IN MEMORY OF THE "FATHER OF MODERN YOUTH MINISTRY"
Founder of Youth Specialties
Father, Pastor, Editor, Speaker, Mentor, Lover of Life
Mike Yaconelli may be one of the most enduring, irreverent, captivating and whimsical individuals I've ever met. He lived life like he died. On the edge. Out of control at times. Fast and furious. His passion for purpose could only be matched by his desire for the Divine. He often joked that he was a "K-Mart Minister" with little Bible training, few credentials and no formal ordination. None of that matters to those of us who sat at his feet, captivated by his deep biblical insight, his breadth of youth ministry wisdom and the clear ordination by God upon his life.
Mike wrote in the first chapter of his book Messy Spirituality: "My life is a mess. After forty-five years of trying to follow Jesus, I keep losing him in the crowded busyness of my life. I know Jesus is there, somewhere, but it's difficult to make him out in the haze of everyday life. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a godly person. Yet when I look at the yesterdays of my life, what I see, mostly, is a broken, irregular path littered with mistakes and failure. I have had temporary successes and isolated moments of closeness to God, but I long for the continuing presence of Jesus...If I were to die today, I would be nervous about what people would say at my funeral. I would be happy if they said things like 'He was a nice guy' or 'He was occasionally decent' or 'Mike wasn't as bad as a lot of people.' Unfortunately eulogies are delivered by people who know the deceased. I know what the consensus would be. 'Mike was a mess.'" (pp. 10-11)
Well, Mike, with respect to your opinion of yourself, I can honestly say that you were no "mess." You were simply real. You lived close to the bone. In a dangerous wonder known only to you and God, you waltzed and winked, danced and doubted, hungered and hoped. And as you traveled the path of Purpose in your life, you also helped the rest of us dare to dream that young people could be the Church of Today. Many of us were molded by your editorials, engaged by your youth ministry applications and inspired by your passion for teenagers.
You said you daily "long for the continuing presence of Jesus." Well, my friend, you now have it. From this point on your "messy spirituality" is truly a thing of the past. And I suspect the angels have already enjoyed one of your morning devotionals and played one of your games. God is very fortunate to have a servant like you. You were created for such a time as ours. Now it's your time. You changed youth ministry. You have touched us, and we'll never be the same. Thank you.
Professor of Youth and Family Ministries
Kentucky Christian College