering us on.”
Bell said the congregation's support is significant because it shows the “belief that God is big” and any steps to share this love with more “people is movement in a life giving direction and that this same big, loving God is fully capable of taking care of all of us, whether we are together or apart,” he shared.
With that message of thanks, Bell went on to share the lesson he had learned from his many years as senior pastor of Mars Hill. He thanked his fellow brothers and sisters for teaching him to “find God in the full spectrum of human experience.”
“You have taught me not to fear the full spectrum of human experience but to embrace it, to celebrate it, to wallow in it and soar with it. Many Christians are eager to point out that Jesus said he was the Son of God and that's the wedge issue, the divisive point you have to take a stand on,” he said.
He added, “I believe he is and in the same breath, I remind you that he also referred to himself a shocking number of times as the 'son of man.' ”
According to Bell, the “son of man” means human and that is shocking. “Take a stand on that,” he urged.
Bell also warned Mars Hill members to never forget that the “movement is word to flesh” and to be cautious of those who would “take the flesh and want to turn it back into words.”
He also spoke of a lingering question – one that hung in the air, asking: “What will happen to Mars Hill?”
“When people ask 'what about Mars Hill?' or 'what's Mars Hill going to do?' It's as if Mars Hill is a disembodied reality with a life of its own,” Bell revealed. But, “here's the twist: the church is not an inanimate, impersonal product. There is no 'Mars Hill' in theory. There is no abstract, disembodied entity Mars Hill apart from the people in this room who ARE Mars Hill.”
According to Bell, when people ask this question they are really asking, “What are you going to do?”
“You are the answer, because you are the church. Mars Hill is not a product, it is a gathering of people. You,” he stated.
Bell closed his letter with a confession – revealing that despite his 12 years as Mars Hill's pastor, with all the experiences and sermons – he is just getting started.
“I feel like I’m just getting started,” Bell shared. “Like I’m a rookie, a freshman. I believe that that God has made this day. That it’s good. And you can have joy in it, even if you’re limping.”
He urged the congregation to make a confession with him – to say, “I feel like I’m just getting started.”
Bell announced in September that he was leaving the ministry after more than a decade of service. He revealed that his new calling involved moving his family to Los Angeles within the year to undertake several projects, which include penning more books and undertaking speaking engagements. He also recently wrapped up his "Fit to Smash Ice Tour" in Canada and the U.S.
The 42-year-old author has also stated that he will not be starting a new church. As Bell departs Mars Hill, teaching pastor Shane Hipps will be taking over in his stead at the Grandville, Mich., church.