Pushback for Donald Miller wormthoughts


Donald Miller recently wrote a blog post on his Storyline blog which is connected to his Storybrand marketing firm (if you never heard of him, fine, skip this post). His post was about why he does not “go to church” very often (an act that Elaine told Nona was basically impossible the other day, since we are the church).

When he “went to church” (still impossible) the music team was great, but he loved the music more than the worship. He just doesn’t relate to God that way. He says: “As far as connecting with God goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.” Then he highlighted, “ I used to feel guilty about this but to be honest, I experience an intimacy with God I consider strong and healthy.”

These are such “Miller comments” and such influential wormthoughts that I want to answer back. He keeps saying:

  • What I feel is paramount and defining.
  • I used to feel guilty.
  • My own estimation of my experience is how I decide what is healthy.

There is a lot to protest here, but you can do that as you please. I’ll just note that these thoughts are apparently supposed to be liberating. (They certainly are s&#! Americans say!). Miller has been “liberating” evangelicals all over the country for years as he wandered around finding himself and selling books. He made some good points in his youth, but then he became a philosopher and created a marketing firm to keep us listening to him. Somehow, his experience is supposed to be important to everyone he professionally tries to loop into his constituency.

He was really just dashing off some musings about how people learn different ways to feed his blog machine. But he couldn’t resist being a theologian when he told people to Tweet an incendiary phrase that would draw people to the blog; it was sort of a Christian version of Orlando Bloom getting naked so people will remember he’s an actor. He said:

“But I also believe the church is all around us, not to be confined by a specific tribe.”

I doubt that more than 10% of Christians on the planet believe anything else. Why judge them all with your supposedly “personal” belief (shared by billions) that also sets up parameters for a special tribe who believe it like you (you more enlightened person that you are)?

He got what he wanted. A lot of people (like I am doing) responded to his post. So he wrote a follow up to defend himself. He began by apologizing for being “naïve” about how many people he might upset. He said,All I can offer is my perspective, which I do not offer as an answer, only a contribution to a discussion” — the same kind of argument your husband gives you when he doesn’t dare disagree with you to your face but is going to stonewall you. This is all in the name of openness, of course.

He then proceeded to go on a LONG theological rant about people who exhaustively teach “tribal” theologies, setting up all sorts of straw people to knock down. I honestly did not read it carefully, since I fall into a category (ironically) of a person who learns more by doing than by lecture — he wrote that he doesn’t listen to others because he’s not feeling it, but boy can he lecture!

I write mainly to protest the “gospel of me” that is the basis of Miller’s theology. His anti-consumerism consumerism. His anti-marketing marketing. His ex-evangelical but still principle-based teaching. His anti-pulpit pulpiteering. His brand-judging branding.

He’s just so judgmental in the name of being non-judgmental! The blog posts I reference drip with judgment, all in the name of being self-disclosing and so free from any accountability to the larger audience from which he profits. He is on a long list of people who have somehow managed to get a lot of people to care how they feel while providing almost no relationship of any merit that would warrant such a connection.

I long for true alternativity. Genuine faith. Real community. Actual caring. Devoted prayer and mission. I think we are going for that. Miller doesn’t help. I’m sure he has said something, somewhere that is great. But I am sure someone in your cell or your pastor voiced a similar, contextualized, unpackaged idea at some point that you could touch, and dispute, forgive and apply together. That’s better.

6 thoughts on “Pushback for Donald Miller wormthoughts

  1. Rod,

    Incisive, insightful and incredibly informative. You have a talent for slicing through to the Truth, like a hot knife through butter! All of it with the intent of drawing ever closer to the Truth and our Father. Love this about you, bro!

  2. “I honestly did not read it carefully, since I fall into a category (ironically) of a person who learns more by doing than by lecture — he wrote that he doesn’t listen to others because he’s not feeling it, but boy can he lecture!” — but read my post about a post I didn’t read because I like to learn by doing and I like to write long lectured posts about long lectured posts? Instead let me offer vague two word sentences about what we do (eg actually caring).
    I dunno, I’d appreciate the things that he wrote in Blue Like Jazz and just because Miller, who I have never met, seems to be marketing his “brand” now – that does not diminish the good that he has done in the past. It’s simply too easy to critique (as evidenced by my own response). Wish this post had more to offer.

    1. Hi Beau. Good gotcha. I wish the post had more to offer too.

      Like I said “I’m sure [Miller] has said something, somewhere that is great. ” I think thousands have found Blue Like Jazz a good thing. Not my point. I just reacted to his blog and his general principles. His life I can leave to God.

      What do you think about what I was trying to say?

      1. I have a nasty habit of reading things online (emails, blogs, facebook, etc.) and injecting certain tones from the author at, potentially, inappropriate times. My apologies if I have done that here.
        In regards to what I see from Miller – in both of his posts, I see struggle. I see someone who is struggling with what “Church” means. Maybe I am injecting my own lens of having read Blue Like Jazz into these posts. But, I read the same lines from Miller about offering a perspective/starting a conversation and don’t think anything about a husband stonewalling his wife. In fact, that, to me, is one of the reasons that Circle has drawn me closer to God. Circle’s community has always allowed me to be open in my discussions (e.g. allowing talk back or commenting on a blog). When the discussion about something as important as attending a where or how we experience God, I’d like that conversation to not be dulled down but rather to have honest perspectives. Otherwise, we act as those burning Kaepernick’s jersey because he’s doing something we don’t like.

        You ask, “What do you think about what I was trying to say?” and I think what you were trying to say is, “don’t be Donald Miller.” But when I read both of those blogs, I believe what is said would be fairly similar to you are writing (although both of his blog posts are ~2 yrs old – not really recent – so maybe Miller’s recent marketing is altering the light in which we view his older posts). I guess I’m just wondering what’s wrong with having a link to tweet something? Isn’t it the same as having a link to a previous blog post one has previously written (heaven knows that happens)? I read Miller write that he’s beginning to see the Church as something “without walls, denominations or tribes.” Again, his struggle.

        I don’t think “[h]e was really just dashing off some musings about how people learn different ways to feed his blog machine.” When I read that, I feel comforted. I hear that not everyone has the same learning style and that it’s okay to not want to sing (p.s. I hate standing and singing). Maybe it’s because I haven’t gone through higher education about psychology so these “musings” are new and encouraging to me (my psychology knowledge is limited to my 10th grade psych teacher and the only thing I remember about him was that he was cool, wore a leather jacket, and rode a motorcycle). I also don’t think he was saying “What I feel is paramount and defining” – he writes: “Feelings matter. You can’t build a house on them, but they guide, shape, validate and work with rational thought to shape who we are and how we do life. When Jesus interacted with people, He cared about how they felt.” I’m just not certain his blogs drip with as much judgment as this lets on. I think it’s a person who has a blog but not a cell group to voice his struggles, frustrations, and ideas. My apologies to my cell-mates because I bet I sound a lot like Miller at times.

        1. Sounds like Donald could use a cell group…wanna track him down and invite him? 🙂 or maybe, more realistically, he needs to hear about the way we do church…I enjoyed these comments guys.

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