SAD NEWS IN YOUTH MINISTRY
The youth ministry world has lost an incredible voice of compassion, clarity and conviction in the death of Michael Yaconelli. He was a larger than life persona to many in the Christian world through his speaking, teaching and profound writing skills. But, today, I write these words because I have lost a friend.
In the Youth Specialties press release they wrote these words: "Mike dedicated his life to what God had called him to do. He believed in youth ministry, and did all he could to equip youth workers to change the lives of students. He lived with a passion that was unmatched. He was the incarnation of his book titles, Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality; he lived a life of wonder and amazement at God's grace. He never claimed to be perfect; he just lived as he was a man after God's own heart." These are profound words of truth that begin to point us in the direction of this complex person.
This loss is huge at so many levels, and I would ask that you pray for his family who are suffering through this incredible grief. The YS organization also needs our prayers as they struggle with personal loss, the organizational loss and the pressure of preparing for the upcoming convention in St. Louis.
For untold thousands of people, they will experience Mike's death in personal and significant ways. His influence was wider and deeper than he ever imagined. Here at Youth Leadership, we grieve his loss in many ways as well.
Mike and I have known each other for 25 years—we first met at the YS convention in Atlanta in 1978. Already he had become an icon for many in this fledgling field of youth ministry. Over the years, I cherish the honesty and depth of our friendship in spite of the irregular nature of our contacts. My respect and love for him only increased as he moved off the pedestal of the speaking platform into the messy, real-world, complicated world of a friend. His love for this mission of sharing the gospel to the next generation and equipping adults to become more effective and passionate about this ministry was deep, intense and contagious. His clarity of passion and vision impacted me in many ways over the years.
We lost a special man in that fatal accident in northern California a few days ago. Yes, he is rejoicing in the joyful wonder of the culmination of his journey, but our pain is deep and real. I thank God for the life and ministry of Michael Yaconelli. Here at Youth Leadership, we are indebted to him for his support of our work and his continued call for excellence in educating, equipping and encouraging youth ministry leaders. His desire to follow God with everything he had—and the honesty of the struggle in doing that—was an inspiration to many. He represented and personified the passions of many, and we will forever be grateful for his contributions to the field of youth ministry.
I will miss the passionate speaker, trainer and motivator. I will miss reading his books and articles that called me to something deeper and more mysterious in my faith. I will miss his wit, humor and creative sarcasm. I will miss stealing his ideas to use in my talks. But, today, I will miss the friend who spoke God's truth into my messy world—the friend I was honored to know and love outside of the public arena.