Discussion (SPOILERS)- Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Did you know anything about this book before you read it? Do you think that affected what you thought about it?

Did you know that the co-author, Lynn Vincent, was also the co-author of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue? Does that affect your impression of the book?

Do you think it was important for the father to detail his own medical issues? Why or why not? Do you think his previous hardships made him more likely to believe his son?

Even though the father doesn’t believe his son was influenced by any teachings or overheard conversations, do you think it was a possibility? Does the fact that this happened to a pastor’s son make you skeptical?

Burpo inserts a lot of bible quotes and stories. Do you think this enhances the story?

It took seven years for Burpo to write this story down. Do you think that has any effect on believability?

What do you think about the fact that Colton was never medically deceased? Is that relevant? Why or why not?

Does Heaven is for Real basically preach to the choir? Do you think non-believers would be swayed by this story?

Does the way in which Colton reveals his journey- little by little, piece at a time, rather than all at once- make his story more, or less, credible for you? (from LitLovers)

In what way would you say that Colton’s young age (he was four) influences his vision of heaven? Would it have been different had he been, say 34… or 64? (from LitLovers)

How do you explain the great popularity of this book? Why are people drawn to books about those who experience heaven? Why is the attraction so powerful? What are people seeking? (from LitLovers)

Some readers wish that Todd Burpo had devoted more time to his son’s experience of heaven- that too much of the book revolves around the Burpo family’s life and Colton’s illness, rather than Colton’s “Trip to Heaven and Back.” Do you agree or disagree? (from LitLovers)

Have you read any criticism about Heaven is for Real? If so, what do you think about it?


What do books like “Heaven is for Real” assume about the world?

What do books like “Heaven is for Real” assume about how the world should be?

What do books like “Heaven is for Real” make possible?

What do books like “Heaven is for Real” make impossible? Or at least a whole lot more difficult?

What new culture is created in response to books like “Heaven is for Real”?

(from http://www.larryshallenberger.com/2011/01/31/heaven-is-for-real-meets-andy-crouchs-5-questions/)


Do you like to think about Heaven, or do you to try to avoid it? Why? (from Project Inspired)

Do Colton’s descriptions of heaven fit your own conception of heaven? If so, how. If not, why not? (from LitLovers)

What do you make of Colton’s description of Jesus’s blues eyes as and that he was seated on a horse? (from LitLovers)

In what ways do Colton’s reporting shift from a descriptive vision of heaven to a more prophetic one? (from LitLovers)

Is it reasonable to expect his experience in heaven to be exactly like every other person’s visit to heaven? (from NowTHINK!AboutIt)


In the prologue, Todd says he was “astonished into speechlessness” when Colton first told him about going to heaven. How would you respond if a child informed you he or she had seen angels and talked with Jesus?

In chapter 2, Todd is called “Pastor Job” after being struck by a series of physical ailments- a broken leg, kidney stones, and breast cancer. Have you ever felt as if God were afflicting you? Describe how you responded to God and to others during your time of suffering. Can you identify with Todd’s admission of “getting mad at God” and “feeling smug in my martyrdom?”

In chapter 2, Todd’s congregation sets aside a special time of prayer for him, after which Dr. O’Holleran calls to report that the hyperplasia had disappeared. Have you experienced or seen a miraculous healing in response to prayer? How did that healing affect your faith in God?

In chapter 5, Todd describes “the shadow of death,” the telltale signs that a person’s time on earth is coming to an end. Have you ever observed “the shadow of death” on a loved one? Describe the circumstances and how you felt during that time.

In chapter 9, Colton is whisked into emergency surgery. Todd says, “At that moment, I needed to borrow the strength and faith of some other believers.” Describe a time when you came to the end of your strength and needed to “borrow” others’ faith. Have you ever “loaned” your strength and faith to someone going through a difficult time?

In chapter 19, Colton asked God to send him a rainbow- and he did. Have you ever prayed for something and received a clear answer from God? If so, how did that affect your faith? How did that experience affect your view and practice of prayer?

In chapter 20, Colton gives a simple, clear explanation of the gospel: “Jesus told me he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad.” How does this childlike explanation sum up the truth of the gospel?

In chapters 25 and 26, Colton describes angels carrying swords and preparing for a future war with Satan. Have you ever considered the reality of spiritual warfare? How does this affect your view of the book of Revelation?

In chapter 27, Colton affirms a rendering of Jesus painted by Akiane, a child who also visited heaven at age four. How does this striking depiction of Christ affect your faith? Does it change any of your thoughts about one day meeting Jesus face-to-face in heaven?

If you could ask Colton Burpo one question about his experience in heaven, what would you ask him and why?

After reading this book, do you agree with Colton that “heaven is for real?” Why or why not?

Name at least one way your life would be different if you lived each day aware of the reality of heaven.

After Colton’s experience, Todd says, “I began to think about heaven in a different way. Not just a place with jeweled gates, shining rivers, and streets of gold, but a realm of joy and fellowship.” In what ways has Colton’s story changed the way you think of heaven?

Discuss some of Colton’s descriptions of heaven in this book. Which details stand out to you as being particularly encouraging or interesting? How does Colton’s story help you visualize heaven?

Discuss Colton’s descriptions of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In what ways are these details similar to how you’ve pictured the Trinity? In what ways are they different?

While he was in heaven, Colton met his grandfather and his unborn sister, who recognized him though they had not met on earth. How would this experience bring comfort to those whose loved ones and unborn children have died? Name someone you are eager to see again- or for the first time- when you get to heaven.

Describing his encounter with Pop in heave, Colton says, “Nobody’s old in heaven. And nobody wears glasses.” What things do you look forward to as you think about how our physical bodies in heaven are both the same and yet different?

What effect might Colton’s experience have on those who are afraid to die? How does this story affect your own attitude toward death?

Colton insists, “Jesus said he really, really, loves the children!” How does this statement affect your view of children’s ministry? In what specific ways can you love children as Jesus does and help kids understand that Jesus “really, really loves” them?

In what ways does your faith in God compare to Colton’s “faith like a child?”

The nurse in the North Platte hospital told Todd, “There has to be a God, because this is a miracle.” How does Colton’s story strengthen your faith in God? Consider sharing this book with someone you know who could use affirmation of God’s existence and love.


“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Whoever humbles himself like this child…
What is childlike humility? It’s not the lack of intelligence, but the lack of guile. The lack of an agenda. It’s that precious, fleeting time before we have accumulated enough pride or position to care what other people might think. The same un-self-conscious honesty that enables a three-year-old to splash joyfully in a rain puddle, or tumble laughing in the grass with a puppy, or point out loudly that you have a booger hanging out of your nose, is what is required to enter heaven. It is the opposite of ignorance- it is intellectual honesty: to be willing to accept reality and to call things what they are even when it is hard. p90

What do you think about this quote? How does it reconcile with the following bible quote? For whosoever believeth in me shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16. Is this an inconsistency in Burpo’s logic and if so, does it affect the credibility of the story?

“He had to! He had to!” Colton went on. “He can’t get into heaven if he didn’t have Jesus in his heart!” p63. What do you think about that quote? How does this reconcile with Pope Francis I’s comments regarding atheism?¹

There really is such a thing as American exceptionalism: we are more gullible than the public in the rest of the developed world. Sitting pretty at No.1 on The New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list is a secondhand memoir, Heaven Is For Real , describing a four-year-old boy’s visit–when he nearly died from a burst appendix–to a heaven complete with clouds, winged inhabitants, and a baby sister his parents had lost to a miscarriage. Only in America could a book like this be classified as nonfiction.

What is truly disturbing about (the) book’s huge commercial success is that it attests to the prevalence of unreason among vast numbers of Americans…

-Susan Jacoby, ‘Heaven is for real’ and the immature American mind, The Washington Post, March 30, 2011

What do you think about this quote? Why do you think Heaven is for Real is more successful in the United States than in other countries?


90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life by Don Piper

The Shack by William P. Young




¹“They complained: If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good,” Francis said.

“This was wrong,” he added, according to a report from Vatican Radio… Labeling the disciples as “a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good,” Francis remarked on the importance of the “doing good” commandment. The principle, he said, unites all humanity, beyond religions and ideologies, creating a “culture of encounter,” which is at the basis of peace.

Narrow and self-centered attitudes should be banned, as everyone doing good, including atheists, can be redeemed by Jesus, Francis said.

“Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point,” the pope said, referring to a hypothetical conversation in which someone told a priest: “But I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.”

Pope Francis Accepts Atheists: Not the First, May 23, 2013 04:13 PM ET // by Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News, http://news.discovery.com/history/religion/pope-francis-on-atheists-unprecedented-130523.htm

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