Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, has announced through staff that he is stepping down to focus on broader opportunities, which apparently includes a Canadian and U.S. tour called "Fit to Smash."
The church released the following statement concerning the pastor who formed the popular Granville, Michigan church more than 12 years ago:
“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.”
The pastor and author of the controversial book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which ignited a discussion about heaven and hell, as well as the concept of salvation, indicated through staff that he will explain his departure and new call in greater detail during Mars Hill’s upcoming Sunday service on September 25.
A visit to Bell's website certainly hints at a great journey ahead and at the current mindset of the unpredictable young pastor, as he promises to share revelations in his "Fit to Smash Ice Tour."
"Have I ever told you the story about the smoke machine at the wedding? Or the time I hit my head and had to be told who I was? Or the one about Eleazar and the elephant?” Bell inquired. "I didn’t think so, which means it's time for a tour."
He went on to say, "I'm hoping to break some new ground on this tour, going places we haven’t gone before. I want you to be inspired, provoked, challenged and moved in all kinds of new ways throughout the evening so that you leave Fit to Smash."
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 and his wife Kristen founded Mars Hill Bible Church in 1999, spending 18 months gathering in a school gymnasium before expanding to a former mall in Grandville, Michigan.
The church, which currently boasts about 7,000 members, seats about 3,500 and holds two Sunday morning services. Bell was formerly an assistant pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.