2016 Spirit of Windrider Award Recipients
Mike McHargue & Michael Gungor – 2016 Spirit of Windrider Award Recipients
by Kathy Hoeck and John Priddy
“Every so often, voices cry out from the wilderness and such is the case with Mike McHargue and Michael Gungor, along with their combined effort with The Liturgists. They are both poets and sages of our time—bringing their winsome voices to a dry and thirsty land. Both embody what “riding the wind” is all about.”—John Priddy, Co-Founder, Windrider Forum
The world is hungry for the message of God’s larger story of hope, justice, and love—and bringing that message to a tech-savvy, intellectual, curious generation requires origination, talent, and grace. Windrider is committed to encouraging a creative spirit that will impact culture through film and media, and each year we honor an individual who embodies the heart and soul of Windrider. As we gather together each year to go through a nomination, presentation, and selection process, we are always excited to feature our accomplished and eclectic Spirit of Windrider Award Recipients.
The 2016 Spirit of Windrider Award recipients—Mike McHargue (Science Mike) and Michael Gungor (of the music collective Gungor), along with their combined efforts with The Liturgists, offer an innovative and creative approach to bringing spiritual conversations to light and life. They recognize that this insightful generation of leaders are searching for answers to life’s big questions and they are passionate about their call to speak truth to this unique audience.
Founded by Mike McHargue and Michael Gungor, The Liturgists offer sacred art committed to beauty and scientific integrity—producing thoughtful, evocative work. They are a collective of artists and creators introducing divine experiences to the spiritually homeless and frustrated.
Whoa! Some may stop right here and ask … what on earth do science, beauty and art, have to do with liturgy and capturing the heart and soul of the lonely and spiritually frustrated? This question reminds me of a song by Casting Crowns, A City on a Hill:
Did you hear of the city on the hill
Said one old man to the other
It once shined bright, and it would be shining still
But they all started turning on each other
You see the poets thought the dancers were shallow
And the soldiers thought the poets were weak
And the elders saw the young ones as foolish
And the rich man never heard the poor man speak
Throughout history, science and faith have been at odds with one another and even art and beauty are sometimes considered to be antithetical of faith as well.
Each one thought that they knew better
But they were different by design
Instead of standing strong together
They let their differences divide
But what if we could step back … slow down … and simply listen? Perhaps we would see that semantics was actually creating the chasm preventing us from really hearing each other and from focusing on what we could all agree on. Yes, I know, sometimes that gets messy and the discussions can be brash! However, by embodying the Spirit of Windrider to be equipped to have open and honest conversations with a variety of people in our culture, Mike and Michael are opening the doors for having meaningful conversations where we identify our common ground—allowing individuals to focus on and identify with the Creator.
But it was the rhythm of the dancers
That gave the poets life
It was the spirit of the poets
That gave the soldiers strength to fight
It was fire of the young ones
It was the wisdom of the old
It was the story of the poor man
That needed to be told
Through art, beauty, music, and science—Mike and Michael are bridging that chasm generated by misunderstanding and misinterpretations of the integration of faith, science, and reality. Reverberating the pioneering spirit of Sir John Templeton, they exhibit “humility-in-theology” and an open-minded curiosity while personally grappling life’s big questions. Appealing to a generation of cultural creatives—the guys explore great religious traditions and ancient scriptures—launching reverent discussions concerning social issues—inviting an ongoing spiritual journey.
Their work includes live events, conferences, downloadable worship experiences, and a popular podcast. The Liturgists resolutely endeavor to create safe spaces and conversations that explore reality from the perspectives of art, faith, and science—a space where great minds can stretch their imaginations and make new discoveries.
Part of The Liturgists’ work is a curiously popular podcast, The Liturgists Podcast. By examining topics through the lenses of science, art, and faith with a commitment to open, honest discussions, The Liturgists Podcast has attracted hundreds of thousands of listeners of remarkable diversity including not only a broad swath of Christianity, but also the religiously unaffiliated—including agnostics and atheists. With over 250,000 subscribers, The Liturgists has grown into a global community for people who are interested in Christ, but often feel marginalized by Christianity. By blending a topical format with interviews, poetry, music, and compelling sound design, the show is lauded for its gracious tone when discussing controversial subjects.
“When Steve Jobs wrote his ad, “Think Different,” he was thinking of people like Mike McHargue and Michael Gungor, fearless new voices of the coming generation who are positioned to change the world. They are the Pied Piper of the “spiritually frustrated.” As such, they are the hope and harbinger of human society in the 21st century. Few are worthier of this award.” — John Seel, Cultural Analyst and Consultant
By offering a platform for individuals to wholeheartedly search for truth and answers, in the sometimes daunting social issues we face, Mike and Michael embody the spirit of the Windrider Forum and our commitment to mentoring individuals to have spiritual conversations in public places.
Meet the Guys
Mike McHargue is an author, podcaster, and speaker focused on the science behind spiritual experiences. Mike lost his faith via atheism as an adult, but rediscovered God in cosmology and neuroscience–a journey that lead to his life’s mission: helping people reconcile their faith in an age of incredible scientific insight.
“Mike McHargue is one of the smartest thinkers of our time. His understanding of the Universe, and its intricacies, is inspiring and beautiful beyond measure. I can only assume that as a child, he took all of his toys apart and put them back together again just to figure them out. With that same wonder and curiosity, he lays out every tiny, confusing piece of Science and Religion on the table, and we as his readers and listeners get to watch and learn as he pieces it all together.”—Ryan O’Neal, Sleeping at Last
Mike also hosts a weekly questions-and-answer podcast called Ask Science Mike with over 100,000 monthly downloads. Ask Science Mike is a safe space for people to share questions they’ve always been afraid to ask about science, faith, and life.
Mike loves sharing ideas in person, and is an in-demand speaker at conferences, churches, and colleges. He’s recently spoken to sold-out crowds in New York about the science of addiction, explained the science of storytelling at Storyline in Chicago, and shown people how Christianity can embrace the modern world at Belong in London.
Mike cofounded The Liturgists with Michael Gungor of the award winning band Gungor. Michael is a worship leader, songwriter, and has received multiple Grammy nominations and is a Dove award-winning musician. Michael’s passion is to help people encounter God through worship. Michael and wife, Lisa, are curators of the Grammy-nominated musical collective simply known as Gungor and use their skills to tell honest musical reserves to blur genres and break expectations creating a unique magnetic expression.
Gungor’s Beautiful Things is a reminder that God can and will make beautiful things of our lives—even in the midst or because of the difficulties we endure.
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You
Beautiful Things was self-produced and expands the horizons of Gungor’s version of modern worship. All songs were written or co-written by Michael—delivering his most artistically diverse album to date.
Using their skills as accomplished song writers and multi-instrumentalists, Michael and Lisa tell honest and forthright stories—some personal and some allegorical. Embodying the essence of Windrider—this duo reverberates the ideology that “stories are what make us human, not just metaphorically, but literally” (Lisa Cron, Wired for Story.)
Aside from his work with the band, Michael has written and produced music for several other artists. He has also written a book titled The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators.
I too have been on a spiritual journey … as I have gotten to know Mike and Michael. And now as I sit looking out over the lake … surrounded by such beauty and mystery … I am reminded that we are all searching and that in the end … Love wins.
And the world is searching still
And the Father’s calling still
To the city on the hill
As John Templeton once said, “progress in spiritual information is possible, desirable, and can be done” and the combined efforts of Mike McHargue and Michael Gungor offer the world such progress.