Max Lucado is one of America’s best-known Christian pastors and authors with more than 100 million copies of his books in print. He continues to serve as preaching minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, along with his co-pastor Randy Frazee. Max’s latest book is Glory Days (Thomas Nelson). He was interviewed recently by Preaching Executive Editor Michael Duduit.

Preaching: Your newest book is titled Glory Days: Living Your Promised Land Life Now. What are glory days?

Lucado: I wrote this book for people who might feel they are stuck or in neutral in their faith. We are coming across more and more statistics that tell us that many Christians feel they are not moving forward spiritually. They want to engage, but they don’t know how. I remembered years ago reading the story of Joshua in the Old Testament, and someone pointing out that these were the glory days of Israel—in the sense that for seven years they were just about unbeatable and unstoppable.

I never forgot that, and I thought, “That’s what many Christians need today. They need a season of glory days, a time when they feel they are advancing in their faith. So, I hung onto that title and used it for this book. That’s the thing with this book—we studied the stories of Joshua and tried to find things Joshua knew and did that we can learn from today.

Preaching: You mention it’s based on the Old Testament story of Joshua. What did you find as you studied the Book of Joshua that was of particular value?

Lucado: The big idea is a paradigm shift in our thinking, and that is living out of our inheritance. In the Book of Joshua, the word inheritance appears nearly 60 times. The idea behind Joshua is that he received his inheritance—not so much that he conquered or overcame foes or defeated his enemies. He did what God said, and he received his inheritance: the Promised Land as an inheritance.

If we can make that mental shift as Christians and realize God has a great inheritance for us—and our job is not to fight for victory but to fight from victory—we can learn to live and write checks out of our inheritance because it’s so abundant. I think it’s a little intangible and hard to get our minds around, but it’s a mental shift that really changes the story and the outcome of Joshua and the lives of the people he led. They lived out of their inheritance.

Preaching: One issue you talk about is the issue of worry. A lot of Christians today live in a constant state of anxiety. What do you think the story of Joshua has to say to people who are controlled by worry and fear?

Lucado: You are really right. People live in a state of anxiety, and I don’t argue with the sociologists who say this is the most anxious nation in the most anxious generation in all of history. It seems to be attacking all ages, striking not just people facing severe challenges, but it’s a state of mind. I think anxiety comes with life, but it doesn’t have to run our lives; it’s the perpetual anxiety that we need to deal with.

Joshua had ample reason to be an anxious person. He could have followed in the footsteps of the generation before; they were too anxious, and they didn’t go into the Promised Land. However, what Joshua did really helps us and contains a message for this anxious generation. That is, he dealt with his strongholds and his struggles with spiritual weapons. There were times the swords were out and the spears were flashing, but there were many times—for example, crossing the Jordan River and taking the stronghold of Jericho—when we don’t see a sword. You don’t see a catapult or weapon. All he used were spiritual weapons. He put the Ark of the Covenant in front, and he blasted the ram’s horns. He declared and shouted God’s goodness.

Our secular society thinks this is very strange warfare; but for spiritual warfare, this was simply a matter of worship and proclaiming Scripture and prayer. Those are the modern equivalents in our world. I want to encourage people who battle anxiety to take seriously the idea of dealing with their anxious thoughts with Scripture, worship and prayer. Before anxiety gets to you, take your anxiety to God, and see if you don’t enter a season of peace and calmness.

Preaching: Did this book grow out of a sermon series of Joshua?

Lucado: It did; all of my books have grown out of sermon series. This was one that we called “Glory Days,” and I presented it to the church more than a year ago. The church really enjoyed it, and I find that such a good planting ground for material for a book. If the sermon puts people to sleep, I know it won’t make a good chapter!

Preaching: How much change occurs between the preached sermon and what we see in the book?

Lucado: Many people think that if a preacher turns his sermons into books, then the books are basically transcriptions of the sermon. In my case, they’re not. I put at least as much work into the sermon, editing the sermon into a chapter, as I do preparing a sermon. I imagine I do more work; we really work and rework it and rework it.

My thinking is that people have very discerning eyes when they read. You can get by with things when people are listening because the words are coming at them so fast. Also, when you’re speaking, you have the added benefit of nonverbal communication such as hand motions, marching back and forth or raising the volume of your voice; but when you’re writing, you’re limited in what you can do with words.

I don’t want readers ever to think this is a transcribed sermon. The eye and ear are two different receptors. So, I really rework the sermon, tone it up, try to add more creative phases and tighten up the sentences, as well as get it to the point of fitting better on a page.

Preaching: A lot of pastors spend most of their time preaching New Testament texts, and this is obviously based on an Old Testament text. Do you enjoy preaching from the Old Testament?

Lucado: I do. A story such as Joshua is at the same time unknown and well-known. People are acquainted with the name Joshua, and people can connect where he is somewhere in the biblical narrative—the Jericho story and the Jordan River story—but beyond that, there are many parts of Joshua that people are not familiar with. There are many promises they’ve never heard, such as the declaration at the end of Joshua, where Joshua says, “God fought for you.” Sometimes that gets lost in the declaration, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Both are worthy, but you can find these nuggets that people never have heard and present them, and it creates “aha” moments for the audience. I love preaching Old Testament stories for that very reason.

Preaching: The last time we spoke, you said you were preaching about 50 percent of the time, alternating with co-pastor Randy Frazee. Is that still the case?

Lucado: Yes. I do the first half of the year, and he does the second; we don’t flip flop on the weekends. He loves to do a long series, and I love to do a long series; so it works out well. I preach the first half of the year and use July and August for writing and vacation. Then I always have a book that releases in September; so, I go out and travel or do interviews then, as well as speaking to other churches. In the meantime, he is preaching at Oak Hills in San Antonio. It’s a really workable system for the two of us.

Preaching: How do you go about planning a sermon series?

Lucado: What I like to do is get the big idea in terms of a promise. I get the one promise that the listener or the reader can take away from it. Sometimes that’s a challenge. For example, let’s say I wanted to do a sermon series on the life of Abraham. I would ask, “What is one promise that appears all the way though the story of Abraham?” It might be that “God rewards the faithful heart” or something similar. I try to reduce it to a sentence.

Once I can get that promise, I then start creating the messages that would fit. It is following that promise or that message, so that’s a big thing. If I can reduce the story to one sentence and one promise, I feel that I have something people can take home.

Preaching: Your sermons and books are filled with captivating stories. Where do you find stories, and do you have a system for saving them until it’s time to use them?

Lucado: Wouldn’t it be great if there were a section in Costco that sold great stories? Preachers would be there every week.

You know, I don’t have a formula for finding stories. I am forever on the hunt. I have a pretty good memory for stories; once I hear one, I tend to remember it well. I have a file on my computer where I collect stories. When I am preparing a sermon, I will review them, looking for one I haven’t used before.

I came across a great story the other day about a guy whose job is to be a curator for Stradivarius violins. He lives in Rome. I can’t recall all the details of the story, but I kept it. His job is to play each of the 16 violins every day. He puts on a coat and tie, and he goes into this air-tight contained room where these violins are stored, and he pulls each one down. He described the great respect he has for the violin, and he will spend 18 to 20 minutes playing each and every one of them. I thought to myself, “That’s a story!” I’m not sure how it will work or where it will work, but I’ve got it in the file on my computer. Whenever I start a new sermon series, I will review those stories and find a way to illustrate a point.

Preaching: What we would pay for that file of illustrations!

Lucado: Well, it’s probably not any better than anyone else’s! It’s just short phrases that trigger memories. Sometimes I write a phrase, and it won’t trigger the memory, but those stories are wonderful.

Preaching: Max, how is your preaching different today than it was when you were first starting out as young preacher?

Lucado: I was louder for one thing. I’ve been preaching since 1980 at the church I am in, but before that I preached in Brazil for five years. Then in 1995, I developed vocal cord issues and by necessity had to tone down my sermons. Still today, I am very conversational and seldom raise my voice. I find that people appreciate that. That’s just my personality.

I think the other big change is that I’m much more prayerful in the pulpit. I take my time in prayers, and people benefit from a pastor who will pray over them. Forever I would say, “Lord bless this message, and be over what I have to say,” and I’d start preaching. Now, I’ll take five minutes and say, “Lord, who is sick today? Would You bless them or minister to a family?” I don’t call people up or have them stand up, but I know the Holy Spirit’s working in their midst, and it really calms people down. Jesus comes, and He ministers to people; and many times, that prayer time is a lot more effective than my sermon.

Preaching: If you were sitting down and talking to young preachers who are starting out, what kind of advice would you give them?

Lucado: I would say I really am troubled by the number of pastors who fall into moral failure. We are all tempted—we are; but if you blow it, if you stumble into moral failure, it’s going to affect the rest of your life—and not just your family but your credibility as a minister. You know, it’s hard to recover from it (if it’s possible at all) and you carry it the rest of your life.

I would beg that young minister: Do whatever it takes. As we are doing this interview right now, I’m in a hotel room. I have turned off the TV, and I could not order a movie in this hotel room. When I check into a hotel, I tell them to turn it off. I don’t want to have the possibility. My iPhone that I use has so many filters that it drives my wife crazy. She will send me YouTube things, and…I say, “Honey, I can’t get it to open!”

I’m a little bit hyper about it. I’ve never fallen. I know that I’m a sitting duck for the devil if I don’t watch myself. One slip and it follows you the rest of your ministry. I guess I would put the fear of God in that young minister. I’d say, “Do whatever it takes. Travel in an entourage. Don’t believe other people’s press. Don’t be alone with women. Never, never, never get into a situation where it’s just you and another woman. Don’t flirt. Be perceived as rude before you’re perceived as flirty. It’s things such as that that are so important.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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