MARK BATTERSON is lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C.
CONNECTION TO OUTREACH MAGAZINE: Mark is an Outreach magazine consulting editor. He is also a featured speaker at the 2010 National Outreach Convention, presented by the magazine, Nov. 3-5 in San Diego.
In your latest book, Primal, you wrote that your aim was to lead readers to discover “new ways of loving God.” What are some new ways of loving God that you have discovered, and how did you discover and apply them to your life?
I think many of us are loving God without even knowing it. For example, I equate loving God with your soul to wonder. When I’m enjoying God’s creation, I’m actually loving God by admiring the work of His hands. All of us have been overwhelmed by an amazing sunset or beautiful mountainscape or natural wonder. A simple “thank you” converts that sense of wonder into an expression of love for the Creator. So Primal is less about discovering “new ways of loving God” and more about identifying the way you are loving God without even knowing it.
What has been the most successful, rewarding experience in your ministry to date?
My short answer: the last person who gave their life to Jesus Christ. But it’ll only be the most rewarding experience until the next person gets saved. Nothing compares to one new name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, one more child of God adopted into the family, one more soul saved by grace.
What has been your most fantastic mistake? What did you learn from it?
I’ve made a few bad hires. I’ve made a few bad decisions. And we’ve taken a few risks that haven’t panned out. I could cite a number of outreaches that didn’t work. I could cite some events that totally flopped. But I honestly think that the biggest shortcoming always has been and always will be not preaching the Gospel as clearly and boldly as we could or should. And it’s a mistake I’ll try to remedy the rest of my ministry. I think all of us are guilty on that count, yet that is the thing that really matters most. All other mistakes are minor compared to this one: not preaching the Gospel as clearly and boldly as we could and should.
What has been your biggest ministry disappointment so far?
We just had a big disappointment a few days ago. We lost a piece of property that we had put a contract on. It was a huge disappointment. I’d invested lots of prayer into that property. We actually had two of three signatures. But we lost it to a real estate corporation at the last moment. Having said that, I’m confident that there is a divine appointment in every disappointment. We’re waiting to see how God will redeem it for His purposes. God has a way of turning feelings of disappointment into feelings of gratitude.
What areas of growth or development have you experienced in your personal spiritual life in the last year?
The biggest area of growth has been simply reading the Bible more consistently and devotionally. We’re actually reading through the Bible together as a congregation, and I think it’s one of the best things we’ve done. We have a reading plan and daily blog at FromGardentoCity.com. And our weekend messages cover the passages we have read the previous week. God is also stretching my faith this year to believe Him for even bigger miracles than he has done before.
Here’s one definition of spiritual growth. It’s going from theory to experience. When you read the Bible, it’s theory at first. Then you experience those verses as God proves Himself faithful to His promises and His principles. Over time, more and more verses go from theory to firsthand experience. I feel like more and more of the Bible is being integrated into my experience and it makes me love God and love His word even more.
What has been the greatest obstacle to spiritual growth for you in the last year? How have you overcome it?
My biggest challenge always seems to be margin. Between pastoring, writing and speaking, I have very little margin. That can hurt creativity if I’m not careful. And you can stop doing ministry out of imagination and start doing it out of memory. You stop leading and start managing. One way I’ve tried to overcome that challenge is by not scheduling appointments two days a week. It helps me keep my sanity and creativity. On my meeting days, I meet with as many people as possible, and that buys me back two focus days to study, read, dream or write.
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