Can Mars Hill 'Thrive' Without Rob Bell?

Mars Hill Bible Church pastor, Rob Bell told his congregation last month that he was leaving the ministry after 12 years of service – a move that has many questioning whether the megachurch can "thrive" without its founding pastor.

“You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be great. You’re not just going to survive. You’re going to thrive,” Bell told his Grandville, Mich., 7000-member congregation, according to

“A church is bigger than one person,” he added.

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However, Todd Cioffi, professor of congregational and ministry studies at Calvin College disagreed, the online site reported.

According to Cioffi, case studies show that Mars Hill will most likely never be the same, following Bell's departure.

“Usually, when people talk about the experience at Mars (Hill), it would be in the context of Rob Bell coming up,” Cioffi said. “Everyone’s wondering (if he’s the glue). Now, we’ll actually see.”

“This is a gold mine for those of us who study this stuff,” Cioffi stated.

Bell’s new calling involved moving his family to Los Angeles within the year to undertake several projects, which included penning more books and undertaking speaking engagements, such as his "Fit to Smash Ice Tour" in Canada and the U.S.

On his official website, Bell said "Fit to Smash" will involve "several hours of entirely new content I haven't given before, exploring all the exhilarating ways we stumble and fumble and fail and bleed and limp along and just how good and sacred and thrilling it all is."

Bell, 41, also informed the Mars Hill congregation that he would not be starting a new church, WZZM 13 reported.

Shane Hipps, the Michigan church's co-pastor, will continue preaching after Bell's departure. Hipps joined Mars Hill as a teaching pastor in early 2010.

The same questions have been asked of Zachery Tims’ megachurch, New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla.

“New Destiny, it’s not just about you any longer. It’s about the nation watching you,” Paula White, whom Tims called his “spiritual mother,” told NDCC in a sermon Aug. 21, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

White, the pastor of Without Walls International Church in Tampa, Fla., said, “It’s about how you are going to respond, about what you are going to do.”

Phil Cooke, a California-based church leadership consultant, told the Sentinel:

"The single biggest reason most of these megachurches grow so quickly is because the leader is a powerful and compelling personality.”

He added, "In the case of New Destiny, the intense focus on Pastor Tims during his life, and the questions surrounding his death, all indicate that finding a successor during a time of questions and uncertainty will be extraordinarily difficult."

There is speculation that it could take NDCC at least a year, if not longer, to choose a new pastor because it probably never anticipated the need to do so.

Tims, 42, was found dead in his W Hotel bedroom in New York City on Friday, Aug. 12. The cause of his death has yet to be determined.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Mars Hill and NDCC. Will the churches thrive or drown without its lead pastors?

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