Sunday, November 1, 2015

The "Dangerous Wonder" of Mike Yaconelli

Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car wreck on October 30, 2003. I've never met anyone who was quite like Yac. Co-founder of Youth Specialties and creator of the Ideas Books, he is considered by many to be the father of modern youth ministry- a title which he would have hated. He was much happier with his own description of himself as a man who had been kicked out of Bible College and was for the last few years of his life the pastor of the "slowest growing church in the country." I first met Yac at the YS National Youth Workers Convention in 1982, and I was immediately overwhelmed by his passion and his personality. His early morning bible studies at those events were legendary, and I seldom missed one. Over the years I fortunate enough to attend numerous seminars which he led, and we sat and talked on several occasions. His heart for Jesus was enormous; his love for youth workers knew no boundaries. Seldom does a day go by that I don't think of Yac.

I remember his stories about youth ministry and the ever-present Jones Memorial Carpet. I think about the time I was standing at the front desk of a fancy hotel that was hosting the NYWC, only to feel a finger-blaster go whizzing by my head and hit the clerk. I turned to see Yac laughing hysterically- having fired the shot! His story about serving communion using orange juice and stale hot dog buns inspired me to use OJ & Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I remember spending 2 days with him as part of a small group in a spiritual renewal seminar just soaking in prayer and scripture, being reminded how important it is to be still. No one who ever encountered Yac will ever forget him. Just before his death I made arrangements to have him deliver the Sunday message at the Tampa church I served at the time the following February. I couldn't wait to see the wild, messy and totally unpredictable Yac blow the roof off the place. That day was never to be...

Today, I want you all to understand that Mike Yaconelli was all about a dangerous faith.  He challenged everyone he encountered to step outside of their comfort zone and follow the radical teachings of the Christ. This passion often made him a critic of the institutional church and of corporate student ministry. The 3 quotes below are from his book Dangerous Wonder. They tell you a lot about Yac. They tell you even more about what is should mean to follow Jesus. Read them. Re-read them. My hope is that you will be overwhelmed by his words just as I have been- over and over again.  If they make you uncomfortable...GOOD!  Then I know I have used them well.  I have said before that I have known 2 men in my life that I know really "got" Jesus.  Rich Mullins was one.  Yac was the other.  I was blessed to have known him. Enjoy his words.

If Christianity is simply about being nice I'm not interested... I'm ready for a Christianity that "ruins" my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and.. well... dangerous. Yes, I want to be "dangerous" to a dull and boring religion.  

How did we end up so comfortable with God? How did our awe of God get reduced to a lukewarm appreciation of God? How did God become a pal instead of a heart-stopping presence? How can we think of Jesus without remembering His ground-shaking, thunder-crashing, stormy exit on the cross? Why aren’t we continually catching our breath and saying, “This is no ordinary God!”?

It is time to find the place where the dangerous wonder of faith can be discovered—a place landscaped by risky curiosity, wild abandon, daring playfulness, quiet listening, irresponsible passion, happy terror, and naive grace. In a day when most of us are tired, worn-out, thirsty, and starving for life and joy and peace, maybe it is time to become a child again. Maybe it is time to quit college and take a year off to go to the mission field, or give up a secure job and go back to school, or leave the corporation because the work is killing our souls, or give up the possessions that are possessing us. Maybe it is time to live this dangerous wonder of faith, take our shoes off, roll up our sleeves, and have such a romp as no one has ever seen. Maybe it's time to play in the snow once again.

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous10/30/2011

    Yac is a legend among youth pastors and a hero to so many. And his words still pierce the heart in the name of Jesus. Thanks for this, Carl. ~Chris Cooper

  2. Great thoughts Carl. I posted this on my Facebook, maybe you've heard of that new website. ;-)

  3. Anonymous9/16/2012

    My wife is reading Dangerous Wonder. I liked his thought about Dream Stealers - that we are people who believe in a God that has the ability to do great things like heal us in a pool, turn water into wine, part a sea or save a tax collector or disciple one. But then someone comes along and says that's not possible. And we believe them and not God. Where is our faith

    1. I love that section of the book. And your point is dead on. "Oh we of little faith..."


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