God Gets Everything God Wants: A Conversation with Katie Hays

I picked up God Gets Everything God Wants because I didn’t think I agreed with the title’s assumption, but by the end of the book I found myself nodding along with Katie Hays and murmuring my agreement. I quoted the book in a church leader’s group and, if the people in those groups are trustworthy, got Katie a few sales out of it. The quote in question…well…Katie actually repeats it in the podcast so see if you can figure it out. I knew I had to talk with her and she was kind enough to schedule a time with me. So I present to you know, the Rev. Dr. Katie Hays and God Gets Everything God Wants.

The Conversation | Rev. Dr. Katie Hays

This excerpt has been lightly edited for conciseness and clarity. Listen to the full interview on the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Josh Olds: Tell me about you, your church, and your book.

Katie Hays: You bet. So I’m a church planter. Galileo Church, my church on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas, is just about eight years old. And our main reason for being is to seek and shelter spiritual refugees. Spiritual refugees are people who have felt they’ve experienced the kind of collapse of their Christian faith. I’m here in the Bible Belt: everybody here has met Jesus at some point or another. And they felt the collapse of that for all kinds of reasons. And they’re working through that sort of process of deconstruction and maybe kind of concussed sitting in the rubble of what used to be their faith and sort of wondering what to do next. And you can make an amazing community of Beloveds out of folks exactly like that.

Folks, who for a little while, need to talk about what they don’t believe anymore. They’ve worked so hard to get to the place where they can with some clarity say, Yeah, you know, some of these things I was given as a child I inherited from my parents or the church of my youth. I don’t believe that stuff anymore. And we’ve worked pretty hard to get to a place of honesty about that. The next step, then, for those of us who have been through that experience, is to try to say in the positive, okay, then what do we believe? I say now about my own Christian faith, that I believe a lot less than I used to—meaning a lot fewer things—but that the things I believe, I believe real hard, like there is just a couple, and they’re really deep in me. And I have sort of settled with those things. And from there, our church together is doing this sort of theological rehabilitation to rebuild something that’s just much more inclusive and beautiful and generous to all of us. And this book is a distillation of that.

Josh Olds: I like the point that you make about being spiritual refugees, because there are so many people that are going through this. I even I know even for myself as a pastor, as someone who, right around COVID hit, stepped out a formal ministry. And I started going, what, “What do I want out of church?” Just because there had been a way that I had done church for so long. And I think for a lot of people that was true, they may have just felt like, well, this is what I’ve done on Sundays for my entire life. And then when they were pushed out of that pattern, even if we just moved online, they started to be rethinking of why, why am I here? You know, what am I doing? What do I want from this experience? I’m not really getting it, or even I’m not missing it. You know, I had friends who, who just like, you know, faithful, committed Christians and continue to be but just found out they did not miss the church experience they had been a part of.

I believe a lot less than I used to—meaning a lot fewer things—but that the things I believe, I believe real hard. – Katie Hays

Katie Hays: Josh, you’re not supposed to say that out loud! Don’t you know that we clergy have a code where we don’t say that out loud? *laughs* No, it’s absolutely true. People found that they weren’t missing it. And why? Why weren’t they? Well, either because their church was not speaking to what the Gospel says to our current situation. In other words, the church keeps saying the same old things and they’re less and less relevant every day. They’re not relevant to a global pandemic. They’re not global. They’re not relevant to the fragmentation of the human family. The church just isn’t speaking into my life in a way that feels like good news. Or they found that though the Church calls itself a family or a community, a lot of times it kind of devolves into just a series of programming decisions. We just have events on the calendar you come to. That’s how this works. That’s the transaction. We plan it you show up. That is not the same thing as actually sharing life together and building relationships. So if the programming disappears, and you don’t miss it, it may be that it’s because the church wasn’t actually building infrastructure for real relationships, one human being to another.

Josh Olds: Now I want talk about the title, God Gets Everything God Wants. That’s more than just a book title for you. And I want to make sure that we’re understanding it correctly. Because what first drew me to the book was the title. And the thought that hmm, I don’t know that I agree with that. And then having read the book, and I went, Oh, okay. I see where we’re going with this. But then I threw it out into an online group of pastors and spiritual leaders that I’m friends with, and didn’t give them any context, just gave them the title. And the reaction was people who were more conservative than me were saying, “I don’t know about that.” And people who were way more liberal than me, were also saying, “I don’t know about that.” Now, they had different reasons, so I guess what we have to do is ask you, what does that phrase mean, for you?

We’re still listening to that raving preacher coming in hungry and sweaty out of the desert saying it’s right here right now God getting everything God wants. We go, okay, man, I’m with you. I hope it’s true. And then we act as if it is and the more we act as if it is—I really believe in partnership with God—it becomes more and more true in our lives in the lives of our Beloveds: our neighbors, strangers and even enemies. – Katie Hays

Katie Hays: Sure. Sure. I’m really glad that it feels provocative to people all over the spectrum of Christian faith. And that just…that feels really satisfying to me. Because I think that in, in this age, probably as in every age, but this is the one I know. Christian preachers need to stake a claim, we have to stake a claim. And it’s got to be a claim that people have to consider like, “Ah, I don’t know about that.” And it’s a faith claim, right? It’s not something verifiable by empirical evidence. It’s just it’s something we say we believe. And as I said, we believe it real hard.

For me “God gets everything God wants” is shorthand for a more nuanced sentence, which would have a lot of adverbs in it. Something like God, ultimately, eventually, in some space-time continuum that I don’t have access to right now gets everything God wants. This is a prophetic vision that the prophets of old and our contemporary prophets have continued to maintain. As a faith stance, they keep saying, “I understand you can’t see it now. Neither can I.” But, as you know, for Habakkuk, one of our minor prophets, positioning himself on the rampart waiting for a message and the message comes and it is there is a vision for the appointed time. If it seems to delay, wait for it, it will surely come. Right? This is something you have to decide to believe, because you don’t have it in hand yet. But you decided to believe it. And then having believed it, you begin to act as if.

And so for me now, this is sort of the Christian behavioral piece like—How does a Christian person, a disciple of Jesus, comport themselves in this world, where clearly things have gone haywire and God is not getting what God wants in so many demonstrable ways. Jesus comes preaching out of that desert and says, “The time is now; the reign of God is so close you can reach out and touch it. Change your life and believe that this is good news.” And people are looking around going, we’re still under the boot of the Romans. How is the reign of God so close? We can reach out and touch it. Well, that’s a faith claim. And Jesus says, If you want to know come follow me. I’m going to show you that. So we’re still doing that. We’re still listening to that raving preacher coming in hungry and sweaty out of the desert saying it’s right here right now God getting everything God wants. We go, okay, man, I’m with you. I hope it’s true. And then we act as if it is and the more we act as if it is—I really believe in partnership with God—it becomes more and more true in our lives in the lives of our Beloveds: our neighbors, strangers and even enemies.

The Book | God Gets Everything God Wants

A gospel of hope, inclusion, and defiance

If God gets everything God wants, and if what God wants is you, can anything stand in God’s way?

Too many Christians have been taught that core aspects of who they are—their gender, their sexual orientation, their politics, their skepticism—prevent God from loving them fully. For these individuals, church has been a painful experience of exclusion, despite the reality that Jesus was the embodiment of God’s radical inclusion.

Katie Hays invites weary Christians, former Christians, and the Christ-curious to take another look at God through the testimony of our biblical ancestors and to reimagine the church as a community of beautiful, broken, and burdened people doing their best to grow into their baptisms together. Hays insists that yes, God does get everything God wants, and—even better—we’re invited to want what God wants, too, and want it “more and more and more, until life feels abundant and eternal and delicious and drunken with possibility.”

This is a message of stouthearted faith anchored in wonder—not false certainty. Atheists are welcome. Those who feel uneasy inside a church are welcome. Those still angry at other Christians are welcome. Because no matter what we’ve experienced, the God who still adores this world is the God of hope, inclusion, and defiance of the powers that be. And for those who are willing to collaborate in “the painstaking work of examining our Christian faith and sorting it out—the good stuff from the harmful stuff, the stuff with integrity from the stuff we simply inherited from family or church or . . . the cultural air we’re breathing”—there await life-giving possibilities found nowhere else.

The Author | Katie Hays

Katie is a pastor and author who grew up fundamentalist, scared of hell and the God who could send her there. Also called to ministry, but unable to say that for a long time, #becausegirl. Then, to make a long story short, there’s a multi-decade jumble of faith de/reconstruction, ordination, denominational exile, ecclesial trauma, lots and lots of therapy and education, and voilà: she’s finally firing on all cylinders at 50+ because God is good, and Katie is stubborn as hell – yeah, the hell she doesn’t believe in anymore.

So she served for nearly two decades of ministry in traditional, small-steeple churches in Birmingham AL, Long Island NY, suburban Atlanta GA, and Arlington TX. In 2013, Katie left her last traditional congregation and, with a team of co-conspirators (less than) half her age, launched Galileo Church, a next-church community of belonging in Jesus’ name. And you can’t know Katie if you don’t know Galileo, because, well, that’s where she figured out what it means to be the Whole Beautiful Self God made her — and you — to be.