Rob Bell has become quite adept at sending shockwaves through the evangelical church.
His best-selling book Love Wins sparked a huge controversy earlier this year, questioning if anyone actually goes to hell. Then just a week ago Bell dropped a legion of jaws after announcing his resignation from the pulpit of the 10,000-strong Mars Hill Bible Church to pursue “strategic opportunities” related to “sharing the message of God’s love with a broader audience.”
Turns out the first of Bell's opportunities is penning the pilot of a TV show based loosely on his life.
Stronger is about a musician, Tom Stronger, who becomes “a benefactor and spiritual guide,” according to New York’s Vulture site. Bell will executive produce and write the potential ABC series with Carlton Cuse, one half of the duo responsible for the megahit series, Lost.
Here’s how the pair hooked up, according to Vulture:
Bell and Cuse first met up a few years back, at Time magazine’s 100-most-influential-people-in-the-world dinner. They kept in touch and ultimately came up with the idea of a series that would be loosely based on Bell’s own life story as a musician who ended up founding his own church, Michigan’s Mars Hill Bible Church… Stronger is…expected to explore spiritual themes but without being as on-the-nose as other recent series that have tackled these issues, such as 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel. There’s also expected to be a narrative twist to the project that will make it a bit unconventional, but for now, that detail is being kept secret (this show is from a Lost-ie, after all).
And this Vulture tidbit should please Love Wins fans:
While based on biblical principles, Bell’s brand of spirituality is not about hard-core evangelical, fire-and-brimstone teachings. Instead, his goal is to service folks’ spiritual needs without the overlay of religious dogma (see also: Oprah).
The hip, outspoken ex-pastor has had quite an eventful 2011. His unorthodox views on hell angered scores of evangelicals who called him everything from a heretic to a universalist. Rev. John Piper—an evangelical elder statesman, author, and pastor—weighed in with his now-famous tweet, “Farewell Rob Bell.”
Even left-leaning MSNBC host Martin Bashir couldn’t swallow Bell’s stance, charging that with Love Wins he is “amending the gospel”:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/Vg-qgmJ7nzA?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0 expand=1]
But amid the tidal wave of criticism, many Christians have supported Bell’s views—including one pastor who lost his job after sticking up for Bell.
Here's Bell's trailer explaining his intent with Love Wins:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/ODUvw2McL8g?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0 expand=1]
Bell reportedly told the Mars Hill congregation last Sunday that among his plans was a move to Los Angeles and a speaking tour called "Fit to Smash Ice."
A statement on the web site of Mars Hill in Grandville, Mich., near Grand Rapids, addresses Bell's resignation and reads, in part:
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.