Behind the Scenes

The Latest From Lifestream

wayne2015This has truly been an amazing year in so many ways.  Sara and I enjoy the place that God has given us to help encourage others on their journey and the perspective it gives us of his work in the world. These are truly amazing times we live in. Over the past few weeks we’ve announced a number of things having to do with Lifestream and what’s going on around here.  In case you missed any of it, I thought it might be helpful to put it all in one place:  

 

 

The Last Newsletter

This is the first newsletter we’ve done in three years, and it will be the last. We’ve done this for almost 20 years and there are just better technologies now to share more immediate information than a newsletter allows. Also the gap between issues got to wide since at this stage in life Wayne is working on books and other projects. You can view the latest version here, or go straight to the lead article, The Phenomenon of the Dones. We will continue to keep past articles in our archive and I will write more from time to time, but they will appear first in the blog before they are archived. If you want to keep up with all that we’re doing, please keep up with the blog or podcast. Next month we will launch a new Lifestream site and it will offer the opportunity to subscribe to the Lifestream blog so it appears in your inbox.  You can subscribe to the podcast now either through iTunes or by getting an email notice of new postings by signing up on the lower left of The God Journey page

 

Get a Free Copy of IN SEASON
With every order between now and January 31 we will include a free copy of Wayne’s book In Season: Embracing the Father’s Process for Fruitfulness and Fulfillment as our gift. It is a farmer’s view of John 15 and how to engage the process by which God invites us into his reality and shapes our lives with fulfillment and fruitfulness. Due to the significant costs of international shipping this offer is only for those shipped to US addresses. However, if there is room in the overseas packaging we will include one as well. You don’t have to do anything on your order to receive this gift.  We will just include it.

 

New Video Interview With Wayne

At the end of the summer Wayne sat down with Jeff Herr of DefiningRoots.com for a no-holes-barred question answer session where he freely probed my thoughts and passions and how I moved from being a pastor to helping those who felt they no longer fit in the traditional congregation. Jeff had had read my books and listened to my podcast, but we had not met before this trip. The result is an hour and 15 minute interview by a campfire in the growing dusk of late summer in Indiana. You can view it here.

 

Travel Invitations Bankruptcy
Wayne has had so many travel requests on a list, that it has become hopelessly out of date. So he’s assuming that if people still want him to visit, they will be in a continuing dialog with him about timing and purpose. If you are not currently in those conversations with him, please email him and let him know of your continued interest. Though he receives far more invitations than he can accept, he is always in prayer about those opportunities God might have for him.

 

Updates: The Shack and Jake Movies
The Shack Movie is now in post-production with a release coming in 2016 though a date has not been announced. Wayne visited the set during filming and has seen a rough cut of the production. Though he is not free to share in depth about what he’s seen until the movie is out, he’s excited about this adaptation of the story and the people it will touch.Also, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore is in development and going well.The movie is tentatively titled, Out of the Game, and the screenplay is generating a bit of buzz these days with people in the industry. The script is done and some of the production team is being assembled.The story has been changed significantly, the same lessons are there for people who are tired of the religious game and want a more authentic spiritual journey. We are also receiving a lot of interest from the faith community with the screenplay. This is an amazing adventure.

Finding Church: What if There Really Is Something More?
The conversation continues to grow about finding church beyond our conventional congregations. If you haven’t read Wayne’s latest book helping people see the church Jesus is building, instead of the one humanity builds on his behalf, you can pick up a copy.It is available in print, by 3-book, or as an audio book. Links to order in all formats can be found here. It is also available now in German from a German publisher as The Community of a New Creation and in Spanish as a free PDF file.

He Loves Me Available in Spanish
For those who want to help spread the message in the Spanish-speaking world, this book is now in Spanish in print and by e-book. Order from Lifestream.org for paperback and by Amazon.com for Kindle version.

A Man Like No Other
We still find that many people don’t even know about this magnificent book Wayne and Brad wrote to illustrate some paintings about the life of Christ. A Man Like No Other is a powerful if unconventional look at the life of Jesus and many have found it useful to start family conversations about Jesus by making it part of their reading list. You can order your copy here.

Kenya
We continue to be involved with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in reaching out to the impoverished region of West Pokot.We just drilled two new wells for a total of six and have committed one million dollars over the next seven hears to help them find solutions to their food, medical, and education needs as well as to jump start a self-sustaining economy. We have helped train a team of four coaches who can help the villages work for their own solutions to these ongoing needs by using readily-available, local, low-tech resources to address the most significant need in their village. You can read a short story about the miraculous connections behind this story here.  If your heart is moved to help us, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560-1 Newbury Rd #313 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Engage!
Just a reminder for those who are seeking to engage their own relationship with God, Lifestream has a series of 5-7 minute videos called Engage that Wayne recorded to help coach people as to how God builds a relationship with us.It starts with some specific ways you can begin to look for him in your own life, and then answers specific questions people have as that engagement begins.You can watch or download these videos for free and use them in your own personal journey or help facilitate a group of people exploring this growth together and encouraging each other in the process.

Why I Travel…

In a few hours I’ll depart for Orange County, CA and complete my last trip of the year there adding La Habra and Irvine to Toledo, Atlanta, Greenville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Orange City, Sarasota, West Palm Beach, Denver, Loveland, Richmond, Riverside, South Lake Tahoe, Barcelona, Azille, Nimes, Fresno, Shaver Lake, Vancouver, Indianapolis, Walnut Creek, Prince Edward Island, Raymond, Millbury, Wichita, Chicago, Beloit, Jaynesville, Pittsburgh, and Millersburg, as some of the places I’ve visited this year.  In each of them I’ve been warmly received and generously cared for. Sara went on many of these trips with me, but many I went on alone because at times God has it for us to be in different parts of the world at the same time.

I’m often asked why I travel? If you know me well, you know I don’t enjoy most of what travel requires. I’ve never desired to see the world or enjoyed sitting on long airplaine flights. I don’t like being away from Sara and the family and friends we have in our lives. I wouldn’t do it to sell books, be a star at conferences, or to hold seminars. I do it simply because I sense that Jesus asks me to and the joy of that comes when I see lives touched and encouraged into more spacious places of God’s life. It’s part of seeing his kingdom grow in the world as I get to help people process their journey, learning to live in Father’s affection and connecting to others near them on similar journeys. In every one of those places above I have left good friends behind, even after knowing them for a few days. I love the people I get to spend time wtih and am honored by their stories and struggle to live deeply in the life of Jesus in a world that seeks to distract us from it.  

Sitting in a gathering in Trafford, PA on my last trip someone joked about me signing the plastic cloth on the table and the result is pictured above left. Yes, there were a lot of people around that table who had been deeply touched by some of my writings and podcasts and the conversation was robust, enlightening and heart-warming. Yes, I was there, but more importantly, when I leave I know that Jesus is still there. When I got back from this last trip, I found a note waiting for me that sums up why I travel better than anything I could say, and what I hope happens in people’s hearts when I do:

I am so thankful my friends invited me to come talk with you this week…I had no preconceived notions of who you were or what this event would be like, but considering the traumatic events I’ve gone through in the recent past, I still had some fears that you would treat me like the majority of other Christians in my life. I am so thankful you did the exact opposite – you showed me Jesus…but also you showed me a human who isn’t Jesus and you don’t pretend to be his twin or understudy.  Thank you for not being anything but who you are.  I am very quick to see the best in people when I have obviously been horrifically burned before in that department…but I have to learn how to trust in a SAFE, wise fashion eventually, so why not start with you?

If that’s what people get out of my visits, then I am deeply blessed. I don’t live this journey flawlessly but I hope to reflect enough of his light and life that others are encouraged in their own journey of learning to live in his reality. That fruit alone is enough reason to take this on the road when he asks.

Two others expressed similar gratefulness for our connection.  

“You reflect our Fathers love quite well, which might explain us acting like a bunch of fun-loving kids!”

“Thank you is too small a word to express how grateful we are to God for bringing you into our lives.  To have a brother to be able to visit with like we do with you is priceless…  We love how Father made your beautiful heart.”

I love what God does when he brings people together. I dont’ know where I’ll go next year. I’m still praying about what he might have in mind. In all honesty, however, I’ve had to declare bankruptcy on my travel invitations. I probably am not able to go to half the places I’m invited to and my list of invitations has gotten long and some on it are from a long time ago. So if you’ve invited me to come your way in the past, and we have not had any exchange about it in the last six months, please let me know again so I know there is still an interest and a purpose to my coming.

I’m amazed at how many people do this, especially when I don’t do many conferences or speaking events. I simply enjoy hanging out for a few days talking about this amazing journey and helping people process things they’ve heard or read from me. It also gives an opportunity for people in the same area who are hungry for similar things to connect. I’ve introduced a lot of people to others who became good friends.  I am often asked what it takes to get Wayne Jacobsen to visit somewhere. It simply takes an invitation and a wilingness to facilitate an opportunity for people to come together. There’s no manual for doing this. Mostly I meet with people in homes, garages, shops, or stores, wherever we can find a place for people to come and share part of a day together. If those people can help with my travel expenses and time away, that’s awesome. If they can’t, I know God will have other ways to take care of it.  

So the real heros are those that invite me to come, find a place for us to gather, communicate with those who want to come, and coordinate whatever refreshments and food we might share. Without them none of this would happen.  I am so grateful for all my hosts over the years. Their graciousness opens a wide door for others to be touched. Thank you so much for being part of his kingdom growing in the world…

 

FINDING CHURCH release in German

Glory World Medien has just released Finding Church in German.  They have done many of my other books three and are calling this one, The Community of the New Creation. I’m surprised at the hunger in Germany for so many to think outside the box of religious obligation and discover that Jesus is building a church in the world that is rising with magnificent splendor. She sometimes overlap our human attempts to build “churches”, but she transcends it in so many ways as well.  Many are discovering that his church is more like wildflowers scattered on a hill side rather than the manicured hedges of a formal garden. I love the conversation this is stirring and the courage people take in re-examining what we’ve called the “church” to see if there aren’t better ways to express the life of his community.  

Thanks to the efforts of Glory World, the message is spreading in Germany.  I get many emails from there and am blessed by the friendships I’ve formed in my previous visits there. There are also translations in process for Finding Church into French and Dutch.  

 

Last Trips of the Year

I’ve just finalized my travel schedule to year’s end, and if you want to join me somewhere along the way, you can contact the link below and come join us. I’ll begin in Chicago, make my way into southern Wisconsin, and then off to northeast Ohio.  I actually still have an evening free on Wednesday, November 18, which I will use for some rest, or to connect with those who might want to in either near Cleveland, OH, Columbus, OH, or Pittsburgh, PA. I  have feelers out for all of those right now.  The others you can connect to through my travel page. After Thanksgiving I’m making one more trip, this one by car to Orange County California to spend time with people there during the first week of December. 

The reason I travel these day is to have “conversations that matter with people who care.” I don’t do a lot of presentations or seminars unless someone insists on it. I travel to help people process their journey along the lines of those things I’ve written about or shared on The God Journey, to equip others to live loved and learn how to love others in a way that helps the church take shape, and to be a catalyst for bringing people together who are exploring a similr journey so they can meet others along the way. 

I haven’t scheduled any trips in 2016, though I’m seriously considering a trip to England early in the year. I’ve got a ton of interest from there. Other than that, I’m dangerously close to declaring invite bankruptcy. I have a huge list here of people that have invited me to various places around the world that I haven’t gotten to yet and I’m not even sure who is still interested in my coming, or has a vision for it. When I haven’t heard from these people in a while, I assume they are no longer interested. So, if it is on your heart to have me come, you might re-invite me. If I travel far, I look for other interest in the area to make good use of time and cost of travel. So if you’ve invited me, don’t assume it’s still on my radar screen. Please let me know where you’d like me to come, when you’d like me to come, and what’s on your heart about why I would come. Then we can pray together and see what Father makes clear. I really don’t try to control where I go, and I’m sorry if I haven’t been to your region recently.

And, please, only invite me if you know of someone willing to host a gathering. If you just want me to let you know when I’m coming to your area I lost track of that a long time ago. But I have an email list that tracks all that for me now. If you’d like to be notified when I’m coming to your area you can sign up for Wayne’s Travel Notifications.  

What does it take for me to show up somewhere? How much do I charge? What kind of meetings do you need to plan? I only travel when God clearly directs me to go somewhere and when I see a clear purpose in my coming and at least a handful of people who want to explore the journey. It helps if people on the other end have that as well. I do not charge anything, even for my own airfare.  I go where God sends me and trust that he will provide whatever I need. If the people inviting me can help with my expenses and my time, that’s always a blessing, but it is not necessary. God has so many ways to provide for whatever he wants. If you want me to cover a specific topic while I’m there, I’m happy to consider it. Mostly, though I find open conversations lead us wherever we need to go. I encourage people to open the meetings to others on my mailing list because there are always people nearby who are hoping to meet on others on this journey, but you don’t have ot. If you have a specific group that wants to explore some things more privately, I’m happy to pray about that. This is really about serving you and what you see God doing in your area, not trying to control the outcome myself.  

I’ve been traveling extensively for over 25 years now to help encourage the body of Christ and see what connections he wants to produce in the world. I’ve never had a bad experience and my life has been wonderfully enriched by seeing his hand and meeting his people all ove rthe world.  But honestly, I don’t do it because I love it.  I’d rather spend every night of my life home with Sara. But I know God has a purpose in these things and I’m happy to serve you and him when he makes that clear. 

 

 

Five Hundred Episodes of The God Journey

 

Last week I taped the 500th episode of The God Journey with my former co-host, Brad Cummings joining me again.  It will air this Friday morning.  (We actually taped the 501st one as well, since we couldn’t stop talking!)

 
When we began over ten years ago, I would never have guessed our little radio show on the Internet would have survived this long or would have touched the people it has touched.  On Facebook last week I asked those who wanted to celebrate this journey with us, to either post or send me thoughts about what this podcast has meant to them and their journey. I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses.

I’ll share many of those below, but before I do, I want to share what this podcast has meant to me. Through this podcast my friendship with Brad grew and it provided an environment for my own discovery and growth as we talked about things neither of us had contemplated before. It also put me in touch with thousands of people all over the world who are on some incredible journeys, with a passion and depth in God’s life that has enriched my own relationship with him. It’s still a bit weird meeting new people who know everything about me and my family. I forget just how much of our personal lives have found their way onto that podcast, and how much that has encouraged others. 

I’m amazed at all the people who listen, many from the very beginning and even more in awe that some people today still go back through the archive and have listened to all of them over the past year.  We will talk more about this on the podcast this week, but no one is more amazed than I am at where this little podcast has gone and the lives it has encouraged and connected. I continue to meet people around the world who first connected on the forum, blog, or Facebook page of this podcast and ended up in close, personal friendships.  I am grateful for the ways you engage each other, how you’ve shared the podcasts and books with your friends. This was the audience that launched The Shack, when no one else even had the book. Who knew at the time it would sell over 24 million copies worldwide and now being turned into a movie? 

I am so grateful to all who wrote and share their thoughts. We probably have been encouraged way more than we’ve encouraged others. If you’d like to add your thoughts you can do so in the comment section below.  
Now here is what some of you said about The God Journey podcast.

Claudia:  Changed.  My.  Life.

Traci: Having a couple of guys talk about freedom, life, and grace in a way that stirs the depths of your heart and soul – how do I put it into words? The beginning of understanding “he loves me and he is especially fond of me.” It was life changing.

Rick: Thanks guys, your Podcasts really helped me leave a restricted mess called religion.

David: They are a breath of fresh air in a world of stale ideas.

 

From Chris:  Thank you so much for sharing the awesome truths about our Father’s intense love and affection for us!!  I have been digesting and meditating on these truths the last few years and God has brought so much freedom and joy to my life.  I spent the first 20 years of my Christian life nearly killing myself trying to gain God’s acceptance and approval through my performance. However, I am so thankful that for the last three years He has lead me to Bible teachers like you guys that teach the truth of our God.  These truths have been like refreshing water and a healing ointment to my soul.

From Greg in NY:  Thanks for doing so many. They are an encouragement to me, and so many more. Since we first learned of your writings back in … maybe 2002? When you were writing “the Jake book” chapter by chapter online…. you (both) have been an encouragement to me to continue to listen to, follow, and want to really know Father, who loves me more than I can truly understand. And I’ve found equal encouragement in listening to your words and conversations, which echo those that God has been whispering in my own heard and mind.  My first thought when I read your post was to share our new song, This Journey, because it celebrates what this journey has meant to us. 

Jarred: I’m not your target audience by any means, as I’m 20 years old and have virtually no church background. Just wanted you to know that I really enjoy your podcast.  I particularly enjoy your discussions about relationships, and your ideas seem to coincide with the ones I’ve built over the past two years. To keep the story short, I moved out of my parents place and moved in with my best friend’s family. I already had a very close relationship with my friend, but what caught me off guard was how out of nowhere I began to build a relationship with his father (who also listens to this podcast). We just started talking, and somehow it grew into an authentic, loving relationship with no authority; just conversation.  I’ve been thinking about this more lately, but I really feel that genuine relationships with God at the center bloom naturally. Forcing it, especially in the way religious organizations seem to, leads to an insincere relationship where barriers, such as authority or conformity, prevent individuals from connecting. How can someone be the treasure they were created to be? I’m sure this is something you’ve already explored.

‪Karine:  I’ve been listening for a number of years and the podcasts have been such a support though many difficult times can’t thank the lord enough for you both and the commitment to doing this.

Kim:  Oh my goodness…the podcasts were my lifeline, as far as having someone who understood, for months after leaving the institutional world we’d been part of for 32 years! I knew God had led us out, and you, Wayne, He loves Me, and the podcasts really helped confirm and affirm the journey we knew it was time for us to begin. He Loves Me, changed my life, actually! Note to Brad Cummings: Your laughter!!! Oh my, how I miss the sound of it!! Hope you are doing lots of it these days! Enjoy you both and the encouragement you’ve been. Can’t wait to hear number 500…Live loved!!

Shari: I’m just so grateful for your podcasts over the years. It really does help to hear another voice echo what Father puts on my heart about fellowship and church. It’s easy to fall back into wanting the social life created within an institution but that comes with so much restriction and falseness. I love to live free in Fathers love and your podcasts remind me to stay the course. Friends are fewer but they are truer.

Scott:  A friend recommended So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore? And that led to the podcast which led to The Misunderstood God book which led to being the heretic that a lot of my Christian friends think I am now. Thanks a lot! No really, I’m not kidding. I really enjoyed the podcast when it was you and Brad, but I think I’m getting more out of it now

Chris:   This podcast has meant so much to me. “An ever expanding conversation” is a good way to describe it. I’m so thankful to God for bringing voices like yours into my life and freeing me from religious thinking at such an early part of my walk. Thanks for the conversations!

Terri: I quit my job at the local church back in ’05, hoping there was a better way, but feeling as if I’d ruined everything. You guys convinced me otherwise. At your encouragement, I spent the next two years in the Gospels getting to know Jesus, and oh my word! The last 10 years have been nothing short of spectacular. Thanks for being there and inviting us into love with Dad.

Dawnna:  I can echo many of the comments about The God Journey being a lifeline. I didn’t have a clue the depths of my hunger in wanting to know the love of Father and the church Jesus is building until I started listening to the podcasts. You set my heart on fire. And it all started with your opening lines “living outside the box of religious performance and inside the Father’s affection”. That’s all it took to launch me on my journey. Thank you for being the vehicle in which God called me to open my eyes to see Him more intimately. I will always be eternally grateful.

Ashley: The podcast, in addition to the website resources, has been an amazing support in my journey to getting to know my Father for who he really is. So grateful for the perspective shifts you and your guests provide in my thinking about how to live this out every day.

Doug: Wayne and Brad, this may be after you tape, but the podcast has certainly been used in my journey to freedom from the shoulds and into the freedom of living adventurously expectant in the love of Papa.

Hayley:  I LOVE your podcasts! Happy 500th taping!

Jerrine: So grateful for your podcasts and encouragement to live loved.

Pat: Your podcast has been an encouragement and a sane voice of the faith.

Bob: I found the God Journey just as the Pharisees’ showed their true selves where I attended and was an usher, worship team singer, and men’s group breakfast cook. Since I left, not one man from there has called me for golf, beers, hanging out. But Wayne and Brad showed me a new path, a new journey if you will. Now when I am asked if I go to church, I say “I am on a God Journey”. And the conversation begins.
Randy: I have really enjoyed The God Journey. Thanks to Wayne and Brad for taking the time to show us Jesus all these years.

Timothy: I just want to thank you both SO MUCH for having taken the time for these podcasts over the years. They have helped me immensely in my walk and relationship, through some VERY difficult times.  In addition they have been a big help in connecting with the body worldwide in a very real way. 

Kedish: This podcast has encouraged me a lot and is helping me also to be in the Journey of learning to know our Father’s heart (to rest in His love) away from religion and the system in the world. I really enjoyed it God bless you brothers.

 

John: What I have learned? I have learned that God loves me not for what I could be, might be , or when I get my crap together or performance of likeability or spelling  in an email….. He Love Me in all my mess and doubt and pain and brokenness. He Loves Me one hundred percent NOW. Just as I AM ….  My question is not to you, but to my Papa.. “How Deep Is Your Love?”

 

Ken: I believe I have been following Wayne for twenty years now.  Just when I was about to go full tilt house church out of frustration with the typical congregation model Wayne’s word of caution helped me avoid another cul-de-sac , and am now gratefully disillusioned .. the ping-pong that Wayne and Brad provided weekly was extremely helpful to know others were on similar journeys and the grace at which you both allowed another season of life to not derail your friendship was priceless. Glad you get to record a 500th podcast together.. Looking forward to the laughter and the serious .. you both do that so well.

Liz:  I’ve really enjoyed hearing what I believe the Lord has been speaking to me for the last thirty yrs, confirmed in so many lives in so many different places around the world. It’s always encouraging to hear of others experiences and perspectives. I love the fact that we are all works in progress and Father is not in the cloning business. It’s all about our love relationship with Him, which in turn enables us to truly relate to each other in love. Jesus is indeed building His church and there is not an ounce of religious ambition, obligation or conformity anywhere to be seen—just real people, free to be honest about where we’re at, encouraging and being encouraged as we learn to live in the Father’s love and view life and each other from this perspective.

Charlie:  You guys have brought such a fresh blend of personality and life to a subject I had only previously known as cold and uninviting. Both of your work is very much appreciated, we all need more people like you guys! I feel like in my time listening along, that I have gone from walking to running and have grown immensely. The training wheels are off and the rush of riding absolutely free is beyond description! Thank you for your courage and determination to stay true to the course, and for offering such a life-giving resource for free. You have shown us all truly what life with God all about and that this life is worth living!!

Kevin: I remember listening to you guys some years ago. I was at the gym and your were discussing if penal substitution was good or bad-now I didn’t know what that was but thought it was something quite different if you get my drift!

Tracy: Hearing your perspectives (even when they differ) has been life changing for me! Thank you for providing a safe place to ask big questions, and know in a deeper way just how much God loves me.

Heather:  The podcast really helped me sort through all the emotions of leaving the institution. It was comforting and encouraging to hear that others had similar incidents and feelings.

If you’d like to add your thoughts, you may do so in the comment section below…

Is THE SHACK Heresy?

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew The Shack was edgy enough to prompt some significant backlash, which is why so many publishing companies didn’t want to take it on at the beginning.

I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy what you think is the meat and toss what you think are the bones.

What is surprising, however, is the hostile tone of false accusation and the conspiracy theories that some are willing to put on this book. Some have even warned others not to read it or they will be led into deception. It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s overenthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside. I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team who worked with the author on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed.

This is a story of one believer’s brokenness and how God reached into that pain and pulled him out and as such is a compelling story of God’s redemption. The pain and healing come straight from a life that was broken by guilt and shame at an incredibly deep level and he compresses into a weekend the lessons that helped him walk out of that pain and find life in Jesus again.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Here are some brief comments on the major issues that have been raised about The Shack:

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

One reviewer even thought this passage from The Shack was a mockery of the true God: “I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation….” That wasn’t mocking God but a view of God that seems him as a demanding, self-centered tyrant? The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself as the God who would lay down his life for us to redeem us to himself.

The words, “I don’t want slaves to do my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me,” are simply a reflection of John 15:15. Unfortunately those who tend toward legalism among us have no idea how much more completely Jesus transforms us out of a relationship of love, than we could ever muster in our gritted-teeth obedience. This is at the heart of the new covenant—that love will fulfill the law, where human effort cannot.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

Does it leave out discussions about church, salvation and other important aspects of Christianity?

This is some of the most curious complaints I’ve ever read. This is the story about God making himself available to one of his followers who is being swallowed up by tragedy and his crisis of faith in God’s goodness over it. This is not a treatise on every element of theological study. Perhaps we should have paused in the story to have an altar call, or perhaps we should have drug a pipe organ into the woods and enlisted a choir to hold a service, but that was not the point.

Is this a feminist God?

The book uses some characterizations of God to mess with the religious stereotypes only to get people to consider God as he really is, not how we have reconstituted him as a white, male autocrat bent on religious conformity. There are important reasons in the story why God takes the expressions he does for Mack, which underlines his nature to meet us where we are, to lead us to where he is. While Jesus was incarnated as man, God as a spirit has no gender, even though we fully embrace that he has taken on the imagery of the Father to express his heart and mind to us. We also recognize Scripture uses traditional female imagery to help us understand other aspects of God’s person, as when Jesus compares himself to a hen gathering chicks, or David likens himself to a weaned child in his mother’s arms.

Has it touched people too deeply?

Some reviewers point to Amazon.com reviews and people who have claimed it had a transforming effect on their spiritual lives as proof of its demonic origin. Please! How absurd is that? Do we prefer books that leave people untouched? This book touches lives because it deals with God in the midst of pain in an honest, straightforward way and because for many this is the first time they have seen the power of theology worked out inside a relationship with God himself.

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration. Three hearts weighed in on the theology to make it as true as we could muster. The process also helped shape our theologies in honest, protracted discussions. I think the author would say that some of that dialog significantly affected his views. This book represents growth in that area for all of us. Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.

That said, however, I’m not afraid to have that discussion with people I regard as brothers and sisters since many have held that view in the course of theological history. Also keep in mind that the heretic hunters lump many absurd notions into what they call UR, but when I actually talk to those people partial to some view of ultimate reconciliation they do not endorse all the absurdities ascribed to them. This is a heavily nuanced discussion with UR meaning a lot of different things to different people. For myself, I am convinced that Jesus is someone we have to accept through repentance and belief in this age to participate in his life.

Throughout The Shack Mack’s choices are in play, determining what he will let God do in his life through their encounter. He is no victim of God’s process. He is a willing participant at every juncture. And even though Papa says ‘He is reconciled to all men” he also notes that, “not all men are reconciled to me.”

Is the author promoting the emergent movement?

This guilt-by-association tactic is completely contrived. Neither the author, nor Brad and I at Windblown have ever been part of the emergent conversation. Some of their bloggers have written about the book, but we have not had any significant contact with the leaders of that movement and they have not been the core audience that has embraced this book.

That said I have met many people in the emergent conversation that have proved to be brothers and sisters in the faith. While I’m not nuts about all they do, a lot of the statements made about them by critics are as false as what some say about The Shack. They do deeply embrace the Scriptures. As I see it they are not trying to re-invent Christianity, but trying to communicate it in ways that captures a new generation. While I don’t agree with many of the conclusions they’re sorting through at the moment, they are not raving humanists. I have found them passionate seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are asking some wonderful questions about God and how he makes himself known in us.

Does The Shack promote new age philosophy or Hinduism?

Amazingly some people have made assumptions about some of the names to think there is some eastern mysticism here, but when you hear how Paul selected the names he did it wasn’t to make veiled references to Hinduism, black Madonnas, or anything else. It was to uncover facets of God’s character that are clear in the Scriptures.

It’s amazing how much people will make up to indulge their fantasies and falsely label something to fit their own conclusions. Some have even insisted that Mack flying in his dreams was veiled instructions in astral travel. Absolutely absurd! Has this man never read fiction, or had a dream? Just because someone screams there is a demon under that bush, doesn’t mean there is.

* * * * *

We realize this would be a challenging read for those who see no difference between the religious conditioning that underlies Christianity as it is often presented in the 21st Century and the simple, powerful life in Christ that Jesus offered to his followers. Our hope was to help people see how the Loving Creator can penetrate our defenses and lead us to healing. Our prayer is that through this book people will see the God of the Bible as Jesus presented him to be—an endearing reality who wants to love us out of our sin and bondage and into his life. This is a message of grace and healing that does not condone or excuse sin, but shows God destroying it through the dynamic relationship he wants with each of his children.

We realize folks will disagree. We appreciate the interaction of those who have honest concerns and questions. Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda.