Michael Yaconelli:


interview by
Mike Nappa

Mike Yaconelli’s life is a mess---and he’ll be the first one to tell you so!

Fact is, he figures your life is probably a wreck too. That’s why he wrote the book, Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People (Zondervan).

Having been in Christian ministry for more than four decades, Mike’s seen---and lived---more than his fair share of spiritual disarray. And believe it or not, he likes it. For this man, “messy” means a thriving workshop of the spiritual life.

Recently, we cornered Mike and peppered him with a few of our own “messy” questions. Read on to discover what he had to say…



FamilyFans.com: For those who haven’t read your book yet, would you briefly explain what you mean by “messy spirituality” and why you felt compelled to write a book about it?

Mike Yaconelli: I wrote the book for “the rest of us.” Christians who never feel like we measure up and don’t have it all together. For years now we have been bombarded by books that tell us how to live the Christian life, how to succeed, how to know the will of God, how to have a happy marriage and we have concluded there is an elite group of people out there who “really” know Jesus, have figured out how to live the Christian life and are problem free. Truth is, there is no one out there who has figured it out. Truth is, we’re all a mess. We’re all unfinished, incomplete and unfixed. I wanted to encourage the rest of us that we are not crazy, and that unfinishedness is a legitimate condition of spiritual people.

What kind of research and preparation went into the creation of this book?

Forty-two years of being in the ministry and recognizing that every Christian I know is a mess, including me.

Tell us about your experience writing Messy Spirituality.

Working on the book was difficult, but getting feedback from so many, hearing the moving stories of those who thought they were outside the fence of God’s grace, who had begun to believe there was no way they could be a Christian, and now they realize there is hope for them. That moved me a great deal. I didn’t think the Christian world was ready to hear that Jesus doesn’t fix us, he promises us, instead, to be present in our unfixedness.

Why do you suppose Christ doesn’t make more of a difference in the lives of Christians? And should we be doing anything about that?

This question is an example of the problem I address in the book. This question assumes that all Christians are not making the difference they should be making and that we should write books that fix that problem. This book was written to say, EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD YOU ARE NOT MAKING A DIFFERENCE, THE REALITY IS YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. We can make a tiny difference and have a GIANT impact on those around us. This book was written to stop people from “should-ing on themselves.” It was written to remind them of how God is not limited by what we’re not doing and can celebrate what we are doing.

We stand corrected. What else do you hope readers will gain from reading Messy Spirituality?

Hope. Affirmation. Encouragement. A recognition that they are not crazy,
not unusual, not beyond hope, but normal.

Would you share with us a little about your own spiritual journey thus far?

Wow, you’ll have to read the book. Needless to say, after 42 years in the ministry, after 16 years pastoring a church, I am a mess. I don’t pray enough, read my Bible enough, serve enough, I am constantly riddled with doubt and the older I get, the less I seem to know. Christianity is more of a mystery to me today than it was when I was eighteen and knew everything. But I know one thing, the only reason I am a Christian today is because of Jesus. His annoying love will not let me go. He just keeps hanging on to me, even when I’ve tried to let go of him.

How can a parent pass on a positive spiritual legacy--messiness and all--to his or her children?

Be real. Don’t lie. Don’t pretend. Let your children see your brokenness, your struggles as well as successes. Don’t try and protect them from what we don’t know. Admit there are lots of things about the Christian life, about God, about Jesus we don’t know. Don’t be boring. Don’t become just another dull Christian who has forgotten how to play and laugh and not take themselves too seriously. Fall in love with Jesus; stay intimate with him.

What’s the best advice you can give to a parent about his or her own
individual relationship with God?

I would encourage parents not to pretend that Jesus is the answer to all problems. Don’t try to impersonate yourself. Let them see the real you.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Quit being so busy. Slow down. Be silent so you can hear the whisper of Jesus who has been saying to these words to you since before you were born, “I love you. Mess and all, I love you.”