Rob Bell brings spirituality to television

Okay, think “Lost” meets “Ted Talks” meets Letterman. Interested? Well, I haven’t even told you the half of it.

In 1999, Pastor Rob Bell started a church in Grandville, Mich., called Mars Hill. The congregation grew to over 6,500 attendees each weekend. Bell is famous for books like “Love Wins” and “Sex God,”  as well as being in the news for various things including speaking out about heaven and hell, sparking a church-wide controversy. In September of 2011, Bell announced that he would be leaving Mars Hill and heading west to California in order to spread the word in new ways.

Last month, Bell returned to the mega-church and gave a sermon called “Sloth,”  part of a series on the seven deadly sins. He began the message by casually talking about California and the things he had been doing since he left which eventually led up to his brand new big idea.

Bell explained, “I became deeply convinced that people want to talk about the things that matter most.”

Bell planted some ideas into the minds of his former congregation saying that people assume everyone goes to church because they have to or because they feel like they need to, but he had come to the realization that people are hungry and they want to talk about their weaknesses and struggles, and they want to be inspired.

He pointed out that it isn’t just a Christian thing and that everyone has something they believe, but there is no place in our culture to talk about these things. He contrasted it to politics — we talk about politics everywhere because it has forcibly become so relevant. Our culture has political outlets such as “The Rachel Maddow Show” or “The Colbert Report.” He explained that there are things that are relevant to the human story that we can all discuss: courage, compassion and love.

The message was taking an interesting turn, but Bell finally described his grand idea. One day Bell sat down with Carlton Cuse, who wrote and produced the hit television series “Lost,” and told him all about the new TV show he wanted to make.

He desired to take elements of the Mars Hill experience, tour talks, Q&A, interviews, a community that gathers to be inspired, “Ted Talks,” “Lost” and Letterman — “put it all in a blender … and I think we could do something that’s never been done before.” Cuse quickly replied with “Well man, I’m totally in on that.”

Those who may not have been a part of the huge “Lost” fan base may ask why it is included in the mix. Bell describes the show perfectly, “The show ‘Lost’ was about a bunch of people who crashed on a deserted island. But in reality ‘Lost’ was about was a bunch of people who were lost in their lives.” We are all lost in our lives. It is a universal theme. We all wonder if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing or if we are headed in the right direction or what our purpose is. “Lost” depicts this human struggle which is an element that Bell wants to bring into the new show.

Bell challenged his congregation to name their favorite funny, subversive, clever, interesting, inspiring, spiritually-themed TV show. The trick is that there isn’t one and there needs to be. Bell’s goal is to create a place where everyone can come to together and discuss their spirituality while still laughing, learning and finding inspiration. Bell is confident in his new idea, stating “It’s that feeling that you’re totally alive because you know where you’re supposed to be.” There are no official dates set for the show but the project is moving ahead quickly at an exciting pace. You can listen to his sermon on the Mars Hill website.