Yesterday I posted the first half of my interview with Matt Mikalatos, the author of Imaginary Jesus – here’s the second half:
What would be your top tips for someone who felt likely to concoct imaginary Jesuses?
The things is that everyone is vulnerable to this, from the experienced theologian who has been walking with Christ for decades to the brand new believer. In fact, in First John it says, “When he appears we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Which implies, doesn’t it, that we don’t see him precisely how he is yet… not to say that we can’t know him very, very well… but we’re still likely to have misconceptions and misunderstandings of who he is. The biggest warning sign that I’m not hanging out with the real Jesus is that I think I have him all figured out… the relationship has become static. Anyone who says they “know all there is to know” about Jesus is not spending time with the real guy.
So, top tips… spend time prayerfully looking at what scripture says, not just what you’ve been told it says. And while it’s completely un-hip to say this right now in a lot of circles, you should go to church. I know, I’m lame. But you really should. And not just for an hour on Sundays. You need to get involved in the life of the church. Don’t be afraid to bring honest questions to God. Don’t be disrespectful to him, but don’t try to hide what you’re wrestling with, either. And also, spend some time with people you disagree with. There’s nothing better to help you see your misconceptions and weak conclusions about Jesus than to hang out with someone who disagrees with you about him in some way.
Are there any more books in the pipeline?
Yup, in 2011 we’ll have “Night of the Living Dead Christians” coming out, which is a book that asks the question, what does it really mean to follow Jesus? Christians say they have “new life” and they’ve been resurrected, but a lot of people look at our lives and think, “Why would I want that?’ I equate it to zombies… they might get to live forever, but who wants to shuffle around eating people’s brains for all eternity? No one. So this book explores that question… what does it really look like to follow Jesus? Can people’s lives really change? Is there a way not only to be forgiven from sin but to be free of sin in our day to day lives? And of course it’s in the style ofImaginary Jesus, which means you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll suddenly find yourself having a deep thought and say, WHOA! How did that deep thought get in there? Also, there will be zombies and werewolves and all that good stuff.
If you could describe yourself as a well-known brand name, which would it be and why?
“Honey Nut Cheerios.” Because I eat them every single morning for breakfast, and “you are what you eat.” Also, I’m a little nutty but still good for you.
How did you get your writing break?
Well, long story short, I had published a few articles and had written up a book proposal and had some initial interest from a publisher. I was talking to author and speaker Gary Thomas about this, and he suggested the names of a couple of agents I should talk to. One of them, Wes Yoder, ended up becoming my agent, and he really inspired me to make the book something unique. I had been writing on and off since college, and I still have a terrible fantasy novel and a screenplay sitting in a drawer here at my house.
What’s your church life like?
We are pretty heavily involved at our church here in the Portland area, which is called Village… you can check out the website at vbconline.org if it interests you. It’s this amazing community of multiple ethnicities and national identities, has a great missions program and is really reaching out the surrounding community. My wife, Krista, helps out with the cultural programs, and I’ve done some missions training and get to speak every once in a while. And of course our kids are in “Promise Land” which is the children’s program. We love our church and the “Villagers” and especially our pastors, who are one of the most gifted church staff we’ve ever been involved with. Our pastor, John Johnson, shares from the word with exceptional insight and spiritual wisdom every week. We really, really love it at Village.
And then, we’re actually really well connected to our sending church in California (Krista and I are on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, so we’re missionaries who raise all our own funds for our salaries), which is called NorthCreek church. Again, a great church with visionary leadership and generous, wonderful people attending there. So we’re really privileged to have two great churches!
Matt, thanks so much for your time, and I’ll keep an eye out for Night of the Living Dead Christians!