Last night, my wife and 14 others went to see Rob Bell speak at the The God’s Aren’t Angry Tour in Los Angeles at the Wiltern. I can’t think of any other events or venues that I have ever been to where the speaker (Rob Bell) has his name out on the marquee, next to bands like Paramore.
There was amazing energy on the street corner and in the venue as we awaited for Rob Bell to come out and speak. I know this would make some people uncomfortable (the waiting and anticipation as if waiting for a rock star to emerge on stage), but the reality is, Bell is an amazing communicator. And not matter what you think of his theology (agree, disagree), he knows how to reach and engage an audience.
Rob is an amazing storyteller and when you hear him weave a story, you have the feeling that he could take it in several different directions, which as a listener is quite remarkable. Especially if you are a Christian who has grown up in the church your whole life, or who has heard the Biblical story told over and over again in the same manner.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but this is the third time I have seen Rob speak, and I had a chance on the last tour (SexGod Tour) to have dinner with he and my student leaders, so I appreciate who he is, not only as an author and speaker, but as a person. I found him to be someone with a lot of integrity, and someone who is living out what he preaches (I’m thinking specifically in this case about social justice/economic issues and he and his family’s decision to leave the suburbs and move into the inner city).
He is real and authentic on stage, without bleeding on the audience. That is something this generation, and I think other generations have been dying for. Who else will you go see speak for two hours? The list is short, especially in Christian circles. And I’m not thinking about a student who loves to hear a lecture, but someone who can draw from a wide range of backgrounds and people.
For two hours I was engaged and I didn’t want it to end, which is the same feeling I have when I listen to his podcasts.
He is always insightful, honest, controversial….but he always makes you think, and wrestle with your faith. That is refreshing in a day and age when I think most Christians, especially Christian leaders would prefer that we “fall in line”, rather than have to wade through the messiness of life.
So there will continue to be disagreements about his views on 1st Century Judaism (his interpretation of different schools at the time), or his views on the Atonement (though he didn’t address this issue explicitly in theological language, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know how he feels about penal substitution…doesn’t like it). And I know there are other reasons why people don’t like him or his theology.
But I enjoyed him very much. I enjoy his teaching, his authenticity, and his desire to move outside of the walls of the church and engage the culture. I turned to my wife last night and said, “this would have been an event that our non-Christian friends would have found very engaging and non-judgmental.” That is hard to find in this day and age, especially in a lot of our churches.
I will stop at this point, but for a good summary, check out this post at The Blind Beggar.