Rob Bell is a well-known American pastor, speaker and writer, and is influential in a lot of very modern explanations of what Christianity is all about. I first started reading Velvet Elvis at least a year ago, and it basically got a bit lost in the book-time continuum and I only got around to finishing it off.
It subtitles itself as “Repainting the Christian faith” and aims to go back to basics, explaining where Christianity came from and what it’s all about. It rips away a lot of the paraphernalia, the “religion”, and strikes at the heart of the message. While it’s powerful stuff, it’s often hard to read, and this is why I think I ended up taking so long over it. In an attempt to write in a very contemporary way, his overly-conversational language is a bit hard-going, his tendency to write in short sentences often impeding the ability to be free-flowing in his message.
I might be being a bit harsh – I actually can’t remember much of the first half of the book (other than one or two very helpful explanations of the culture of the Jews at the time of Jesus), and so perhaps should go easier. Let me conclude by quoting a very powerful comment from towards the end of the book, with my emphasis added, about what the church is actually for (and what it’s not for):
The church doesn’t exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it’s about all the people God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart. This is especially true today in the world we live in where so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavio[u]r doesn’t help. It makes it worse. It isn’t the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in the world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.
Amen to that.