An Interview with Erwin McManus

found on the Monday Morning Insight blog.
An Interview with Erwin McManus

What does it mean to be a spiritual leader in the world of Hollywood? Erwin McManus declares Los Angeles as the capital of the future. As the leader behind Mosaic, he has a lot of profound thoughts about the role of the church, creativity, and risk-taking for the Christian in today’s culture. In this insightful interview with Infuze Magazine, McManus shares more about the role of creativity, why the church lacks innovators, and gives us the details of his upcoming book..

Matt: You’re in arguably the creative center of the world. What is it like to be a pastor there?

Erwin: Wow. It is a different world. I guess I don’t think of myself as a pastor in this setting. I think being a human who lives a life that others might be interested in and attracted to and having a journey that others feel is authentic and really connects to God. That’s really why I’m here. I’m trying to live out the life that Jesus talks about, hopefully in a context where people will go, “Maybe this is real.”

Okay, I agree with you. But obviously your expression of that looks different in Los Angeles than it does in other places like the east coast…

Oh yes. Dramatically. One of the differences, obviously, on the east coast is you’re still dealing with a very European or Western paradigm for people who don’t believe. On the west coast, we have 80 plus nationalities at Mosaic and most of those are under 28 years old. So, it’s a whole different kind of postmodernism.

So when I hear a lot of even the Emergent conversation about postmodernism, it’s not at all what we’re dealing with. We’re not dealing with people who are angry with Christianity because they’ve never been exposed to it. We’re not dealing with people who are trying to look back. A lot of midwestern or east coast postmodernism is trying to look back to an Eastern Orthodox or Catholicism and we have people who come out of Buddhism, Hinduism and Roman Catholicism. So a highly ritualistic approach to religion left them empty.

So it’s an entirely different conversation. They’ve given up on organized religion. For them, a lot of the classicly postmodern things would be still very organized religion. I think it’s organized religion for Christians figuring out how to create community for themselves.

So I realized several years ago when I was in conversations about what it means to be post-modern, what it means to be non-modern, it’s an entirely different world. I’m dealing with people who are actually very spiritual. They’re deeply spiritual. I think L.A. is a very mystical city. Creativity moves you toward mysticism.

How do you tap into that?

One of the great challenges is that people don’t really care what I know or believe or have been trained to teach. It’s very intuitive. They decide whether you’ve actually met God, even when they don’t believe. They are people who end up going, “I think this person is in an experience living in a dimension that I’m interested in. I’m unsure if it exists but I’m willing to stay long enough to find out.”

Which is such a dramatic shift from the rest of the nation…

Oh, yeah! That’s why I feel like sometimes I’m in a different country. I don’t feel like I’m in the United States anymore. And I think that’s why, honestly, people get nervous about Mosaic and about me because we’re so mystical. We’re not trying to figure out what is a cool, cultural American way of getting people to act Christianly. We’re basically saying that the invisible is reality. At your core, you are spirit and everything is understood out of this context.

If you go to our podcast, I don’t know if you know that we have a podcast, my last three talks have been on suffering, Hell, and sexual orientation. We actually deal with pretty intense subjects. This is not a place where we avoid things.

Do you feel like people think that about Mosaic?

No, I think that most traditional churches avoid the important issues. They act like they deal with the important issues, but they’re answering questions that noone is asking. They say things in such definitive ways where we all go, “Yes, that’s right.”

I think one of the differences is that Christian churches focus on what the Bible says. That’s all they have to do. It doesn’t matter if they’re reformed, emergent or whatever it is, they focus on what it says. We focus on why. We say, “If this is really God speaking to us, then it has to make sense. It has to give us a holistic view of the universe. It has to have an integrated relational core where everything begins to come together.”

So there’s a sense where we focus on not being simplistic, but being simple. We look for the elegance in truth. Because I’m dominantly dealing with people who do not see the Bible as their authority. So if I get up there and say, “Well, the Bible says this,” I’m sunk instantly.


  1. Come back, Jack!
    I miss you.
    The blogging world is just not the same without you in it, too.

Speak Your Mind