It spreads the message, though.

RB: But there are consequences, and they need to be counted.

YWJ: You're big on mystery, wonder and mysticism. Can that work in youth ministry? Will kids stay on track if you go there?

RB: They're much more in tune. It's when you get older that you believe you can figure all this out. I think a kid fundamentally understands there's a God who made everything, something is happening and history is headed somewhere; and they understand that it's awe-inspiring and amazing. They would be OK with language failing.

YWJ: Aren't they looking for answers? At least in school there are answers.

RB: I was bored out of my mind in school: Here's the answer, OK. What's the next answer? OK, I got it. Then they meet somebody who's awe-inspiring, such as Bishop Tutu. They resonate with that.

YWJ: So youth workers shouldn't see this mystery as troublesome?

RB: It's a reality, so embrace it and celebrate it. N.T. Wright tells his students that a third of what he tells them isn't true, but he doesn't know which third.

YWJ: What books have shaped you?

RB: That's a long list: Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard; a Swedish explorer rode his bike from Sweden to Mt. Everest and home, without using supplemental oxygen—everything he needed he carried on his bike and he wrote about it in the book Ultimate High; Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr; a lot of Catholic works; A Holy Longing—I was deeply, deeply shaped by that book.

YWJ: What drives you, inspires you in the work you do as a pastor, father, writer?

RB: I stumbled into a life that I find really joyful. I've always been compelled by Jesus. I've always found Jesus fascinating. Everybody has a rule of life. I just find in the Resurrected Christ an order and a rule of life that is worth dying for. I pray a lot, rest a lot and read a lot.

Josh Seligman is a journalism student, Point Loma Nazarene Univesity, San Diego; Dean Nelson directs the journalism program at PLNU and authored God Hides in Plain Sight.

Original publication date: October 2, 2009