More than three years after Desiring God founder and pastor John Piper famously tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell” (linking to a blog post about Bell’s controversial book Love Wins), Bell is making a comeback.
In 2011, after the release of the book, Bell—who was the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church near Grand Rapids, Mich.—received criticism for questioning the existence of hell and presumptions about the afterlife. Not long after, Bell announced he was stepping down from the church he founded and would be moving to Hollywood to pursue opportunities in television.
Though his initial project—a scripted series called Stronger that Bell collaborated on with Lost producer Carlton Cuse—failed to get picked up, the idea for a talk show started to take shape. It helped that Bell soon found a fan in TV icon Oprah Winfrey—who knows a thing or two about hosting a successful talk show. She invited Bell to be a guest on her Super Soul Sunday program last fall, and this fall will feature him as a speaker on her “The Life You Want” arena tour.
But Bell will soon take his biggest stage yet as the host of The Rob Bell Show. In May, he began taping the new talk show for the OWN cable network, though details of the format are still unclear. Bell remains a polarizing figure in the evangelical community, but Winfrey’s track record of finding talk show hosts in unlikely places is pretty strong. So despite what Piper says, Bell may just be getting started.