GRANDVILLE, Mich. (The Blaze/AP) -- An evangelical pastor who started a firestorm earlier this year with his book that questions traditional Christian beliefs about hell is leaving his Michigan megachurch to share his message with a broader audience.
A statement Thursday on the website of Mars Hill church in Grandville, near Grand Rapids, says Rob Bell will discuss the decision Sunday. A portion of the statement reads:
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.
It is with deeply mixed emotions that we announce this transition to you. We have always understood, encouraged, and appreciated the variety of avenues in which Rob’s voice and the message of God’s tremendous love has traveled over the past 12 years.
Bell's book "Love Wins" questions the traditional Christian belief that a select number of believers will spend eternity in heaven while everyone else is tormented in hell. He has said he wrote the book because the Christian message that God is love seems to have gotten lost. Here's the trailer for the book:
The Tennessean has more on the controversy:
Bell’s book “Love Wins” questioned the traditional Christian view of hell. Bell argued that hell was not eternal. He wrote that people could choose to leave hell if they wanted too.
That view angered conservative evangelicals like the Rev. John Piper, an influential writer and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
Overall, many critics held the view that Bell was touting a watered-down interpretation of the Bible. Back in March, the pastor appeared on MSNBC, where he was grilled by host Martin Bashir who claimed Bell was "amending the gospel.":
Mars Hill has grown in 12 years under his leadership. He has made online videos and written other books that have been popular among younger evangelicals.