Max Lucado has achieved numerous milestones in his career as an author and a pastor.
With the release of Outlive Your Life: You Were Made To Make a Difference this month, Lucado has been publishing books on the Christian life for 25 years and has reached 100 million items in print.
Writing has become Lucado’s primary evangelism tool while he still serves as Minister of Preaching at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. Lucado has been with the congregation for 22 years.
Outlive Your Life bases its chapters on concepts in the Book of Acts, urging Christians to reach out in small and large ways to address the needs of a world impoverished financially and spiritually.
To read the first chapter of Outlive Your Life, click here.
I recently spoke to Lucado about the new book, his publishing and pastoral careers and even a little about what he likes to do in his free time.
EDC: How long have you had this idea in your mind of writing a book based on Acts?
Lucado: All of my books begin as a series of lessons for our church. At church we had just taken a look at all of the Gospels, so it made sense to slide into a study of the Book of Acts. Purely as a practical standpoint, I began this series as of lessons for the church. But, as far as emphasizing the theme of compassion in the Book of Acts that I tried to do, that’s where my heart has been the last four or five years. I’ve been looking my whole life for ways to share my concern about the poor and the needy. I thought looking at Acts was a way to challenge the church in this area more seriously.
EDC: You make excellent references in the book to what ordinary people Jesus’ disciples were. Do you think this is a message that is easily lost on people anymore?
Lucado: There are three or four common objections that come up when we think about helping the poor. One is that, “I’m just too common, I can’t do anything.” Number two is, “The challenge is simply too great. My contribution won’t make a difference. Number three is cynicism can surface easily. “If people would just work their way out of it; I’m not responsible for anybody.” The Book of Acts is so powerful because it really addresses all of those.
Acts Chapter 2 is especially that way, with the falling of the Holy Spirit on Christians on the day of Pentecost. For Christians, that’s a powerful message because that says that God will supernaturally use our ability. We’re not going to figure it out on our own. … The study of Acts 2 has often been a study of the miraculous things that happened way back then. What I’d like to do is challenge people to say that it was indeed a miracle back then, but that same spirit can impact people today, so let’s see what would happen if we make ourselves available.
EDC: One of your chapters in the book talks about hospitality. Do you think we have a tendency to isolate ourselves behind our computers or behind our interests to the point where trying to reach put to someone seems like a foreign concept anymore? Is this something Christians really need to take stock of?
Lucado: Hospitality is an untapped resource in our culture. A couple of generations ago before the advent of air conditioning and color television, people literally carried on a life that involved their neighbors. Now it’s possible to cocoon yourself in such a way where you don’t even know your neighbors. Here’s an opportunity for Christians to begin practicing hospitality. What we’ve done in our church is trying to move all of our ministries into neighborhoods. We’re finding a wonderful response if we can encourage the Christians in that neighborhood, to instead of doing everything at a church building, do everything in your homes. Have Bible studies in your homes. Have kids’ parties in your front yard. The idea is not to reach out to our neighbors in the sense of trying to button-hole them, but just trying to be hospitable, open doors and build friendships.
EDC: In your last book, Fearless, there was a lot about people being able to trust more in God. Why do you think this is difficult even for people who consider themselves lifelong, well-meaning Christians?
Lucado: One reason is because the alternative is so easy. To insulate ourselves from other people is a very safe thing. It’s a risky thing to open your door, practice hospitality or to involve yourself with a cause with a humanitarian organization. The irony is that Jesus said you really begin to find your life when you lose it to take care of others. It really is better to give than receive.
These are secrets of the Christian life that people never really discover because they don’t try and they’re missing out. We’re also missing out as a church if we miss an opportunity like this to send compassion around the world. Compassion is the greatest apologetic we have. When we demonstrate compassion, the secular mind looks at us and says, “Well, at least they’re practicing what they believe.” If we are insistent on arguing our way into people’s hearts, that’s not going to happen very often.
EDC: Looking forward, what do you see as the roles and importance of denominations?
Lucado: I think we’ve moved past denominational affiliation as far as a high degree of loyalty. As our society itself becomes increasingly secular, our common mantra is not Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian, it’s Christian. The common community is based more on Christ than on our particular heritage. I think denominations will stay play a role for a long time in organizing God’s people, but they’re going to be less and less important. I think that’s a good thing. We have a tendency to be tribal, and I think to see those distinctions coming down is interesting.
What’s also interesting is the future of the megachurch. Where I serve is a church of about 8,000 people, so it is a large group. I think that the appeal of a large sanctuary and an impressive weekend event seems to be tailing off. People still appreciate that, but they really want community. What we hear is that when people come into our church that if they don’t connect quickly with a group, they’re not going to stay around.
EDC: How do you make writing a ministry and make it as a much a spiritual endeavor as giving a sermon on Sunday morning?
Lucado: Somewhere along the line I did realize that writing for me was a ministry and not just a one-time thing. I think many people are called to write a book or tell a story, and some of are called to write books. Many people have one or two sermons in them, but some are called to prepare weekly sermons. Writing is a similar discipline. I get asked, “Don’t you run out of ideas?” Well, pastors do the same thing, or musicians or artists. For me, I realize that because of books I’ll get to talk to people I’ll never meet and travel to places I’ll never go. I can speak to people on an intimate level I’ll never meet face-to-face because there is something about reading that is a very personal medium.
EDC: What is your advice to someone who is contemplating entering into a relationship with Christ but isn’t quite sure to make that commitment?
Lucado: There are two things that should always be mentioned. One is the resurrection of Christ. The other is the forgiveness of sins. Because we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything succeeds or fails on the empty tomb. Every religion humanity has created has said we hope we can receive forgiveness somehow. Through his death of the cross, Jesus said forgiveness is a done deal. This idea of grace, I think, is God’s best idea. When you put all the religions side by side and just look at them, what stands out is the resurrection and the forgiveness of sins. Those would be what I would communicate clearly.
EDC: What do you do for fun in your free time?
Lucado: I love to play golf. I think I could play every day of the week. My wife and I are seriously thinking about moving right now because our kids are grown and we’ve been looking at houses. I saw a house that’s about three minutes from a driving range, and I thought, “Oh no. If I live there I’ll never get any work done.”
The second thing I love to do is drive. I own a Mini Cooper, candy red, standard shift and a convertible. I love every trip. I just look for excuses to go on a drive.