Book Review: How to Be Here by Rob Bell

This is a guest post by Edmonton church planter, theology aficionado and hospitality hero, Jordan Majeau. Want to contribute to the blog? Email Dave Von Bieker.

How To Be Here by Rob Bell

If you’ve traveled within Evangelical circles over the last 12 years or so, the name Rob Bell triggers a variety of emotional responses in churches. These reactions range from admiration to outright anger. Picking up any volume written by him is a bit of an exercise in dismissing both perspectives in order to read the material honestly. That being said, I am a fan of Rob Bell and he’s been a great example to me over the last ten years of how to explore what it means to be a human being created in the image of God. The second aspect of my admiration is how he’s responded to criticism, and he’s received a lot of it. He’s responded with grace, humility and in doing so revealed a security that I find admirable. 

How To Be Here is his 8th book and it’s fairly easy to read through. I was able to read through the content in about two hours time, mostly because like most Rob Bell books, the content is stylistically spaced out on the pages. That or the publisher wanted to ensure the content came in at over 200 pages. Either way, it’s an easy, satisfying and quick read. 

Rob Bell’s purpose in this book is really to help encourage people to be happy and grounded in day-to-day living. One of the elements that has puzzled me over the years is the label that has been placed on him by others is as an “avant-garde heretic” who spreads “new and untried” ideas to the world. My perspective on his writing is that he’s typically in the business of unearthing very old ideas and communicating them in the current vernacular of the day. The most current and common ideas being shared in leadership books today center around “personal branding” and being “strength-based” in the workplace. How To Be Here is along those same lines but it’s more about finding a place of personal contentment internally beyond the roles one may have to play throughout one’s life. 

Who would this book provide value to? Anyone who finds themselves in a bit of a “branding transition”. The book was helpful and encouraging to me because in a lot of ways this last year has been about change, recovering from failure and confronting the reality of what I’m good at and what I’m not. While my family and I attend and participate weekly in a church, there is no leadership role or “fit” for me in ministry at the present time. Once upon a time, I was in full time ministry and then I helped start a new church and that chapter ended last summer. In terms of my hospitality career, it appears that I have “maxed out” my current potential and I’m learning to be patient with that. The assumptions that I had for my life have been shown to be out of scope with reality. How To Be Here is the book that’s encouraged me by telling me that “It’s ok” to be in that place and to focus on my current true reality and find joy in it. 

As I was thinking about what to say about this book, I was slow roasting some tougher cuts of beef to use for tacos that I would be serving a guest that my wife, Tammy had invited over for dinner. The prep also included chopping up some pico de gallo and re-frying some beans to use as condiments. It also involved looking after my 11 month old son who was busy opening drawers, closets and cupboards and emptying them of their contents. The book encouraged me to look at the reality of my present situation and be thankful. I said to myself “I may not be an entrepreneurial pastor anymore, but dammit, I have a beautiful family and I’m a great cook who gets to entertain guests in my home almost every week. I have a great life.”

My favorite line in the books is this: “Stop worrying about shit that ain’t happenin”. You will have to read the book to fully understand the context of that last quote! That line reminded me of two things: 1) stop worrying about fearful elements that I can’t control and 2) stop worrying about ideas of my life that aren’t happening. I worry about both, so the challenge was very current to my life. 

There are more in depth books out there on personal branding and happiness, but overall I enjoyed this book and it felt like a good drive down the highway with a good friend with an honest perspective that I could relate to. 

Thanks Ryan Hastman for encouraging me to try something new and write a book review. Thanks Tammy Majeau for making sure my grammar was all proper and stuff.

Banner image by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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