Rob Bell gets accused of not mentioning Jesus enough but there is a moment about 15 minutes into his “don’t call it a comeback” Grand Rapids show as part of his new Everything Is Spiritual tour where he mentions Jesus.
But you may have missed it. In a seemingly throw away statement it’s almost as if He didn’t want everyone to hear it. That this Jesus is somehow so much more unique, exciting and imaginative that you could even handle.
Which is one of the criticisms that Rob Bell has faced countless times. He talks about spirituality and Jesus and God and Love in ways that we don’t like. Ambiguous, mysterious but intriguing.
Where on earth could he have got such an idea for talking about spiritual matters like this?
For the rest of us, Rob Bell gets it.
In what I think is over two hours (I never once felt like checking my watch) which seems like both a long time, whilst never being boring and yet nowhere near long enough; he describes the trajectory of the world from the big bang to particles to atoms to Molecules to cells to you and me, human life.
I don’t remember science, last period on a Friday ever being so thrilling.
Even his fiercest critics have conceded that Rob Bell is a wonderful communicator and by keeping us engaged for so long on what is essentially a very basic science lesson, it’s almost as if he’s showing off.
But you’re maybe not interested in the science stuff. You want to know how he weaved Jesus, God, and the Gospel message into all of this.
He begins by linking the ever forward trajectory of existence from the big bang to the tiniest particles to complex human beings to itself. We’re all connected. In every progressive step there are characteristics of before to be found in it’s make up. The potential for all the joy, pain, awkward conversations, Taylor Swift, first time you tasted Chocolate, thrill and every other experience under the sun was present there in the beginning.
In one important analogy so desperately and currently needed, he showed us that racism is the inability to connect with someone of similar substance.
Loneliness is going in the wrong direction because it’s the antithesis of all of us being connected.
Cells, sub atomic particles, racism, loneliness. It’s all the same. We need to connect to move forward.
You want a message about the need for church to be real and authentic with the world and itself? You got it.
You want a repent message? You got it. If you’re not moving with others in the direction we need you to, you better rethink what you’re doing.
When you provide evidence from English researchers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson from their book “The Spirit Level” that the larger the gaps between the rich and poor in countries, the lower the literary rates, more serious mental health and the lower life expectancy not simply for the poor, but for the rich, it’s hard to not see Jesus in all of this.
Maybe Jesus isn’t explicitly mentioned as much as some of us would like, but He is there in everything tonight.
We need to be generous, peaceful, hopeful and graceful to each other. Getting more stuff, finding that individual inner peace for yourself is not enough. Connection with others is where its at.
Finally, Rob Bell takes some time to connect what all of this means practically in three areas of our lives. Our past, present and future.
There were many collective mmmm’s throughout this evening. Not the “that’s an interesting thing to know” type but that “deeply felt, everyone knows it, even if we never explicitly knew how to express it”, type of knowing. These all happened during this last phase of the night.
A beautiful example of all of this at play between hundreds of complete strangers.
This part of the evening was for me the most meaningful.
Through stories of people who experienced deep suffering finding each other by simply saying “Me Too” to hilarious stories of dealing with the fallout of his book “Love Wins” (which he describes tongue firmly in cheek as being unique in the history of published literacy since everyone loved it, even the people who didn’t read it) a few years ago, Rob Bell showed us that even when the very thing that our ego fears most happens, shame, we’re still standing.
“You’re fine, you’re good. In fact you’re great!”
This isn’t a wishy washy new age message, the Universe loves you dude message, like so many of Rob Bell’s critics have accused him of delivering before, but a hopeful, Jesus filled, Spirit filled, Gospel good news filled message that we all need to hear.
You get the feeling that through all of everything that Rob Bell is excited as ever about sharing this with people. I for one am grateful for someone who is able to communicate all of this in new, fresh ways which sends you out with a new found peace and vigor for discovering the mysterious wonder and Love of God. Rob Bell, as he reminds us tonight about human beings, is just getting started.
Farewell no more.
Welcome, Rob Bell.