Earlier today I received an email here at Apprising Ministries from someone who used to attend Mars Hill Bible Church, the emerging church where Rob Bell is teaching pastor.

Matt Dubois wrote in response to my earlier post An MHBC Member Defends Rob Bell. And since much of the following has already been corroborated through what I’ve been told by my many other sources who’ve been close to and/or have relationships with Bell I felt comfortable speaking about it further with Matt.

So after doing so, and with his permission, AM now shares Matt’s personal observations of MHBC and of Emergent Church pastor Rob Bell:

—– Original Message —–
From: Matt Dubois
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 12:25 PM
Subject: Response to MHBC member


I don’t know Erica Martino, but my wife and I (and some other members of our family, including one who is now the pastor of another church in Grand Rapids) attended MHBC from 1999 when it started through 2005. Our attendance from 2003 on, though, was sporadic and many of my family and friends that are committed to the Word as divinely inspired left Mars Hill because the preaching was becoming a man-centered Gospel, the Bible was not treated as divinely inspired but more like a good guideline and we saw a cult of Rob developing in the church.

My own opinions on the drift at Mars Hill was a result of Rob’s popularity and the tremendous growth the church saw during its first two years. It created an environment where there was no accountability for Rob, as far as I could tell, and an elder board that was vested in the business model of a large church for financial reasons.

Because this was centered on Rob’s teaching ability only and not a very good church foundation and infrastructure that could survive without Rob, then no one within church leadership is willing to stand up because of the vested interest in Mars Hill rather than preaching the truth and following God’s will. A problem that I think lots of churches face and probably all of us struggle with at some time or with some particular idol in our own lives.

As an attorney, I had the chance to be involved in a couple of church conflicts and it became clear through these that the foundation of the church was not the Bible, but a business model based on Rob’s teachings during the mass teachings on Sundays. I also became concerned about the refusal of the church to identify any standard that would be Biblically based; to the point that when we left, MHBC did not have “members” simply because that would involve some type of delineation between people who attended on Sundays.

I also had the chance to see how this affected younger believers (younger in Christian maturity, not age) in my work in small groups and conflict resolution. Typically for Biblical conflict resolution, I start with the Bible as the objective standard by which we evaluate our behaviors, our responses to conflict, our need for confession, our need to forgive and what forgiveness means in a Biblical context. It was impossible to do this within Mars Hill when attend-ers could point to Rob’s teachings and other teaching and positions within the church that contradicted scripture. I did have some success with reconciling some conflicts, but only when I convinced the parties involved to follow the Word and not Mars Hill’s position and teachings.

So as Rob may have been led astray by Contemplative prayer or become deluded or simply has misinterpreted scripture, the right accountability infrastructure is not in place to address this. So when a huge success and incredible influence and power comes to Rob at 30-32 years old, it is not surprising that he might start heading down the wrong path. Although Rob will have to account for what he has done, I am sadder and more upset about the elder and staff that might have had some influence to do something about this, yet refuse. In my own dealings with elders and staff, I have been in a couple of situations where they did not seem to have a basic understanding of the Gospel and I wondered if they were really saved, not because they may have disagreed with me, but because they didn’t seem to understand fundamental Biblical principles.

My wife and I continued to attend Mars Hill even after the teaching drifted from Biblically sound doctrine into a Rob Bell event and his current teachings centered around a man-centered Gospel. We believed we had some influence and could help some that attended see and at least consider the teaching in light of scripture. We left however when I took a job at a Denver law firm in 2005 and we now live in Colorado.

The other part of this discussion that is important to me is while proclaiming the truth, we see out ways to restore gently (Galatians 6:1-2) and promote unity, not simply attacking others (I get plenty of that in my law practice). I believe your posts have done that, which is why I thought it worth the time to write to you, but please continue that approach.

Matt Dubois
(303) 910-9083


An interesting discussion between Matt Dubois and two who are currently in covenant community at Mars Hill Bible Church, and which sheds further light onto what Matt says above, can be found here.

See also: