Rob Bell, author of the controversial book Love Wins, has announced that he will no longer be serving as pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, citing a "call from God to pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities."
In a statement published on its website Thursday, the Grandville, Mich., church reveals:
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. ...
The announcement by "the Elder Team, Ministry Leadership Team, and staff of Mars Hill" notes that Bell will explain his departure and new call in greater detail during Mars Hill's upcoming Sunday service on Sept. 25.
Bell, who founded Mars Hill along with wife Kristen in 1999, 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, drew various responses, with some evangelical leaders calling the book heretical and saying it espouses a universalist worldview. The book was concerning 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.
Bell 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."