I first encountered the words of Erwin McManus in an unlikely setting: We were in a large indoor arena and he was standing on the other side of ten thousand men. It was a weekend extravaganza sponsored by Promise Keepers, the Christian men’s organization well known for the stadium-sized events they hold across the country. McManus was a featured speaker, and I was writing an article on Promise Keepers for this magazine. In an evening of Christian idealism and bootstrap empowerment, McManus stood out. He was a powerful speaker, and his nondogmatic call for men to live with a deeper sense of integrity, passion, and nobility resonated even with me—a non-Christian, nontraditional, non–Promise Keepers sort of guy.
As it turns out, I’m hardly alone. McManus is one of the fast-rising stars in the Christian world and beyond. With an inspirational message, a down-to-earth persona, and an eclectic palette of interests that includes writing, filmmaking, and teaching, his words resonate with a generation of seekers who are passionate about finding meaning and purpose but not so excited about religious dos and don’ts. Born in El Salvador to a Roman Catholic family who never went to mass, McManus was raised in Miami by a mother interested in Buddhism and a grandfather who believed in reincarnation. “We were the only Latinos in Miami who were Buddhists,” he jokes.
This eclectic background prepared McManus to minister to a postmodern world that is unmoored from traditional doctrines and populated with young people more interested in spiritual authenticity than religious authority. After earning degrees at the University of North Carolina and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, McManus headed west and founded Mosaic, a fast-growing Los Angeles community of Christian seekers, activists, and entrepreneurs. Today he helps run the community; works to inspire and organize its multitude of projects; lectures around the country on subjects as diverse as creativity, community building, and filmmaking; and publishes numerous books, including the just-released Wide Awake: The Future Is Waiting Within You. As the spiritual adviser to thousands of people, many of them under the age of thirty, McManus has spent years counseling men as they face the unique life conditions of our contemporary society. Last spring I reached this new kind of postmodern preacher in his offices in L.A., where he shared with me his thoughts about the current state of masculinity, the characteristics of an ideal man, and the relationship between men, women, gender, and enlightenment.