Jennifer and I are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mike Yaconelli. Over the years his influence, through youth ministry resources, books, articles and Youth Specialties Conventions has been huge in our journey. Our approach to youth ministry may be influenced by Yaconelli and those that he mentored more than by anyone else. At a chance encounter with Mike in Atlanta in 2000 at the Youth Specialties Convention, I remember being struck by the guy's honesty and humility. He stood there in the middle of a crowded hotel/convention center and took five or ten minutes to engage and talk to me. As we talked, he never once spoke down to me or offered me a 'quote from my latest book' tip on ministry. He just looked at me and listened and smiled that 'I'm so proud of you' smile that encouraged me into believing that what my wife and I were doing truly had meaning. When he said, "I'm glad you are here" and "Keep up the good work!", I really believed him.
We loved his rants on the silliness of the modern church. Mike said in Dangerous Wonder (47), "Mistaking this active life of faith for an institutionally backed and culturally bound belief system is similar to reducing the Mona Lisa to paint-by-numbers." We liked to hear him talk of the uncertainty of life, the smallness of humanity and the wild ferocity of God. A session that Mike did in Sacramento in 2001 opened my eyes to the awesome truth that our God is alive, moving and untamable. Yaconelli seemed to have a great perspective on the transcendence and sovereignty of God. Also, the stories of his own life, family and personal pastoral ministry always helped us keep our lives in proper focus.
Our prayers and concern are with the Yaconelli family (Mike's wife Karla was running the labyrinth Prayer Journey the first time Jen and I went through, and his son Mark is a lead voice in the 'contemplative approach' movement - both of which have had a large impact on us). Without being trite, I can only think that Mike is truly blown away by the wonder and the fantastic existence that he is now experiencing.
We thank God for Mike Yaconelli.