Pastoring A Family

Yesterday morning I got challenged in a healthy way from someone I least expected it.

My wife!

We were talking about my blog post and the recent controversy on Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”. She challenged me to not jump into conclusions and read the book, form an opinion and deal with it.

As we talked briefly about this I realized something I don’t think I’ve ever realized in my whole marriage. I’m not just pastoring a church, I’m pastoring a family.

I didn’t necessarily hear her say what she really said. What I heard her say was “We need someone who’s willing to study the situation, make a decision and lead this family in a worthy manner.”

Never has she spoken to me this way. I was blessed beyond imagination when she walked out the door as I sat there stunned at the challenge before me. I’m not sure if she even understands what she was saying but I do.

My family needs me not only to be a good husband or father, they need me to be a pastor who leads out family as Christ leads the church.

So my learning moment is shared with you. If you’re a father or a husband, you have a priority to pastor even if you are a bench warmer at church.

Pastor well.


About Kevin Riner

child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged
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2 Responses to Pastoring A Family

  1. Vanessa says:

    I understand what you’re saying about pastoring your family, and I think that that’s 100% awesome. It’s such a powerful thing when men rise up to leadership.

    But may I add a few thoughts about the matter of the Rob Bell book?

    Over the course of my life as a follower of Christ I’ve had a number of people ask me why I haven’t studied the Koran, the writings of Buddha, or any other of the major world religions. My answer to this is always the same, which is that:

    If someone said to you “How can you know that your wife is the right person for you if you haven’t tried out ALL the other women around you?” you would *immediately* shut them down. You wouldn’t even entertain the thought!

    This is because there are basic principals in your marriage that you will not violate. These principals are the basis of health in your marriage, and you know that even though a very logical scientific rationale can be presented for violating them, that by doing so you’d destroy your relationship, because the basis of commitment to that person, and recognition that they are the right person for you, has just been severely undermined.

    In the same way, if someone asks me “Why don’t you just explore this book/movie/talk that looks into why Jesus might not be the only way to salvation?” how much time do I give that consideration? About zero seconds. Because, to me, when I recognised that Christ was salvation I was finished with all my “exploration”. I became his bride, and brides don’t flirt with other men.

    I strongly support followers of Christ being open to dialogue. But there are some activities that we just don’t need to entertain or engage with in order to have dialogue about. In the same way that you don’t need to watch porn to have a dialogue with someone about why porn is not edifying, you don’t need to read a book that suggest that Jesus is not the only way to salvation to have a dialogue about why such a book isn’t theologically edifying.

    I am sure that there are lots of great things about this book, as Rob Bell is an incredibly skilled communicator and does have some wonderful insights. However, just like you wouldn’t eat a cookie that was made of 90% yummy ingredients and 10% dog poop, it’s not going to be helpful to you to bring into your spiritual life a book that contains a certain percentage of utter heresy.

    Aside from that, time is such a precious resource! As followers of Christ there are so many ways that we should be using that time to develop our spiritual skills and to minister to those around us – so we shouldn’t be wasting that time grappling around in darkness!

    Also, spending money on this book means you are directly giving support to it. The greater number of people that buy that book the greater level of prominence it will have. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to stand in front of God one day and have to tell him that I chose to use the resources he gave me to fund a movement that told the world that he was not the only way to the Father!

    One of the key issues with this book, one of the reasons that I think it’s very unhelpful for believers, is that the author is doing EXACTLY what satan said to Eve before the fall, which was to twist her confidence in what God said. In Genesis 3:1 Satan asked Eve “Did God *really* say…?” Similarly the entire basis for this book is to suggest to believers that when God said certain things, that he wasn’t *really* saying them. That’s not a thought that is going to edify your family!

    The sad truth is that there are many people who have been severely wounded by the church, and also many people who don’t want to hear tough truths, who are going to be really seduced by some of the things that Rob Bell is saying. This in itself is nothing new, as this is a tactic that the enemy has been employing for years. However there are some clear basis of scripture, and fundamentals such as Christ being the only way to salvation are the absolute fundamentals of our faith. We have to uncompromisingly refuse to entertain in our lives any message that undermines that.

    I truly think it’s wonderful that you feel lead to pastor your family. But out of love I want to humbly submit you that you don’t need to entertain heresy in order to do so.

    I’ve included an excellent summary of the content of Bell’s book below, so that you can have a clear idea of what the content is. It’s broken down chapter by chapter so that you can have a good overview of it without spending hours of your time, and your money, on something which goes against everything that Christ’s followers stand for.


    While there are many issues the Church has and will always dispute, there are also issues to which the Church has always given clear answers. The question is, therefore, not “Who is Charles Erlandson to say that Rob Bell is wrong?” but rather, “Who is Rob Bell to say that the Church has had things wrong for 2000 years and that Rob Bell is now here to tell us the real truth?” In fact, Rob himself has recognized the need (in “Velvet Elvis”) to interpret the Bible (which doesn’t come pre-interpreted) and even affirms the need for a community to interpret. The problem is that he doesn’t state which community and is instead willing to overturn the consensus of the church for 2000 years if necessary.

    Rob directly contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible, as well as the Church’s historical interpretation of the issue, beginning with the early Church and agreed upon by both Roman Catholics and Protestants of all stripes. It’s not just a few fundamentalists that Bell thinks are wrong: it’s the majority of Christians who have ever lived or taught.

    Rob Bell begins in Chapter 1 by saying that the Christian story has been hijacked and that he’s here to tell it the right way. How has it been hijacked? Bell rejects the belief that someone like Gandhi is in Hell or that God would condemn most people to Hell while a select millions would make it to Heaven. He clearly dislikes the idea that some people are in and some people are out. Bell also challenges the idea that the Christian message is only about getting to Heaven and has nothing to do with this life (which, by the way, very few Christians actually teach). Rob’s entire first chapter is taken up with questions about how one gets to Heaven and how, and he intends to challenge us to think about our received notions of Jesus and Heaven.

    In Chapter 2, Rob correctly argues that Heaven is something that begins here and now. In this way, what he writes serves as a corrective to much misguided thinking and teaching about Heaven. He teaches that the Jews believed in a restored earth where there would be peace and that the eternal life begins now. While all of this is true, Rob seems to conflate Heaven and earth so much that the future earth he envisions is not much different from the present earth, except, of course, more perfect. He claims that Jesus isn’t interested in questions of who gets in or out of heaven but only in transforming us to be the kind of people fit for heaven. However, Jesus clearly talks about who is in and who is out and that He is the on who will judge or separate the sheep from the goats.

    Chapter 3 is on Hell and begins with a useful reminder that the Jewish concepts of life and death are much larger than just the actual moment of living or dying physically but are instead related to two ways of relating to God. Rob says without hesitation that he believes in a literal Hell, but the Hell he has in mind is the hell of the Rwandan genocide: in other words, a completely earthly Hell. Rob’s answer to all of the times that Jesus speaks about Hell is to reduce them to an agonizing metaphor to explain the kind of agony we create for ourselves on earth. It turns out, according to Rob, that when the Bible uses the word “eternal” it doesn’t literally mean “eternal.” Obviously, he’s heading the direction of there being no final, eternal punishment for sinners. Bell says, “We need a word that refers to the big, wide, terrible, evil that comes from the secrets hidden deep within our hearts all the way to the massive, society-wide collapse and chaos that comes when we fail to live in God’s world God’s way.” That’s it for Hell: it’s not about eternal punishment at all.

    In Chapter 4, Rob argues that God gets what He wants: for all people to come to Him. He cites verses such as Psalm 65 “all people will come to God.” It’s funny how for Rob Bell what Jesus says about Hell must be figurative but what the poetry of the Psalms says about all people coming to God must be literal. It’s also funny how Rob parses so many words and seems unconcerned that words like “all” in the context of the Psalms may not be literal. It’s funny what he notices and what he doesn’t. Rob states that the Bible insists that God will be reunited and reconciled with all people, because this is His will and He is powerful enough to make it happen. Rob claims that an untold number of disciples from the past have taught that ultimately no one can resist God’s pursuit for others, mentioning the names of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine. It would have been nice if Rob had actually quoted these Church Fathers, because that certainly isn’t the main way Augustine, for example, would have argued. If you’re going to mention the Church Fathers, then you should probably actually quote them and look at all that they wrote and mention that the majority of the Church has believed in a literal eternal Hell. By the way: these are the same Church Fathers who said, “There is no salvation outside the Church.”

    Ultimately, Rob believes his story of universal redemption (yes, he’s revealed himself to be a universalist by this time) because it is a “better story” than one where billions of people go to Hell.

    In Chapter 5, Rob briefly presents a large number of issues where the Bible seems to present complex images for certain doctrines, such as the cross, sacrifice, redemption, and justification. He rightly says that it takes this many images to portray the enormity of what God has done, and he rightly says that certain images have been dominant over others during certain periods of Church history. This, too, is a useful corrective to various misreadings of the Bible. The rest of Chapter 5 is actually fairly standard material and not particularly noteworthy (even though the topic is not!)

    In Chapter 6, Rob begins by presenting Christ as divine, the One at work in creation. Most importantly, however, he interprets Jesus’ words from John 14, “No one comes to the Father except through me” as meaning that the Father may save many through Christ without them knowing it. This, however, is in contrast to the many teachings of the Bible that to be saved we must call on the name of Christ (see Romans, for example: How can they hear unless they are taught and someone is sent). Once again, Rob has taken Scripture out of its entire context and not examined all of the biblical teaching on a topic deeply enough. He says that the door is open to Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, even though these may be people who have clearly heard Christ and rejected Him. After all, Rob says, people come to Jesus in many different and mysterious ways. What Rob doesn’t do is offer an adequate explanation of how this happens, something he should have done if he was going to raise the issue.

    In Chapter 7, Rob teaches that “Hell is our refusal to trust God’s retelling of our story.” Once again, Rob focuses so much on the “story,” as Rob tells it, that he ignores a lot of what the rest of Scripture teaches and what the Church has taught for 2000 years. “We create hell whenever we fail to trust God’s retelling of our story.” This is true, in a limited sense. But Hell is also much more than this, and Rob refuses to admit this.

    Hell is not just something to which man consigns himself: Christ is the “judge” of the living and the dead, and He is the one who will separate the sheep from the goats. Man cannot have created Hell as a place for evil men: it has to have been God’s creation, which is only right for a just and holy God to do. Bell seems to elevate God’s love above His righteousness, holiness, and justice. In fact, throughout the book, Rob elevates certain attributes about God over others, the very thing he accuses most other Christians of doing!

    What Jesus Himself actually says is this, in Matthew 25:31-33: -“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”

    And from Matthew 25:41-46 -“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Many other passages bear out the traditional understanding that Jesus Christ will judge the world; that He will separate the sheep from the goats (the righteous from the unrighteous); and that there will be those who Christ sends away to eternal punishment. If you want to see for yourself, look up Matthew 13:41-42 and 49-50; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:8. Or read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 about those who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. See also Ephesians 5:5; Matthew 7:21-23.

    In summary, Rob Bell has written a challenging and provocative book. I pray that it will stir up many to search the Scriptures and read them with new eyes. But the truth is that whatever else Rob Bell does, he does not deal faithfully and carefully with the entirety of the Bible. He self-consciously has a breezy, provocative style that is good to get people fired up. But he still has an obligation to deal faithfully with the Scriptures, and he has not done this in several important places. THIS IS THE REAL ISSUE concerning the controversy surrounding Rob Bell and his writings.

    The truth, and the biblical story, is that Jesus Christ will come in judgment to judge the living and the dead. There is a Final Judgment, and not all will be saved.

  2. Kevin Riner says:

    Wow, thanks for your observation. I always appreciate your thoughts. To make even more cool I couldn’t help but read it in your accent. Very fun.

    I see your points and I won’t ignore them but give some serious thought to your advice. Thanks for what you wrote as well as your concern.


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