Next Door Savior
The Power of the Ordinary
People meet Max Lucado and rarely call him "Mr. Lucado." He's always just "Max." His readers feel like they have a friend in Max, a confidant, a companion on the journey of life. Read his books and you think you really know him. He could be the guy sitting next to you at the baseball game, the person you swap stories with at the grocery store, your next-door neighbor.
Max says his writing reflects who he is, an ordinary man pursuing an extraordinary God. "I like to encourage, and also, I'm not very deep," admits Lucado. "I take things at face value, so I think I kind of connect with the Everyman out there."
His books talk of weighty matters-grace, forgiveness, love and honesty-but with a light hand. "A lot of people say, 'You do a good job of bringing the cookies down to the lower shelf,'" he says. "I tell them, 'No, I'm just short of stature myself.'" With every book he writes, Max remembers his own struggle to know God.
The Power of Forgiveness
Max grew up in dusty West Texas, the fourth child of an oil field worker and a nurse. His childhood was filled with family, sports and a pious church life. "I became a Christian at 10, but went through a phase starting at about the age of 14 to about 18 where I just sowed more than my share of wild oats," Lucado recalls. "And at the age of 18, I was to the point where I could drink a six pack of beer and not feel it."
He remembers coming home drunk one night as a sophomore in high school and vomiting in the bathroom. "The next morning, I remember being so disappointed in myself that I had disappointed my dad. It had really touched me deeply that I had saddened my father because he was a good dad." As Max started learning more about God and His grace, he remembered his father's forgiveness that day. He knew this was the first step to knowing and understanding God.
Max enrolled at Abilene Christian University (ACU) because he thought he'd be around good people and his parents said they would help pay his way. During his sophomore year at ACU, Max attended a required Bible classes-and became convinced that Jesus was more than a good man. "I knew it was more than just religion, but a personal relationship."
After graduation, he spent two years at a small church in Miami, preparing to go into full-time mission work in Brazil. And there he found the great loves of his life-his wife Denalyn, his joy in preaching and his love of writing. "I never set out to be a writer-or a preacher," says Lucado. "I don't have any aspirations to be seen as a great author or pulpiteer. I really was interested in coaching football." And he humbly adds in reference to name he's made for himself: "If it all ended tomorrow, that would be fine with me."
In Florida, Max thoroughly enjoyed preparing for and preaching to his small congregation. Yet it was his weekly columns printed in the church bulletin that exposed his passion for writing. "I can remember I would write and rewrite and rewrite and I just loved it," he says. "I think that's one way you know a spiritual gift, is when you get lost doing it." He strung the columns together into a book and submitted the manuscript to 15 publishers. 14 publishers turned him down. The 15th said yes, and On the Anvil was publishing in 1985 by Tyndale House Publishers. As of 2003, Max has written more than 50 books with 28 million copies in print. "I don't know why people buy my books," he says. "I'm thankful they do. I think I would still write even if they didn't. I love to work with words."
After working at the church in Miami, Max and Denalyn moved to Brazil and were convinced they were to be life-long missionaries. Then in 1988, Max's father made a plea for the Lucados to return to the states. "His request, literally a death-bed request, was for me to come back and be closer to my mother, and we wanted to honor that. Otherwise we would still be in Brazil." Max, Denalyn and their three daughters made their way to San Antonio to minister at Oak Hills Church, a place where Max hopes to stay. "I'm a minister first, and a writer second," he says.
The Power of a Savior
Max, whether writing a book or visiting with a neighbor, loves to turn the topic to an idea that still amazes him-God forgave and still forgives him. Lucado's books reflect his wonder at the wideness of God's mercy and encourage readers to consider how this reality impacts their own lives. In his latest book, Next Door Savior (W Publishing Group, September 2, 2003) Max wants readers to consider Jesus' humanity and empathy for us all. Max-remembering his own struggle to know Jesus as God- uses this book to help readers see Jesus as both man and miracle maker. As our Next Door Savior, Jesus is the only perfect Everyman, a God-man who is near enough to touch and strong enough to trust.
The Power of a Word
Max knows each book has a mission of its own, a life to touch, a heart to change. "Books go where I could never go. Even when I'm tired, upset and don't feel like ministering to anybody, I know that somewhere, one of those books is helping somebody," says Lucado. But he fully realizes God is using him as a tiny part of his bigger miracle. "God in his kindness said, 'I think I could use a writer. I think I'll use Lucado.'"