Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:4)

The Genuine Christian Is To Be Like Christ

A.W. Tozer explains the critical need for the real and true Christian to come to understand that holiness is Godlikeness, to be like God. He is right when he says:

The causes of retarded spiritual progress are many. We may as well accept it: there is no shortcut to sanctity. Christianity, being in full accord with all the facts of existence, takes into account the acknowledged moral imbalance I human life, and the remedy it offers is not a new philosophy but a new life! The ideal to which the Christian aspires is not to walk in the perfect way but to be transformed by the renewing of his mind and conformed to the likeness of Christ!

The work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart is not an unconscious or automatic thing. Human will and intelligence must yield to and cooperate with the benign intentions of God. The New Testament knows nothing of the working of the Spirit in us apart from our own moral responses. Watchfulness, prayer, self-discipline and acquiescence in the purposes of God are indispensable to any real progress in holiness!

In fact this is what the inspired Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote – Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). It seems as if every Emergent in creation knows the verses prior to those but they really ought to wrap their rebellious minds around these. As a matter of fact Billy Graham, whom even Rob Bell himself claims to admire, would tell them that when he highlights Romans 12:1-2 in his devotional Unto The hills, “…present your bodies a living sacrifice…your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world.” (289, emphasis his)

Good night even Graham, who is just about as milquetoast as you can possibly get and still actually be considered a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, writes:

We Christians are not to be conformed to the world physically. These bodies of our are intended to be temples of the Spirit of God. We are not to prostrate them before the temples of Baal. We are to present them wholly to God as a “living sacrifice.” Our dress, our posture, our actions, should all be for the honor and glory of Christ. We are to be “holy” in the deepest sense of the word.

God’s purpose for us is that we ought to be conformed to the image of His Son. The world may exert its pressure to deform us, but we are told, “Be ye transformed…that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2) (ibid)

Now correct me if I’m wrong–and believe me those trapped within this pseudo Christian shell of the burgeoning Emergent cult will [expletive deleted] howl and try–but I’m still guessing here that all of the above is going to be awfully hard to do while you’re kicking back at the pub knocking down a pint of Guinness. For you see, only by denying himself, taking up his cross and turning away from the life he or she once led can the follower of Jesus ever hope to…well, follow. Yet this is a huge problem with the corrupt spiritual fruit of full strength toxicity which is being produced in this Emergent rebellion. So many young people are now being attracted to an alleged “Church” movement that doesn’t ever seem to lead them away from their old lives or natures.

Rob Bell Goes On Out On Tour

And you know the more I have read accounts of Rob Bell’s “Everything Is Spiritual” (EIS) tour as I have researched his theology, the more EIS sounded like just that–a tour. As when, say, a rock band goes out on tour. Having been a professional musician myself in the past, this idea of a tour per se wouldn’t necessarily be a problem for me personally. Still, it really shouldnt be all that surprising if this was the way many others perceived Bell’s EIS tour.

That’s the way religion writer David Crumm of the Free Press in Detroit pictured Bell’s tour in his article STAR POWER | A HIGHER CALLING: His message packs the house. Crumm begins his piece, subtitled “Preacher electrifies audiences with a spiritual journey,” by saying:

America is discovering another home-grown Michigan star who wrapped up his first, triumphant North American tour this weekend — sort of like the breakout tours years ago by Madonna, Kid Rock or the White Stripes.

There are differences, though. This 35-year-old, curly haired guy, whose sold-out tour closed on Saturday at Indianapolis’ American Cabaret Theater, doesn’t sing. He does what might be called standup, but he doesn’t tell jokes. He’s the Rev. Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, one of Michigan’s largest churches.

Tara Dooley of the Houston Chronicle opens her own story on Bell, which she called Michigan pastor takes message to new places by pointing out that this:

was probably not the first time a breathless blonde pushed her way through the back door of the Montrose club Numbers only to be stopped in her tracks by her first sight of the star of the show… Rebecca Franke stood in the dark doorway, by the bar, stared at Rob Bell and stammered out something along the lines of: I know who you are. I just drove seven hours. I don’t have tickets.

But it probably was the first time the blonde at the bar was a 34-year-old fourth-grade teacher at an Episcopal school, the daughter and granddaughter of Baptist preachers, on a mission to secure tickets for her mother and three other moms to a one-man show/Bible study in a club with a cash bar and unemptied ash trays sprinkled about the room.

Now certainly this is not the first time Bell himself had been in a club as a performer either because in his article Center Stage for a Pastor Where It’s Rock That Usually Rules John Leland of the NY Times tells us that actually, “Mr. Bell sang in a rock band while attending a Christian college in Wheaton.”

There Is Nothing Inherently Wrong With Music Itself

The point of this article is not to discuss whether or not this is good or bad, I am simply bringing this fact to light. For those who might be interested the name of the band Bell played with was uno dos tres and according to pastor J.R. Briggs they produced one CD called “volume one” which he tells us “is trippy, eccentric, creative and edgy (would you expect anything different from Rob?)”

Again, not that there is necessarily anything inherently wrong with it, but as Leland asks the Emergent pastor how this EIS tour originally came about Bell’s love of music is obviously quite evident. Bell says:

“I just thought, What are the places my brother and I like to go to?” he explained. “And it’s nightclubs and places where bands play. That’s where people go to hear ideas in our culture”…

And so Emergent communicator Rob Bell decided to take his own “show” out on the road so to speak and this particular review by Leland happens to be about the Chicago gig during this EIS tour. He tells us about:

Eric Chapman, who had traveled to Chicago by car and train from Peoria, Ill., said he had learned about the show from his minister, who did not approve.

“He didn’t think pastors should get this much publicity,” Mr. Chapman said. “But I was like, ‘He’s going on tour? Cool. I got to see this guy.’ I like how he takes huge ideas and says them in a new way that makes it seem obvious”…

The idea for the journey began with a conversation between Mr. Bell and a friend in the band Jimmy Eat World, which plays a style of alternative rock called emo.

Oh, and for those who may have wondered what ever happened with Rebecca Franke, the women mentioned earlier who didn’t have tickets, Dooley assures us that it all worked out:

“We were panicking all the way here,” Franke said with a chuckle once tickets were secured. “The irony of this is, when I was in college, I came here to a slam-dancing concert.”

The greater irony might be that in a time when contemporary services in church strive to entertain, Bell’s club-based religious performance art was remarkable in its simplicity.

Communicating The Art Of Religious Perfomance

Now that we have the background on Bell’s “club-based religious performance art” we can fill in a few of the highlights of what his EIS show was about. Leland tells us a little about the Chicago performance:

At the Logan Square Auditorium here one recent night, Rob Bell arrived in a rock band tour bus and strode past posters for Cheap Sex, a punk band performing at the hall later this summer. Following a T-shirted bouncer through the sold-out crowd of about 450, Mr. Bell hopped onto the stage…

His performance here was the first in a monthlong tour of 21 cities a – joined by one roadie, a whiteboard and his wife and two sons – taking him to venues usually presenting rock bands.

As for the EIS Houston stop Dooley tells us Bell spoke:

Before an audience of about 350 that ranged from teens to seniors, he just talked. There were no lights, no music, no drama, no special effects. “I’m trying to crank up the risk factor,” Bell said. “I don’t want to rest on ‘Hey, the band was good, the guy had nothing to say.’ This thing either works or it crash lands.”

So far, it has worked well enough that Bell has sold out most of the shows in his 24-city tour dubbed “Everything Is Spiritual.” Traveling in a tour bus with his wife and two sons, the 35-year-old pastor started June 30 in Chicago and will end July 29 in Indianapolis after a trek including California, Georgia and New York.

Another person who had seen Bell live at EIS Pittsburgh is Emergent pastor Briggs who tells Rob Bell in his Open Letter To Rob Bell that he’s been “following you and your teaching for the past three years.” Briggs also informs Bell that:

As a fellow pastor, I appreciate your creative, three-dimensional teaching style, your in-depth research of Jewish background information and how you have re-introduced us to the benefits of mystery in the discussion of who God is and how He interacts with people in the world He created. Kudos to you, brotha.

And then Briggs goes into more specifics concerning EIS where he asks Bell to clear up a couple of questions he had when Bell “came to the Theatre of Living Arts on South Street in Philly.” He says that he and some buddies “piled into a van” drove to the Theatre of Living and attended “the ‘Everything is Spiritual’ event.” Briggs then asks Bell what the Emergent communicator felt he was trying to accomplish through EIS:

it’s cool that you’re wanting to perform/speak/talk/teach at secular venues like the TLA and all. Open bar, cool setting, bouncers that have tattoo dragons running up their neck that wouldn’t be caught in church on a Sunday morning, the fact that its not in the Christian ghetto, etc. But it confused me: was the goal to communicate with those far from God during your tour or was it to communicate to Christians (specifically that night, in the Philly area) about what it means to live with God in the world?

I mean, Christians know you and they’re the ones who want to see you. But if you’re going after non-Christians would they be interested or know much about who you are or the EIS Tour? It looked to me like there were mostly, if not entirely, the ‘already convinced’ crowd in the house.

Those Touched By Bell’s Performance

Next I’ll share with you some of the reaction from those among the “already convinced” captured by these aforementioned news reporters. For example, in the aftermath of the show Leland shares with us a couple of the reactions to Rob Bell’s preaching and message:

At the Chicago performance, a middle-aged Tom Fell and his friends were left cold.

“I thought it was very creative, but if it was targeted at Christians, he missed the point,” said Mr. Fell, who considers Mr. Bell a celebrity preacher. “When I was 18, we’d get high and talk about stuff like that.”

His friend John Duval, 42, agreed. “He didn’t tell us how to go out and be disciples,” Mr. Duval said.

But Alex Beh, 23, who lined up an hour early for the performance, said it had left him exhilarated.

“It’s more like Jesus’ teaching than the church’s teaching,” said Mr. Beh, adding: “I loved that there was beer available. The church needs to go more in that direction, more culture-friendly rather than sectarian, or dividing people.”

Dooley adds that, not surprisingly, another young man had a similar view:

“To see him in a place like this is outrageously cool,” said 19-year-old Michael White from Spring. “I’ve never seen a pastor walk into a bar, to sell out a bar.”

And then in that time honored tradition of show biz, and just like any other performers during a wearying tour, when the gig was over Leland tells us it was quickly right back on the road for Bell:

At 1 a.m., Mr. Bell boarded the bus for an overnight drive to Minneapolis. It had marble floors, a mirrored refrigerator and a laundry. “It’s pretty pimped,” he said apologetically. Stephen Stills gets the bus when Mr. Bell is done.

What’s It All About, Rob?

So in the end what did Pastor Rob Bell pray that this EIS tour would accomplish? Rescuing many lost souls and bringing them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Leland asked Bell:

Mr. Bell said he hoped the tour would instill a sense of awe in his listeners.

“We’ve got everything material we could want, but there’s a loss of innocence and wonder,” he said. “I grew up on David Letterman, whose answer to everything is ‘yeah, right.’ But the people who really move us, like Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, at the end of the day have this innocence.”

In Part Two I’ll take a brief look at some of the things Rob Bell shared as a part of his religious performance art during EIS for the mostly “already convinced” crowds. And then we’ll examine a bit more fully what is at stake in all this flat out spiritual foolishness going on wth The Hollow Men in the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church as so many in the Body of Christ simply sleep on…