Max Lucado | God So Loved the World, 163

Max Lucado | God So Loved the World

Max Lucado is a pastor, speaker, and bestselling author who, in his own words, “writes books for people who don’t read books.” He serves the people of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and his message is for the hurting, the guilty, the lonely, and the discouraged: God loves you; let him.

His latest book, 3:16—The Numbers of Hope (Thomas Nelson, February 2022), Max considers his core message since it is based on John 3:16, his life’s verse. Originally released in 2007, 3:16—The Numbers of Hope has been revised and updated for a new generation of readers and includes a new foreword and afterward, and is accompanied by a new five-session Bible study curriculum and new audiobook featuring Max himself reading the book.

As a writer, Max is known for combining poetic storytelling and homespun humor with the heart of a pastor. All of his trade books began as sermon series at Oak Hills Church, and his sermons all begin with Max asking himself this question: “What can I say on Sunday that will still matter on Monday?” He’s been dubbed “America’s Pastor” by Christianity Today, and “The Best Preacher in America” by Reader’s Digest.

Max’s books have sold more than 92 million copies in 54 languages worldwide. Max’s books regularly appear on bestseller lists, including The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. His writing has also been featured in Bible studies, Bible commentaries, songs, greeting cards, and even plush toys.

After high school, Max attended Abilene Christian University and left with two degrees and a heart for following Jesus and helping others learn about him, too. He moved to Miami, Florida, and took a position as an associate pastor at a small church. This is where Max started writing about Jesus for the first time in the church’s monthly newsletter. Those columns were put together as a manuscript and sent to 15 publishers. Fourteen rejected his book, but the 15th said yes. That first book, On the Anvil, was published in 1985. Florida was also where Max met his wife, Denalyn. Together, they lived first in Miami and then spent several years in Rio de Janeiro, helping plant churches. They celebrated 40 years of marriage in 2021.

Max and Denalyn live in San Antonio, Texas. They have three grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.

Max Lucado and Amber discuss prioritizing people over production in ministry, his unique relationship with Oak Hills church, the re-release of 3:16 Numbers of Hope, and what book he hopes outlasts them all.

Questions Max and Amber Discuss:

  1. (3:38) You have pastored the same church for decades. How long have you pastored there and what practices have helped sustain you during challenging times?
  2. (8:50) In our secular and consumeristic age, how do you make sure that you prioritize people over production or profit?
  3. (12:40) You start writing every sermon with, “What can I say today that will be true on Monday?” Flesh that out a little bit.
  4. (15:14) What is your earliest memory of Scripture and how has your experience of God through Scripture changed since?
  5. (21:30) Why did you decide to release an updated version of 3:16: The Numbers of Hope? What do you hope the current generation of Christians will take away from 3:16 and the Bible study you are releasing?
  6. (25:13) When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How does that work with your call to be a pastor? 
  7. (31:45) If you had one of your books that outlasted all the others, the rest were gone. Which one would you choose and why?

Quotes to Remember:

“I like to encourage pastors. It is a hard work, but it is a holy work, it is truly a holy work. I never got over the fact that people were willing to give me 30 minutes out of their time, every Sunday, to get my opinion on a Scripture.”

“How do you differentiate between building an audience and building a church? How do you resist the temptation to just tickle people’s ears and attract a crowd as opposed to really teach the truth? You really have to fight that impulse to measure success by numbers.”

“I’ve struggled with it [measuring success by numbers].  When attendance is down, I feel down. When attendance is up, I would feel proud. But that is just from the devil.  It’s just not the way the Lord measures His Church. The truth of the matter is, Jesus said, Do any of you want to leave? And most of them left.”

“You’ve got to just try to your dead level best to pray into every sermon and decision and realize that your job is not to build a large church.”

“I preach like there’s a broken heart on every pew (that’s an old Charles Spurgeon statement).”

“Ask yourself the question, What can I give them on Sunday that will still make sense on Monday?”

“I spent many years in the prodigal pigpen. I was a jerk….I was all about self promotion….Toward the end of my sophomore year, I was back at church, and a preacher presented the gospel in a sermon on a Wednesday night….I knelt at the end of the steps and I said, I’m coming home. The question for me was not is there a God? The question for me was, could God forgive a jerk like me? And so John 3:16 was the passage that caught my heart, whoever believes in Him shall not perish.”

“I think in the last three to five years, the church could be accused of having a political message, or a social agenda message, a divisive type message… And I kind of cringe at that, Amber, because our message is so far higher than that. And so John 3:16 is a passage that summarizes the Christian hope. We believe God loves the world. He loves everybody so much that He gave what we needed, not just what we want, but what we need.”

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The question for me was not is there a God? The question for me was, could God forgive a jerk like me? And so John 3:16 was the passage that caught my heart, whoever believes in Him shall not perish.
I've struggled with it [measuring success by numbers]. When attendance is down, I feel down. When attendance is up, I would feel proud. But that is just from the devil. It's just not the way the Lord measures His Church. The truth of the matter is, Jesus said, "Do any of you want to leave?" And most of them left.
I preach like there's a broken heart on every pew .

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