Reverend Rob Bell is a bestselling Christian author and the founding pastor of Mars Hill, a rapidly growing mega-church located in Grandville, Michigan. He is the featured speaker in the first sequence of NOOMA, a series of spiritual short films that investigate questions of faith and explore the world from the perspective of Jesus. In 2005, he published his first book, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, a fresh take on Christianity that emphasizes inclusiveness, flexibility, love, and forgiveness. His 2007 follow-up, Sex God, explores the connections between sexuality and spirituality and was described by Publishers Weekly as a book that "joyfully ties, and then tightens, the knot between God and humankind."
Bell and his wife, Kristin, live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with their two sons.
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A few interesting outtakes from our interview with Bell:
"I've never had a cup of coffee."
"A couple years ago, I hit my head doing a flip on a wakeboard and for three days I had to be told who I was and that I was married and had kids."
"The first time I shared the ideas for Velvet Elvis with a publisher, they were convinced that it was actually six books. I remember thinking, Six books? I don't know if I can even write one!"
"My boys and I are into any sort of board you can ride. Wakeboard, skateboard, snowboard, surf board, etc."
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In the summer of 2005, Rob Bell took some time out to answer some of our questions.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. It feels like every single word matters in that book, and 25 years from now it will be even more true.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?God Was in This Place and I, I Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning by Lawrence S. Kushner -- This brilliant rabbi can say in one paragraph what takes most people volumes to express.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel -- I think the book did for me what it said it would do.
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers -- This woman was so far ahead of her time
A Tale of three Kings: A Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwards -- He writes about the Jewish kings Saul, David, and David's son Absolom in the most fresh way.
Glittering Images by Susan Howatch -- There are six books in this series; when you read one, you'll have to go on to the next one.
Honest to God by John A. T. Robinson et al. -- This Anglican bishop was wrestling with such profound issues in the early 1960s. I wish I could have met him.
U2: At the End of the World by Bill Flanagan -- One of the best books I've read about art and how messy it is.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler
Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?Chariots of Fire -- When he throws his head back and opens his mouth when he's running, who doesn't think they can't do anything?
Ishtar -- While most people believe this is one of the worst movies ever made, I take great offense to this. It is pure genius by Hoffman and Beatty. The songs on the soundtrack will stay in your head for days -- make that years.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I'm a bit obsessed with British music. The Charlatans, Elbow, the Stone Roses, the Doves, Athlete, Ash, and Star Sailor.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
A Brief History of Everything by Ken Wilber -- I really do think this book is about everything. You can't help but discuss this book.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
My friend just gave me Annie Leibovitz's American Music -- giant, orange, and terribly interesting. I've given Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak so many times I don't even know if I have my own copy left.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I like loud music while sitting in front of a big window, first thing in the morning. By lunch, my brain is mush.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
Lots of sweat and blood and staring at the computer screen thinking, This just doesn't do it for me.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
Erik Mirandette. He's 22, and he just rode his motorcycle from the tip of South Africa to the top of Africa, stopping to help AIDS resource centers along the way. He's a fearless activist with a heart of gold and unbelievable stories that will blow your mind.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Get rid of your edit button, and just write and write and write. If you do it long enough, and are disciplined enough, and you're willing to go to places that scare you, something exciting might happen.
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