Have you ever had a curly question for God?
In our most vulnerable, broken moments – and, really, in all of 2020! – tough questions can pop up, but we don’t always know where to take those questions, and how transparent we can be about our uncertainties.
Earlier this year, the TV talk show McManus debuted on the Hillsong Channel, opening up the floor to questions about the trending topics of the day, how faith fits in to them, and where to find clarity on spiritual issues.
Hosted by MOSAIC Venice pastor Aaron McManus, the show’s driven by Aaron’s own quest for transparency in his Christian faith and a desire to destigmatise our imperfections. It’s a journey he and his dad Erwin McManus (MOSAIC’s senior pastor) began in their podcast Battle Ready, and one they use to frame the culture of their church.
“I wanted to offer my life as an autopsy and break down my broken moments. I wanted to be more transparent and ask how we can all do that.”
As the name suggests, MOSAIC is founded on the artistic image of broken pieces being brought together with light shining through them. It’s a beautiful depiction of what happens when imperfect lives come together to serve Christ: there may be cracks, but there’s also creativity and wonder.
Speaking to Hope 103.2 Aaron said, “On Battle Ready Me and my dad would sit down and have raw, transparent conversations… I wanted to talk about life and things I’ve struggled with in my past.
“With huge movements of ‘cancel culture’ [where public figures, typically, are rejected from social or professional circles for their behaviour or views], I wanted to offer my life as an autopsy and break down my broken moments. I wanted to be more transparent and ask how we can all do that.”
Breaking Down Fear of Hot-Potato Issues
In its first season McManus has talked about the pro life / pro choice debate, ‘celebrityism’, climate change and the Christian responsibility, and more recently in their ‘At Home’ editions, the fear of death and how to find purpose in the pandemic.
Christians can feel uncomfortable opening up discussion around these topics, but Aaron believes we need to create spaces where we can push the boundaries and ask questions unashamedly.
“[That feeling of resistance] stems from this idea that we feel very unfamiliar and afraid to question the idea of God,” he said.
For Aaron, though, questioning is second nature; when he was younger his Dad taught him to investigate God and explore what he believed about faith.
“I asked my dad, ‘How do we know [the answer] is God – how do know it’s Jesus?’” said Aaron. “My dad would drop me off at a Buddhist day camp; and he dropped me off at Scientology right in the middle of Hollywood; I went and studied Mormonism with some friends from basketball practice… and he refused to let me make a decision unless I was adequately educated.
“He said, ‘If you want to question God – go out and seek, but every time you do, we’re going to sit down and process what you learned’. I would go to the various day camps and services, and come back saying, ‘Well that’s not it’… but I still had so many questions about God.
“My dad said to me that God’s bigger than my questions – and I still believe that’s true today.”
“My dad said to me that God’s bigger than my questions – and I still believe that’s true today… It’s ok to question, it’s ok to challenge and try to understand… God knows in our brokenness, and maybe just our humanity, that we have tons of questions and that we’re curious people.
“I don’t think it makes Him feel inferior when we ask, ‘God are you out there?’
“If anything, He wants us to be asking so he can show up in every moment.”
A Transparent Relationship
The relationship Aaron shares with his dad is on full display on McManus as they argue about their views, reflect on Aaron’s path from wrestling with negative experiences of church to wanting to lead one, and how Christians can better engage mainstream culture.
Aaron credits his dad’s nature and Christian faith for the healthy bond they share.
“My dad is an incredibly patient and loving human being,” he said. “With him coming to Jesus and having a relationship with God, he’s treated me [from the viewpoint of] loving me unconditionally – through my brokenness, and my pain and my questions, and my anger and volatility at times.
“I don’t know how he did it; he didn’t grow up with a dad. He had no example. He just genuinely committed his life to being a great father, and a great husband and leader.
“… [As he planted churches] he never made us secondary – he never left us at home; he always brought us with him, and explained the vision and walked us through the difficult moments… For him there was no calling without his commitment to his family. I’m really grateful because he never left me behind.”
Encouraging Authenticity in our Friendships
McManus also reflects the benefits of authentic friendships – which Aaron hopes the church will be able to offer people as they seek out genuine human connection throughout the pandemic.
Those friendships come about by “being a person who’s willing to see someone who’s different from you, and actually finding something special and unique about them that you can love,” said Aaron. “And being curious – that’s the basis of good relationships, and relationships with different people.
“Very rarely do you find people who have an eclectic group of friends, with people who genuinely disagree with them; why would you want to keep someone around you who constantly goes against what you believe and understand?
“I think as Christians we can forget that that [dynamic] was the whole purpose of our [coming to faith] – it wasn’t for us.”
- More: Listen to Laura’s full chat with Aaron McManus above; and catch more of Aaron on the latest episodes of McManus and Battle Ready.
- Below: The latest episode of Battle Ready.