Dear Donald Miller: Thank You, and Please Stop


Dear Donald Miller,

Your writing has helped me at some of my darkest points. Your words have inspired me to go places in life I had never before considered.

Lately, however, your writing frustrates me. Your words disappoint me and alarm me at the implications for those who might take you seriously.

Let me explain.

I won’t pretend I have been a fan from the beginning. When I became a fan, however, it was when I needed your words most. Recovering from my worst-ever season of depression, I couldn’t tolerate much from the Christianity I once clung to. Most familiar books and music made me nauseous just at the thought. That’s when my counselor suggested I read Blue Like Jazz.

When I finally followed his suggestion, it was via audiobook. I was in such a state I needed to take in the words as passively as I could–I wouldn’t be able to make myself put forth the effort to read it. In the audiobook version I chose, you read the book out loud yourself. It was like a friend telling me a story. I especially remember the chapter where you imagine Jesus sitting with you at a campfire, lovingly remembering your life with you and compassionately answering hard questions. I had that chapter on repeat in my car’s CD player for several days.

After relating to Blue Like Jazz, I was ready and eager to read your words myself. So, I went to my local library and checked out a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I enjoyed watching your realizations from Blue come to maturity in A Million Miles, and the description of the pain you felt as your life unraveled was so real I felt like you could be describing my own grief and heartbreak.

Most importantly, one chapter in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years set off a chain of events in my life for which I will be forever grateful. Near the end of the book, you point out that we grew up in the church hearing that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and we unsuccessfully try to stuff that whole with worldly things (alcohol, TV, sex, what have you). The church says only God will fill that whole, and once we accept him, we will be complete and fulfilled. You call that idea a lie, saying, “I think Jesus can make things better, but he’s not going to make things perfect. Not here and not now.”

Yes, I thought–that’s exactly it! All the church does is exchange one lie for another. There is so much that Jesus means to us, but his point is not to complete us here on earth. I was so excited that you had put this realization into words for me, and I told my counselor I wanted to write an article called “The Dangerous Lie That We Tell.” I was passionate, but not completely serious. I had never written anything for publication before. I didn’t even have a blog. But my counselor took me seriously, asking me when I was going to write the article and where I was going to submit it. Within a year my piece was published in PRISM Magazine (see p. 30). Soon after, I started my blog, and began to submit pieces to several other publications–many of which they accepted–and for the past two or three years, my writing has been an incredible outlet and affirmation for me. It all started with your words giving me the will to speak.

I don’t remember exactly when things started to change. It’s hard to pinpoint because the change was slow and subtle. But I know red flags started going up around the time you published your Storyline workbook.

Up to that point, I had read all of your published books, so I wanted to try the Storyline workbook, too. It encourages readers to map out their lives, define themes, and refocus the course of their life with newfound purpose. It’s not particularly original (when most people–including my own therapist–hear the description, they say, “Oh, that sounds like _______.”). Still, the process is fairly sound, and it’s based on ideas you develop in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years about using the elements of story to make your own life a story worth reading (and living).

That’s all well and good. What bothered me about the book was the claims it made. The introduction told me me, “Storyline will help you live a better story and as such experience a meaningful life. Once you’ve completed Storyline you’ll have clarity about what you’re doing and the courage to face life’s challenges.” Wow. Meaning, clarity, and courage? All from a 100-ish page workbook?

The Storyline conference e-mails “you” sent me made similar claims. “Order Storyline now and clarify your life,” “What gets lost when you fail to live a great story,” “Sometimes all you need is this,” etc.

Hold on. The author that finally put words to the lie I heard from evangelicalism–the lie that there is no magic fix–is advertising a magic fix?

When I said “e-mails ‘you’ sent me,” I put “you” in quotes. I don’t know how much is actually you and how much is someone else. But that’s part of the problem. Even reading through the Storyline workbook, it’s hard to tell what is you and what is from someone else… part of the mysterious “we” of Storyline that never gets defined.

It was the titles of the posts on your blog–sorry, the Storyline blog–that added alarm bells to the red flags already waving furiously in my mind. I can’t identify all of them, because, after several days, posts disappear into an undated mass, sometimes to reappear under different titles as though they were new. Here, however, are a few examples from the first few pages of posts from contributors on as I’m writing this (italics added for emphasis):

  • “The Life-Changing Secret to Overcoming Your Greatest Fears”
  • “Why Feeling Sorry for Yourself Makes  You Destined to Fail”
  • “Couples Who Stay Together Follow This One Rule
  • “How to Make Complicated Problems Very Simple
  • “How to Ignore Your Worst Critic and Become Your Best Self
  • “Do You Filter Your Relationships? You Probably Should

I’m waiting for the post titled, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

The author–who wrote an entire book about how God is like jazz because jazz doesn’t resolve–is now offering black-and-white life solutions. Life-changing, simple advice with one rule that I should follow so I can become my best self.

Some–maybe even most–of the posts I referenced above contain some helpful advice. But their marketing is reminiscent of the get-’em-in-the-seats sermon titles of the evangelicalism of my past. The same evangelicalism with jagged flaws you helped my generation start to name and heal from.

Over the past year or so, my e-mail inbox and twitter feed has been filled with your (and/or Storyline’s?) sudden expertise on a variety of topics, from running a company to parenthood. Then, several weeks ago, I started receiving e-mails about your newfound area of expertise: marriage. I wondered how you became an expert after a year or two of being married yourself. The first e-mail described your pre-marital resource as “six months of marriage or pre-marriage counseling boiled down into five powerful sessions.” If I was someone without firsthand knowledge and experience of how crucial counseling can be, and/or someone who has not done a lot of living and thinking about marriage (others’ marriages and the possibility of my own), this is what I got from those e-mails:

  • Paying for and planning my wedding is more important than my actual marriage.
  • Pre-marital counseling isn’t worth time or money.
  • Your resource is going to prepare me and my future spouse for marriage just as well–or even better than–interacting with an objective third party would.

The tone of these e-mails from “you”–a person of influence–was incredibly irresponsible.

Further e-mails–and at least one related blog post–backed off of attacking traditional pre-marital counseling a bit, and, in fragments, explained what the resource actually is. If others took the time to follow several links and put the pieces together, they would see that the “resource” is actually videos, led by two experienced marriage therapists. It’s probably a helpful resource (especially since the therapists are Al Andrews and his wife). I’m not paying the $70 to find out (I’ll put that towards paying my in-person counselor). But a helpful resource is very different from a replacement for solid pre-marital counseling conducted by a licensed, experienced therapist.

Maybe the problem comes down to marketing. Maybe the problem comes down to involving too many people too quickly trying to attack too many projects.

Or maybe you actually have changed. Maybe now you think there are simple solutions. Maybe you’re no longer about living in the tensions of mystery and unanswered questions.

Either way, I hope that the Donald Miller that wrote these words below can speak to the Donald Miller of today: “Wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.” (from Blue Like Jazz)

I want to say thank you. Thank you for writing honestly and sharing yourself in a way that has helped me–and others–deal with similar issues.

Also,  I want to say: please stop. Please stop promising magical results and black-and-white solutions. Please stop delving into areas on which you simply haven’t earned the credibility to speak.

Those of us still living in the tensions miss your voice.


Emily A. Dause


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A Week Later: Reflections on My Letter to Donald Miller
Seeing Yourself in the Ideas That Draw You

90 Responses to Dear Donald Miller: Thank You, and Please Stop

  1. I have been wrestling with how I could have changed my opinion of Donald Miller over the years – not being able to see what you’ve written here. Now I get it! These are the words in my brain I couldn’t express. Thank you for doing so. Now I don’t feel I’m the only one.

  2. Emily Dause says:

    For those of you not on twitter–the post is getting a lot of attention… retweets, favorites, and people echoing my sentiments. It is encouraging to know I’m onto something here, and I hope it gets Don Miller’s attention.

    • Chaya says:

      I’m sorry, but I think you are under the delusion that most authors write books because they care so much about you the writer. Authors write to express themselves, but mostly they write to make a living. When a person reads a book or listens/watches a person on media, there is an illusion that you know the person, and it sounds like you are being protective of a person you don’t know.

      As his works are not scholarly nor peer-reviewed, he can write pretty much anything he wants, with legal disclaimers of course. For those who like mass market self-help books, caveat emptor.

      • Emily A. Dause says:

        Thanks for your opinion, Chaya. Of course he can write whatever he wants. He’s been popular for years before this shift started happening, so it’s not just a result of popularity. He’s still a person, and I would much rather reach out to him to appeal to him on a personal level in the hopes he might rethink than chalk it all up to the black hole of mass marketing.

  3. Mike Loomis says:

    Solid post and great perspective, Emily. I’ve actually had the opposite reaction, not quite connecting with his books until Scary Close.
    BUT – I do agree with your point (which I’d never considered) about offering “answers.” Well said. Thank you.

    • Emily Dause says:

      Someone else mentioned appreciating Scary Close, too–I haven’t read it yet, but will. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      • I really do think that if you read Scary Close you’d revise this post.

        • Emily A. Dause says:

          Hi Larry–I am planning to read Scary Close, as several people have recommended it in the course of this discussion. I read one of Don’s blog posts yesterday advertising the book, and it struck me how the premise of the book is very much what I/others are asking for (that he drop the act and be vulnerable with us once again)…unfortunately, that premise isn’t reflected in his marketing and the “self-help” tone of his products. If you read the other comments on this post, you will see that many others who did read Scary Close–and liked it–are still disenchanted by the image he and Storyline are projecting elsewhere. So, while I will read Scary Close, and quite possibly enjoy parts of it, it’s not going to change what I’ve written above. It can’t “cancel out” the other messages Don is broadcasting and/or allowing to be broadcast.

          • Pam Williams says:

            I think Donald Miller is growing up. I’m looking forward to a book on parenting, after his kids are grown and he’s in his 70’s, but I might not be around to read it or need it.

  4. I have led groups at my church in reading Blue Like Jazz, which remains a personal favorite. I have had a parallel loss of engagement with Miller’s work to your own; Miller the struggling Christian author has not translated well into Miller the self-help brand.

    Thanks so much for this.

  5. Becca says:

    “The author–who wrote an entire book about how God is like jazz because jazz doesn’t resolve–is now offering black-and-white life solutions. Life-changing, simple advice with one rule that I should follow so I can become my best self.”

    You so eloquently summed up what I had been feeling for so long, as well.
    You’re not alone.

  6. Kevin says:

    Platform Building and Monetization Strategies . . . the continual conflict of Mammon and the Kingdom. It’s oil and water and I don’t know many (if any) who’ve done it well.

  7. This was an excellent post, and echoes many of the sentiments I’ve had regarding the stuff Don puts out now. I saw a post he made somewhat recently where he criticized all the people who have said that they miss the “old” Don, and that he’s not “fat and miserable” anymore like he was back then, and now he’s happy and that’s why he’s different. I don’t think my complaints though are that he’s too happy now (although the Bob Goff everything-is-wonderful-here’s-some-balloons theology does get old) but that he’s so comfortable telling everyone else how to live THEIR lives. Like, can you imagine what Blue Like Jazz Don would say about a writer-turned-life-coach who turned his massive platform of Christian misfits following into a group he’s trying to sell Tony Robbins style advice to, only mixed with Christianity? It’d make him gag. It makes ME gag, honestly. But not because it’s “happy.” Because it doesn’t seem authentic.

    So yeah, I really appreciate this post.

    • Emily Dause says:

      Thanks, Emily! “Lack of authenticity” is an excellent way to summarize the feeling that I get reading Don Miller’s marketing e-mails or looking over the Storyline blog. It truly puzzles me how the Don Miller of Blue Like Jazz you mentioned could be ok with all the hype.

  8. john sowers says:

    sorry you don’t like my blog- “life changing secret to overcoming your fears.” for what it’s worth- I didn’t write the title.

    but the blog content itself is solid – it is about finding courage, finding courage thru love, based on John 15.13. it is not overpromising.

    I believe the love of Christ compels us and gives is courage. I really do. the content is solid and biblical and credible. I’m not trying to write an essay- more like a deep but simple meditation. And I do have some credibility to write it. As a father. As a seminarian. (MDiv and DMin). As the former director of a homeless shelter and now co-founder of a mentoring group that loves youth involved in gangs.

    your tone is gracious – which is a rare delight. and I am open to constructive criticism. I only write words or blogs or books that I feel are original and needed. so I won’t stop. 🙂 but I might try to push for more open-ended titles.

    • Emily Dause says:

      Hi John–thanks for the comment and for considering what I have to say! I agree with the content of your “overcoming your fears” post (after all, Paul says in 1 Cor. 13 that if we have not love, we have nothing). I didn’t necessarily have issues with the content of the other post titles I pulled out. I do take issue with the titles, but understand that you didn’t write your own title. I have had the experience of being as surprised by titles of my own posts that I’ve written for other publications! I tried not to pick out specific people (besides Don Miller, because I hope he will take responsibility for what he promotes–and/or the manner in which he promotes it). I hope that the fact I used the title of your post as an example didn’t cause you too much angst.

      Thanks for sharing more of your background, too, and for the incredible work you have done and continue to do.

      • john sowers says:

        thanks Emily –

        i never respond to these types of things, as i get enough criticism on Amazon reviews and Goodreads – but you are very gracious. if the Christian writing community stopped ranting and acted more graciously like you – it would be a much better space. i’m glad you are in it.

        also, i wanted to give an endorsement for my friend Don- i’ve seen him go thru a lot of crap, some he writes beautifully about in Scary Close. some is completely unfair and unjustified, people say awful things about him in an ungodly way.

        for the record, Don is a fantastically generous person, gives more and hosts more people at his house than anyone I know. his giving, if publicly known, would challenge all of us.

        7 years ago, he called me to lead The Mentoring Project – my wife and i moved from LA to Portland, and i watched him give generously again and again and again. when Fatherless Generation got published, he wrote the foreword. when my twin girls were born, he was there, gift in hand. when people made up hateful crap about The Mentoring Project he listened.

        if i told all his generosity secrets, it would be embarrassingly rich and inspiring. also, his generosity / leverage has helped us train some 2500 mentors, and moved thousands of churches in the direction of fatherless youth.

        whenever someone publishes something, blog or book, they open themselves to constructive criticism. this is fair, and Proverbs says “a wise man is impressed by a rebuke.”

        but i also wanted to give a voice for Don personally – as his quiet generosity is doing a lot of things, including changing the lives of thousands of children. 🙂

        • Emily A. Dause says:

          Thanks, John–it’s great to hear more about Don the person. I hope that he’s able to find a way to represent himself–and his goals–in a way that matches what I’ve heard you and others say about him. Also, Scary Close is the only book of his I haven’t read… I will make a point to do that!

        • Pam Marino says:

          I, too, have witnessed Don’s generous spirit and I’m sure he is a wonderful person. As someone who has spoken up here, my intent is not to attack Don. I am pointing out that his brand has shifted from what it was just a few years ago to now. For those of us who embraced the “Blue Like Jazz” ethos, and later Storyline, it’s disappointing. Emily has struck a nerve here, and many of us hope he will genuinely listen to what fans are saying.

  9. Jason says:

    He’s turned into the poster boy for the Millennial church movement, good intentions, but now it’s about making money, growing audience and fitting in with the right crowd. He became that which he most loathed.

  10. megan says:

    I think this post is well-written, generally accurate, and raises similar things I have thought about Don. Two things have mitigated that somewhat for me. First, Scary Close, which I did enjoy (though I certainly get why many didn’t), and second, hearing him speak in person. I thought both the book and his talk had moments that rather clearly connected the old, uncertain, thoughtful-to-the-point-of-melancholy Don to the new Don, who admittedly often sounds like a slightly greasy salesman. The whole persona finally felt like a natural next step in The Evolution of Donald Miller.

    I don’t think it’s fake. Or for the money. I mean, he’s definitely trying to generate income from his ideas, but I see nothing wrong with that. I think he really found some principles that helped him, and I think he really thinks those principles will help others. It causes him to come across as overly simplistic or ham-handed at times, and I think it’s quite fair–kind, even–to hope that his next stage involves him seasoning these ideas with a lot more wisdom and humility. And it’s rather common for wisdom and humility to come with age and experience. I see that it’s a little disheartening because, at one point in the not terribly distant past, he seemed to already have that wisdom and humility at a level beyond his years. But like most things in life, it probably ebbs and flows.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thanks for your input, Megan! Several people have now mentioned enjoying Scary Close, and I will make sure to read it. (Until now, I had avoided it because of my frustration with the other things I was hearing from Don and Storyline).

  11. Pam Marino says:

    Excellent post. Thank you for speaking up. Based on Don’s past performance, he may respond, but in an indirect way. Over the past year I’ve noticed a pattern emerge of criticisms of Don followed by defensive-sounding blog posts or social media posts from him that vaguely refer to the criticisms. For example, I remember maybe sometime last fall seeing some complaints to Don about having changed from his original “Blue Like Jazz” self. A few days later Don posted something about “people say I’ve changed,” then going on to say how when he wrote “Blue” he was depressed, overweight, unable to sustain a healthy relationship, and now he’s happy, he’s married, he started a company, etc. The gist of the post was ‘I’ve changed for the better and it’s too bad people can’t get that.’
    His “brand,” as he would now say as the founder of Story Brand, has shifted, and his long-time fans sense that shift. As Emily Timbol said above, he’s lost the air of authenticity he once had.
    I attended the the first Storyline conference, and three more after that. The conference has moved off of the original intent Don laid out at the beginning. It used to be about telling a better story with our lives so we can help other people. Now it feels like just another conference designed to sell products. It is disappointing. I tried writing to the Storyline website about the conference, and I got a very generic “thank you for sharing,” from a staff member.
    For me the shift is too much, and I’m moving on to other “brands” that have a ring of authenticity and align more with my values.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      You called it, Pam… he just tweeted a link to that same “people say I’ve changed” post from a year ago. Thanks for sharing your experiences from Storyline. At one time I’d hoped to make it to one of the conferences someday.

      • Pam Marino says:

        Oh, gosh, he retweeted that post? Another data point of how he’s not getting what long-time fans are saying.

    • Prester says:

      And therein lies the rub. So sad spirituality today consists of finding the right brand. Please don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing myself, but the way Pam put it was so spot on (were you being facetious?) and truthful. I think Christian writers find their paying audiences can only tolerate so much truth and ambiguity, until they start demanding simple, straightforward answers (fundamentalism, anyone?) or threatening to stop the gravy train. There are a handful of writers who have been immune, and I am afraid to name them here in the case that I might jinx them. Interestingly, they lived before the age of social media. Anyway, thanks for sharing here and opening this discussion.

      • Emily A. Dause says:

        Thank you, Jeff! I agree that there are a handful of writers who haven’t given in to the ease of simplicity. I was thinking of those authors as others suggested that the “click bait” strategy is the only way to go anymore. There are those writers who have not given in, and still manage to communicate their message.

  12. Rachelle says:

    Emily, this is a fantastic and insightful post. I’ve recently been lamenting the exact same thing – but not just from Don. There are quite a few big-name people who are marketing this way, and I find it smarmy and annoying and worse, dishonest.

    Seems like everyone is finding ways to “build a business” by creating products and workbooks and workshops, and selling them online, and they all market the same way. It’s especially frustrating how many Christians are doing this – spamming my inbox several times a week – with no apparent feeling of dissonance with their Christian faith or beliefs.

    Thank you, thank you for calling this out. You are so right – there are no magic fixes, and shame on everyone who is trying to make a buck claiming that there are.

    • Kevin says:

      It’s standard Platform University mentality, imo. The leaders may or may not be authentic. I don’t know because I don’t know them personally. But the methodology to me moves from Yes, yes / No, no toward to manipulative speech.


    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thank you, Rachelle.. I truly hope that my “calling out” (and all of the echoes that I’m hearing) will cause Don to pause. All of the big-name Christian marketers are frustrating, for sure, but I don’t know of any others whose marketing seems so diametrically opposed to the authenticity they used to stand for. I guess that’s why I hope what I/we are saying might make a difference to Don. We’ll see!

  13. While I agree with what you say, I am bummed, because I hate to see anyone who I really like get called out.
    (When I say I like Miller, I mean I like my idea of him. We aren’t friends. I only met him once at an event, along with hundreds of others there to shake his hand.)

    Those first few books, through A Million Miles, were so meaningful to me, and their impact on my life is still strong. My tactic the last 2-3 years has been simply to re-read those books, and ignore the newer things that don’t resonate with me.

    Emily, what do you hope to accomplish with this post?

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thanks for sharing, James. It’s because I really like what I know of Donald Miller that I felt the need to question him. I had been employing a similar tactic (not paying attention to the newer stuff, rereading what I loved), but then he started promoting his pre-marriage resources. As you can see from other posts on my blog, I’m passionate about calling Christians away from harmful messages about marriage (like, “just marry another Christian and you’ll be ok”). So, when he started telling people to just watch videos and not go to pre-marital counseling, it was something of a “last straw” for me.

      As far as what I hope to accomplish, the best case scenario would be a thoughtful response from Don, a visible change in his marketing, a transparency in what Storyline is, and a significant increase in hearing Don’s voice about topics that are personal and revelant for him.

      That’s “best case!” If Don never even reads my letter, or reads it and dismisses it, my hope would be that the letter communicates something to others about reading thoughtfully and not accepting formulaic answers just because they sound good.

  14. Chad Jones says:

    This post resonated deeply with me. I found Blue Like Jazz comforting in a very a difficult season of life. In fact, I wrote about it back in 2010 here: How Blue Like Jazz Saved Me.

  15. Eric says:

    In Blue Like Jazz Don said: “The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me.” From what I see, the Storyline product is built around that same idea: Life is a story about me.

    Maybe that is unfair, but that quote popped into my mind when I first read the description of Storyline. I love many of Don’s books and I wish him well in his marriage and business. I even don’t really have anything against thinking about your life along the lines of a story. In my mind, the problem comes when we start seeing ourselves as the hero, the center, with everything revolving around our success. I love your tone in this, Emily. Thanks for speaking against a trend that is larger than Don Miller.

  16. Billy Cox says:

    I don’t assume that a book introduction or email blast content is written by Miller. They say that marketing people don’t actually read books, but read reviews of books, written by other people who probably skimmed the book for salient points.

    So it’s possible that the recent Miller ‘packaging’ is disappointing because his marketing people have no intimate knowledge of his writing.

  17. Sharon Spano says:

    Wow! I don’t recall seeing so much negative energy about an author. While I appreciate the perspectives, I’m wondering how we’ve come to a time and place where an author has to live up to our ideals throughout their lifetime.

    If Don has changed, I say more power to him. I’ve read Scary Close, and it’s outstanding. I’ve also attended Don’s Story Brand Conference, and it was life changing precisely because of Don’s authenticity.

    Might be that he’s still trying to find his blogging voice and where he can make the biggest impact. I don’t know his motivation. What I do know is that for many of us, we see content marketing as an amazing opportunity to touch more lives. And, if we make some money along the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. Prosperity simply allows us to be more generous and serve more people. Not all content marketing is sleszy. To put Don or Hyatt in that category is unfair. This type of marketing is the future. You wouldn’t have the forum to express the opinions shared on Don were it otherwise.

    I say let’s celebrate a man with a courageous spirit. A man willing to embrace change and put it all out there. If it’s problematic, all you need do is unsubscribe. No need for character assassination. No author can please everyone. Don is clearly not responsible for making any of our lives.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Hi Sharon–thanks for your input. I’m not sure if you mean negative energy from my post or from the comments, because I have great things to say about Don Miller’s writing–and those great things are the reason why I question his approach now. I’m glad you have been able to experience his authenticity in person. What I’m asking is that his online persona
      (and his organization’s persona) reflect that authenticity.

  18. Jonathan says:

    Thanks. Change/improvement is inevitable, and accomplished best when those who rise up are eventually risen up against. Or maybe not. Isn’t that the great thing about it? As a “jazz guy,” I was attracted to the book, and enjoyed it. But as the outcome of rhetoric asks me play certain notes as a rule, I don’t go for it.

  19. Amy says:

    I think I can say I have been in all of the positions described – someone who is sharing out of their brokeness/beginning healing, someone who finds something that speaks their heart and opens them up, someone who learns a lot and then wants to share that with others and finds out that it is hard. As a counselor/psychologist, I have gotten it wrong, and right, and sort of right, and right if you squint a little, and very, very wrong. Also, a lot of days I am a hypocrite. Helping people open up and be vulnerable and then going home to shut down, ignore things, and isolate. Its hard to be in a position of influence and be a human. It’s hard to make generalizations about what will be helpful to people. Unfortunately in pop-Christianity we do it a lot. I appreciate and am encouraged by the sentiments and contribution of both Don and Emily.

    Thank you for caring about your communities. Thank you for caring enough to write down difficult things. From a distance, it seems both of you really love God and feel changed by His love and sacrifice.

    Being able to give critical feedback is part of being the body of Christ. I hope you both have people physically present with you to do this as well. The internet is a positive, but also not positive place.
    (In fact, this leads me to suggest Emily might want to just get Don’s phone number and call him? Or write him a letter directly? Or go hear him speak and then grab him after? Or invite yourself to his house? You don’t have to gain a lot of backing or strengthen your voice or get other people’s support. You could just let him know.)

    Anyway, the thesis of this comment is: Lets keep up the growing, loving, and writing. And lets keep up the changing – helping others to change, while always going home, looking in the mirror and asking, “How am I changing? How is the Spirit of God working in me for change?” Cause the one simple, miraculous answer to everything (me, marriage, work, sin, life purpose)? Jesus – Christ in me the hope of glory. Having the mind of Christ and fixing my mind on the Spirit, to be transformed. It’s a short blog post or book, and a lifetime of details – and our community struggling and thriving with us.

    No Christian author/speaker/writer/preacher can be Jesus for us. They are going to disappoint us. Let’s not crucify them in the process. (That being said, I don’t think that is happening.) It’s important we not make idols of people either. I think your post helps us move in the direction of seeing Don as a person, one who is seeking God, seeking to love others, and who is very likely to make mistakes along the way. And its important to call out those things when they might impact others. But also, to appreciate that all of us walk only by grace and mercy.

    Your post was very refreshing in that it was vulnerable, honest, critical, and kind.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thanks for taking the time to write out your thoughts, Amy! I appreciate your “thesis” and I hope that my writing (this and what else I’ve written and will write) contributes to constructive dialogue.

      I would love to think that I’m notable enough that I could just call Don up… unfortunately, it’s not so easy for an emerging freelance writer to get in touch with a bestselling author!

  20. Benjamin says:

    I feel like you want Don to fit in a box you created for him. If you don’t like the e-mails, unsubscribe. I can’t to speak for Don–I don’t know him personally–but I’m pretty sure he would be okay if you moved on from his writings. I don’t think he is going to claim to be the voice of a generation nor do I think he wants to be.

    It’s okay that you disagree with him. But I hope he doesn’t change because you wrote a blog.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thanks for your input, Benjamin. I’m sure Don would be ok if I moved on from his writings, too, and I probably will be, if the formulaic pattern continues. But I also would hope that he would be open to constructive criticism. Everyone grows and changes, which is great, but there’s a difference between simply growing and forgoing a commitment to authenticity (especially when one’s commitment to authenticity is what gained you a following in the first place).

  21. Betsy says:

    I wonder if a good part of it is us wishing he would stay an author and not do other things. Personally that’s likely how I feel–wanting him to stay my Creative Writing friend and only speak in books….but I too have felt unconnected from his later work. Not that it isn’t valid in content though. I agree the marketing and the context of Storyline disinterest me. But I also agree that wanting Don to stay a static writer and never grow up is small-minded. Emily, isn’t your point most specifically that the content of things he is doing is great, but the packaging leaves you cold?

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thank you, Betsy, for sharing your thoughts–and for your question. I don’t think I–or anyone else–suggested that Don stay static or not grow as a person/writer (and maybe you weren’t suggesting that anyone had!). I would say my main concern is the marketing. While I don’t feel comfortable vouching for the content (having not read all of it, and it being pretty varied in topic/authorship/quality), I haven’t encountered major problems there (and have encountered some good content). I don’t want to completely say that the content is all helpful (and/or not harmful), but I do think the marketing is potentially harmful (especially when talking about discouraging people from seeking counseling).

  22. Chaya says:

    You must understand how the evangelical publishing industry works. Once someone has a successful book, the publisher usually ghostwrites follow up books while interest is still hot, along with DVD’s, training materials, etc. They use marketing techniques such as extraordinary claims, numbers – 5 ways to….etc. So, while many start out well-meaning, fame and $$$$$ get to them. Perhaps they sign a contract that allows their name to be used, since they have a following. Religious businesses aren’t the only ones who do this, but they are also guilty. Paraphrasing P.T. Barnum: There’s a sucker born-again every minute.

  23. brambonius says:

    Very interesting post that puts into words something that has been bothering me for a while about Don Miller (and some other people obsessed with platform-building).

    I haven’t read much of Don Miller after blue like jazz (in Dutch translation though -I’m in Belgium, and English is not my mother-tongue-, which wasn’t the best idea, his writing is better in his own words) but I really loved that one, and did read his blog regularly and got updates via email.

    I can understand that he needed to grow up from certain aspects of his BLJ-period, but I don’t feel like all of this life-management stuff is really more mature. And to me it feels quite fake. Event hough I 100% understand that hanging around at one extreme is a good way to end uo at the other extreme…

    Lately everything seems about things that are opposite of what made him interesting. And all of this platform building and commercialisation stuff sounds empty and even far away from Christ to me. Maybe it’s because I’m not American but it seems like a weird synchretism creeping in and changing the core of his message.
    It looks more like huped-up pep-talk/self-help therapy (something which I’m allergic to and makes me very cynical)

  24. Jo Panter says:

    Wow…whose voice is it we are really longing for in all of this? Is it Don’s, whom it would appear we have put into an idol performance box, or the trinatarian presence. I doubt if anyone, no matter how authentic, can meet the expectations implied here, except Jesus.

  25. Laura Crosby says:

    Emily, you have some great thoughts, insights, and cautions in this post. Certainly good for me to think about as I try to communicate with authenticity!

    This post, and you as a writer, have clearly gotten a lot of attention from the public, but I’m wondering if it would have been more helpful to Don for you to contact him directly about your perceptions.

    It is hard for any writer or speaker to put themselves “out there” in the public arena. I have only spent a tiny bit of time with Don, but I believe he has a good and generous heart – honestly trying to honor God with his gifts.

    We all have blind spots, and I think most people would prefer it if someone came to them personally and said, “Have you considered how this might be coming across?” instead of sharing their opinion of flaws on a public forum.

    That said, your words are a good caution for all of us to invite others to speak into our lives about the blind spots we may have.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thanks, Laura, for your thoughts! I don’t have any doubts about Don’s character, and I’m glad that you’ve had the opportunity to spend time with him. As for contacting him directly, I had no avenue through which to do that. I know that all the attention this post is getting may make it seem like I’m somebody who has those kinds of connections, but I don’t. Posting the letter to my blog and tweeting it to Don was the only way I knew to communicate it to him. I honestly didn’t think many people would read it (and hoped that it wouldn’t bore my regular readers, who may or may not have known what I was talking about it! Speaking of which, I’m glad that it also spoke to you about communicating authentically, because I hoped that it would, at the very least, do that).

      Having said all that, since my post has at least gotten to attention of people close to Don, I sent him and Storyline my contact info. It may be possible to talk to him now, but I seriously doubt he would have paid attention otherwise (to no fault of his own–he’s a bestselling author, and he can’t pay attention to everything).

  26. Kristen Myers-Chatman says:

    Emily –

    Thank you for writing from such an honest perspective. I, too, have wrestled with the Don of old vs. the ‘new’ Don. As a marketer, I struggle with the ‘be all things to all people’ approach – which seemingly is the new Don/Storyline. The fact remains, no matter how hard you try, you can’t be all things to all. In my work, I always ask the question, “What is the one thing you/we do well?” Many orgs/individuals have a hard time narrowing that down, because let’s face it, in life we have to be many things to many people: wife, mom, leader, manager, employee, mentor, etc. But when we finally are able to identify the ‘one thing’, it’s amazing the clarity that appears. When someone focuses on doing one thing and doing it well, they can own their space. They amass great credibility. If only the new Don, expert of too many things to really be an expert, could understand that concept. To your point. Don’s been married less than two years. How in the world can he be an expert on the subject? OR Don’s a writer. How in the world can he be an expert on issues related to brand? (I haven’t personally seen his resume, but I don’t believe he’s ever held the role of Brand Manager.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a follower and reader of Don’s work. BUT I now filter the writings with a bit more cynicism and offer a bit less credibility.

    Yes, Don can write whatever he wants. Yes, he can be motivated by the next contract or by the almighty dollar itself. But it would be nice if the Don of old would resurface and throw away the perfect solutions wrapped in a box with a bow on top.

  27. Pam Marino says:

    After reading all the latest comments, I just want to make a few things clear about myself as someone who is agreeing with what Emily wrote in this post:
    I’m not attacking Don as a person.
    I’m not asking Don to remain unchanged as a person.
    I’m not asking Don to remain static as a writer.
    I’m not asking Don to be the voice of Jesus.
    I am asking Don to listen to and consider what many of his long-time fans are saying about the changes we’ve noticed over the last year or so.

  28. Tim M says:

    Emily, I get what you are trying to say – actually probably trying to process – but it rubbed me the wrong way, maybe more so than it should have. It felt to me more like a “your writing helped me so much before but you’ve changed, so because it isn’t helping anymore, you should stop.” Frankly, it as self-centered as you feel Don’s brand or focus has become.

    “Scary Close” is the first DM book I haven’t read in a day or two. Some chapters are huge wins; others are just OK. But as I have moved from a 28 to 38, from a 9-to-5er with time to read and write blogs and comments, to fatherhood, and now an executive position, I can see and appreciate Don’s own evolution and trajectory. But that’s also *because* Blue Like Jazz happened. Like others, it saved me. It saved me from lots of things – the church being one of them.

    Without BLJ, and actually I thought “Searching for God Knows What” was even better, I would have kept trying to believe the church lie you identified with. And now, I see Don trying to write to change the world individual by individual completely outside the church walls. It’s a different track, but similar place of context as I see with Rob Bell or Bono. I appreciate it a lot because it gets past all of the theological bull being slung around these days that is also masked in political and power plays.

    The first thing I did after reading BLJ was to stop putting pastors on a pedestal. I refused to do that in conversation with them and in conversation about them with others. Frankly, while Don writes about the internal battle he has about wanting the laughter, I still believes he hates the pedestal, too. I know I probably put Don on a pedestal for a little bit, but then I realized I need to be consistent. It seems to me that BLJ Don is on your pedestal. It’s ok that you don’t want or need what Don is writing about now.

    I don’t read his blog much either except when I see guest posts from others I like, such as John or Susan Isaacs. I mostly don’t have time anymore. But if I could hire Don’s company to help me run my division, I probably would, precisely because he isn’t the Blue Like Jazz Don anymore. He has matured, he has evolved in his path of encouraging others. And he can show that evolution through his books, through that journey of maturity. And he can point to scores of people who did it *despite* the lie of the church, but still within (or precisely within) the following of Jesus. I like that; I like that a lot.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Hi Tim, thanks for writing. I’m glad you have been helped by Don’s writing, too. I don’t have time to reply to all of your comment–so I hope you’ll read my replies elsewhere where others have made similar points. But I do want to say that giving someone constructive criticism–as a fan of that person–certainly doesn’t equate to idolatry.

  29. I’m glad someone brought this to attention. Like you, I’ve been deeply moved by Miller’s writing. “Blue Like Jazz” is a book that I re-read every year for several years, and I’ll even admit that while “Storyline” began the shift in style that I’ve come to dislike, it did help me gain some focus on my life.

    My problem is less with “Storyline” the book — which I take as just being an extension of “A Million Miles…” and Storlyineblog, the website. Miller’s transformed into an honest, heartfelt and humble memoirist (one whose name was rightfully mentioned alongside Anne Lammott’s) into an overly confident, bland and — probably the worst part — charisma-less writer. He’s a motivational speaker, a business booster, a brand adviser, but in doing that he’s sacrificed that wit, personality and fragility that made his writing so attractive. There is a place for the type of writing he does, yes, and there are writers who are doing it well (Jon Acuff is a good example). But it’s so at odds with what Miller has done before that it’s disheartening and, fair or not, feels disingenuous.

  30. RustBeltRick says:

    I haven’t read Miller, but from what I understand he was initially a pretty thoughtful and original essayist. And now he’s knee-deep in the Information Product industry, like Tony Robbins or Dave Ramsay. And yes, I can see how it would be depressing to witness that transition.

  31. Jerad says:

    I, too, liked “Jazz” but I didn’t love Don Miller until I heard him preach about mapping your life onto the Hero’s Journey. Tears the first, second and third time I listed to that talk. Yet I agree that the Miller brand is losing authenticity.

    IMHO that’s not Miller’s fault. He gave a 90-minute talk in my town last fall but didn’t mention Storyline once. I don’t even remember seeing any Storyline products available – just copies of Blue, Million Miles, and Searching. I asked him about this and he said something about it being “their job” to push the product. So I posit that the Storyline brand is significantly detached from the real Don Miller. Maybe the Storyline folks just license his name/image and do their own thing.

    True, we the audience perceive Storyline as directly connected to him, but my sense was that to him it was a tangential line of passive income that did not occupy a great deal of mental energy.

    Alternately, let’s be honest: if you were hearing actual testimonials about your product that included phrases like “life-changing,” you’d be excited about getting it in front of more audiences and just sharing what others have said. Perhaps Miller had* embraced a God who didn’t provide answers but, now that he is told by others that his work is providing them with great answers, his concept of God is changing, too. Who doesn’t want to feel great about their impact and what they do, whether they believe it’s God working through them or not? If someone told you “the workshop changed my life,” it’s easy to justify saying to someone else “this workshop will change your life.”

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Hi Jared, thanks for your thoughtful reply! I’m glad to hear that Don’s words have helped you–written and spoken! What I wonder about Don’s marketing is why the shift has happened now (meaning the past few years). He had been popular for years, and his marketing didn’t go this route before. So I have trouble removing him from responsibility for how his marketing promotes his products now.

      I understand what you’re saying about the way we throw around the word “life-changing.” If that was all I had observed, it wouldn’t trouble me. That term is part of a distinct pattern, one that becomes dangerous when it’s leading people away from important resources (like pre-marriage counseling).

  32. Justin Spurlock says:

    The problem is not Don. It’s us his readers. Like all platform and content creators, he probably does a ton of A/B testing on social media with various headlines. And as anyone who creates content online can tell you, the headlines that get more clicks are the ones that offer simplistic solutions to life. We, his readers, are the ones who click on these, and consume them more than the headlines with depth and width. Don’t blame Don. We must blame ourselves.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Good point, Justin! Still, I don’t think that people who create “clickbait” are removed from responsibility just because people do click on them. Just because “it’s what the public wants” doesn’t mean it’s the best way. The “creator” and the “clicker” are both giving in.

  33. Luke says:

    Thanks for the post, Emily.

    I’ve been a fan of Don’s work from the beginning as well. I’ve tracked with him from Blue Like Jazz all the way through Scary Close, and even attended a Storyline conference. I agree with you that there has been a change in approach and methodologies over the years – specifically in the last 2 years or so.

    I think your point is valid that the same person that gave a voice to so many disillusioned evangelicals, is now seeming to offer easy, simple, and quick fixes.

    However, I don’t seem to find as much of a disconnect here. Anyone in the world of content creation has to ride the balance of how to market and promote content in a way that breaks through noise. At its worst, this what we know as click bait. But I don’t believe that Don is offering promises with disingenuous answers. He’s simply doing his best to bring a spark to his titles. The content is always solid.

    Also, I think your criticism of his other courses (marriage, parenting, etc..) is a bit unfair. He actually isn’t the one doing the “teaching” on most of those videos. He has other friends speak who ARE credible in those respective areas.

    Thanks for starting the conversation! I look forward to Don’s response.


    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Hi Luke, thanks for your thoughts! It sounds like you’ve really benefited from Don’s books and programs, which is great.

      As for Storyline, I wouldn’t agree that the content is always solid, but that’s a matter of opinion. I also don’t believe that one can justify “clickbait” by the number of views it might get you. Also, I called out the marketing of the other resources–not the resources themselves. Don isn’t the one doing the “teaching,” but that’s not made clear or thoroughly explained… and it’s marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution (and, in the case of the premarriage videos, advertised as a *replacement* for therapy!).

      As another example, there’s currently an eBook on his site, “Five Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married.” The e-mails I got about it sounded like it was written by him, and there’s even a picture from his wedding on the cover. But it’s not by him, and there’s no explanation for why the person who wrote has the credibility to do so.

  34. Emily, what a very thoughtful post! I applaud your effort and courage. I’m among the minority that has not read any of Miller’s books, but am familiar with his works from his growing popularity. Without passing judgment on Miller, your post has helped me from a completely different perspective – as a messenger. I suppose by necessity, messengers often become marketers. If a messenger wants to remain a messenger in the purist sense, they must draw some lines in what they’re willing to promise (or not promise) from a marketing perspective. A new author just wants to be heard, and will often rely on the face value of their message to break through. But a successful author (however they measure success) must always raise the bar for a louder voice to repeat success – and this usually involves more robust marketing… more promises… more sparks. I don’t pretend to know the solution. But I do think as an author/messenger, I must ask myself some questions, “is my marketing voice authentic and in sync with my messaging voice? or are they different? And if different, is that OK? Am I compromising my message with my marketing?” I have a hunch that deep down, Miller himself might even see some truth in some of your claims and likely already have pondered these risks in his own marketing process. Perhaps he even edited and toned down some of the marketing passed before him for approval that felt even uncomfortable for him. Whatever the case, he likely reached the conclusion that the greater gain to spread his message more broadly is worth the risks of alienating a few perceptive members of his tribe (such as yourself)… as unfortunate as that may be. Ultimately the decision to monetize your name and success comes at a cost. I’m certainly no Donald Miller and don’t have his platform pressures in my way. But I’ll have your post in the back of my brain as I ponder future marketing associated with my own work. Thanks again.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Wow, Jeff–your comment means so much to me! I truly hoped that, regardless of whether Donald Miller read or responded to my post, that people would be able to draw out the general application. You have done that! Thank you for letting me know!

  35. Shannon says:

    Life is not formulaic. It is in the strictest sense; we are all born, we all grow up, we all age, we all die. But all the in-between stuff is infinite. That is why I dislike when people teach formulas. “Do this to be happy.” “Do this to be wealthy.” “Do this to make people like you.” “Do this to make people think you are smarter.” How can one person dictate to all of humanity how to be “happy”? Formulaic living teaches that all people are essentially the same and that is why formulas work. We may have similarities, but people, and our hearts, are not all the same. It is disappointing to me when Christians teach formulas. I liked Don’s Facebook page for his writing and former insights. I tolerated a lot of the spammy, business-world click-bait until his page posted, “Why You Should Never Hire Someone Unless They Come with Batteries Included.” The whole article trashed Type B personalities and stated how worthless they are to any business or organization. The article challenged that any of the slacker/losers reading who are not self-driven and motivated should change and become Type A, as if it is that simple. Don’s page said of the article, “This applies to relationships, too!” That was the nail in the coffin for me. I, for one, celebrate diversity among the body of Christ. God made all kinds of people, who are not carbon copies of one another, to embody the Kingdom. I don’t consider any kinds of people to be a “drain of resources” or unworthy.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Shannon. The one-size-fits-all nature of many Storyline posts is really frustrating. The “nail-in-the-coffin” for me was the emails advertising the premarital resource as a replacement for counseling.

  36. Judson Taylor says:

    Looks like Donald Miller might have responded; I shared Emily’s post and one of my friends sent me this link:

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      Well, yes and no. 🙂 Don (or whomever else has access to his twitter account) did tweet a link to the post on Monday after my post started getting attention. But the post itself is actually from about a year ago, that he originally wrote in response to others. (I don’t know who he was responding to or what they had said). His post doesn’t address my concerns, and I’m going to write more about that in a follow-up post.

  37. Jem says:

    Every writer/author/person has issues and their marketing teams goal is to promote them. Storyline has helped me grow & reignite my passion for God. So this is your opinion. And yes that marketing solutions for a better life is what DM made fun of in one of his CDs and said he did not like about the Church. So I don’t think he thinks he has all the answers. Who knows what’s really in his heart? And I don’t think he should stop doing what he wants to do because you don’t like it, just unsubscribe. Posting a blog against him will usually cause a whole fight of the Christians against Christians and I don’t think that’s what the world needs to see more of. Why don’t you contact him directly and confront him instead of promoting anti-DM & your own blog.

    • Emily A. Dause says:

      I’m glad Storyline has been helpful to you, Jem. I hope you’ll reread my post and realize that it is not anti-Donald Miller–I spend the first half explaining how deeply meaningful his words have been to me, too. The fact that I expressed my concerns is a sign that I care, not that I’m trying to bring him down. If you read the comments and the attention my post has received on twitter/facebook, you’ll see that most of them are interested in dialogue, not a “fight.” (I say “most”–of course there are people who are going to be unfair in what they say). Also, as I expect Don Miller would agree, conflict is part of being in relationship. It’s not healthy for Christians to be in relationship with one another and expect to not experience conflict.

      I’m happy to speak with Don directly/privately, and I have sent him my personal contact info. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to contact him directly. It would be great if I had the connections to just call him up, but I don’t.

  38. Steve says:

    Thanks for the post Emily. I think you really made some good points.
    I too have felt a slight unnerving reaction over the past few years to the flood of “inspirational/motivational” quips filling my inbox.

    Your viewpoints definitely got me thinking. You see, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with change, even in the circumstance of Don Miller. I’m glad he’s changed. After all, change is what shapes us. Sometimes we change for the good, and other times for the bad. I don’t think Don falls into the latter. In fact I think Don believes he is a better person more than he ever has been and that’s great, right? So I don’t think his new lease on life is the problem.

    But here’s what I do think is. Like you and me, and every other fan, we grew to love his writing because of his authenticity. There was something to it that made us put ourselves amongst his scribbles without needing to write ourselves into the story. Not every author has that kind of knack. The beef I have is that he assumed that his very same audience, you and I, would be interested in his newfound zest for all things marketing. And I’m afraid he is wrong. At least for me he is. I don’t ever remember signing up for his conference and tutorial emails? I signed up to his blog and any notifications for future book releases. I most certainly didn’t sign up to ‘how to improve my marriage’, thanks Don, but no thanks.

    For someone who is passionate about story as he is, he out everyone should know that tone, subject and audience are all very different. And they all have a place. The tone he takes as Don the author is very different to Don the, “10 steps to…” guy. The same applies to his audience. I don’t see myself in his conferences the same way I see myself reading his books. So why does he assume as much? It’s like your Dad walking into your room talking to you like a coach and not a father. You would think something is awry. Not so? However, if you’re in your soccer kit and you’re on a field and your dad is the coach of your team, you wouldn’t expect him to talk intimately with you on the field, but you would want him to motivate and blow his whistle. In other words it all comes down to context and setting. In my opinion Don has confused the two and assumed too much of his audience. He took a huge following and though he could attribute it to building a company. Which explains why people are upset. They probably feel slightly hoodwinked. But they really shouldn’t be. They just need to unsubscribe.

    Don on the other hand should’ve maybe invited his audience first or at least asked for their permission. Maybe he should’ve separated the two, down to the clickthrough storybrand banners on his author blog. Even if the business sense of his database tells him otherwise, his audience will have the last say.

    I still like Don. Don the author. I love that he’s changed, and I’m glad he has. I don’t want another Blue Like Jazz. I will keep reading his books, just not fist pumping the air to his motivational modules.

  39. Mark says:


    I appreciate your post. I see that I am a little late to the party, but the most recent email I received where Don is interviewing Perry Noble so that pastors can integrate Storybrand into their church was where I really noticed that he had turned 180 degrees. In one of the videos Perry Noble states that he wants “normal” people in his church and that he downplays those who are not “normal” as older single men still living with their mother. I have a hard time seeing the Don that was an advocate for the likes of Sasha (child of Chernobyl – Searching for God Knows What) and Pete (bottom of the school pecking order – Searching for God Knows What) embracing this rhetoric and promoting it on his site as a means to further his message. Like you, I was significantly impacted by Don’s message in his early books, particularly Searching for God Knows What, but am saddened by the continual flow of Storybrand emails that conflict with these early messages. I had to unsubscribe. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  40. Hi Emily! I love this post because you are able to genuinely express your concern. The thing I love about Donald Miller is that he is genuine. We feel like we’re sitting in his living room talking to him, but the truth is we aren’t. I think we all feel like we are a little lost sometimes, and I bet Donald Miller still feels that way. But the way our marketing world works is that we have to create titles that will draw you in. “Clickbait,” so they say. I hate it because a) titles are hard to come up with and EVERYONE seems to have the “17 reasons why your life will change with __” and even the Storyline brand has to fall into this marketing scheme. But in the root of going through his blogs, emails, and a few of his workshops I’ve discovered that the root of these “life-changing” tips are still rooted in genuinely being who you are, and who God made you to be.

  41. Susanna says:

    Yes, yes, yes, THIS exactly! I must admit, I’m rather heartbroken. Thank you for putting this into words, and very well at that. You’ve echoed my own heart and mind the past several years.

  42. Scott says:

    I would endeavor us to remember that in Mr. Miller’s first book, he told us he was screwed-up. Does life after fame make us less so? Do years? The sadness you experience due to any apparent change hearkens to the fact that the original words you so admired may not have been written with altruism or your welfare in mind more than his own wounded narcissism. Did he not tell us this was so? What a joy to live in a world where everyone (save the sinless one) is sure to disappoint us. Oswald Chambers said, “I cannot bemoan another’s flaws when I consider where I would be apart from the grace of Christ.” Click unsubscribe, and be inspired by someone else. Plenty of authentically beautiful people out there, still.

  43. Peyton says:

    Thanks for writing this daring piece. It’s always interesting when a person writes about someone who they deeply admire and then their feelings about them take a different turn.

    I too saw a man who went from life coaching and creative non-fiction to becoming the authority on business and marketing. I like the story-marketing format and I use it myself. However, I think that his business stuff is painfully obvious and unoriginal. People in marketing have been using his simple framework for centuries.

    In all, I did like the Author Donald Miller more than the Marketing Guru Donald Miller. I guess anyone has the right to change their narrative.

  44. Esperella says:

    He apparently lost a substantial amount (financially, maybe even wiped out his savings?/lost his house) after the BLJ film flopped. That kind of experience would affect any human being. I honestly see this whole “marketing guru” shift as his wounded self’s way of making sure that never happens again. What saddens me is he’s no longer the astute commentator on the human condition we all love to dialogue with thru his writings. Now he’s strictly a salesman. Of course that’s his choice, and we should respect his life is his to do with as he pleases, but it is disappointing to check out his twitter and read tweet after tweet of selling-selling-selling stategy after strategy for achieving personal & corporate earthly success. He’s human, like us all, and from all appearances, a good, hard-working man, but the writer we all loved to read, the one who had his heart set on seeking God’s heart in the beyond and the “other”… is gone. And for me personally, that’s sad because I enjoyed Don’s words as good “iron to iron”. (As iron sharpens iron…)

  45. karina says:

    Portland vs. Nashville

    Land of crunchy melancholy vs. land of Christian marketing

    Don’s location shift seems to reflect his values shift.

  46. Jason says:

    Dear Emily,
    I think there are several things to consider about your respectful criticism of Donald Miller. The first would be audience. Donald Miller’s audience for Jazz and Storybrand are different so I wouldn’t expect the message or the tone to be the same.
    As a husband to a wonderful, Christian woman who runs her own business, while both of us raise five children, Donald Miller’s Storyline materials, blogs, and podcasts have been very helpful from time management, to dreaming about the future, to dreaming with our kids. Secondly to your criticism (along with many of the other posts) seems to infer that the Christian life is meant to be lived in a compartmentalized manner, as many in the secular world would prefer. This doesn’t mean as Christian business owners we must put the fish symbol or Bible passages everywhere, but it also doesn’t mean that our faith and its influence is only for the church pew on Sunday. Our relationship with God is to impact every aspect/sphere of our life, even the way we treat our employees, customers, spouse, children, neighbors.

    So if Donald Miller finds meaning and purpose because thousands of leaders and business owners find his approach meaningful for them and the relationships they deal with everyday, why wouldn’t you be happy for him and the influence/impact he is having with a different audience, rather than criticize that he isn’t still writing books that you feel are meaningful and “authentic”?

  47. Kevin says:

    Agree with your comment. Just wondering if you have ever had a response from Donald Miller himself?

  48. Chris says:

    I love it when people complain, not of actual harm done to them, but of potential harm that might be done to an imaginary person.

    You may have heard of the proverb, “eat the fish and spit out the bones”. Sorry you are disappointed that Don Miller is not God to you. Interestingly, there are 7.4 billion others just like him (and you) out there. I am one of them. Just as people listen to Don’s opinions, as uninformed as you believe them to be, people will come to your blog and listen to your opinions, as uninformed though they may be. Would you like people condemning you as harshly in the areas where you are off? (And you are off. We all are. None of us is the source of truth, and indignance at others isn’t really an option when we realize this, because indignance at its core is a claim that we possess more truth than someone else.) Perhaps you are engaging in the exact same behavior you despise in Don Miller, when you post the idyllic photo and description of yourself at the end of this page, posturing and marketing yourself as a hero of honest transparent wisdom wrought through tension and struggle, inviting your readers to come to you and your blog as a source of hope for their own inner wranglings. Sigh. Don’t we all do this? We put on the outer facade that Don Miller writes about in his book “Scary Close”, when inside we are that insecure 7 yr old.

    Maybe you are looking to the wrong source for truth and for your healing. Something else may be the real source of your disappointment. Maybe Don Miller is just the whipping boy.

  49. A says:

    It’s called white male privilege.

  50. Al says:

    Well, it’s been 3 years and his company is still helping people/brands/companies tell their own stories with clarity and it’s being a big success. I don’t speak for Don, but I guess your post helped made yourself and others feel better in speaking disagreement with his direction. Good job and good luck.

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