1. NSR - When did God teach you about Lion Chasing & what led you to write the book?
Mark Batterson - I think there has always been a little lion chaser in me. I just didn’t know what to call it, or how to think about it. You can’t plant a church without being lion chaser. NCC plant was most likely the biggest lion I’ve chased. It was a pretty scary proposition & there were times when we felt we were in a pit with a lion on a snowy day. God has sustained us, blessed us & I think the whole process of leading & pasturing NCC has been an education in lion chasing. That’s a big piece of my story & in terms of the inspiration to write it, I actually felt called to write when I was in seminary. I had kind of put that on the shelf for a while, & writing was a little like chasing a lion. But God has honored that proposition & the end product is the book.
2. NSR - If you could get one point across from your book, In a Pit, what would that be?
MB - I think to me, Chris, the greatest regrets are the lions you didn’t chase. You’re going to look back on your life & we’ll have some regrets from things that we did, but I just don’t think that those will zing as much or last as long as do the things we wish we had. I really do believe that the Church is focused too much on sins of commission, & not enough on sins of omission. Obviously our sins of commission grieve the heart of God, but it seems to me the things we could have done with our God-given potential or God-given dreams, I think those are really the things that grieve our Heavenly Father. He wants us to be & do everything He wants us to be & do. At the heart of it, our greatest regrets will be the lions we didn’t chase.
3. NSR - You say that the biggest risks are the greatest opportunities. Is it just a matter of deciphering God’s will to determine if those are just risks, or actually opportunities?
MB - I think two things are helpful here. First is life experience. The more risks you taken, the more opportunities you seize, the more you begin to discern the patterns of the way God works in your life. With life experience there is an accumulation of wisdom that you get. I think the other piece is a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit – really knowing when a prompting is from God. So whether you run away or chase the lion it takes tremendous spiritual discernment. With that, you will be able to decipher what is a God-idea & what is a good idea.
4. NSR - What authors have influenced your writing &/or your spiritual life?
MB - I love to read. In seminary (TEDS), I was averaging 150-200 books a year. I have dropped off a bit since then, but I am a voracious reader – everything from theology to neurology. A couple of the guys who I will read anytime they have a new book, though, are Philip Yancey & Erwin McManus. I really appreciate McManus’ take on the Kingdom. A.W. Towzer also has influenced me a great deal.
5. NSR - What is your favorite thing about your church?
MB - Wow. I love my church, so this is hard to narrow down, but I guess the thing I love most is that I can be myself. No pretending, no masks, just myself, I love that. Another thing I love is our demographic. 73% of our attendees are single twentysomethings. I have a huge heart for twentysomethings who are making those decisions that going to impact the rest of their lives. I love, love the demographic, & I love the geographic.We live 10 blocks from the capital, which is a pretty cool deal. I love the multi-site vision, I love that we are always looking for what is next. There are very few things that I don’t like. I could talk about my church all day, I love it.
6. NSR - There is a passage in The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe when the children find out that the Aslan they are about to meet is a lion. I believe Susan asks Mr. Beaver, “Is he safe?” Mr. Beaver responds, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Would you say that just as Aslan is not safe, neither is God? So that we should not play it safe when it comes to Kingdom living?
MB - Absolutely. God is a risk-taker.The fact that he created human-kind with a free will is a quantum risk. I think we under-appreciate that dimension of God’s character. Also, in Hebrews 11, we’ll notice that there were a lot risk & there were a lot of lives lost in taking risks. I’m not naïve in thinking that we are going to kill every lion we chase. But that’s where we need an eternal frame of reference. I n temporal terms, I can’t guarantee that everything’s going turn out the way that we want it to turn out. But I can guarantee, because Scripture guarantees that every risk we take on God’s account is going to be rewarded. And that is something I think we can take to the bank. Even the incarnation, Jesus becoming flesh models risk, and that is something we are called to do. We are told to follow in his footsteps.
7. NSR - I saw somewhere that over 70% of NCC attendees are single adults. Would it then be fair to say that many at NCC are twentysomethings? It seems today; even those kids who were engaged in church growing up seem to fall away from the church when they get in their 20’s.What do you see as a solution for this?
MB - I can think of two things of great importance. First is creativity. We have a creative inflation in our culture right now. Restaurants, bookstores, retail shops, are spending time and money on being creative. We are surrounded by so much creativity. If the church doesn’t compete with that, I think we are deemed boring & irrelevant.The church needs to be the most creative place. Second is authenticity. Pastors need to be vulnerable & real, kind of in the vein of Confessions of a Pastor. We need to share our struggles, our challenges. And at the same time, we need to really challenge people to dream God-sized dreams. I feel that NCC is a pretty authentic place, & I think that really resonates with twentysomethings.
8. NSR - What do you see as a crucial topic facing the evangelical church at large today?
MB - I think one of the greatest challenges we face is that we are known more for what we are against than what we are for. It breaks my heart. Christianity is misunderstood & misaligned in so many ways. I think the Church needs to take a look in the mirror & instead of saying we are against this & against that (& I am not saying that there are not things that we shouldn’t be - there are things which we need to take a moral stand against, but we need to offer better solutions). The Church needs to find creative ways of communicating to culture - who we are, what we’re about.I think the Church right now has a serious perception problem. We know the reality that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified for our sins, & rose from the dead. He’s going to return & we have eternity to look forward to, but somehow it seems that we aren’t communicating the message of the Gospel in terms that are resonating with our culture in ways that they could, or should. We have the greatest message, we need the greatest marketing.
9. NSR - The coffeehouse, Ebenezer’s, is that part of NCC? If so, how are the two related?
MB - It is under the umbrella of NCC, but it is a fully operational coffeehouse. The philosophy is that it is a place where church & community crosses paths. We did not want to build a place where people would congregate only once a week. We wanted to be established within the community.It seems to have brought a level of credibility to our ministry. We have 500-600 people get coffee there each day & have been nominated as DC’s best coffeehouse. We also have two services meeting there on Saturday nights. 54% of the attendees were never a part of NCC before, so it is not just transfer growth.
10. NSR - Was there a chapter you felt was more difficult for you to hear from God than another?
MB - The toughest chapter to live is overcoming adversity, in my estimation. I mean, who likes adversity. One of the toughest things for me to write is that sometimes our worst days can become our best days. Sometimes it takes suffering to really learn the most important lessons. I didn’t like writing that, I don’t think people like reading it – but it’s true.
Learn more about lion chasing & Mark at these links-
National Community Church