Outreach, Inc. Statement on The Shack
For more than 20 years our mission at Outreach has been to help churches build bridges to their communities in order to share the Gospel more often and more effectively. In our ever-changing world, we are committed to that mission more than ever and seek to equip every church to reach every person with the hope and truth of Jesus Christ. Our decision to create resources for churches to use alongside The Shack movie, just like all decisions we make, was filtered through this desire to see an ever increasing number of people place their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord.
After previewing the movie ourselves and getting feedback from hundreds of pastors who have seen the movie (see this page for a short list of these endorsements), we believe The Shack will give your church an opportunity to speak into the many questions that people wrestle with in regard to God's love, forgiveness, the problem of evil, and how a personal relationship with Christ can bring hope and healing in the midst of pain. Millions have read the book and millions more will see the movie and come away with a desire to learn more about God's love, forgiveness and power to heal personal pain. There is no doubt that this movie will raise important and significant questions, which is why we felt compelled to accept the responsibility to help churches engage with their communities and help address those questions. Focusing on the foundational truth of God's Word, Outreach has developed a number of helpful resources based on the film, which you can find here.
While many have endorsed the book that The Shack is based upon, we do recognize that it has also weathered a measure of resistance and criticism. Because we value the trust churches have placed in us over the years, there are some key elements that we want to address:
- The book and movie are different, both in content and delivery. The film was adapted from the book with the intent of showing the main message of the story, which is an invitation to experience the ultimate truth about God's love, forgiveness and healing.
- This film was produced with great responsibility and forethought in how to present questions of faith in a manner that invites people to engage, especially those who have experienced great pain and are struggling with the concepts of evil and justice in relation to a loving and caring God. Neither the original book, nor this movie, are intended to serve as a theological treatise. Rather, they are works of fiction that help point people toward our loving and forgiving God.
- While not a direct theological exposition, the movie does invite the exploration of faith and a personal relationship with God. The movie includes a vivid dream-like sequence that explores the nature of God, His goodness, and love and the problem of pain. For all those who have wondered where God is in their pain, for those who have questioned if God is there at all, The Shack presents an unforgettable encounter with God's divine love that promises to never leave us.
- There have been some individuals who have gone as far as claiming the book is heresy. As stated above, the book and movie are different, and we believe everyone has the right to evaluate this claim for themselves. One concern raised by some who have read the book is the portrayal of the concept of the Trinity. Theologians, pastors, ministry leaders and Christ-followers across the centuries have grappled with the challenge of sufficiently explaining the Trinity. Rather than attempting to provide a thorough theological explanation of the Trinity, the movie seeks to offer a descriptive understanding of the Trinity through the experience of the main character, Mack. Mack struggles spiritually because of trauma he endured as a child at the hands of his earthly father and an incredibly painful and heart-breaking tragedy he has faced as an adult. The treatment of the Trinity reflects the idea that God is graciously meeting Mack where he is, entering into his pain and doubt in a manner that helps him to process his pain and find healing and wholeness in a relationship with God. Again, this is a work of fiction and is meant to portray some of the many, complex, and beautiful aspects of God.
- Some contend that the transcendance and holy otherness of God is not balanced sufficiently with God's mercy and love in the movie. God is seen to engage lovingly and personally with Mack in a way that ministers to his present pain and leads him to a place of genuine forgiveness. The movie is not attempting to fully explain the complete nature of God in two hours any more than a pastor can expect to fully explain the complete nature of God in a single sermon. Just as many sermons, books, articles and songs extol different virtues of God, this movie focuses on celebrating the power of God's love and forgiveness in the face of great loss.
We encourage pastors and ministry leaders to prayerfully consider how God might use this film to reach people that might not otherwise be exposed to the Gospel. Furthermore, we challenge you to thoughtfully prepare yourselves and your churches to engage in the spiritual conversations that will arise from this movie. As the Church, we have the ability to provide both discussion and direction in the spiritual matters that will be raised.
Finally, may we all be encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul: "Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
The Shack FAQ
Learn more about The Shack