Mark Batterson, 43, has received acclaim as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and co-creator of Ebenezer’s coffeehouse, the largest coffee house on Capitol Hill. But more recently he has become bestselling author of books including In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase. His latest title, The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, has become an international hit. Here we talk about productivity, prayer, and creating healthy life patterns.
JM: The success of The Circle Maker has taken some in the market by surprise. This isn’t the first book on prayer. How is this different and why do you think it has resonated with so many people?
MB: I had a hunch that this book would really touch a nerve ending. For starters, the true legend of Honi the Circle Maker is an incredible story. And the simple metaphor of praying in circles has really resonated. I’ve gotten hundreds of testimonies from people who are circling things in prayer. A realtor is circling the properties she lists. An inner-city school teacher is circling her classroom. An NFL coach is circling their team’s stadium before game day. And a member of Congress is circling his congressional office building. The goal of the book was to really inspire people to pray like it depends on God. And that is happening. I think all of us feel like we fall short when it comes to prayer. We need all the help we can get. The Circle Maker is helping people pray bigger and bolder prayers.
JM: You didn’t rest on your laurels. The year after you wrote The Circle Maker you penned three more books in one year. To what do you attribute your productivity?
MB: I set my alarm early in the morning!
From the very beginning, we felt like The Circle Maker was just the first book in a brand. I wrote Praying Circles Around Your Children to help parents apply the principles of prayer to their role as parents. And Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge shares some new lessons and incredible testimonies of answered prayer. And later this year we’ll release a picture book for children that I’m super excited about. One of my writing highlights this year was co-authoring the student edition my son, Parker. I’ll never write three books in one year again, but it’s exciting to see the way God has used it to spark a prayer movement all across the country. The book is also being translated into a dozen languages, so I believe it’ll have international impact as well.
JM: How and why did you scale back this year?
MB: My word for 2013 is Selah—it’s a Hebrew word that refers to a musical rest. I’m only doing 12 overnight speaking trips in 2013 because I want to scale back and be on the home front more. At the end of the day, I want to be famous in my home. I’m in a season of life where I want to spend more time with my wife and kids.
JM: What’s the importance of margin in your life and how do you pursue it?
MB: I have a little formula I came up with a few years ago:
Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective
If you don’t have margin, you start going through the motions. You stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory. That’s a dangerous place to be because you lose your spiritual edge. If you try to be all things to all people you end up being nothing to nobody!
JM: Your church model is different than most. Can you give us a brief overview of your history (Ebenezer’s) and what you’re doing now with the DC Dream Center?
MB: We have a core conviction: there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. If the kingdom of God had departments, we’d want to work in research and development. We also believe that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace—not huddled behind the four walls of a church building. That’s why we built Ebenezer’s coffeehouse. It was inspired by the fact that Jesus hung out at wells—natural gathering places in ancient culture. I think coffeehouses are postmodern wells. We have 600 customers a day and every penny of profit goes to missions. It’s coffee with a cause. And one of the causes it supports is our Dream Center in Southeast DC—a part of our city with the greatest need. We believe that God will bless our church in proportion to how we care for the poor in our city. We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to single moms and fatherless children. We’re bringing hope to the helpless and homeless.