Today I interview Mark Batterson on his new book, All ln. Batterson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker and Lead Pastor of National Community Church. You may be familiar with him because he was one of the 47 endorsers of God’s Favorite Place on Earth.
I caught up with Batterson to talk about his new book.
Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are readers going to benefit from reading your book?”
Mark Batterson: I felt like it was time for me to throw down the gauntlet: either Jesus is Lord of all or He isn’t Lord at all. There is no middle ground. It’s all or nothing. All of my books are written in a motivational tone, but this book adds some tough love. My deep concern as a pastor is that people think they are following Jesus, but in reality, they have invited Jesus to follow them. I call it the inverted gospel. And I think it’s why so many Christians don’t feel the holy rush of adrenaline that comes when you live by faith and follow Jesus wherever, whenever, whatever. I think All In will help readers figure out where they might be holding out on God without even knowing it. And my prayer is that it will give them the courage to go all in. I really don’t feel like this is a book to be read. I see it as a decision to be made.
Tell us a bit about the experiences that shaped the insights in the book.
Mark Batterson: For much of my life, I wanted Jesus to follow me wherever I led. My relationship with Him was very self-serving. It was more about God serving my purposes than me serving His purposes. That changed when I was nineteen years old. I had my first all-in moment with God. I had to make a defining decision that involved a significant sacrifice, but it ranks as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I had a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago, but I felt God calling me to full-time ministry. A lot of friends and family said I should ride out the scholarship, but delayed obedience is disobedience. So I put that scholarship on the altar and transferred to a Bible College. And God honored that decision. The subtitle of All In is really a core conviction of mine: you are one decision away from a totally different life. It will probably be a very difficult decision, but it has the potential to change your life!
How is your book different from the many other books on the same subject?
Mark Batterson: Authors write through the filter of their personality and experiences. I’m certainly no different. I live on Capitol Hill and pastor a church with seven locations around the metro DC area. That flavors my writing. I honestly think pastoring helps my writing because it keeps me close to the action. It gives me a pulse on what people are thinking, feeling, and struggling with. I also try to mix in some history and science into my books because I love those subjects. I think that adds dimensionality to my books and makes them a more enjoyable read.
Give us two or three insights from the book that would be helpful to Christians.
Mark Batterson: I think we hold out on God because we don’t want to miss out on what the world has to offer. But holding out is missing out. The good news is this: if you don’t hold out on God, God won’t hold out on you. No withholding tax on His blessings!
The will of God is not an insurance plan. It’s a daring plan. Jesus didn’t die just to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. All In adds an element of danger, a level of risk, and a standard of sacrifice that is part of the full gospel message. Anything less is a watered-down version that misses the heartbeat of God.
I don’t know too many people who are possessed by demons, but I know lots of people who are possessed by possessions. One of the undercurrents of the book is to raise our standard of giving instead of our standard of living. Our calendar and bank account might be the best barometer of how consecrated we really are. They don’t lie. And at the end of the day, our greatest regrets are going to be whatever time, talent, and treasure we didn’t give back to God.
What has the response been to the book so far?
Mark Batterson: The response has been a pleasant surprise. Readers have been challenged by the book, but they’ve also made changes. And that’s why I write. My goal is to help readers make defining decisions that can change the trajectory of their lives. I’m also hearing early reports of small groups and churches going through the DVD curriculum. It’s raising the baseline of risk and sacrifice and faith across the board.