The Shack: A Look Back
Wow. That's really the only word I have for it. Last night, at our church, we hosted an evening to discuss William P. Young's best-selling novel The Shack. Billed as an evening of dessert and discussion and publicized to our congregation, we had planned for up to 80 people. We had Peet's coffee and light refreshments for 80 people. Chairs and tables for 80 people. Well, guess what? Over 240 people showed up. Church members, regular church attenders, friends from book groups, members of other churches, people we hadn't seen in a while. Wow. Man, I wished I'd taken that multiplication of loaves and fish course in seminary...those cookies were gone before the evening even started.
Clearly, this book and the effect it's having is phenomenal. If you're interested, you can look at my earlier posts for some of my initial reflections. Today, I would only add a few more--and ask you, if you're comfortable and have read the book (and especially if you attended the evening), to share with me your thoughts as well.
What came through clearly last night was heart. Passion. Emotion. Readers were touched by the novel. Specifically, many mentioned they felt God's closeness and love in ways they never had before. For many of us, I suspect, our faith is primarily rational assent combined with duty: we believe the Bible and we seek to put it into practice. The Shack is reminding us that following Jesus is first and foremost a relationship of loving trust--and an obedience of the heart that flows from this.
One gentleman made this astute observation (I'm paraphrasing somewhat): "As I look around this room and hear from people who were moved by this book, I'm aware that these are people who've been attending church for many, many years. These are people who are devoted Christians and yet they are the ones who are being touched in such surprising ways. Why is this?!" Great question! And that's the question I and other church leaders need to be asking. Why are our people moved in this way? What does their reaction tell us--about the state of their souls and the state of our church? Where are we hitting--and more importantly, where are we missing--the mark in our ministries?
As I mentioned in my last post, religious structures are delivery tools or distribution systems for living water. The danger to any water utility is to focus so much on our piping systems that we reduce the living water to a trickle! Thirsty people need to drink--and they'll find their satisfaction in other ways, some better, some worse.
The Shack evening was a revealing moment and a wonderful invitation. We saw people's hearts open up in delightful ways: vulnerable, teachable, welcoming, tender, receptive. The invitation the evening issued was one of connection and simplicity: how will we make room for one another and be the church in ways that are primarily relational, not religious? I think we need to keep on pondering and not rush to programmatize (I'm making the word up, but you know what I mean).
Do you have any more thoughts on why this book is such an impact? I'd love to hear...