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Bestselling author and pastor Mark Batterson prays that his newest book would open readers to the tug of the Holy Spirit – that they would make a defining decision to follow Jesus, instead of asking Jesus to follow them.
"I think there are a lot of people in a lot of churches who think they're following Jesus, but the reality is they've invited Jesus to follow them," Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and author of the new book All In: You are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life, told The Christian Post in a recent interview. He said All In is a call to recalibration – for Christians to truly find themselves in Jesus.
Batterson spoke with The Christian Post on Tuesday, the day his book was released.
CP: Your book seems to convey one central message from Joshua 3:5 "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." Can you explain what consecrating yourself really looks like?
Batterson: Yeah, that's one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and I think there's an important lesson that's often misunderstood. We often want to do amazing things for God, and that's well-intentioned, but that's God's job. God's the one who does the amazing things. Our job is consecration, and I think if we do our job, God's going to do his job.
In the book, I try to explain what consecration is not – it's not going to church, it's not leading a missions trip, it's not tithing, it's not doing devotionals, it's not raising your hands in worship. All of those are good things, but that's not the heart of consecration.
I think consecration is taking yourself off of the throne and making sure that Jesus is on the throne of your life. It's all of you for all of Him, and it starts with your heart just being surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. So what I try to get to in the book is, let's start here. Let's start with consecration and if we really consecrate ourselves to the Lord, then God's going to do some amazing things in us and through us.
CP: You have some pretty amazing stories about those things that God does when we consecrate ourselves to Him. Which do you find the most compelling? Which best motivates you in your personal walk with God, to rededicate yourself?
Batterson: Over the years, I've found that when you put yourself in a surrendered position, it puts the ball in God's court, which is a great place for it to be. I like to think of it this way – prayer is the difference between the best you can do and the best God can do. So when I'm in a place of prayer, a place of obedience, a place of consecration, it's no longer the best I can do, it's the best God can do.
I think you do that in a number of different ways. Sometimes it's as simple as rolling up your sleeves, putting a towel around your waist and serving others. Sometimes it's more sacrificial than that, and it's going on a missions trip or even beyond the tithe, giving God a greater percentage of your income.
One way or the other, I've found that if you don't hold out on God, God is not going to hold out on you, and I think sometimes people are afraid that they're going to miss out if they don't hold out just a little bit. But I think it's the opposite – I think you're going to miss out on what God wants to do if you hold out on Him. But if you don't, he won't, and that's when you're going to see God move in incredible ways.
CP: So you talk about the rich young ruler, who similarly decides not to go all out. He gives up a real experience, "an unpaid internship with the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth" for worldly possessions. Can you explain what it looks like for a modern Christian to go all in, to follow Jesus in the way the rich young ruler should have done?
Batterson: That story of the rich young ruler is an interesting one because, on paper, he's got everything that we think we want – he's rich, he's young, and he's a ruler. But he still says "what am I missing?" I think what he was missing was this.
He was following the rules, but he wasn't really following Jesus. I think there's a lot of people in a lot of churches who find themselves in that same place. They aren't doing anything wrong, per se. The rich young ruler says, "I'm keeping all the commandments." But you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right.
What I'm trying to convey in All In is that it's not just about the sins of comission, "don't do this, don't do that, and you're ok," but it's about the sins of omission – what you would have, could have, and should have done. If the rich young ruler had gone all in, think about the difference he could have made. He could have leveraged his power, leveraged his wealth for incredible good, but he ended up just spending it on himself.
At the end of his life, I think he had everything and realized it was nothing. Then you have the disciples, and they end up with nothing – eleven out of twelve were martyred for their faith – but they had everything. Their eternal reward speaks for itself.
I think All In is a recalibration. Let's not make the same mistake the rich young ruler made. Let's not accumulate the wrong thing. Let's make sure that we're not just following the rules but following Jesus himself.
CP: Would you say that your audience is the rich young rulers of the world? National Community Church has a vast population of – as you say – "twentysomethings." Are you reaching out primarily to the young with this book?
Batterson: I think, in many ways, we are reaching a lot of those rich young rulers. We're majority single twentysomethings, and many of them live or work on Capitol Hill. They're writing legislation, they're making decisions that are shaping our culture, that are shaping the direction our government is moving, so I feel like we're in a place to influence influencers.
What's beautiful about that is that these are rich young rulers. They graduated at the top of their class. They want to make a difference, that's why they've come to Washington, D.C. But then there's a reality check when you get here. We have found hundreds, thousands, of twentysomethings that, over the years, we've had the opportunity to minister to.
What they've discovered is that yeah, they can make a difference on a political plane, but ultimately it's in a relationship with God that we're then leveraged with the gifts He's given us to really make an eternal difference – not for a political party, but for an eternal kingdom. I think that line is drawn, in a way, in the book that calls all of us out of worrying about ourselves or our little world around us – no, God has called us to something bigger and longer than that, and that's the Kingdom of God.