Author and pastor Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, recently spoke at the 2014 Evangelical Press Association Convention in California, sharing a bit of his background and addressing members of the press about the unique ways that God has created man to reveal His beauty.
Erwin McManus is an introvert by nature. He did not grow up in the church, but came to faith in college and decided to go to seminary as a new, passionate believer. He then spent about ten years ministering to the poor, the drug cartel, and prostitutes.
McManus was asked to speak at a Christian conference to 20,000 people when Billy Graham couldn't show up for an event, and soon became a very popular speaker. He moved his family to California, where he focused on writing books and on speaking engagements. His children were ridiculed because of their father's popularity, however, and someone even devoted a website threatening to kill him. McManus soon decided he and his family had had enough popularity, and retired from the public sphere. He began working in the fashion industry, and aspired to create art that would "Inspire people and provoke people to believe in the God Who created all things beautiful."
One day, however, his grown son and daughter confronted him about his participation in ministry. His son thanked him for stepping away from the limelight for their sake, but said it was time for McManus to be "all in" on his Christian faith and ministry. McManus heeded his son's counsel, and began pastoring Mosaic church in Hollywood soon afterward.
McManus remembered that when he first became a Christian, he was searching for an understanding of who he was far more than of Who God was. After becoming a member of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED), he discovered that he felt driven to become an expert on "what it means to be human" and ultimately came away believing that Christianity desperately needs a "new anthropology."
"If we're going to communicate to the world any message that will draw them to the Christ that all of us love, we'd better get better at understanding what it means to be human, because we're not doing a very good job of that," he says.
Human beings are unique to all species, McManus says, because we can create and imagine - "There's something wonderful about the human imagination, about the creative essence of being human ... If our hearts are genuinely filled with grace, we will create a world that reflects love and hope and grace - and that's what the world desperately needs to see from us."
McManus' goal as a pastor and author is to inspire others to live lives of "greater nobility" by elevating the human narrative. He believes that God intends for believers to do more than live with hope for their future in heaven. "I think the great dilemma for a lot of us is that we've been taught to survive this life and wait for the next one ... I don't think God's finished with earth yet," he says.
The pastor says he has been faulted for using his imagination in the past, and has been labeled as a heretic. He has been criticized by some for failing to preach the Gospel message - the need for everyone to repent from their sin and place their faith in Christ alone for their salvation - in his books and sermons. But others argue that he is not a false teacher, otherwise he would not preach sermons on hell, stand against homosexuality, preach the exclusivity of Christ.
McManus' unique perspective on Christianity and the Arts includes having a BA in psychology from UNC Chapel Hill, a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Southeastern University. He is an artist, entrepreneur, and "cultural thought leader."
McManus began devoting much more time to serving at his church in Hollywood after losing much of his wealth in a bad investment. Since then, he says he has seen God do amazing things there; his church went from 300 people to almost 8,000 people in the following two years, and nearly 1,000 people professed faith in Christ at one of their Easter services.
"I love that the Bible sees things as they really are, even when we do not," says McManus - "I love that the Scriptures tell us from the beginning of the human journey that we are created in the image and likeness of God. I think it's time to explore what that means - discover again what it means - that God values humans more than any other species."
Rather than simply labeled as a church, Mosaic is considered a community of faith in Los Angeles known for its innovation, creativity, and artistry. Mosaic has been named one of the most influential and innovative churches in America.
[Editor's note: reporter Lauren Leigh Noske contributed to the report.]