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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Popular pastor departs for TV project

Niraj Warikoo Detroit Free Press

DETROIT – One of Michigan’s most noted religious leaders said goodbye to his congregation this week as he prepares to help create a TV series loosely based on his life.

Rob Bell, the founding pastor of the Mars Hill megachurch near Grand Rapids, Mich., is moving to California, where he will continue writing books and work on a TV show for ABC with the producer of “Lost.”

According to, the series will be called “Stronger,” about the life of “Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey.” The show will feature “autobiographical elements” from the life of Bell, Deadline said.

Bell was in a rock band before he became known as a Christian pastor.

Bell did not return phone calls seeking comment, and officials at Mars Hill declined to talk about his departure. “We’re not taking interviews or discussing our transition plans,” church spokesman Lee Jager said.

Bell came out of Calvinism, a Protestant tradition popular in west Michigan. He was known for a hip manner that attracted thousands to his sermons, books and speaking tours.

Some critics have accused him of watering down the Christian gospel. And some noted pastors, such as Rick Warren of California, criticized him for leaving Mars Hill, saying that not having a church will weaken his credibility. But Bell is popular in west Michigan and with others. Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010.