Get to know best-selling author and pastor Mark Batterson (’92)
August 1, 2014 | Bryce Wilks
Mark Batterson was prayer walking through a field in rural Minnesota after his freshman year of college when he had a “burning bush” experience that altered the course of his life and career.
“I asked God this dangerous question: ‘What do you want me to do with my life?’” Batterson says. “It was in that field where I felt like I heard that still small voice of the Spirit call me in to full-time ministry.”
Batterson transferred to Central Bible College and immersed himself in preparation for a career in ministry that has seen him become a prolific author and the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C.
NCC meets weekly in seven theaters across the D.C. metro area. The church also owns and operates Ebenezers, the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill.
Batterson feels just as called to write as he does to pastor, and has authored several books, including New York Times Bestseller The Circle Maker, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, and All In.
His latest book, The Grave Robber, is currently available on Amazon and many other book retailers.
Twenty years after you attended CBC, what stands out about the preparation it gave you for ministry?
I think the biggest thing for me was that at CBC there was a spiritual atmosphere that taught me to really press in and pray and seek the Lord. I had amazing professors and some amazing classes, but as I look back it was the environment, and the hunger for God that sticks with me the most. My favorite places on campus were the prayer rooms in my dormitory and the balcony of the Chapel. Every day at lunch during my senior year, I would go there and just pace back and forth and pray. That’s where I learned to hear the voice of the Spirit, so really what has endured is the atmosphere of CBC being in a place where you could learn to hear God’s voice.
How do you think your career would have suffered without that experience?
If I hadn’t taken a step of faith and transferred to CBC, I don’t know if it would have necessarily short-circuited everything God wanted to do, but it certainly would have delayed the progress. I know for sure I wouldn’t have been ready to plant a church when I did. I think my time at CBC really laid the foundation for me to be ready to step into what God had for me. I’m really eternally grateful for the daily spiritual lessons CBC cultivated in me, and the opportunities that I had to preach and serve and lead in a number of different ways.
What have you learned about yourself since planting NCC 18 years ago?
I hardly remember the guy who planted the church. I don’t talk a lot about church growth, but I do talk a lot about personal growth and if you are growing personally, God will grow something through you. Really, my job is to seek the Lord and to teach that to our people. Over the years I think I’ve tried to grow in grace and authenticity and obedience. When you try to grow in those areas, the blessings of God begin to fall simply because of obedience. I think the church is experiencing that now in ways that are fun and exciting and humbling.
What’s unique about the ministry setting you have been called to in our nation’s capital?
Well, certainly this area is a bastion of political correctness, and I believe in biblical correctness, and sometimes those two things clash. We’ve had to strive really hard to be an apolitical church, meaning we don’t affiliate with any political party or candidate. Ultimately, we want to preach the Gospel and let the chips fall where they may.
What do you love most about pastoring in your city?
The thing I love about D.C. is that we’re able to influence the influencers. This is a place where people come to change the world, and the Lord has put us a place where we are able to impact a lot of people who have been entrusted with tremendous authority and power. And so we reach a lot of Capitol Hill staffers, but we also reach a lot of homeless friends, and everyone in between. We love that diversity and reaching a wide swath of people is something we take seriously.
What’s it like having two jobs: author and pastor?
Both are pieces of what I’m called to do, and I can’t imagine doing one without the other because they leverage each other so well. At times it feels like having two jobs, but it’s a double blessing to get to touch peoples lives locally as a pastor, and then around the world through my writing. When I’m in a writing season, I typically just set the alarm very early in the morning and write for a few hours at a time, and that way I can write during the ebb and flow and rhythm of a normal work week.
What has been your favorite writing project?
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first published book. And then there’s something about the message of that book — this idea of chasing lions and playing offense for the Kingdom — that’s very core to my DNA. It’s sort of in a category by itself. And then authors are always excited about the next one. So the next book that’s going to come out is The Grave Robber. It’s about the seven miracles in John’s gospel, and I think it’s going to be a game changer in terms of people really believing God for the miraculous.
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