A bliss experience sent him in a new direction. Formerly an atheist, he is now a chaplain who conducts God workshops in the woods....
John Lionberger is the author of Renewal in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Guide to Connecting With God in the Natural World. His book traces the history of spiritual formation in the wilderness, which has been remarkably similar across the world for thousands of years, and the universality of the experience may be, as Lionberger says, “the language with which we can all talk of God without shedding blood.”
The book is interspersed with accounts and lessons from his own trips into the wilderness, as well as vignettes from the people who have joined him. When he isn’t writing, he’s taking people of any faith, and often no faith at all, into the wilderness on trips of spiritual and life renewal. His ministry is called, appropriately, “Renewal in the Wilderness.”
On a dog sled trip to the boundary waters in northern Minnesota, he began the adventure as a dedicated agnostic, but he left the wilderness knowing that he’d been ambushed by God. In the 25 degrees below zero weather, a warmth flooded over him that he couldn\'t explain. Over the next year and a half he concluded that he had been visited by God. It changed everything for him, taking him from a thirty year career as an advertising executive in the broadcast and cable businesses, to seminary, then to the idea of taking people into the wilderness for the same kind of experience he had.
Raised in South Bend, IN, Lionberger did his undergraduate work in English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. He earned a MSJ degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and a Master of Divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary.
He currently resides in Evanston, IL, with his wife, Jane, a Presbyterian minister, and he serves as the chaplain for the Three Crowns Park retirement home. He has also served on three boards for Outward Bound, and has received extensive wilderness training from both Outward Bound and from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). He has two grown children, Annie and Jack.