Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He follows his recent New York Times bestseller, The Prayer Circle, with the Sept. 24 release of All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life (Zondervan).
What do you mean when you write that Americans have embraced an “inverted gospel”?
Many people think they are following Jesus, but the reality is they have invited Jesus to follow them, and I don't think that's the deal that is on the table. Jesus said follow me, and it is a call to take up our cross and follow him. That's where the true adventure begins. When you say whatever, whenever, wherever, then it is game on in your relationship with God.
How have U.S. Christians “Americanized the gospel”?
I think every American Christian probably ought to pick up a copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and we should remind ourselves that 11 of the first 12 disciples were martyred for their faith. The will of God is not an insurance plan, it is a daring plan—and it might get you killed. We better remember this simple truth: If Jesus hung on his cross, we certainly ought to carry ours. Sacrifice is something we need to celebrate a lot more in church circles.
Is All In in any way a follow-up to The Circle Maker?
We have a core value [at NCC]: pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you. The Circle Maker really focuses on the prayer piece of the equation. If that book is about drawing circles, I think this book is about drawing a line in the sand. It's a call to action. Once you hit your knees you have to get back up and hit your feet. It's not enough just to kneel and pray. You have to roll up your sleeves, put a towel around your waist and serve people the way Jesus did.
What does “going all in” look like?
I think it begins with a consecrated heart. Consecration is right at the heart of both the Old and New Testaments. It's not about going to church, or raising your hands in worship, or going on a mission trip, although those are all great. Consecration is dethroning yourself and enthroning Christ, surrendering all that you have and all that you are.
How is the “reverse tithing” you write about going?
[My wife and I] made a decision when we got married that we would never not tithe. We started giving God the first ten percent, with the goal of giving a greater percent back to God every year. That has not always been easy; we have had our fair share of tough times. But I have learned that the more you give away, the more you end up enjoying what you keep. All In is a wonderful chance for us to experiment with giving all of it back to God. We are not taking any of the royalties as income [they are being donated to charities]. We feel that gives God an opportunity then to bless something because he knows we are not going to hold onto the blessing. Ultimately our goal is to be living off ten percent and giving ninety percent. We are moving in that direction, and it is one of the greatest joys of our life.