When Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Rob Bell released Love Wins in March of this year, many leaders in the evangelical community criticized his work as heretical and universalist, and some even predicted, such as John Piper, that Bell's church career would be adversely affected.
When a promotional video emerged in February for Bell's Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, respected evangelical leader John Piper tweeted on Feb. 26, "Farewell Rob Bell."
As news emerged late Thursday that Bell would be leaving Mars Hill, the church he founded in 1999 in Grandville, Michigan, Piper took to his Twitter account to comment.
On his Twitter account, Piper wrote Thursday: "Seriously, as before, may you fare well, Rob Bell." The head of Desiring God Ministries' tweet was re-posted at least 100 times by other Twitter users.
In addition to Piper, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren appeared to offer his own comment regarding Bell on his Twitter account.
First posting "Bell resigns" with a link to a report on Bell's resignation, Warren then went on to respond to a follower's question on whether "well-known pastors who leave their churches have more or less impact."
To this, Warren replied, "Always less. No base 4credibility..."
In a series of other posts apparently inspired by Bell's resignation from Mars Hill Bible Church, Warren noted: "Speaking tours feed the ego=All applause&no responsibility. It's an unreal world. A church gives accountability& validity."
Bell, who will explain his resignation in greater detail during Mars Hill's Sept. 25 Sunday service, will be traveling across the U.S. and Canada in November for his "The Fit to Smash Ice Tour."
On his official website, Bell says "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."
Warren closed out his Twitter comments by saying, "The heart is deceitful. Having people cry 'amen' when I passionately teach a truth doesnt mean I'm living that truth."
Mars Hill Bible Church said in a statement published on its website Thursday, Sept. 22:
The infamous quote "change is the only constant" certainly holds true at Mars Hill. We have experienced ongoing changes that have improved and transformed – as well as at times unintentionally created tension or heartache within our community. And now, we have another significant change to hold together.
Feeling the call from God to pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities, our founding pastor Rob Bell, has decided to leave Mars Hill in order to devote his full energy to sharing the message of God’s love with a broader audience.
It is with deeply mixed emotions that we announce this transition to you. We have always understood, encouraged, and appreciated the variety of avenues in which Rob’s voice and the message of God’s tremendous love has traveled over the past 12 years. And we are happy and hopeful that as Rob and Kristen venture ahead, they will find increasing opportunity to extend the heartbeat of that message to our world in new and creative ways. ...
Bell caused a firestorm in the evangelical community with his latest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which questioned whether the Bible actually teaches that there is a literal and eternal hell.
Love Wins, published in March 2011, was disturbing enough to many evangelicals that some released their own writings to counter Bell's claims about hell.
Among them, Francis Chan recently released Erasing Hell, Mark Galli authored God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins, and a group of theologians including R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and J.I. Packer collaborated for Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven?
Still some applauded Bell's work, calling it timely.