Back To Detail Page

Brian McLaren is the author of the award-winning New Kind of Christian released in 2001, The Story We Find Ourselves In (2003) and The Last Word and the Word After That (2005). More recently Brian has written A Generous Orthodoxy, The Secret Message of Jesus and the newly released Everything Must Change. McLaren remains one of the most actively sought after speakers in the Emerging Church movement, and is a bold voice among those seeking a deeper more meaningful journey in the Christian faith. Briefly tell us what inspired you to write Everything Must Change?

Brian McLaren: For the last ten years or so, I've been focused in the Gospels. I feel I was given a very Paul-centered approach to Christian faith: I was taught to see Jesus in light of Paul. That was good. But now I'm learning to be more Christ-centered and to see Paul in light of Jesus. At the heart of this exploration, I've become captivated as never before by Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God. That was the subject of my previous book, The Secret Message of Jesus, where I tried to see Jesus and his message in their original setting. The next natural question was, "Well, what would the message of the Kingdom mean in our context today?" That led me to re-open a question that had been simmering on the back burner of my mind since my twenties: what are the biggest crises in today's world, and what does the message of Jesus say to them? In reference to the title of your book, why Everything and why must it change? What is the overall significance of this title?

Brian McLaren: In many ways, Everything Must Change is a paraphrase of the word "repent", which is so important on Jesus' lips. Repent means, literally, to rethink everything, to see all of life in a new light, from a new angle. The changes we need - in the world, in the church, and in our own lives - are not just cosmetic, in my opinion. They're profound and radical - and I would add, profoundly, radically exciting. In reference to your use of the word "repent" here, what bearing does this definition have upon our lives as Christians and the actions we should be taking? Why is it necessary that followers of Jesus give attention to the global crises you mention in your book?

Brian McLaren: For too many people, Christianity is an evacuation plan. It's calling people to man the life boats and abandon the sinking Titanic. Many of us have been taught that this is what it's all about. It's as if Jesus said, "I did not come to save the world, but to condemn it," or "The Father sent me into the world. I'm calling you to evacuate and abandon it." But if we see Jesus as entering the world to bring healing and hope for creation, then we need to join him in incarnation, in entering into humanity's pain and suffering and oppression, and bringing God's amazing resources to bear.

On a more personal level, a lot of us have a deep "focus on the family." I think that's good. But families aren't just "nuclear" - extended families include our children and grand-children and great-grandchildren. If we care about them, we need to care about the world that we're preparing for them. Will it be a world from which Christians have retreated, leaving it to the forces of greed, violence, fear, poverty, and religious abandonment? Will it be a world to which Christians have conformed, so they offer nothing fresh or distinctive, but just a religious version of the violence, greed, racism, consumerism, and apathy that surround them? Or will it be a world in which followers of Christ are bringing healing, justice, kindness, and hope? Will it be a world where Jesus' commission is being fulfilled, when he said "As the Father sent me, so I send you"? I'm throwing all my energy into helping the latter be true. In your book, you mention three crises that undergird many of the problems facing the world today - Security, Prosperity and Equity. Please explain the problems contained within these crises and why you feel that these are among the most pressing issues facing our planet today.

Brian McLaren: As part of the research for the book, I did a pretty thorough review of literature to see what experts were saying about global crises. I took all of their lists and tried to trace down from symptoms to diseases, from effects to causes. I also tried to understand the crises as being interrelated, part of one system, not as discrete, unrelated problems. I also had the great opportunity to visit over 25 countries and see what was happening on the ground - in the slums, in refugee camps, in war-torn areas, and so on. I became convinced that under the surface, there's a systemic problem with four main engines ... and that other problems, global warming, health care issues, even terrorism ... are symptoms of these deeper issues. At first glance, it seems that overpopulation an issue at the root of all of the difficulties you've cited here. Before we go any further on this particular topic however it would be appropriate to ask if you believe that overpopulation is indeed problematic.

Brian McLaren: This is an important and complex question I deal with in the book in some detail. I can sum it up like this. Yes, overpopulation is a problem - specifically, in the global south. In the global north, overpopulation isn't the problem - it's overconsumption of resources and overproduction of wastes. If we were to solve the problem of overpopulation in the south, would that simply leave more for the global north to consume? So, we need to be concerned about population issues in the south, but even more concerned about consumption issues in the north. The good news about population is this: when we help poor people leave extreme poverty, when we provide better maternal and child health care, and when we educate children - especially young girls, population rates tend to take care of themselves. So, we can help our neighbors in the global south by attending to these issues of poverty, with good levels of confidence that the population issues will level out. But again, the far more difficult problem is addressing our own issues of overconsumption. How should Christians view overpopulation in light of God's command to "be fruitful and increase in number" and to "multiply on the earth?"

Brian McLaren: It's odd how we tend to pick out some verses and try to universalize them, but we don't do so for other verses. It's pretty clear that we are succeeding in obeying this injunction quite well. But other injunctions are not being nearly so well obeyed - and these are the issues I try to address in the book. In the closing chapters of your book you state that Unless we deprive the dominant [political] system of our confidence and consent, it will absorb and neutralize all our attempts at reform because we will still be part of its framing story; we will not be different enough to change it, because our very efforts to change it will draw on its own logic and values. But if we transfer our trust from the way of Caesar to the way of Christ, our actions will draw their power from another source . . . the revolution we need starts in us--in our minds, our hearts--as an act of faith, a transfer of trust from the dominant [political] system to a new way of seeing, believing, and living. Over the past 20 years we've observed many Christians so deeply entrenched in politics that the line between serving Christ and serving Caesar has become very blurred. How deeply should Christians be involved in our political system? How far is too far?

Brian McLaren: This is a tremendously important - and complex - question. I don't believe Christians are wrong to be involved in politics - if they are working from a Christ-centered way of thinking and living and speaking, and that's a big "if." The problem is that we very easily get involved in politics and start being more than "in the world" - we become "of the world" and play the game by Caesar's rules rather than by Jesus' example. Here in the US, to be frank, many of us have so intermingled conservative Republican politics and economics with the Gospel that we don't know where one starts and the other stops. As soon as I say this, some people say, "So you want to intermingle the Gospel with liberal Democratic politics and economics," which is an understandable fear, but it's not at all what I'm recommending, as anyone who reads my book will see. This left-right bipolarity is part of the problem. I want to discover the way of Christ, and follow that way: I don't want to subcontract my conscience out to a political party. To do that is, to put it bluntly, idolatrous.

A key question here is how we define politics. In the broadest sense, politics means how we organize our lives in groups. It means how we exercise power, how we apportion money, how we provide justice, how we care for the widow and orphan, how we care for the land in which we live, how we treat the stranger and the enemy. These are all issues about which Jesus in particular and the Bible in general have so much to say - and that's my goal in Everything Must Change: not to start with human political parties or ideologies and try to fit Jesus into them, but to start with Jesus and make him Lord of all of life, personal and social, private and public. Do you have any upcoming books we can look forward to?

Brian McLaren: My next book will be on spiritual formation. I think it's important for us to keep mission - what we do in the world - closely integrated with spirituality - what we do for the nurture and formation of the soul and our inner life with God. The two must always be integrated - not simply balanced, but integrated. It will be called Finding Our Way Again" and will be out in May. I think this new book and Everything Must Change will be a good pair of books for people to read together. Please take a moment to share with us of some writers and artists whom you enjoy or who have been influential to your own faith.

Brian McLaren: Well, as you can imagine, I'm an absolute lover of books, and I read constantly. It's really hard to know where to start. In biblical studies, N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann are two of my favorite authors. In philosophy, Nancey Murphy's work has helped me a great deal. In faith and politics, I think of Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, and Rene Padilla. In Christian living, Don Miller is such a gifted author, and I love Shauna Niequist's new book - so well written, so human and inspiring. In spirituality, there's Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Phyllis Tickle, Joan Chittister. I love to read science and history - David Quammen and Jared Diamond come to mind. For fiction, Walker Percy, Orson Scott Card, and Wendell Berry are favorites - and Wendell Berry is also an incredible essayist and poet. Speaking of poets, I love Mary Oliver and Denise Levertov too. As I said, it's really hard to know where to stop - these are just off the top of my head, and I'm leaving out so many fantastic writers. We're all lucky to be alive at a time like this when so many good people are giving us great books to read. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Brian McLaren: Probably some folks here have read some critiques of my work, as I have been blessed with some loyal and energetic critics. I hope that people who have read my critics but not my own work will have an open mind and check out Everything Must Change. Even if they differ with me on some details, I hope they will be struck by the urgency of the global crises I describe, and I hope they will see how powerfully Jesus addresses these issues. At the end of the day, I hope we can see how much we have in common when we say, "Jesus is Lord," so working from that commitment, we can move forward together in love for God and our neighbor - especially our neighbors who are suffering so much from poverty, injustice, exclusion, oppression, environmental degradation, genocide, and war. Each of these people is precious to God, and should be precious to us as well. Thank you for your compassion Brian.  And thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on some difficult and pressing social and global issues. We hope that Everything Must Change will motivate followers of Jesus to take up their cross and follow Him into action.


Return to the Everything Must Change detail page.

Back to the Top