Erwin McManus: Embracing People So They Can Embrace God

One of the hardest challenges we face as humans is finding belonging, especially when we feel like we don’t fit in. People of faith don’t always get it right. Even though our intention is to say “all are welcome” in our churches, sometimes we miss the mark. On today’s episode, Jen talks with a faith leader who is leading the charge toward a different kind of faith space—founder of MOSAIC, Erwin McManus. After overcoming a rough past, for decades Erwin has been creating a community that fosters a true sense of belonging, a safe place for people who might be pushed to the margins in a traditional church—i.e. those who have big questions about their faith, or those who are just processing the concept of Jesus in an environment where the pressure to “make a commitment” is taken off and the teachings of Jesus are presented without a laundry list of other “sanctioned beliefs.” Erwin is one of our most creative thinkers in the faith, and today he opens up to Jen about working toward mental health, and why it’s so important to get a handle on what drains you and what replenishes you—AKA “energy management”—so that you can use your gifts and maximize your effectiveness. Above all else, Erwin’s goal is to embrace people as they are so that they can, in turn, embrace God.

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Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.

Jen: Hey, guys, Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. Super glad you’re here.

We are in a really cool series right now. We are talking to faith leaders who have done their work for decades. I mean, I’m talking literal decades. It’s so interesting to pull up a chair to their table and learn about how they got here, and what they’ve learned along the way, and where they’re at now.

Today is absolutely no exception. Today’s guest is one of the coolest leaders of the faith I’ve ever had a chance to meet, to encounter, to learn from. If you know who he is, you know what I’m saying is true. Just his whole vibe is so unique, and he’s been on the front end of alternative ways to gather in a faith community, to communicate messages of faith for thirty years and more—way back when nobody else was doing stuff like that, way back when people were not asking questions that he asked, and some of those processes may be a little bit more ubiquitous now. We see them more. There’s a lot more faith leaders taking different sorts of risks and creating different sorts of structures. He was on the front edge and still is.

He is super into fostering arts and creativity and entrepreneurship at his church, through all kinds of cool mediums. They very much highly value film and written word and spoken word and performance art and painting, and [they] cultivate that not just in their community, but [they] really activate their people in the communities that they’re in as artists.

Of course, I’m talking about author and speaker and pastor Erwin McManus. Erwin is the founder and the lead pastor of MOSAIC, a community of faith born in Los Angeles, and now all around the world with this very specific culture for people who would never go to what you would consider an ordinary church. We talk all about this.

One thing we didn’t even talk about, that I wish we would have, is the lengths to which MOSAIC has gone to serve the city and the world. It’s just unbelievable. I mean, you just would not believe the stuff they have innovated in service to mankind. Brandon and I have learned from their example for years and years and years. Gosh, they are out there doing it.

So I talked to him today, like, “Where did you come from?” Wait until you hear his background. This guy, by any means on paper, was not headed toward leading a church. The stuff that he has overcome, the things that he has learned, and the way he thinks about God and the Bible and people in the world is just very fascinating. This was a really stimulating conversation. He discusses postmodernism and postmodern Christianity a lot, and then obviously writes and speaks and leads into culture and identity and arts and change. He’s just such an interesting leader.

His latest book, which we’re going to talk about, is called The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace. I’ll tell you right now, he gets super real. The whole book is centered around mental health, and he said some really frank things on this recording today about his own personal battle with mental health, and what he struggles with as recently as last week. So I really appreciated his candor and his vulnerability in leading in this way.

So we’re going to talk a lot about mental health today, and what he has learned, and some of the paths to peace that he has discovered and is holding out to us, and just all of it. This is just a lively conversation, and so I am so glad to bring you this great conversation with the one and only Erwin McManus.


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It feels like we should have already met by now. We have so many people in our ancillary worlds, but here we are, having our very first conversation. Erwin McManus, welcome to the For the Love Podcast.

Erwin: I’m so excited to be with you. I’m glad we could finally connect.

Jen: I know. We’ve got a lot of people in common. I’ve actually heard you speak. This was years and years and years ago. So how long would it have been when one of your sons was in high school?

Erwin: Well, I only have one son.

Jen: Well, then that’s the one.

Erwin: He’s thirty-one now.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: So that’d be about thirteen, fourteen years ago.

Jen: Yes, yes. I heard you talking one time, and I’m sure that your whole talk or sermon was brilliant, I’m sure it was. But this is the one part I remember. The one part I remember is you telling the story about how your son came to you one time really earnestly, very sincerely, and just said, “Would you ever knowingly put me in danger?”

You were like, “Yes! Yes, of course I would!” That made me laugh so hard. That’s what I remember. Thank you for dropping that bit of wisdom right into my young head.

Erwin: Well, yeah, that actually did happen.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: But a lot of it was actually rooted around Y2K…

Jen: Oh, yeah.

Erwin: …then 9/11, and a lot of things kind of happened in that world. Remember when people were saying, “The whole world’s going to fall apart”?

Jen: Oh, sure, do I ever.

Erwin: A huge part of that was that I felt like there was this hysteria, and I was really disappointed in how Christianity seemed to be some of the most terrified.

Jen: Hysterical, yep.

Erwin: Christians seemed to be some of those terrified people in the nation. We had people in LA that were literally selling their homes, moving out to the desert, believing it was the end of the world.

I thought, What is going on? So we did that as a declaration. I told my wife, “Hey, if we’re wrong, then it won’t matter. Nobody can tell us that we were wrong.”

Jen: That’s true. That’s so true.

Erwin: But we just raised our kids that you don’t make your decisions based on fear or danger.

Jen: That’s great. I love that. I learned that from you early on. I think my husband and I have chartered a really similar path in that we’re not very risk-averse, and we don’t make a lot of decisions based on fear at all. So thus, it means our kids give us a lot of panic, because apparently they listened. They picked up the message.

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: So now we’ve really got to lie in the bed we made. But I think we parent and live our life pretty similar.

So look, I’ve told my listeners a little bit about you and who you are, what it is that you do, and I’m excited. In a minute, you and I are really going to dig into the themes in the last book you wrote. But if you wouldn’t mind, just for a minute, can you take us back a little, back to before you were a pastor and a speaker and a teacher, and can you tell my listeners about where you came from and, ultimately, what shaped you toward the path that you later followed in life?

Erwin: Well, I’m from El Salvador, so I’m a first-generation immigrant. Spanish is my first language. I learned English here in the States, I became an American citizen about ten years ago.

Jen: Yeah, nice.

Erwin: I grew up in a kind of a religiously eclectic environment. My grandfather was an atheist who believed in reincarnation, and then my grandmother was a Roman Catholic who never went to Mass.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: My mom was a curious person, brought a Buddha home for a season, then studied Judaism, and decided she was Jewish. Then my stepdad, he was basically a criminal, and came out of a relationship with organized crime and things like that.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: So he was just a good, solid pagan.

Jen: Sure, sure.

Erwin: Yeah, I don’t think he had any religious inclination in any direction whatsoever…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: …other than that he was a brilliant con man. So that’s kind of the world I grew up in. I began reading science fiction at a really early age, like the age of nine or ten, so I connected to Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein. So a lot of their writings, blending physics with imagination and this futuristic perspective, kind of shaped my view of the future. I just grew up with a really vivid imagination, and really felt like there were almost no boundaries for the possibilities of the future. Then I read every mythology book in the library by the time I was twelve years old.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: I was really interested in human mythologies and the stories we tell each other about God or gods.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: Then I became a philosophy student in college, and I didn’t have any real knowledge of Christianity at all.

Jen: Right.

Erwin: I mean, I knew the name of Jesus, and I think I had warm feelings about Jesus.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: You know? I was never an anti-God person or an anti-faith person, but I was probably an anti-establishment person.

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: I was like an anarchist. I was against religion, against government, against institutions, against fraternities, anything that tried to conform people and standardize them, I was pretty much against that.

It was in the middle of all that that I found faith. My whole family came to know Jesus—my mom first, my sisters. Then my brother was an atheist, and I was the last one. It wasn’t that I was unwilling to believe in something, it was that it was really hard to wrap my mind around what I think a lot of times Christians think are really easy things to believe.

Jen: Sure. That’s a great point.

Erwin: Yeah, we say them with so much confidence, because we’ve known them all of our life. I looked like I was probably antagonistic, but I wasn’t. I was actually trying to make sense of all this. When my brother became a Christian, I was really confused, because he was a hardcore atheist and a pretty dark, hardened person.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: All of a sudden, I see him going to church and carrying a Bible, and then they all are now believers, and my little sisters are going, and they’re crying, “We don’t want you to go to hell.”

Jen: Totally.

Erwin: I’m like, “What?”

Jen: “What is happening?”

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: I felt like they had been absorbed into some kind of cult. Suddenly, they’re all in, and I’m out. I’m going, “Well, how do you know I’m going to hell? How do you know all of you are in and I’m out?” It was very confusing.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: Then they were still not living what I would consider really noble lives. So I told my brother, “If God lets you into heaven, He has no standards.”

Jen: Nice, excellent.

Erwin: Yeah, so that’s a little bit of my background. [I] came to faith in the middle of that journey. I wasn’t really sure what to do with my life. I was a straight D student first through twelfth grade.

Jen: Well done. Good job.

Erwin: I almost didn’t get into college. Well, actually, I didn’t get into college. I finally begged my way into college after…

Jen: Did you?

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: It was a different time.

Erwin: Oh, yeah. I walked into the administration office, and I convinced them to let me have a chance, because I couldn’t qualify to go to college.

Jen: Wow, and they did it?

Erwin: Yeah, and it changed my life in so many positive ways. That’s where I discovered philosophy, and I discovered I love to think. College is so different than elementary school.

Jen: It sure is. That’s a great observation.

Erwin: You grew up, and education is about conforming and memorizing and learning what everyone says is important. Then it’s almost like if I could’ve just skipped right to university…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: …where it was, for me, about exploration and possibilities and thinking at a more complex level. I felt like I was at home, but I was really searching for meaning. I didn’t know why I existed. I wanted to know if there was any meaning to life. I didn’t care about heaven or hell. Eternity was irrelevant to me. I just wanted to know if this life mattered and if I mattered, and that’s what really drove me to search for God. That’s sort of my summary.

Jen: Well, how on earth did you go from being a philosophy major and a reluctant convert to being a church guy, being a church planter, being a preacher?

Erwin: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever been a church guy, even to this day.

Jen: Yeah, that’s probably fair.

Erwin: I think that if you’re an outsider to faith, and you make a sincere determination that Jesus is who He claims to be, you really don’t have an option of a nominal faith. God has stepped into human history, and He has taken on flesh and blood and come because He created us with intention. To me, it was compelling.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: I was like, Oh, I have a reason to live.

Jen: Yeah, sure.

Erwin: I think, inside of me, I always had this heroic narrative. I wanted to do something that mattered with my life, but I couldn’t even fix my lifestyle. How was I going to save the world?

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: I felt like that was what was compelling to me about Jesus. It wasn’t that I could be saved from my own sin, and I know that’s the classic narrative. What really compelled me was my life could actually matter and make a difference in the world.

Jen: That’s good.

Erwin: And I could be a part of the healing of humanity. That really drew me into who Jesus was. Yeah, and then when it came to faith, I was going to go to Yale and go to law school, not because I wanted to be a lawyer, but because I just thought it sounded really cool.

Jen: Sure it did, especially for a straight D student. What a redemption story.

Erwin: Yeah. I was just somebody that was trying to create a story that said I mattered.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: Then when it came to faith, I was told, “You should go to seminary,” because I was really intense and really passionate.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: I had no idea what a seminary was. So my brother, who was an atheist, comes to faith, and he goes to seminary. So then I remember asking—I came to faith in Florida—”What’s the furthest west I can go?”

Jen: Nice.

Erwin: I didn’t even know Christianity had expanded across the U.S.

Jen: Oh, wow.

Erwin: So I wanted to go where the message of Jesus had not yet advanced.

Jen: Oh, that’s great.

Erwin: So I thought, What’s the furthest west I can go?

Jen: Like a pioneer.

Erwin: Yeah, and they told me Texas.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: They didn’t mention California, because they didn’t want me to get corrupted by the culture.

Jen: Sure. Of course.

Erwin: So I went to seminary in Texas, in Fort Worth.

Jen: Oh, yeah.

Erwin: Yeah, and I dropped out after a semester. It was so confusing, because I had just joined this movement that Jesus started 2000 years ago, and suddenly I was now in this really bureaucratic institution.

Jen: That’s right.

Erwin: I knew nothing about Christianity as a religion. I didn’t know there were churches. I didn’t know there were seminaries. I didn’t know that pastoring was an occupation. At first, it was just really confusing to me.

Jen: Yeah, I bet it was.

ErwinWhy are we studying the Bible like it’s an academic text, rather than trying to connect to Jesus, who’s alive in us? So I think I had this very primal faith, and now it was in a very domesticated environment. So I spent the next ten years of my life working with drug cartels and the world of drugs and prostitution, and I worked with the urban poor, and just tried to flesh out my life and my faith in that context. That’s where I spent all my twenties and early thirties, before I moved out here to LA.

And it was a really great environment. I didn’t know why I believed the Bible, and I thought, I have to find someplace where I can see if what’s written in here actually works, if it really changes people’s lives.

Jen: That’s good.

Erwin: Those ten years working with the urban poor and those ten years working in the world of gangs and drug cartels…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: …it gave me a place where I could see if these principles really worked and change people’s lives.

Jen: You discovered they did?

Erwin: Yeah. It gave me a faith that was I able to sustain.

Jen: So at that point, did you head out to LA with a clear sense of what was next for you? How did this shape up?

Erwin: Well, I think around 1983, I heard about something called pioneer penetration, and they were sending young preachers as far west as possible to go preach for a few weeks. So I signed up for that, because I really wanted to just keep going west.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: Eventually, it was going to be Tokyo.

Jen: Yeah, yeah.

Erwin: I was just going to keep going west.

Jen: Yes, yes.

Erwin: I came out to LA as I was driving through, and I just had this very mystical kind of moment about Los Angeles, that I was an urbanologist and that I was studying global movements, the movements of cultural and social patterns. I made a determination that Los Angeles was the epicenter of the future, that it was the capital of the future.

I found this letter by Karl Marx that he sent to a friend in LA, and he said, “Send me everything about Los Angeles you can, for it is the future of capitalism.”

I felt like if I were going to give my entire life to some singular place, I wanted it to be wherever the future was emerging, and it felt like Los Angeles was the most influential city in the world. That’s why I made the decision to move here, wow, about thirty-five years ago.

Jen:  How long were you in LA before MOSAIC started to take shape?

Erwin: That’s a great question, because when people ask me when MOSAIC started, I’m never really sure, because I didn’t come out here to start MOSAIC. I didn’t come out here to be a pastor, to be honest with you. I asked my wife if I should be a pastor, and she told me, “No.”

Jen: There we are with the encouragement.

Erwin: Yeah, she was very clear.

Jen: Yeah, yeah.

Erwin: We’d been married about five years.

Jen: For sure.

Erwin: So I started working as a futurist, and I started looking for companies, corporations, universities, even denominations. I felt like I was more suited to try to find organizations that knew they needed to move into the future and were willing to pay the price to make those transitions.

And as I started working with denominations and churches, I realized that the problem in the church was that the church was living so far in the past that if you talked to them about the present, for them, it’s the future.

Jen: Right, right, great point.

Erwin: That’s why when a lot of people go, “Well, what do you do as a futurist?”, I go, “All you have to do is see the present clearly.”

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: “Because most people are living in the past.”

Jen: That’s a great point.

Erwin: So MOSAIC wasn’t something I came here to do. I was doing some other things. I was working on concept films, and what really happened in the middle of all that was that I was involved in a church. My wife and I were going. I would fall asleep every Sunday.

Jen: Riveting place.

Erwin: Yeah. She would tell me, “You can’t fall asleep.” Then they’d ask me to speak, and I’d fall asleep before I would speak.

Jen: Oh, gosh. Oh, wow.

Erwin: I said, “I never developed the muscle that endures boredom, because I didn’t grow up in church.”

Jen: Totally! Yeah! I have such muscle memory for church boredom.

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: I got my PhD in it.

Erwin: So, out of that, I started doing some experimenting. The church asked me to become the pastor. The former pastor stayed. We were invited to become the pastor of this church. It took us a year, because my wife has just said, “I don’t think you should do this.”

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: We finally said, “You don’t have to vote unanimously. We’ll say yes,” and they did. But we didn’t realize that wasn’t really true, and it didn’t go well. We did a five, six-year kind of transition. I started MOSAIC out of that.

Jen: Got it.

Erwin: Mostly because I realized most of the people in this congregation are really good, kind people, but they’re far more committed to preserving a culture than creating one. So I had a friend, and we found a nightclub in downtown LA that Prince used to own.

Jen: Nice.

Erwin: In about 1998, we started gathering there, and it was a lot of fun. It was in this really rogue nightclub. It was nasty as can be.

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: I mean, we’d have to use double rubber gloves to clean it up, and you’d find hypodermic needles everywhere,  condoms everywhere, and we’d clean it up every Sunday and start having a gathering there. For years, MOSAIC was really underground.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: We wouldn’t let Christians come from other churches.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: I would do events where we had bouncers at the door, and if you were a Christian, you were not allowed to come in unless you had a friend who didn’t believe.

Jen: Oh my gosh.

Erwin: Then when we had too many people coming, because they’d find us, we’d relocate without any notice. I was really not trying to do something conventional.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: I was really trying to create a space for people like me and my friends, who just didn’t believe in Jesus because of the environments of Christianity. I wasn’t against Christianity. I wasn’t against traditional church. I was just for the people that I knew who needed a different way of experiencing who Jesus was.

Jen: So, I mean, this probably goes without saying at this point, having heard its origin story, but MOSAIC is obviously a very unique faith community. I was telling our listeners, before you and I hopped on, that your vision was creating a faith space where people could just belong as they are, how they are, where they are. There are no prerequisites, no even unspoken rules. You know the unspoken rules where, on its face, a faith community says, “You’re welcome,” but in practice, there are several marks you have to hit before you really belong.

So you sort of eschewed that, and rejected that premise and then, obviously, tried really hard to thin the crowd. So that did not work at all. Congratulations on completely missing that mark. So how did this start going? How did this start working for you? I’m so curious about your fellow pastors in the city, what’s their response? What’s the response of the Christian community when you’re not doing stuff they’re doing? You’re not keeping track of how many people get saved every week. You’re not doing some of this stuff, some of the marks that institutionalized Christianity holds dear. So I’m curious, number one, how it started growing, and number two, how you and your crew were perceived in the city.

Erwin: Well, yeah. I don’t know if it was how we were perceived in the city, because LA is such a massive city that we always realized most of the city didn’t even know we existed.

Jen: True.

Erwin: I think, a lot of times, we all have almost like a narcissistic sense of fame. We think everybody knows we’re here…

Jen: Right. That’s a good point.

Erwin: …and that we’re really important. I just always knew that maybe one percent of the city was vaguely aware that we existed in some way.

Jen: Okay. So that’s probably more accurate. Yes.

Erwin: So I don’t think we’ve ever had that sense of our own importance. I think that the larger conversation was really with more Christianity, you know? And the upside for us is, for a long time, [was that] no one even knew what we were doing. So it didn’t really matter.

I think then 20/20 or somebody did something, something happened that made people more aware of us. And that was a challenging time for us, because I think almost immediately I became a heretic. The thing is that I’m a lot older than a lot of the young heretics that are out there.

Jen: Sure, sure. That’s great.

Erwin: I’m sixty-one. So I was doing stuff forty years ago…

Jen: That’s a good point.

Erwin: …and that was way before you had all these younger, progressive churches. The stuff they’re doing now…

Jen: That’s a good point.

Erwin: …everyone goes, “Hey, that’s awesome.” When we were doing it, it was, “Hey, that’s heresy.”

Jen: Right. Totally.

Erwin: So it was a very, very different world. I just went ahead and had to accept the fact that I wasn’t really designed for fame inside of Christianity or popularity, that that wasn’t why I wanted to live my life, because those things are kind of fleeting.

Jen: For sure. In the meantime, they’re corrosive. So for the minute that you have, they can really, really corrode what was genuine or sincere or honest inside of us.

Erwin: Yeah. So I didn’t come to LA because I thought, Oh, LA would be a great place to be really popular in the Christian world. Most of the decisions we made, in fact, all of them, really went counter-institutional acceptance.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: We named the church MOSAIC over twenty years ago. I didn’t say church. I had people saying, “Are you ashamed of the church? Why didn’t you put church in the name?”

Jen: Of course.

Erwin: I would tell them, “Well, I’m a human, but I don’t have that on my shirt. I just assume you know who I am by the very essence of what I am.”

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: “The reason we add church to churches is because we’re not clearly church to people without God.”

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: I’m not trying to target Christians.

Jen: That’s a good point.

Erwin: You put church on there because you want to let Christians know you’re supposed to go there.

Jen: That’s a great point.

Erwin: I said, “We’re on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard, and it just says MOSAIC. No one knows it’s a church until some human has contact with another human, and you experience church happen through real life.”

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: So it’s kind of a different dynamic. We were doing that thirty years ago, and most of the decisions we made, like our website, we didn’t put together a website that explained to Christians who we were. Some people are, “Look, MOSAIC, they don’t even acknowledge all this,” or “They deny all this.” I went, “I’m not creating a website to let Christians know we’re orthodox.”

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: “I’m creating a website to let people who are searching for God know there’s a place they can safely process these things.”

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: We did a survey like three years ago on Easter, and we had over 1,000 people who said they were atheist, but they were open. If there was a God, they wanted to find Him. There were other atheists who were not open.

Jen: That’s interesting.

Erwin: But a huge part of our community are people who are openly atheist, or agnostic or Buddhist or Hindu, and that’s how they come in.

We have a lot of Muslims who come to MOSAIC. A lot of times, when people say, “You can belong before you believe,” those are all statements that came out of our culture thirty years ago that now are becoming more normal phrases in Christianity. The problem is that you can take on the phrase without taking on the culture. I think that’s a part of the dilemma. If you come to MOSAIC and you’re a really like, I don’t know, solid Christian, you will feel that you’re outnumbered.

Jen: Interesting. Right.

Erwin: That’s a part of the cultural differences, because, a lot of times, people tell me, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t feel comfortable here.” And I go, “Oh, you come from Michigan, from a church. Right?”  They go, “Yeah, how’d you know?” [And I say], “It’s because you’re used to being in a room where everyone agrees with you.”

Jen: Totally.

Erwin: “You’re in a room right now where people are so different than you, that you’re the minority.”

Jen: Which is rare. I mean, that’s rare for the average American Christian to be in a faith community where they feel like the minority. It’s just rare. That’s not our way. We are much more comfortable in a homogenous room, where, at the bare minimum, we’re not that challenged. I think American Christians like to be challenged, but only in certain categories, just enough to sort of keep our feet slightly to the fire, but not really enough to change our lives, not really enough to change the way we’re living in our cities and in our neighborhoods, for sure, or even thinking about Who is my neighbor? Talk about thinning the crowd. That’s one way to do it.

I wonder if we could talk for a minute about your last book. The title is intriguing. You titled the book The Way of the Warrior, but then your subtitle is this opposite feeling. It’s an opposite energy: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace. So it’s interesting how you’ve juxtaposed these two ideas.

I read, correct me if I’m wrong, that you used the metaphor of the warrior because, essentially, it’s a battle to attain peace, not this sort of passive—I don’t know what—that if we’re just still or we just close our eyes more or whatever the things are, we can achieve peace. But I think you’re asserting that we’re in for a real struggle here, that we’re in for a real battle to find peace inside our troubled souls, and this is a year where we need it.

I find this message really timely, really important. Peace feels a little bit like the opposite of what most of us are experiencing right now, what our culture feels and sounds like. So can you talk just a little bit, from a high level, about this whole idea—the title, the theme, the process, your convictions, moving into this space?

Erwin: Yeah, absolutely. I didn’t know the book was going to be about mental health, but so much of the book is actually about mental health. It really, for me, stems out of my own personal struggles, my own personal battles. I feel like a lot of times, when a person is struggling with anxiety or stress or depression, they feel like they’re weak, and I wanted to go, “No, no, actually, you’re a warrior. These are the deepest battles of your life.”

Jen: That’s good. That’s great.

Erwin: “This is the most important engagement you’ll ever take on.” I guess we all have some emotional and maybe life equity, and, for whatever reason, having lived the life I’ve lived, people see me as a person who is more of a risk-taker and adventurer…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: …and courageous, and I go, “I want to crack that nut and let you know that, underneath the courage, there are all these struggles with fear. Underneath living a life that’s fulfilling, there’s all this internal narrative of self-doubt.”

So if I could be aspirational for anyone, I did not want to be unattainable. I wanted people to go, “Hey, this is what I’ve gone through.” I mean, my wife is having coffee right now with someone who writes psychological thrillers, but she works with child trauma, and that’s where she gets a lot of her novels.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: My wife’s like, “Hey, I’m going to talk to her.” I said, “Go ahead and ask her,” because, see, I struggle with night terrors, but even in the daytime.

Jen: Wow. Still, to this day?

Erwin: Still. Yeah, last week, while I was in Copenhagen, I called my son and said, “Get to the room. I’m dying. Get here fast.”

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: “I want to say goodbye.” He’s running in an elevator, running to me, like, “Dad, you’ve got to get help.”

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: So this is real for me.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: It’s really rooted in childhood trauma. It’s rooted in stuff I’ve dealt with all my life, and I had to go speak less than an hour later.

Jen: Wow. Gosh.

Erwin: I was shaking, because the feeling of imminent death is as real as you could imagine. I’ve died 1,000 times, and I know the sorrow of feeling, “Okay, this is my moment to say goodbye to my family. This is the last breath I’m going to have.” I used to have to sleep in hotel rooms with my door cracked open so they could find me in the morning.

Jen: Gosh.

Erwin: This is stuff I think, a lot of times, people who are, quote, spiritually respected and who are spiritual leaders, they just don’t talk about this stuff.

Jen: Totally.

Erwin: I just decided, as much as possible, my life’s going to be an open book with its imperfections, and the things that don’t connect for people, I’m just going to live with it, because I think I can help more people by being as transparent and authentic as possible.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: So I wrote this book because it’s probably the greatest challenge I’ve taken on in my life. I’m actually genuinely a person who lives with an immense amount of happiness. I have a huge amount of fulfillment, but, at the same time, I have this massive sense of disconnection, where I feel overwhelmed by loneliness and separation from everything in the universe.

Jen: Yes.

Erwin: I have this neurological challenge where I can’t stop data from going into my mind, and I don’t have the natural data filters. It’s really helpful to me in that I can remember things in massive detail even forty years later, and reconstruct a room and tell you where everybody’s sitting and give everybody’s name.

Jen: Wow. Yeah.

Erwin: At the same time, I’m in a fetal position, because I can’t stop it, and I’m almost going insane. So I wrote the book going, “No, I want to help people struggle through the struggle of inner peace.”

I have a thirty-one year old son, and a twenty-seven year old daughter, and I know both of them are really whole and beautiful people. They know they both have had to face the challenges of inadequacy or fear or anxiety, and I lead this community of twenty-six year olds. They’re the most gifted, talented, extraordinary people in the world, and I watch them, paralyzed, because of their sense of fear.

Jen: Absolutely.

Erwin: I see people having panic attacks.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: So I thought, This is probably one of the most important issues that we can deal with. I wrote the book as The Way of the Warrior because, one, I don’t think a guy’s ever going to pick up a book and walk with it that says, “I’m emotionally struggling” or “Help me.” I wanted a guy to go, or any woman to go, “I can carry a book called The Way of the Warrior. This is actually a battle. This is the most important battle.”

Jen: Yes.

Erwin: “I’m living my most heroic life, at the same time, dealing with the issues of inner peace and those inner struggles.”

Jen: Yeah. I appreciate your candor. We fortunately are receiving more and more instruction and resources toward mental health and the real battle toward it for so many people in the world. Our teachers are emerging, and data is emerging, and research is emerging. So we’re talking about this more than ever. This is no longer sort of a fringe conversation, but it’s found its way to the mainstream, which is so good for the health of the people.

However, as you mentioned earlier, the church is primarily living fifty years ago, at best. So I haven’t found that that sense of frankness has reached the church yet. We’re not hearing it from our spiritual leaders, hardly ever. Now, we’re hearing it from our other teachers in the world, and thank goodness for it, because it’s served us so well.

But you are right that there’s almost two layers that we can expect from our faith leaders, or that we would hope from our faith leaders. One is, “I will speak about this in general terms, primarily talking about other people,” but then the inner, I mean, the core bullseye, to me, is what you’re doing, which is, “I will not only speak about this in true terms, but in my own personal experience,” which may or may not be something people know about you or know that’s true in your own life.

So, to me, that’s really where change happens. That’s where real leadership lives, because now you’re telling the truth, and you’re being vulnerable. I’m invited into that. That draws me to you. It does not push me away from you at all.

So I can only imagine what the response has been. What has it looked like, putting that message, that personal experience, and then ultimately that hope out into the world? What has the response been, and has it surprised you at all?

Erwin: Actually, probably the surprise for me is that the book really hasn’t connected yet deeply in the Christian faith. My writings tend to first sell to people who don’t have faith.

Jen: Yes.

Erwin: They move slowly toward people who have faith. So I’m not the person whose books you would have found at LifeWay or the Christian bookstore. You just would never find my books in a Christian bookstore.

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: So, ironically, this book is so helpful to people who have faith, but it hasn’t yet hit that culture. I’ve gotten a phenomenal response from people around the world, and so I’m hoping eventually it translates in, because I do think that those of us who are in this faith are some of the ones who desperately need to have this conversation.

Jen: Yeah, I agree.

Erwin: It’s not just to acknowledge it. I didn’t write the book just to go, “Hey, I feel the same thing you feel.” I wrote the book to go, “Hey, I’ve actually been here…”

Jen: Yes.

Erwin: “…and I know how to get through this.”

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: “There is a process, and there are principles involved that can help you get past this.” I don’t want people to get stuck, because I joke, but I say, “Look, the most uninteresting people in the world are people who have never suffered and people who are trapped in their suffering…”

Jen: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah.

Erwin: “…because if all you can do is talk about your pain, you’re a very uninteresting person.”

Jen: Yes.

Erwin: I think a huge part of it is you have to see your pain as the material from which God makes you a healer.

Jen: That’s good.

Erwin: I think that’s a huge part of the process…

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: …of even the way of the warrior, which is, for me, really exciting.

Jen: That’s so great.

Jen:  Can you talk a little bit more—I mean, you obviously can’t talk through it all, it’s an entire book’s worth—what some of the practices and processes are? What are some elements that you offer as paver stones, kind of, out of the desert?

Erwin: Yeah. Well, there are two frequencies in the book that I don’t usually talk about, because one frequency is for the person who’s just sucking air and going, How do I get myself back out of bed…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin…and begin to have a positive posture toward life? Then in the middle of the book, there’s another frequency that deals with self-mastery. I couldn’t call it self-mastery, because the moment I said, “Look, there’s a whole section in this book that’s on self-mastery,” they said, “Well, you can’t talk about self-mastery in the Christian world,” because it’s supposed to be only Christ-mastery. Right?

Jen: Oh, sure. Oh, got it.

Erwin: I’m like, “But self-mastery is where the key is to my own life.”

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: I don’t know how you can avoid the principles.

Jen: Right.

Erwin: If you look at world-class violinists or world-class painters…

Jen: Of course.

Erwin: …you understand they have mastery.

Jen: Yes.

Erwin: But then somehow, we’re not able to talk about self-mastery.

Jen: Right. So did you have to rename it?

Erwin: Well, there are three chapters in the middle. One’s on energy, and one’s on ownership, and one’s on mindset.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: That trilogy is actually the core of self-mastery…

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: …because when I looked at my life over six years, I said, “Okay.” I knew people who read the Bible, who prayed, who went to church, and crashed and burned.

Jen: Sure. Of course.

Erwin: I’m going, “Everything everybody tells you to do doesn’t stop you from crashing and burning.” I don’t care how many verses you memorize, or how often you read the Bible every day, or how much you pray. If you do not apply certain principles to your life, you will still crash and burn.

Jen: Right.

Erwin: We’re just not honest about these things. So I wanted to just unwrap those and go, “No, your mindset and the filter through which you see reality has more impact on your life than anything else.” The reason memorizing the Scriptures might be important is because it shapes your mindset. But a lot of us just see it as almost like a ritual, rather than a construction.

Jen: That’s good.

Erwin: Even ownership, when it’s significant, tells whether a person will actually become a failure. Is there language about ownership? When a person is constantly blaming others or blaming the environment or blaming society or blaming the church, you can know that person is incapable of moving past whatever crisis they’re in in their life.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: When a person begins to take personal ownership, what’s crazy is that even when it’s not your fault, it’s still your responsibility, which is so unfair.

Jen: Yeah, right. Great.

Erwin: So I was on a psychiatric trip by the time I was twelve years old. I was in and out of a hospital that whole year. I began suffering from psychosomatic issues, probably from the age of seven or eight years old. I never knew my real father. I was told my stepfather was my real father and later discovered it wasn’t true.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: I lived with an alias almost all of my life. I wasn’t born Erwin McManus. It was an alias. I was married. I had a son, and they were McManus. I legally changed my name because they had the name that was not really my name.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: I mean, I have every reason to live my life with a massive crisis of identity.

Jen: Totally.

Erwin: One of the things I had to learn very early on is if I spend my energy blaming other people, I do not have the energy to change my life.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: So ownership, it’s the smallest chapter in the book and maybe the most important in the book.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: The other one is energy. Everybody always talks about time management. I’m not sure where, but early in my life, I just discovered that energy management was way more important than time management.

Jen: Oh, that’s good.

Erwin: I love sports, and I used to watch this athlete named Jim Brown. He would explode whenever he took the ball, but when he would get tackled, he would walk back to the huddle as if he was dying. Every time he got up, you thought, Oh, he’s never going to run again.

JenThat’s it. He’s out. Yeah.

Erwin: I realized, watching him, that he had this instinct for energy management. A lot of times what you watch, with basketball players, you see these young players, and they’re celebrating every time they make a layup. They’re celebrating every small victory. Then, by the fourth quarter, they don’t have the energy to close out the game.

Jen: They’re out of gas. Yeah.

Erwin: I’m a huge Clippers fan. You have Kawhi Leonard, who is probably the master of energy conservation. He doesn’t celebrate. He doesn’t really complain. Actually, he looks like he’s half-asleep, and then he scores thirty points and wins the game in the last two minutes.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: You can see this everywhere in life. As a speaker, I used to travel and speak like crazy, and I am actually an extreme introvert.

Jen: Are you?

Erwin: Yeah. Very, very much so. But I knew that introversion would limit my effectiveness in certain arenas.

Jen: Yeah, that’s right.

Erwin: So I told myself, I don’t have the luxury of being introverted or extroverted. I need to be introverted when I have the opportunity, and I need to be extroverted when that will maximize the opportunity.

Jen: Totally. That’s how I do my work.

Erwin: Yeah. So when I would speak, people would be really thinking, Oh, there’s nothing going to happen onstage, because I’m just really quiet and understated. But the moment you hit that platform, you pull that energy reserve up. When you’re speaking thirty times in twenty-six days or in fifteen days…

Jen: Oh, gosh.

Erwin: …you have to learn how to manage your energy. So I learned very early on. I write books really fast, and I wrote one of my first books, The Barbarian Way, in ten hours.

Jen: Did you really? What are you talking about?

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: This is sorcery!

Erwin: No, I write really, really fast…

Jen: You must.

Erwin: …and I edit while I write. So those ten hours include all the editing for the book.

Jen: I don’t even know what to say about that.

Erwin: The first book I wrote, An Unstoppable Force, actually was a book that won an award, and I wrote in twenty-four hours.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: But I write in three-hour increments.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: And I go at it so hard, if I’m going slow, I can write ten pages an hour, and if I hit a zone, I can write thirty pages an hour.

Jen: Wow. Gosh.

Erwin: Then I’m fried, and I’m jello.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: I’m worthless.

Jen: Yep, totally.

Erwin: My family hates me, because they tell me I’m inhumane. I don’t have any energy for kindness.

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: I don’t have any energy for diplomacy. “I don’t care if I was a part of giving you birth. You need to get out of my way, because I don’t have anything.” I have to go reenergize.

Jen: Oh, yeah. Totally. So relatable.

Erwin: My wife has just had to adjust over the years. So you have to find the things that energize you. I love playing basketball. I’m sixty-one. I still play basketball.

Jen: Yeah, great.

Erwin: But a lot of it is because of the neurological condition I have. When I’m playing basketball, I block everything out. I get more rest in two hours of basketball than I do in eight hours of sleep.

Jen: I get what you’re saying.

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: Rest isn’t necessarily being still or slow.

Erwin: No!

Jen: Yes. It’s more like a replenishing of your reserves.

Erwin: Right.

Jen: I deeply understand this. I’m introverted, and I do similar work as you. So I have found—my community has laughed at me sometimes, when I’m in a really busy season of travel—travel, for me, is what takes out of me the most, travel and then that level of energy that teaching and speaking requires.

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: So I come home a monster, just like you just said. I’m an absolute monster. I’m so depleted. There’s nothing left. But, ironically, instead of just sitting in a room by myself, which I also like sometimes—I like that occasionally, but I try to get my friends. “Can everybody just come over? Can you come over and sit on my porch with me? We’ll just sit around in our yoga pants, and we’re going to have some wine. We can just talk about nonsense.”

So I’m still with people, but something about that is replenishing to me. That adds the energy back in my reserve. So I understand exactly what you mean.

In the book, are these the kind of tools that you are putting in the hands of readers, like getting them to imagine their tank as like an energy equation?

Erwin: Yes, because again, if you come out of the faith, everything is so standardized. You need to have your hour of prayer, your hour of Bible study, to get up at this time in the morning, do this. I’m going, “No, you need to understand the rhythm of your soul.” And you need to know if you’re replenished when you’re around two or three friends…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: …or if you’re replenished when you’re in a room of fifty people.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: So you need to understand what actually drains your energy or draws energy out of you and what replenishes your energy. See, I love cooking, and I love having people in the backyard.

Jen: Oh, yeah. Me, too.

Erwin: That actually replenishes me.

Jen: Same.

Erwin: Yeah, it looks like work, but I’m having the time of my life.

Jen: Oh, absolutely the same. I look forward to it. Five o’clock, that’s it. It’s time to cook. Get me an onion. Let me put some music on. It’s the greatest part of my day.

Erwin: You have to give yourself permission to do things you enjoy.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: I think that’s been an understated part of faith. It’s almost as if laughter and joy and enjoying life is a non-sacred space.

Jen: Oh. Oh, you’re so right. Oh, you’re singing my song. Well, we get that message, both overtly and subtly, that faithfulness kind of looks like torture, and it’s just not true. It’s just not real. I will never believe it. I will never believe that God did not create this world, in its beauty and gorgeousness and people in their beauty and gorgeousness, to just delight us. I will not believe anything less than that. So I appreciate you saying that and giving people the liberation that they may need to embrace that part of their lives.

I love that your church, in the way that it is, is thriving and growing. Because it makes sense to me that, in the way in which you embrace people, that they may eventually embrace God. That path seems reasonable and right to me. So you’ve got, is it eight campuses, total? You’ve got the main one in LA, and you’ve got a location in Mexico City. Is that right? Can you talk about that?

Erwin: We do. Oh, yeah. I actually don’t know how many campuses we have.

Jen: That’s great. How great for the senior pastor to be real fuzzy on that detail. That’s fantastic.

Erwin: It’s way more than I could ever manage.

Jen: Sure.

Erwin: Our campus in Mexico City has been so amazing. We opened it up a year and a half ago.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: I think they have about 1,500 people who come.

Jen: That’s amazing. Wow. Gosh.

Erwin: Yeah. It was just ridiculous how many people. I went there recently, and there were almost 2,000 people in the room that day.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: It was just jam-packed.

Jen: That’s awesome.

Erwin: It’s instantly multi-generational—which I’m shocked, because usually, MOSAIC reaches a young [audience].

Jen: Right.

Erwin: But in Mexico City, all the young people bring their parents and their grandparents.

Jen: Oh my gosh, I love it.

Erwin: It’s almost as if they’d been waiting for three generations for something that really spoke to them at a deep and a human level. So we have an incredible family who moved down there with their little boy. They started from scratch, and it has been incredible. In about three weeks, we’re launching a campus in Quito, Ecuador.

Jen: Oh, yay!

Erwin: It’s really amazing, because I went down there and did a pre-event, and the couple who’s starting it, he’s a filmmaker with his wife, they said, “Could we do an event where we do not allow any Christians to come?,” which, of course, I said that would be great.

Jen: Right. That’s your love language. Sure.

Erwin: They had over 400 people show up, just based on business and social relationships.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: So now we’re doing a launch, and they did RSVP, because they don’t know how to start a church, because they’ve never done anything like that.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: So they went ahead and RSVP’d for the launch of their church, and they have over 1,000 people who’ve already RSVP’d.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: So we’re going down there. It’s going to be so beautiful. I think one of the unique things in our church is that we go after people who are in that category of innovators…

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: …early adopters, creatives, artists.

Jen: Yep.

Erwin: So we go after people that other people think are unreachable. That’s what happened in Mexico City. We went to the area called Polanco, Condesa, Roma, Juarez. They’re the culture shapers. It’s the Hollywood of Mexico.

Jen: Okay, yeah.

Erwin: Then some of this for me is I realized I cannot reach everyone. In fact, I’m in shock when someone actually says, “Hey, I listened to your podcast or listened to you speak.” Over the years, I’ve realized that my frequency is a very, very thin frequency. I don’t reach a lot of people, but I know my frequency is the frequency of people who are explorers and innovators, and they’re more entrepreneurial. That’s MOSAIC’s stewardship.

Jen: Totally.

Erwin: Usually, mega churches are really good at reaching the mainstream.

Jen: Oh, right. Of course.

Erwin: That just was never our intention. Our hope was to create a level of communication and a kind of community where people go, “Well, I would have never considered God, but this makes sense.”

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: “I never thought I would even consider Jesus, but this makes sense to me.” What I think is interesting about MOSAIC is we have some people who are on this whole business management stuff, business consulting, Fortune 500 company stuff.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: They’re always coming and going, “What we get at MOSAIC, we get for free, and we have to pay $50,000 to get this at work.”

Jen: Wow. Oh my goodness. Wow.

Erwin: That really was my hope.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: That we could create the highest level of thinking at MOSAIC, that you may not believe in God, but you can’t walk away from MOSAIC going, “They don’t think as deeply as I do.”

Jen: That’s great. That’s great. That’s fantastic. What’s next? What’s next for you in MOSAIC? What are some of the dreams you still have for the community and for the church as it expands and goes into new cities and new countries? What gets you still excited? What helps you keep your foot on the gas here?

Erwin: Oh, we have so much going. We had the biggest failure of our life last year, in terms of actual ministry, because we have this property on Hollywood Boulevard. We tried to raise twenty million to buy it, and we just did not succeed. It was so hard to have to stand in front of our community and go, “Hey, we tried to buy this property. We just came too short.”

We had all these development companies who thought, “Oh, it’s going to be so easy for MOSAIC to raise money to buy this property.”

Jen: Interesting.

Erwin: It’s the last tax-exempt property in LA.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: And it’s on Hollywood Boulevard.

Jen: Totally.

Erwin: Something coming up this year, we don’t know what’s going to happen to us in Hollywood. We’re kind of week to week, and we may have to relocate. We’ve been in Hollywood for ten years.

Jen: Wow.

Erwin: We were the largest church in Hollywood within one year, because Hollywood was just so unreachable.

Jen: Yeah, sure.

Erwin: So some of the exciting part is when you don’t know where you’re going, I mean, something new and extraordinary is going to emerge.

Jen: Absolutely.

Erwin: So we’re just going to keep at it. We hope eventually we can move to places that have really almost been difficult to reach, like Tokyo, Japan, and Paris. There’s just certain places in the world that I feel like our approach toward church and toward faith could really make a difference and reach people.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: That’s some of the things I hope will happen more and more.

On a personal level, I’ve been working on a graphic novel for a year.

Jen: Oh, yeah? Wow.

Erwin: So hopefully it’ll be out this next year. It’s ancient Persian mythology.

Jen: What in the world?

Erwin: So I’m excited about that.

Jen: It’s your old twelve year old self, pulling out those library books.

Erwin: Yep, there he goes. So it’s been fun, but it’s taken over a year, a year and a half. I found a Persian artist in Iran who’s doing the artwork.

Jen: Woo, awesome. Wow.

Erwin: I think, from that, he’s going to be able to get his visa.

Jen: Oh, are you serious?

Erwin: Yes.

Jen: That must feel pretty electric to do something for the love of it, outside of everything else that you do. I know anytime I put my hand to something that doesn’t fit tightly inside the confines of ministry or faith or church or whatever, the kind of leadership spaces that I occupy, it’s just fun. It’s just fun to do something for the love of it, for the fun of it, for the creativity of it that I find that rising tide lifts all the boats in my harbor.

Erwin: Yep.

Jen: I’m always glad that I make some space for it.

Erwin: My daughter, her band, MSC, are recording a new album tonight and tomorrow. So it’ll come out next spring.

Jen: Awesome.

Erwin: So they have a new album coming out.

Jen: What’s the style? What’s the genre?

Erwin: Oh, I don’t know what their genre is.

Jen: Okay.

Erwin: Mariah’s really eclectic. My daughter, she’s informed by R&B and soul and electronica.

Jen: Okay. Yeah.

Erwin: So the music is really eclectic. The band is the most diverse band you could imagine. I mean, it’s Puerto Rican, Tongan, Salvadorian, African American. So it’s incredibly diverse, and so the music reflects that.

Jen: What did you call it? What did you say the name of her band was?

Erwin: Oh, the band is called MOSAIC, MSC.

Jen: Okay, got it. Yay!

Erwin: Yeah. MSC is “mosaic” and “music” without the vowels.

Jen: There it is.

Erwin: Then my son and I just started a TV show on the Hillsong Channel called McManus, and the first episode just aired in the third week of January. It was on pro-life, pro choice.

Jen: Oh, dear. You’re just going right in.

Erwin: Yep, yep, and it’s funny, because we’re already getting so much hate.

Jen: Well, then you must be doing it right.

Erwin: I told my son, “We’ve got to have some hate, or the show won’t have any legs.”

Jen: Oh my gosh. I’m dying laughing. That’s so relatable.

Erwin: But I’m excited about that, because they want an immigration [episode] already.

Jen: Yeah.

Erwin: We’re trying to talk about real issues.

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: We’re dealing with one on suicide, depression, and mental health.

Jen: Yep.

Erwin: Aaron and I have had a podcast called Battle Ready for about a year, and what we found is the podcasts we’ve done on things like mental health and on just gritty life issues have had such an impact, because there’s very few places where you can have faith and just talk honestly. I mean, I know you do that all the time, but I think you know that you’re also a very rare person, creating a rare space for people.

Jen: Right, right, right. May there be more. May we create as many spaces in our lifetime as we possibly can. I would love to see the reemergence of spiritual curiosity as a value again and not as a deterrent, but rather something that is central to people of faith, who have permission to ask challenging and hard questions, not afraid to press on the forms, not afraid of the answers. I don’t think God’s going to fall out of the sky on our watch. I’m just convinced of it.

So I hope that we lead people to not be afraid, that there is nothing to fear here inside of faith, inside of spiritual curiosity, inside of our search for God in our generation. This is a place to be wild with energy and courage and enthusiasm, because there’s nothing to fear of God.

Jen:  And so let me ask you this. We’re going to wrap it up. Top of your head, this is probably hard to answer, so you could just pick one. I’m asking everybody in this faith series these questions.

Erwin: Okay.

Jen: Who’s one of your biggest mentors in the faith?

Erwin: Wow!

Jen: Yeah, I know that’s hard to pin down.

Erwin: Yeah. It’s just that all my answers go somewhere really bizarre.

en: That’s fine. Good.

Erwin: I would say Viktor Frankl.

Jen: Oh, good.

Erwin: Yeah.

Jen: Good. Good one. How about this one? If you have one, if you could ask, do you have a question for God?

Erwin: Oh, wow. I guess I immediately think I can’t ask.

Jen: Yeah, you can’t ask. That’s true. You can’t ask. You are correct.

Erwin: Yeah. Maybe if I could ask, “Could You speak a little more clearly?”

Jen: Yes. That’s my question, too. “How’d Your voice get so muddy?” That’s a good one. Okay, here’s the last one. I ask every guest in every single series this question. I originally read it from Barbara Brown Taylor. I don’t know if you’ve read any of her work, but she is really special. Anyway, you can answer this however you want to answer it. We get answers running the gamut from really serious and sober-minded things to the silliest thing you’ve ever heard. The question is: What is saving your life right now?

Erwin: Wow. What is saving my life right now? Well, I’m going to answer the question with an answer that just came in my head. Right now, my scooter.

Jen: Your scooter? Tell us more.

Erwin: I just love driving down the streets as fast as I can, with the wind blowing against my face…

Jen: That’s great.

Erwin: …just the introversion of being on that bike by myself…

Jen: So great.

Erwin: …but the extroversion of getting to see all the world around me. My wife and my daughter, my family, bought it for me, because they just know I love speed.

Jen: Fantastic. You’re the first official podcast guest with the scooter answer, and I love it. I hope you retain the throne as long as possible.

Erwin, thank you for being on the show today. Thank you for speaking so candidly about so many areas, both in life and in faith and in church, that sometimes have just become stale inside of institutions. I love talking to a leader who just energizes my thinking and pushes me to reconsider and imagine a way, imagine a new space, and you are that leader. You’ve always been that leader, which is why I have listened to you and watched you and paid attention for so long. So thanks for being exactly who you are and making your mark on this world in the way that you’re doing. It’s awesome, just awesome, to watch.

Erwin: Hey, thank you, Jen. I’m so glad to have the conversation with you. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet you face-to-face someday soon.

Jen: Absolutely. Let’s make that happen. Next time, when I’m in LA.

Erwin: Absolutely. Hey, thank you so much.

Jen: You, too.

Isn’t he great? Just absolutely marching to the beat of his own drum. And I so admire leaders like Erwin, who care nothing for rules and conventions, who are not interested in fame or Christian notoriety, who aren’t interested in building a church just so that other Christians can come to it. Everything he said speaks to me. Everything that he values feels meaningful to me and special. So I love knowing that there are leaders like this out in the world right now, just doing their part and leading well and serving well.

I mentioned at the top of the hour, gosh, we did not even get to talk about how beautifully and meaningfully the MOSAIC community in general serves—how they serve the city, how they serve the poor, how they serve the world. It’s a real model that Brandon and I have learned from for years.

So we’ll have everything Erwin-related over on jenhatmaker.com, where we house all the podcast stuff. The transcript is over there. This whole conversation will be written out, if you want to read it or cut and paste. I’ll have links to everything, links to all Erwin’s books and MOSAIC and their communities and all of it. It’s a one-stop shop over there.

Thank you for listening. Thanks for sharing these conversations that you are loving. We really appreciate your feedback. Feedback on the faith series has been really, really high. Engagement has been really, really high, and we pay attention to every single comment, every single word you say. So thank you for staying engaged. Thank you for downloading and rating and reviewing and subscribing to the podcast. Just grateful, you guys. So super grateful. More to come, more to come.

So come back next week, I will bring you another awesome conversation, and I look forward to hearing your feedback on it. Okay, guys. Have a great day.

Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!