Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Rob Bell’s The Heretic

A Reel Leadership Article

The Heretic is an original documentary about the former pastor of Mars Hill, Rob Bell. Rob Bell rose to fame in West Michigan as he began preaching at Mars Hill church and started a series of short films that were spiritual reflections on life.

Leadership lessons from Rob Bell and The Heretic

Being from West Michigan, I was very interested in seeing the story of the once adored, and now often despised, Rob Bell. As his theology changed, the evangelical right began to shun him, the left began to accept and embrace Rob Bell. The story presented in The Heretic is interesting.

Watching Rob Bell, Pete Holmes, Kristen Bell, Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame), and others share their thoughts on faith and Bell’s journey was interesting. It was also depressing.

While I don’t disagree with the questions Rob Bell asked and talked about, The Heretic left me feeling empty. Like there is more to the story and something’s not being told. This seemed to be the general consensus from those I watched the movie with as well. They felt Rob Bell asked great questions but that was it. He skirted the tough thing: answers.

But this begs the question: Are there leadership lessons in The Heretic? You betcha! Let’s take a look at the leadership lessons you’ll find in The Heretic and see how it relates to you.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Heretic With Rob Bell

1. Help people to know you:

The Heretic opens with Andrew Morgan asking Rob Bell to talk about himself. Morgan wanted Bell to share who he was. He wanted people to be able to know Bell in a more intimate way.

Leadership is often lonely because people don’t know who you are. They know you’re leading and you’re attempting to guide your organization in the right direction. What they probably don’t know is who you are at your core.

Be willing to open yourself up. Allow yourself to show your fun side along with your serious. You can do this by:

  • Decorating your office in a way that celebrates your personality
  • Playing music you enjoy
  • Having an interesting desktop background
  • Bringing flair to your desk and adding fun and conversational pieces that show who you are

2. Rob Bell:

What is the point of any of this?

Rob Bell asked a question near the beginning of The Heretic. He asked, “What is the point of any of this?”

It’s your responsibility as a leader to ask this question often in your organization. Asking “What?” questions challenge the status quo and engage the mind. The What? questions open your eyes to inefficiencies or new ways of doing things.

What is the point of the new initiative? What is the point of keeping around this old process? Or What is the benefit of taking on this customer?

Ask yourself What is the point of this or that?. Use the what questions to examine and dissect current and new projects.

By doing this, you get a clear picture of the why behind what you’re doing.

3. Rob Bell:

For thousands of years, people have told stories to hold them together.

One of Rob Bell’s strengths is his ability to tell a story and engage the audience. He realizes this power and acknowledges how story has held groups of people together for centuries. He also recognizes how stories can segregate people as well.

Organizations that have a strong culture often have strong stories associated with their brand. They often repeat the story of the founding of their organization or how their organization is impacting the world.

Are you giving clean water to children in Africa through organizations like World Vision (click on the link and help me raise money for clean water for children) or Vox? What is the cool story behind the founding of your organization? Is there something awesome the business has done that has drawn people together?

Share these stories. Help your team become sold behind the vision and the passion of your organization. Story is how you will do this.

4. Leadership creates conflict:

These same stories… They’ll create conflict. Bell talked about how the Christian faith has created conflict through the Bible. The history told in the Bible can be caustic and challenging. They create conflict in our lives and the lives of others.

If you’re leading well, there will be conflict. People won’t agree with what you have to say or how you’re leading. People will challenge your leadership ideas and styles.

Be ready for conflict in leadership.

5. Interesting can become boring:

Another idea Rob Bell shared in The Heretic was that the Bible is an interesting book. The Bible tells the most interesting stories. And I agree with him on this.

From King David to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is filled with cool stories. If they were movies, you’d be enthralled and engaged.

Yet the Bible often becomes boring. We tell the same story over and over again with no passion and little creativity. The stories become stale.

But should they? Of course not. This goes to show that interesting can become boring.

The same goes for your business. Your product or the story you’re selling can become boring. People are no longer interested in what you’re doing or selling.

Look for ways to revitalize the passion behind your brand. You can do it. I know you can.

6. Leaders transition:

Having pastored Mars Hill for 12 years, transitioned out of the pulpit and into a new role. Rob was going to focus on writing and speaking.

This transition is typical for a leader. Though many leaders don’t want to transition.

As a leader, you have to be prepared to leave your position and either move onto a new organization or change directions. This is the way leadership goes.

7. Rob Bell:

When you get in an ocean, you can’t control everything. You submit to its doing.

In The Heretic, you learn Rob Bell is an avid surfer. He loves to jump into the ocean and catch a massive swell.

Something he learned from surfing was that you can’t control what the ocean does. You have to go along with it. You have to submit to what the ocean will do.

Leaders have to come to a realization that while they are leading people, they can’t control people. They can guide and direct them but they cannot control them.

Be a leader who guides and steers. Don’t be a controlling leader.

8. Pete Holmes:

We’re all performing.

Pete Holmes provided some comic relief in The Heretic. He is a friend of Rob Bell’s and shared some stories. He also shared a powerful insight into human nature.

People are constantly performing, just as he was. Pete was in front of the camera so he was putting on a show. There are times he doesn’t want to put on pants, but he performs and does what needs to be done.

Know that people are performing in one way or another as you lead them. Be aware you are performing too.

9. Leaders can be hypocrites:

Rob Bell shared the story of King Solomon, the son of David. King Solomon built a temple to God. In building the temple, King Solomon used slave labor.

The ironic thing about King Solomon using slaves to build a temple to God was God is for the slaves and the downtrodden. King Solomon used the people who God was longing for to build a temple in honor of God.

This story showed how King Solomon was hypocritical in his love for God. He claimed to want to honor God yet he used and abused the very people God loved to build the temple. How much are you and I like King Solomon?

Out of one side of our mouth we speak life and say we are for something, out of the other side of our mouth we do the exact opposite.

Leaders can be hypocrites. This is a human condition and flaw that we have to be aware of as we lead.

Watch your actions. See what you’re doing. Test them against what you stand for.

10. Elizabeth Gilbert:

You can’t be soulless and have a life of any meaning.

Elizabeth Gilbert shared a quick quote in The Heretic. She talked about having a life of meaning. To do so, one must have a soul. You must care for others.

Leaders have a responsibility to care for those they lead. They must be willing to stand up to injustice and wrong. They must show regards to others.

Are you doing this? Are you making sure your leadership isn’t soulless?

11. Leaders need to be clear:

Throughout The Heretic, I watched and I wondered about Rob Bell and his beliefs. Leaving the theater, I felt no further clarity on what he believed.

This is against what real leaders do. Real leaders are clear. They cast a vision that can be seen. They display a mission that can be grasped.

Be a leader who is clear. Be a leader who helps people to see what is in front of them.

12. Leaders need to point the way:

Rob Bell asks a lot of questions. He challenges beliefs and tries to get people thinking.

One thing Rob Bell doesn’t do is point the way towards the truth. He “leaves” this up to the listener.

Great leaders know they have to point the way. They have to help their people get to the destination. To give them direction.

13. Talk about what you’ve experienced:

I saw The Heretic with a band of brothers from Base Camp. After the movie, we went to Bar Louie’s for food and drink and to discuss what we’d just experienced.

Over the next 3-4 hours, we shared what we thought about The Heretic. We talked about family, friends, and faith. We shared our experiences.

This sharing helped clarify our thoughts on The Heretic and Rob Bell.

Sharing your experiences with others will help you clarify your thoughts. Whether you share your experiences through blogs like this one or community engagement, you need to share them.

You will benefit from this sharing. You’ll clarify your thoughts and beliefs. You’ll grow and learn.

If you’d like to watch The Heretic with Rob Bell, you can find it on Amazon. It is definitely a thought provoking film and will leave you questioning things. But, I believe, it will also leave you feeling empty.

Question: Have you seen The Heretic? If you have, did you take away any leadership lessons from The Heretic? If you haven’t, what leadership lessons from The Heretic that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comment section below.

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