The Hipper-Than-Thou Pastor

His first hero was Letterman. He played in a rock band. Now Rob Bell is wooing young Evangelicals with a new approach to spreading the Word

Saverio Truglia for TIME

'A hundred people a day were calling and saying, "Dude! Give us the real thing." I was like, If someone could speak to them in their mother tongue, they'd be here in droves.'

Rob Bell is striding toward the sanctuary of his Grandville, Mich., church, the barely improved husk of a former shopping mall, when he runs into one of his favorite congregants. They immediately address a topic close to both their hearts. "Man!" says Bell. "Can I hear it? Can I hear the demo?" The congregant, an affable young part-time musician named Joel, who dresses like a long-lost Ramone, mumbles bashfully, "I can burn you one." "Great!" exclaims Bell, whose geeky-hip glasses, black pants, black shirt and polyester white belt make their own statement. "Hey, man," he adds, "I saw the Arctic Monkeys."...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!