In 2008, Erwin McManus largely disappeared after authoring a slew of bestselling books and traveling the country speaking to tens of thousands. This is why he's chosen to reemerge now. - Image courtesy of Erwin McManus

Why pastor Erwin McManus took a six-year public hiatus--and decided to come back now

In 2008, Erwin McManus largely disappeared after authoring a slew of bestselling books and traveling the country speaking to tens of thousands. This is why he's chosen to reemerge now. - Image courtesy of Erwin McManus

In 2008, Erwin McManus largely disappeared after authoring a slew of bestselling books and traveling the country speaking to tens of thousands. This is why he's chosen to reemerge now. - Image courtesy of Erwin McManus

In the early 2000s, Erwin McManus penned several bestselling books, saturated the Christian conference speaking circuit, and grew a vibrant Los Angeles church called Mosaic. He became known as a leading voice among Christian creatives and religious innovators during that time. But in 2008, at the height of his popularity, Erwin McManus slipped back into the shadows as quickly as he had sprung from them. No more books, fewer speaking engagements, and far less public interaction.

Six years later, McManus has decided to reemerge with the release of a new book, "The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art." His message is simple: you were created to be creative. Here, we discuss this idea, how it applies to those who aren't naturally artistic, and why he retreated from public life to begin with.

RNS: You wrote a whole slew of books between 2002 and 2008, but then you sort of disappeared from the publishing world. Why have you decided to write again now and why come back with this book?

EM: Yes, I made a shift in my life due to many variables and factors. A huge part was the toll on my family and my spirit to be the target of so many mean-spirited people. It really hurt my kids. I didn't want them to turn from Jesus because of the people of Jesus. But they have both come to me and called me to be a voice for the movement of Christ again. My family is all in and has a deep passion for God and the church.

I also wanted to affect the world outside of the church and be a voice to an unbelieving world. We so often focus on Sunday and hope we are changing the world. I felt compelled to tell great art and tell great stories and allow beauty to point to truth.

RNS: You live in a community of artists in the shadow of the sign that once read "Hollywoodland." Tell us what that looks like and how it shapes the way you view spirituality and faith.

EM: When you see anything in a concentration or in its extreme it allows you to perceive things differently or more clearly. It's from this vantage point that the dilemma of human creativity becomes clearer. We are all at our best when we are living out our God given dreams. We are all created with imagination. We are all artisans.

Image courtesy of HarperOne

Image courtesy of HarperOne

RNS: What's an artisan soul and how is it expressed by most people?

EM: [tweetable]The artisan understands that we are all works of art and artists at work.[/tweetable] An artisan soul lives life as a creative act. The artisan soul lives a life inspired by love, fueled by passion, and driven to create beauty in the world. There is no one way people express this way of life. That's the whole point. This is a life where we no longer live a life of conformity, compliance, and standardization.

To live the life of an artisan is to live life uniquely.

RNS: You say that we all carry within us the essence to the artist. What do you say to an accountant or lawyer who responds, "That's not me. I don't have an artistic bone in my body!" 

EM: [tweetable]You may not have an artistic bone but you have an artistic soul.[/tweetable] The danger is to choose existence rather than life. Every field, every discipline, every domain where humans work, play, and live, is a canvas for imagination, creativity, and beauty.

RNS: You claim the artisan soul does more than reflect. Say more about that.

EM: [tweetable]To create we must not only dream but act![/tweetable] Creativity requires both reflection and action. To create takes great courage.

RNS: You say God has something to say about how we craft our lives. If God were standing in front of an average American Christian, what would God say to that person about how to live better?

EM: "Don't be an average American Christian."

RNS: You avoid calling Mosaic a "church" or referring to yourself as a "pastor." Why?

EM: Being a pastor is a beautiful thing, and I love the church. I just don't like titles, institutional categories, and jargon—and unfortunately these terms carry a great deal of cultural and historical baggage. We hope Mosaic and "The Artisan Soul" can be a part of creating new language that makes the beauty of the church and the movement of Jesus magnetic to the world we are committed to reaching with Christ.


  1. Welcome back to Erwin Mcmanus! Im so excited to read this book! Thank you Jonathan for bringing this wonderful soul to our attention. I really cant wait to see how God leads through this book. Miss you Jonathan! Hugs from Georgia!

  2. Until now, Atheists have been very wrong to ask for evidence of God

    We are told “Our ways are not God’s ways”
    And “God is unknowable, unfathomable, indescribable”!

    That is until Erwin MacManus:

    “What would God say…?”

    EM: “Don’t be an average American Christian.”

    WOW! I smell a NOBEL prize.

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  5. My issue is not that I don’t like McManus or think he is not totally sincere in his faith and life mission. I just get tired of the big names writing book and putting some catchy spin on faith – like this new “artsy” “creativity” stuff. I live and minister in an impoverished community and just getting people to understand the story of God and their place in it, combined with what it means to be a disciple of Christ in a modern world with all its attendant issues and criticisms is hard enough. Now here is some new trendy spin on the Christian faith and life, albeit meant to help and inspire, but it just confuses. This is a book written for the middle class, white, intellectual evangelical, and I gladly left that long ago to be among the poor.

  6. Thanks, John P, for that good response. I like McManus, but I agree with what you are saying.

  7. The middle class also need a real relationship with Christ and where McManus ministers (Southern California) the people live and breath art. This is the language of the people he ministers to. It may not be the language where you and I are, but different people groups need different approaches.

  8. Thanks for this piece–McManus is one of my favorite speakers/thinkers on creativity. As a songwriter who’s been releasing music independently for the last few years, I resonate with the idea that “Creativity requires both reflection and action. To create takes great courage.” Moving from the idea stage to the action stage is where most artists get stuck; grateful for McManus’ encouragement to move beyond that paralysis and DO what we’re created to DO.

  9. Erwin spent many years ministering to the urban poor in Dallas and LA. The poor need his message as much or more than any others. The poor need hope and that hope must be fueled by a recognition of their unique gifts (James 2:5) as well as confidence in the power of Christ to redeem and to transform. We must not discount their intellectual nor their creative power just because many are settling for survival. The mindsets of plenty of middle class whites are no different with the exception that they may have more stuff.

  10. Everyone holds some treasure…Some have it buried too deep…Some share an endless measure…Some think it’s all their’s to keep…Some people will not admit…They contain much inner beauty…Their task to release much of it…To fulfill their life’s real duty…Some people have learned to mine…What’s hid in their broken hearts…The gold that their pain’s refined…They’ve learned to do their part…So if you should look inside…Beyond what’s your surface layer…What might your treasure hunt find…What secrets does your heart hide there…(from ‘Not For Pew Warmers’ by Tom Green published through Tate Publishing)

  11. Good interview!
    Please don’t tell us what is tweetable. (Artisans don’t like to be told what to do, right?)

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