Oh friends, it’s treat of a treat Tuesday! Today author Zach Hoag join us; his book, The Light is Winning, released in early June, and the premise of his story makes me giddy to read the entire thing. I love that pop culture inspires him in the most spiritual of ways, and I love that he’s put his amazing life journey to words. So, check out this interview, then leave a comment below to win a copy of his book.
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? Sure thing. I’m a two-time author, sometimes preacher, and all-the-time writer and creator from New England. Vermont, to be exact, which has held steady among the top 5 least religious states in the U.S. for quite a few years now.
I’m married to Kalen, and we have three wonderful girls: Gemma (7), Pippa (5), and Willa (2.5). Kalen and I planted a church nearly a decade ago and closed it about 5 years ago. We’ve been journeying through a wilderness of sorts ever since, and are starting to find our way through it to a place of genuine belonging and flourishing. As many readers may understand, the wilderness can be brutal, and flourishing can’t come fast enough!
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? I like to think of The Light is Winning as spiritual memoir with a penchant for church and pop culture analysis. So, in one sense it’s about my spiritual journey, which for all intents and purposes kicked into high gear at age ten when my parents decided to move us from Miami, FL to a Pentecostal cult in Jasper, TX. After a couple harrowing years there, our family embarked on a spiritual odyssey that took us up the east coast, entailed failed church startup attempts, and eventually landed us in the brave little state of Vermont.
The thing is, the kind of controlling religion we absorbed in Texas never left us, and it deeply damaged our family dynamic and story throughout our travels and eventual settling down. And it set a harmful trajectory for my own life as well. Of course, as these things go, we often don’t experience the fruit until much later, when reality erupts in our face, creating an undeniable moment of decision and change where all is finally revealed. That’s exactly what happened when my own church plant unraveled five years ago.
In another sense, the book is about the bigger story unfolding in the American church at large, as cultural transition and numerical decline are bringing us to an undeniable moment of decision and change. I argue that this time we are in is an apocalypse in the most literal sense of the word: a time of great revealing, leading to a great ending, precipitating a new beginning for Christianity in the U.S.
Oh, and it’s also about my love of TV, as my favorite shows make several cameos.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? The primary inspiration, honestly, was a spiritual experience I had while watching TV. (This is how God speaks to me, mainly.) It was the finale of the first season of the HBO series True Detective, and in it (spoiler alert) the primary character played by Matthew McConaughey undergoes a conversion experience of sorts. As I watched, I found myself going through something similar. The main character concluded, “the light’s winning,” and that’s precisely what I began to believe, for the first time in a long time—maybe the first time ever.
But I was also inspired by a deep need to tell this life story of spiritual damage and harm and failure, and to tell it honestly, without hedging or hiding. It was super hard to do, and yet super liberating too.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? My deepest hope is that my spiritual journey will resonate with others who have experienced something similar; and that my insights on the state of the church in the U.S. will inspire followers of Jesus to embrace the opportunity that these apocalyptic times present. Namely, the opportunity to reflect, repent, and reform in the hopes that a brilliant new beginning awaits us in this new century.
That’s the essence of what the light is winning means: to face the reality at both the individual and collective level, and hope anyway in the kingdom future that Jesus desires for us.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? So many ways! I honestly wrote this book in a very challenging “area” of the wilderness—something I hope to write more about in the next one. So in a lot of ways, I was living what I was writing and having to hold onto the light even as I encouraged others to do the same. But perhaps the most important way writing this book changed me was that it profoundly awakened me to more of who I really am and more of who Jesus really is in my life. And I’m so grateful for that. I’ll never be the same again because of having written this book.
How and where can we find you on the internet? I’m “zhoag” basically everywhere: zhoag.com is my website, @zhoag on Twitter, /zhoag on Facebook and Instagram. I love to connect with readers in any of those places!
So, what do you think? Are you as stoked as I am to read The Light is Winning after reading his interview? I’m so glad Zach was able to join us today, so be sure to check him out and continue to get to know him at all the different places around the wide, wide internet. Otherwise, if you’d like to win a copy of his book, simply leave an encouraging comment below. Winner will be drawn on July 31st.
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