Can Mars Hill 'Thrive' Without Rob Bell?

Mars Hill Bible Church pastor, Rob Bell told his congregation last month that he was leaving the ministry after 12 years of service – a move that has many questioning whether the megachurch can “thrive” without its founding pastor.

“You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be great. You’re not just going to survive. You’re going to thrive,” Bell told his Grandville, Mich., 7000-member congregation, according to

“A church is bigger than one person,” he added.

However, Todd Cioffi, professor of congregational and ministry studies at Calvin College disagreed, the online site reported.

According to Cioffi, case studies show that Mars Hill will most likely never be the same, following Bell’s departure.

“Usually, when people talk about the experience at Mars (Hill), it would be in the context of Rob Bell coming up,” Cioffi said. “Everyone’s wondering (if he’s the glue). Now, we’ll actually see.”

Shane Hipps, the Michigan church’s co-pastor, will continue preaching after Bell’s departure.

via Can Mars Hill ‘Thrive’ Without Rob Bell?


So… what do you think will become of Mars Hill?  Will they suffer or will they be A-OK?

My guess… they’ll be different… but just fine.

Love to hear your thoughts…



  • David Foster October 27, 2011 Reply

    I admire Rob for leaving. He has moved outside the boundaries of biblical Christianity.

    While he has that right, it would be hard to lead a Christian church with his current vies.

    I would be more concerned if he has stayed.

  • Michael J. Teston October 27, 2011 Reply

    After almost 30 years in ministry many so called ‘churches’ have never embraced Biblical Christianity, so I would disagree that Bell has moved outside such parameters. As one who has struggled long and hard to remain connected to apparatus’ that called ‘church’ I completely understand the move beyond such places that attract so often the same “kind” of so called christians. If Bell is as half worn out as I, I completely get it.

    There is a harvest out there that is immense and the myopic views of many so called insider church types will never draw that harvest of folk in. I have also said that there is no longer any place for those who envision God, Jesus, and the redemptive work of Christ from the right side of their brains. It is amazing to me how little we allow people the capacity to think about the things of God from other than a linear left brained approach.

    Bell never intended to be a systematic theologian, and that is not to minimize some of the great work he does with scripture and the links he makes with the praxis of life and faith. Bell is and I suspect continue to be a “great fisher of men/women.”

    • David Foster October 27, 2011 Reply

      My friend, make no doubt that when you try to redefine the gospel to make what you want it to make it, you have ceased fishing and started deceiving. That, it seems to me after 40 years as a pastor, is a dangerous place to be.

  • steve miller October 27, 2011 Reply

    Well it could go well and it could go bad.

    What I am excited about is this will hopefully kill the cult of personality which arose around Rob. I’m not saying he intentionally built it, and I’m not saying he didn’t; the simple fact is it exists. So I’m hopeful the larger than life personality aspect of the pastor overshadowing the mission of the Church will disappear. Hopefully the new leadership team will stop asking so many “deep” questions and rather concentrate on plugging Christ in as the answer no matter what the life question is. It is always about Jesus, we are Jesus’ people, we do Jesus’ mission, in the way Jesus did it while here. Less pointless questions on if Gandhi is in hell and more focus on the Gospel.

    The other thing I’m really excited about is Rob is no longer a Pastor. I’m not knocking him on that point, he is wise to step down. I’m excited because now Rob must submit himself to the leadership of what ever church he attends in California. I think Rob has talent and charisma and under the right tutelage he could really grow and then come back to the pulpit with a little more orthodoxy underpinnings.

    • Mark Hunter October 27, 2011 Reply

      Hopefully Mark Driscoll, or “Pastor Mark” as he likes to refer to himself (just like “Pastor Paul” was the title favoured by Paul), will be the next mega-church pastor to step away from the limelight.

      • steve miller October 27, 2011 Reply

        Yeah, I like how Pastor Mark has always been upfront about this being a real possibility and how he actively works to build safeguards into his ministry so he never ends up in a situation similar to Bell.

        Mark makes himself accountable to an elder body and submits to a body of leaders. Face it, he is a great teacher and you can’t penalize a guy for being good, but when you are good you got to build in accountability-you got to protect your church from yourself-some leaders are unwilling to do that.

        Thanks Mr. Hunter for bringing up such a great contrast of how to use popularity well. There is a way to be in the limelight without embracing it; not an easy thing to do.

        • Mark Hunter October 27, 2011 Reply

          “Mark makes himself accountable to an elder body and submits to a body of leaders.”

          And “Pastor Mark” likes to talk about himself. A lot.

          • steve miller October 27, 2011

            Yeah Mark talks about himself a lot and he is pretty unflattering in the way he paints himself.

            You know, after posting I thought maybe I could explain that better, especially if someone wanted to just take pot shots at Driscoll.

            So popularity is not bad; it ain’t bad to have a lead pastor in a megachurch with a lot of personality. But the pastor’s popularity has to come second to the Gospel of Jesus. It is an odd animal success, you have to work like crazy to catch it, and once you have it you have to work twice as hard to make sure it don’t eat you.

            As for the popularity of the pastor…Think of it like a nutrition chart on a box of cereal. If the number one ingredient is sugar, and the second ingredient is marshmallows, and the third ingredient is artificial sweetener, I’m not buying it, no matter how good it tastes or looks. Now if sugar is in the cereal, that’s cool, but I want protein or vitamins high on the ingredient list as well- I won’t eat nutritious sawdust. So a good speaker with humor and a personality is okay, but I want to know does he bring the goods, is his message loaded with grace and gospel-will I be edified and challenged to grow. Is the slick presentation the delivery method for real substance or is an eye catching ear grabbing slick presentation all it is?

    • joe November 18, 2011 Reply

      now why would you say he could come back with a little more orthodoxy? orthodoxy religionists pushed rob out of his church.

  • Peter October 27, 2011 Reply

    I have not seen a church of anywhere near this size that was not largely built, no matter what they think or say, on the strength of a personality.

    I believe they will shrink substantially, and eventually will be fine.

    I think with the very un-orthodox things Rob is thinking, believing, and preaching, that it is well that he is leaving pastoral ministry. I would not call him a heretic, but based on his most recent book, I would call him very mis-guided on some very central issues to historical biblical Christianity.

    • Mark Hunter October 27, 2011 Reply

      “historical biblical Christianity” isn’t the same thing as truth. It’s all about interpretation.

      • Peter October 27, 2011 Reply

        I beg to differ a lot. There’s a broad line between interpretation and exegetical gymnastics (that twist truth rather than seek it), and imho, Rob stepped over that line in many ways with his recent book.

        But my major point about the strong leaders that lead a church into mega-church territory remains. They step aside, the movement slows, the attendance drops… it has become a cult of personality whether the leader meant it or not. I haven’t seen a very large church that does NOT suffer from this.

        • Mark Hunter October 27, 2011 Reply

          So “biblical Christianity” isn’t about interpretation?

          How come, then, there are…oh….. DOZENS of denominations all with their own unique interpretations of the Bible?

          What about Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians etc etc etc?

          Or are there no Christians outside of America’s “radical, restless and Reformed” mega-churches?

          • Peter October 27, 2011

            Mark, any of those groups who deny the existence of a literal hell or somehow espouse universalism depart, because of that, from traditional orthodox biblical Christianity, clearly. They can call themselves Christian, but I can also call myself a Buick. It doesn’t make me one.

  • Leonard November 2, 2011 Reply

    Just read an article by shane hipps who is replacing bell… Seems like it will be more of the same.

  • Mark Hunter November 3, 2011 Reply

    @Peter, so what you’re saying is that it’s BELIEVING certain things like hell (ie. eternal, conscious torment) that makes a person a Christian.

    What part does Jesus play, then?

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