FEW people can make spirituality as exciting, engaging, and challenging as Rob Bell (Features, Podcast, 15 June 2018). Whether speaking to large crowds, teaching on his popular RobCast podcasts, or writing books that take the reader on journeys of discovery, Bell communicates with insight, passion, and empathy.
His latest book, Everything is Spiritual, is a breathless exploration over more than 300 pages of Bell’s own spiritual journey. In a fluent and conversational stream of consciousness — and without chapter breaks — the former Evangelical mega-church pastor charts the development of his approach to spirituality.
Bell looks back at his time at Mars Hill Bible Church, Michigan, and recalls how other church leaders would talk about what they were reading, and how these books were “giving language” to their thoughts. Then, the pastors would say, “Of course, if I told my church I was reading this book, I’d probably be fired.”
Bell writes: “It was like these spiritual leaders had a Sunday game face they put on to keep their job, and then they would take it off and talk honestly to me about what they were learning and how they were changing and what was really lighting them up.”
In his 2011 bestseller Love Wins, Bell described the teaching that “a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven” as “misguided and toxic”. He left Mars Hill after the resulting controversy in Evangelical circles.
Today, Bell writes, tours, and broadcasts, and brings insights from the Hebrew Scriptures and Gospel narratives into his teaching. His disciples include the chat-show host Oprah Winfrey, with whom Bell has toured.
Bell writes here of his fascination with quantum physics and how relationship and growth are at the core of everything. The universe may be massive and cosmic, but also, Bell concludes, “really, really personal, and spiritual”. If we embrace our wounds, pains, and regrets, there is an invitation to grow, just as the universe has been expanding for 13 billion years.
Bell’s message of inclusion, affirmation, and empowerment is likely to resonate with many people in today’s society and win him yet more followers.
The Revd Peter Crumpler is an SSM in St Albans diocese, and a former Director of Communications at Church House, Westminster.
Everything is Spiritual: A brief guide to who we are and what we’re doing here
Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
Church House Bookshop £13.50