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Mark Batterson: Let the Spirit Convict You to Go 'All In' for Jesus

Mark Batterson: Let the Spirit Convict You to Go 'All In' for Jesus

Mark Batterson is the head pastor of National Community Church and the author of The Circle Maker, a book on reexamining prayer released next week. | (Photo: National Community Church)

CP: You mentioned pursuing this higher kingdom, and you're reaching out to twentysomethings. How do you address the idea that Christianity is associated with judgment and negativity – especially among the young – with the issues of homosexuality and the strong stance on sexual relations that the church takes because of the Bible?

Batterson: We live in a culture where it's wrong to say something is wrong, and I think that's wrong. I don't think we're doing anybody any favors if we pull punches. The truth is the truth. Now, we need to speak it in love, but here's what I believe – the Church should be more known for what we're for than what we're against.

So when Paul walks into Athens, and he's surrounded by all this idolatry, he doesn't put up a picket sign and boycott the Aereopagus. He walks in, and he competes for the truth. He goes toe to toe with some of the most brilliant minds in the ancient world.

I'm just cut from the cloth that believes you criticize by creating. That's what Michelangelo said. You write better books, you make better films. You start better schools. If you have an issue with what's going on, let's not just point out what's wrong, let's be the solution. I think that's part of what it means to be the people of God. All In is a book that calls us to that kind of standard – let's not just talk it, let's walk it, and let's make sure that our lives preach what we really believe.

You're the only Bible that some people are ever going to read. Are you a good translation? Each one of us is called to be, in a sense, a unique translation of the Bible so that people can see it with skin on.

CP: Taking that leap into a different understanding of what we are called to do, you talk about rim-huggers, who enjoy the sightseeing of the Grand Canyon, but don't know the true beauty or pleasure or pain of hiking the inner passes. How do modern Christians get that full experience with God?

Batterson: Hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim was one of the greatest experiences of my life – also one of the hardest. We did it in July, my son and I. It was one 110 degrees…in the shade. I lost 13 pounds in two days, and I remember when we came up out of the canyon and we saw these people on the rim, at first I felt sorry for myself – I was sweaty and smelly and exhausted, and they were getting to "enjoy the view," so to speak.

But then I felt sorry for them, because they were seeing it and missing it at the same time. I had experienced it. Now, they might know a fact or two about the canyon from their tour book, that I didn't know, but they hadn't experienced it.

I'm afraid there are a lot of rim-huggers in a lot of churches that haven't really gone all in and experienced the full 360-degree perspective on who God is. A.W. Tozer said that eternity won't be long enough to praise God for all that He's done, and I think that's true. What I'm calling people is, let's hike into the canyon.

Let me give you an example. This year, as a church, we'll take 25 missions trips. Part of that is because I believe one mission trip is worth more than 52 of my sermons. We want people to be missional, to be engaged in what Christ has called us to.

The bottom line is, you can't be the hands and feet of Jesus if you're sitting on your butt. So we try to call people out of the pew. We often say, around our church, a church that stays within the four walls of the church isn't a church at all. Let's be about the Father's business, and that doesn't happen in a 90-minute worship experience on Sunday morning – it's got to be more than that.

CP: Your book seems more a general call to action rather than outlining specifically which action to take. Do you expect your readers to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit urging them in the specific directions that they should go?

Batterson: I love that question. Writing books is a labor of love, with an emphasis on labor. It's not easy, but once a book is written, then my prayer is always that God would get a book into the right hands at the right time. When people read a book, my prayer is that there would be one sentence, one paragraph, one page, that is a life-changing experience for them. As an author and as a preacher, I don't think it's my job to tell them exactly what to do in prescriptive terms, but instead to paint a picture, to share some stories, to share my story – so that they can see what God's done in my life or other people's lives, but then it's going to look different in their life.

Going all in for me meant transferring from the University of Chicago – giving up a full-ride scholarship – and transferring to Central Bible College, or packing up a U-Haul and going to Washington, D.C. That's going to look different for the person who is reading the book, but I think the subtitle is my favorite subtitle of any book I've written and is probably the most helpful statement in the book – "you are one decision away from a totally different life."

There's a gap between my writing and the "still small voice" of the Holy Spirit, where I do pray that God would meet people in the pages of the book and that there would be that moment when a person makes a defining decision, goes all in, and will be able to look back at the book and say page 17 or page 121, and say "that is where my life changed."

CP: You use many sound bytes throughout the book, "there comes a moment when we need to go all in," "it's all or nothing, it's now or never," "go all out, go all in," et cetera. Have you found these simple, motivating phrases effective in calling your parishioners to a more dedicated life?

Batterson: I think our attention span is shorter in 2013 than it was in 2000 or 1990. Part of it is just the pace of life, part of it's technology. Honesty, part of it's twitter! If you can't say it in 140 characters, people probably aren't going to remember it.

Now, Jesus was the master of the one-liner, the master of the metaphor. Hear his parables once, you'll remember them forever. So as a communicator, what I try to do is say this in as few words as possible but also in a way that will be memorable. So I use a lot of parallels.

For example, "if Jesus is not Lord of all, He's not Lord at all. There is no middle ground." Things like "we're too Christian to enjoy sin and too sinful to enjoy Christ." What I try to do is find ways to turn a phrase that then the Holy Spirit can take that and lodge it into people's hearts, lodge it into their memory, and become something that is a life-changing not just truth but truism or aphorism – something that they can really remember.

CP: Is this book only for Christians, or do you expect a non-believer might pick it up and get some inkling of a different kind of Christian life?

Batterson: It's definitely both-and. 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. This book is for that person who really wants God to serve their purposes, to have that moment of revelation that the true adventure begins when you accept that invitation to follow Jesus.

It's for that audience, but then I pray that there are a lot of people who pick up this book and say, "what is the Gospel? What does it mean to 'follow Jesus?' What is that and what is that about?" This book, I think, is a unique angle on that, that will speak to the person who's never made that decision to follow Christ, and hopefully does that in a way that's both biblical and creative, so that it calls people into that life of faith.


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