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Advertisement A conversation with Max Lucado

Scott LaMascus |
June 2002

Lucado, 46, answers questions on faith, books and baptism

Few Christian authors have hit the bestseller lists as often as

Max Lucado, but his leadership is not limited to millions of
readers. He was called to the White House for an emergency
prayer session in the days after September 11. And he remains
busy as a minister. This former missionary to Brazil now is
minister of the Oak Hills church, San Antonio, Texas.

Yet Lucados name is absent from many lectureships and

publications among churches of Christ. Why? He certainly is
busy, no doubt, with a large congregation and his writing, too.
Perhaps its envy. Perhaps fear. Some say he doesnt teach
baptism correctly.
Yet millions adore his writing. They faithfully buy, read and loan
his books because, they say, Lucado makes fresh the old, old
story. To these readers, it might seem shocking to question
Lucado. Even critics must admit that his writing connects
millions with the story of Jesus.

Our Dialogues series is a conversation with opinion leaders left

and right. Too many have talked about Max Lucado for a long
time. It is time we talked to him.

How did you get your rst 'break' into the national audiences?

My rst book was released in the mid-80s. The receptivity has

increased gradually with each new project.

What is the state of Christian writing?

Christian writing seems to be stronger than ever. Of great

import is the distribution of Christian books through the general
market. Outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Sams Stores, etc., are
major distributors of Christian books.

What did you learn following your meetings with President

Bush regarding the events of Sept. 11?

That he is a man of deep, abiding faith. It is essential that we

pray for him and his family.

Does the discussion (in church of Christ circles) of what you

teach reach you? Does it hurt you? Does it impact you?

That depends on the source. I dont read unsigned letters. If the

letter is signed, but the criticism is based on inaccurate
information, Im not hurt, I simply try to clarify.

I am overwhelmed by the positive response that I receive from

those in our fellowship. For every negative sound byte, there are
a dozen positive. This armation means more to me than I can

What one thing would you say to your critics among churches
of Christ?
That would depend on their concern. Some criticisms are valid;
others, unnecessary. What I can say is that I believe in the death,
burial and resurrection of Christ and his imminent return. I trust
Christ to save me, his word to guide me and his Spirit to
empower me. And, to my critics, I would say 'Im sorry for not
meeting your expectations I seldom meet my own.'

What do you teach and believe regarding central beliefs such

as baptism?

I believe that baptism is essential for obedience. As far as I can

tell there is no example of an unbaptized member of the New
Testament church. In baptism the believer is identied with the
righteous life of Jesus buried with him, risen with him.
Baptism is sacred. Weve baptized over a hundred souls a year at
Oak Hills for several years.

At the same time, I strongly resist any eort to trust the act of
baptism to save. The work of salvation was nished when Christ
said it was, on the cross. Baptism, nor any other work, adds to
his completed service. My only contribution to my salvation is
my own sin. The glory of redemption is not my baptism but
that a sinner like me could stand fearless and saved before a
holy God.

How is this vision of baptism dierent than how baptism has

been used by our movement? Does accepting a Christian
before baptism pose diculties in teaching baptism? How
does Oak Hills implement this?

We have discovered that if we preach Jesus, baptism is not an

issue. In the teaching position paper that we give to all
prospective members we explain this: once a person admits sin
and trusts Christ for salvation, a step must be taken to proclaim
to heaven and earth that he/she is a follower of Christ. Baptism
is that step. Baptism is the initial and immediate step of
obedience and worship by one who has declared his/her faith to
others. With the exception of the thief on the cross, Scripture
provides us no example of an unbaptized heaven-bound soul.
The thief, however, is a wonderful exception. His conversion
forces us to trust the work of Christ and not the work of
baptism. Remarkable, isnt it, that the rst one to accept the
invitation of the crucied Christ has no creed, conrmation,
christening or catechism? He never went to church, gave an
oering, was never baptized. He said only one prayer. But that
prayer is enough to remind us that though our doctrine be air-
tight and dogma dead-center, in the end it is Christ who saves.

Does his baptism-less conversion minimize the role of baptism?

Quite the contrary, it places it in proper perspective. We are the
thief and deserve heaven no more than he. The very act of
baptism, a passive plunge into the water, celebrates our utter
reliance on our dear Savior.

What is the 21st century about for Max Lucado?

God willing, Id like to continue doing what Im doing. Preach

each Sunday at Oak Hills, write a book a year, love my kids and
hang out with my wife. Ive all but given up on golf.

What is the challenge of the future for Christian writers?

Publishers are accepting fewer and fewer unsolicited

manuscripts and opting to go with established authors. This
increases the diculty of getting published. One mustnt give up,
however. I was turned down 14 times before being oered a

What is the challenge of the future for Christian readers?

This is a great day for Christian readers. The question for a

reader is not, 'What is worth reading?' but, 'Where can I get the
time and money to read all I want?' Just look at the shelves
Yancey, Peterson, Swindoll, MacArthur, Stott the list goes on
and on. We are kids in a candy store. Eat up.

You were a missionary in Brazil for many years and continue

to have a heart for missions. What is the challenge of reaching
the lost in 2002 and beyond?

For those of us in churches of Christ, I believe our focus must be

in the power of prayer. We are not known as people of prayer.
We tend to focus on our work, which is always inadequate.
When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.

How do churches of Christ make an impact on an increasingly

global culture?

By pondering the days when we did it best. Look at the

convictions of the Campbells, Stone and others. Genuinely
simplistic. Passionate in love. Tolerant in controversy. They
accepted all who accepted Christ and disagreed agreeably.
Relevant. Flexible. They took Scripture seriously, yet had respect
for the mystery therein. They dreamed of restoring the faith and
force of the New Testament Church ahh, now there is a dream
worthy of imitation.

Discuss one practice of the Oak Hills church which you believe
can be replicated among our congregations.

They are kind to their preacher (smile). Elder-led fellowships like

ours tend to see the preacher as disposable. We come by this
honestly. Many stay for only a couple of years, then leave. The
folks here at Oak Hills make it impossible for me to leave. If I
didnt preach here I would attend here. They have loved me
through many diculties.

Preaching is hard work. Preachers are in the crosshairs of Satan.

I step down from the pulpit every Sunday shivering within,
wondering if Ive done a good job. Perhaps other preachers dont
need encouragement as much as I do, but I think so.

Love your preacher. Pray for him and his family daily.

How do you balance celebrity with ministry?

By remaining rooted in a congregation. The reality of the

demands of local ministry are enough to keep ones head out of
the clouds.

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