Author and former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church Rob Bell is setting the record straight about his decision to leave his position. Bell said in an interview with Michigan Live last week he was not “forced out” of Mars Hill because of controversy surrounding his book, Love Wins. Rather, Bell and his wife made an independent decision to follow a calling from God to California for a new ministry opportunity.
The Christian Post wrote that a late 2012 article in The New Yorker implied Bell’s book created a huge rift between himself and the congregation, causing thousands to leave the church as a result. But Bell said in the recent interview that “the people at Mars Hill were unbelievably supportive and encouraging,” “even when we said they were leaving they were incredibly gracious and kind and loving,” and “some idea that we were forced out is absolutely untrue.”
Bell said a misinterpretation of a comment his wife Kristen made was taken out of context in the article. She had mentioned that the couple suffered “a cost, and part of the cost was we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing at Mars Hill” for publishing the book. But Bell insists that this cost was the realization that they wanted to fulfill a different mission in a different part of the country, calling the mistake “a misquote of the highest order.”
“Kristen and I had a profound sense of calling that there was the next chapter of our lives ahead of us,” Bell said in the interview. “And that the next stage was, how can we talk about the Jesus message to a world of people who aren’t currently listening.”
Kent Dobson, current pastor at Mars Hill, agrees. “It is true of course that he received backlash from Love Wins, but not directly from the community, certainly not from the leadership,” Dobson said. “He decided (to leave) because he wanted to go do something else, not because of internal pressure or internal disagreement. Everyone in the leadership was sad to see him go.”