Paul Young (he actually goes by his middle name) is the bestselling author of the book, The Shack. As of this writing, The Shack is still the #1 NY Times Bestseller, 36 weeks running, over 6 million in print. The book will soon be appearing in more than 30 languages around the world and in audio versions in many countries as well. The book tells a fictional story of a man who gets a letter from God inviting him to a shack for the weekend where a horrible event took place in his life. His encounter with God changes his life forever, and it may just change yours as the reader too.
Because of the book’s massive success, Paul has been criticized by some for his theology in the book. From my perspective, if you read this as a fictional story of one man’s speculation about God, it can be a powerful encouragement for experiencing or renewing your own journey with God through the Bible.
You can check out Paul’s website here.
Jeremy: Tell us something odd/unique about you.
Paul: I didn’t comprehend that I was not black, but white, until I went to boarding school when I was six years old. Still didn’t understand it, but was disappointed.
Jeremy: Do you think people are born leaders or develop into leaders?
Paul: No one is born a leader…I have never seen a baby care for anyone but themselves. If the question is, “Is leadership something that is in the genetics of an individual?” again, I would say no. Leadership is such a fuzzy concept anyway. If someone uses their charisma to lure people into destructive behaviors, does that count? Does advertising indicate leadership because it can create a following for something real or imagined? I think true leadership is no different than being a true servant, doesn’t even matter if you end up alone on a cross, eh?
Jeremy: How can people put themselves into a position to influence culture?
Paul: You can either use the tools that culture provides, which I believe will only have temporary value, or you can be involved in a relationship with a God who is doing so all the time, in ways that would never qualify. If anything matters, everything matters…and suddenly even the smallest acts of kindness, grace and forgiveness are influencing and changing the culture. I am simply neither wise enough nor energetic enough to try to do this on my own. We do what God has put in front of us today, and let him take care of the rest.
Paul: Desperation mostly…and damage that no one else could heal. And I love him…what is there not to love. I am a follower because he came and found me and kissed me with life and wonder and grace and …
Jeremy: What do you do personally to keep your spiritual life active and healthy?
Paul: Nothing consistent. Not one for quiet times and such, not that they aren’t probably helpful for some…but me, I never got the hang of them – and I tried for decades. For me all spiritual disciplines are reduced to hearing and seeing and then being involved in the conversations of life that take place on any given day. No formulas but an open heart to the presence of an indwelling Jesus, ears that hear his voice and eyes that see Papa’s activity in all the details of life happening right in front of me. You could say prayer and fellowship are parts of that but even these are more woven into the tapestry of the day rather than planned, and both incredible gifts. But other activities would include laughing and tears, music and dancing, reading and silence, and right now, sitting in the corner of an airport waiting for a flight for five hours after my first one was canceled fingering words into the digital world and smiling a lot.
Jeremy: What is your hope for the future of the Church in America?
Paul: My hope, which is sure and certain because it is in Jesus and not in our agendas or wishful thinking, is that the Church will continue to move toward authenticity and honesty, that we would clothe ourselves with humility and love, that our compassion and forgiveness would become our reputation and that we would be called upon to heal the wounds of the world because ours have been healed.
Jeremy: Should we abandon the use of the word “Christian” for a better term? If so, what?
Paul: Most of the time, yes! Because the term has deteriorated to the point of hardly being useful. It divides and separates rather than invites. If one does use it, one has always better define and clarify or who knows what is in the minds of those who hear the term. Jesus never used the term and never identified with it. Today it mostly identifies a ‘religion’ that competes in the smorgasbord of religions, a competition that does not attract me whatsoever.
Jeremy: What blogs/websites do you regularly check?
Paul: I don’t. Some occasionally come to my attention and there are many with much good to say. Maybe when my life slows a bit…maybe? I have found that many bloggers are looking for an identity, and often they use negativity to establish it…what they are opposed to rather than agree with. Too bad, but quite predictable. But others are pursuing Jesus and honesty and laughter and wonder and they are like breaths of fresh air.
Jeremy: Which books have shaped your thinking?
Paul: A lot of books, or at least, pieces of books. My library is full of them, books and writers that have touched me in unique ways at just the right time. It seems to be about timing, but it is not ours. Genres have been from deep theology, to physics and cosmology, science fiction to poetry, classics and philosophy, humor and ethics, sociology and anthropology…pretty eclectic actually. Often it is not a book, but a single idea or thought that resulted from reading that has caused waves of transformational change.
Jeremy: What music moves you?
Paul: Much the same with music. Very eclectic and I have very specific tastes. I have been profoundly more influenced, for the good, by ‘secular’ musicians than ‘christian’ – and I use both terms loosly. Churchy musicians aren’t often near as honest as those creating art out of real life. And I am one of those persons who gets very focused on the creative muse resident in the lyrics, although a good instumental piece can also send me places that are full of wonder and creativity. Opera in a foreign language…just doesn’t do it for me, although I once saw Madam Butterfly in English, and it touched me.
Jeremy: Any other thoughts or advice?
Paul: Learn to live inside one day’s worth of grace, to enjoy the Presence of the One who knows you best and loves you most, grow in trusting the love that pursues and embraces you relentlessly, let go of control and learn to laugh at yourself…that is all the advice I have for today. 🙂
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