And why did you choose to focus on the Gospel of Mark rather than any of the other three gospels?
You're an author, so you'll probably laugh at this: I chose Mark because it's the shortest gospel. But because it's short, it's compressed, and it moves from incident to incident in Jesus' life very quickly. In Matthew, Luke, and John, you have these long discourses, long pieces of teaching, and they're wonderful in many cases, like the Sermon on the Mount. And they raise a lot of questions.
But if you're really just trying to get exposed to all the aspects of Jesus, in Mark you get three or four incidents: Jesus with the dying girl, Jesus with the Pharisees, Jesus with a scholar. You get so many pictures of him per chapter that very quickly you get a very full-bodied picture of who he is. Also there's a sense of immediacy: it's all in the present tense. Sometimes it says, "Immediately he did this, immediately he did that." It's pretty compelling. I always go there, to Mark, if I'm trying to introduce somebody to Jesus. It's the fastest way to give the person a picture.
It's interesting to hear you say that writing books is part of your calling as a Christian minister, since in the past you've said you think you're a better preacher than a writer.
Well, I struggle to be a writer. If you ask me to go someplace and speak after all these years, yes, I can pull that together, I can do that. Writing is much more difficult for me. ... I am a better speaker than a writer, but basically I felt like over the years there are certain messages I wanted to get out there, and I felt that the written word is one way to get them out that can't be gotten out any other way.
I was reading some article—I can't remember who it was, it was a book reviewer for the Washington Post, I thought. Basically, it said a book is a textually created world. ... When you give yourself to a book, you essentially let the author take you into a world for a while. Even if it's a non-fiction book, the author is basically saying, "This is how I see what's going on in the world." ... It has an effect on you that simply listening to a 30-minute talk or an address, no matter how compelling, I don't think does.
I found in the last three years that people are affected by the books in ways I don't think oral communication can do. So I made that effort, and it's not easy.
What's your writing process like?
It works best if I have spoken on it because I can hear myself saying it, and then I write it. The other thing that you might find interesting—though I don't know if I can keep it up—is what I'll do is when I've written a chapter or two or three, I'll read them to my wife, out loud. And as I do that, we'll both say, "Well, do you want to put it that way or that way?" I understand what I'm trying to say better if I actually read it aloud to her, and she would actually rather I do that even though it's a bit tedious, you know, to have someone read aloud to you for an hour. She would rather do that than actually look at it on the page.