Mike Yaconelli on Spirituality and Desperation


I read this book a couple of years ago. I saw it on the shelf today while preparing lessons for my week of deaning junior high church camp next week. I saw one of those small green post-it flags attached to a page so I turned to it to see what had caught my eye two years ago. Here it is:

My father believes, as I do, that the church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished, and even the unhealthy are welcome. I believe Jesus agrees.

Christianity is not for people who think religion is a pleasant distraction, a nice alternative, or a positive influence. Messy spirituality is a good term for the place where desperation meets Jesus. More often than not, in Jesus’ day, desperate people who tried to get to Jesus were surrounded by religious people who either ignored or rejected those who were seeking to have their hunger for God filled. Sadly, not much has changed over the years.

Desperate people don’t do well in churches. They don’t fit, and they don’t cooperate in the furthering of their starvation. ‘Church people’ often label ‘desperate people’ as strange and unbalanced. But when desperate people get a taste of God, they can’t stay away from him, no matter what everyone around them thinks.

Desperate is a strong word. That’s why I like it. People who are desperate are rude, frantic, and reckless. Desperate people are explosive, focused, and uncompromising in their desire to get what they want. Someone who is desperate will crash through the veil of niceness. The New Testament is filled with desperate people, people who barged into private dinners, screamed at Jesus until they had his attention, or destroyed the roof of someone’s house to get him. People who are desperate for spirituality very seldom worry about the mess they make on their way to be with Jesus.”–Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, 33-34

You know what the problem is with us Christians? We become so certain of our faith in Christ, that we have forgotten what it means to be desperate, we forget how to be desperate. We are so confident in our Justification that we forget about Sanctification. We settle. And badly.

Perhaps it would behoove us to remember what it is like to be desperate, starving, dying of thirst. Perhaps if we remembered these, satisfied as we are, it would be much easier for us to understand those who still are in such dire straits. Perhaps we have forgotten how parched the land really is and why we came to Christ in the first place. Perhaps we need, quickly, to remember.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Mike Yaconelli on Spirituality and Desperation

  1. Jerry,
    I told you in WORD Sunday it was desperation that led to faith…even the first or second song sung in worship said something to the effect that Jesus turned or changed despair to belief!!!..We do need to remember our desperation ,our inability … that we bring nothing but an empty hand ( F. Shaeffer). That’s why we remember Jesus, the cross, the body broken and the blood shed every time we gather at the table. I don’t think we need to be desparate about out faith or justification we should be confident about these…but in my experience confidence in the work of Christ on my behalf makes me more desperate to know Him, love Him,worship, serve Him and obey Him. ( that’s alot of what came through Spurgeon’s writings to me!)
    Just throwing that out there….Anything to break through the veil of niceness!

  2. Jill,

    I am always glad when you stop by for a visit and I am even happier when you leave a comment or two. I do recall that conversation, but I thought ‘we’ decided that faith led to courage. 🙂

    Anyhow, I see what you are saying and you keep leading me back to that doxology. The problem I see, however, is this (and I’m not saying we should not be confident in our justification; on the contrary we should!): some become so sure of their justification that they only mask whatever doubts and fears they truly have and condemn those of us who refuse to hide those doubts and fears. I’m not so confident because I am not yet perfect. (You know the type of rose-colored glasses people I am referring to. Everythign for them is clear as day. But even Paul said we see now only as in a mirror; not everything is quite so clear just yet.)

    What I want to encourage is for people to stay hungry, to have the same hunger and thirst that first drove us too our knees asking God to wash us with his grace. We forget that, I believe, and become judges and, ultimately, hypocrites.

    About the music. The call to worship and “I found Jesus” and the Closing song all speak to this desperation.

    Good to hear from you. I hope this helps.


    PS–whose veil of niceness are you trying to rip? 🙂

  3. Excellent points. I was just thinking of someone yesterday who is quite desperate and needs God, yet probably doesn’t feel comfortable coming to most churches where everyone is so “together.”

  4. Neil,

    I like to think that the church doesn’t gather because we are a people with all the answers. Instead we are a people who gather because we are full of questions. Thankfully, Jesus is sufficient.


  5. Yes, Jesus is sufficient. I’m probably nit-picking, but I like to think that the church has some of the answers – including the really important ones about us being sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus being that Savior – but not all the answers.

  6. As I don’t believe in “accidents”, your post is well placed in my life. Just last night at the hospital, surrounded by the sick and desperate (kids and parents alike), I was reminded of society’s lack of compassion and our inability for empathy or sympathy toward all who are in a desperate fight for survival…each with a different story and definition.

    I think when we see these folks’ struggle, we try to remember the saying ‘there for the Grace of God go I” (sorry if I bungled that…) But instead of allowing that statement to open our hearts, we close off in fear.

    Maybe ‘remembering’ will lead to ‘understanding’ and open our arms to embrace the struggle of all.

    take care,
    Louise Lewis, author
    No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You!
    Free gift copy at: http://www.noexpertsneeded.com

  7. Neil,

    That is precisely my point. We know where to look–to Jesus.


    Thanks for stopping by and replying. I think you understand well my point. Good luck with your book and your hospital ministry.


  8. A Note to Neil…
    That’s why church is not the place for evangelism….that’s why we need to step out in courageous faith to minister to people where we meet them….church is more often than not a superficial atmosphere…More meeting of God happens in jails, hospital rooms, AA meetings, shelters and some men’s or women’s groups, than in churches. People need to meet God when they attend a church service.(not come to be entertained)….that only happens in an atmosphere of humble true worship.
    Don’t mean to sound like I have all the answers…but I think that’s why we need to be ready in season and out of season to give the reason for the hope that is in us … not to tell others what they need to do but to offer the truth as we understand it humbly and in what Christ has done in our life. To be ready to pray with people on the spot at their time of need and allow God to reveal Himself…. (PREACHING to myself here!)
    never comfortable or easy , but in fatith with courage..
    abiding still, jill

  9. I think you are missing the point. Why is it that belief in your God is only born through desperation? Like you said yourself: “…More meeting of God happens in jails, hospital rooms, AA meetings..”
    It is only when the ability to think rationally is overwhelmed by the desperate need to know that everything is going to be ok in the end.

    I am searching for a similar comfort (as I believe does everyone) but I very much doubt that it is going to end with Christianity.
    [Link removed; I do not permit random links in comments–jerry]
    Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the above theory? quite a mouthful to swallow and I’m not even close to getting it down (and I certainly don’t expect or even desire to convert anyone.. you have your beliefs, I am only trying to find mine) but for me this answers a lot more questions than the bible ever could.
    Would very much appreciate your thoughts and opinions.

    1. Joseph,

      You are right about one thing: It will not end with Christianity. But who ever said it would? The goal of life is not Christianity, but Jesus who is the Alpha and Omega. So I would suggest that you start searching for Jesus then you might begin to understand what I mean.

      I have no thoughts on your link because it offers no solace, no comfort, and no hope. The only hope you and I have is in Jesus.


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