Connections: Mark Lowry
God Is Crazy About You
Mark Lowry has had audiences laughing their way into a serious consideration of the gospel for more than 30 years. His singing career includes 17 years with the Gaither Vocal Band, and he continues to appear at Gaither Homecoming events. Lowry spoke in 2005 with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor, about his concert tour and the amazement he continues to feel over God’s love for all of us.
evangel: Your comedy is nationally appreciated, but behind the punch lines you pursue a very serious faith. How would you describe the impact Jesus Christ has had on your life?
MARK LOWRY: He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. I’ve always known He loves us, but the fact that He likes us is a wonderful thing. A lot of people I love, I don’t like. I go through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there’s always one in the family who you would cry at their funeral but you wouldn’t want to go on vacation with them.
But anybody who loves you enough to die for you is in your corner. He’s on your side. When I was growing up, I heard a lot of sermons that made me think that God loved me but He really didn’t like me very much. He crucified His Son because He was mad at us. But that wasn’t the case. He crucified His Son because He loved us.
God understands that we’re broken, that we’re all sinners. As Christians, we can’t take an “us and them” attitude toward the world around us. Because it’s really “us and Him.” God gave us a free will, and He’ll let us walk away. But He left the light on so we could find our way home.
evangel: As a musician, what has been your most gratifying ministry opportunity?
LOWRY: When I wrote “Mary, Did You Know?” — I wrote the lyrics, and Buddy Greene wrote the music. A number of people have recorded “Mary,” and I guess one of my favorites would be Gary Chapman.
Comedy has a short shelf life. It’s a great tool to reach people with the gospel. But all comedy turns to corn eventually. “Mary, Did You Know?” is the one thing that will probably outlive me.
evangel: How do you keep yourself spiritually energized as you travel and sing with the Gaithers and other groups?
LOWRY: I love to talk about my faith. I think talking about it increases it. The more you talk about what God’s teaching you and showing you and the things He’s taking you through, the more it strengthens your faith.
And reading the Word — I love reading Eugene Peterson’s The Message. It’s made the Word of God come alive for me, and I love to memorize it. You know the passage where Jesus says, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”? The Message says it like this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30).
I memorized that the other day because I love that line “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” I think, as Christians, we need to learn those unforced rhythms. We need to learn, for example, not to rank sin. All sin separates us from God. The sin of arrogance. The sin of gluttony. You don’t hear very many preachers preach on gluttony even when most of us have a problem with it.
You know that old saying “Love the sinner. Hate the sin”? I think it should be, “Love the sinner. Hate your own sin.” I don’t have time to hate anyone else’s sin. I’m too busy hating mine. The Psalmist said, “My sin is ever before me.” I think if we could learn to love the sinner and hate our own sin we could be more effective in reaching people who are struggling and hurting and who feel left out.
We ostracize the very people Jesus died for, the very people we’re supposed to reach out to with God’s love and grace. That’s why I’m doing the whole “God Is Crazy About You” tour.
evangel: Let’s talk about that tour. What kind of response are you seeing?
LOWRY: It started a couple of years ago when I began touring again after leaving the Gaither Vocal Band. It evolved. My road manager actually came up with the title. “God is crazy about you” is the message that comes across throughout the evening. Anybody who loves you enough to die for you is in your corner. And I try to find stories from my own life to prove that point.
If people go to marklowry.com they can read the e-mails we’ve been getting from people who’ve been to the concert. It’s really been a life-changing event for some people. I love to hear about people who thought God couldn’t use them, that He was through with them because of their circumstances, and then they discover this whole side of who God is.
God has always used freaks, frauds and failures. He never picks people who have it all together. Look at who Jesus chose to be His disciples! A bunch of lowlifes — and they turned the world upside down.
evangel: You get a lot of comedic material from observing the church. Despite salvation’s transforming effect, Christians can still be pretty strange. What are some idiosyncrasies you’ve observed?
LOWRY: We love to eat. We look for the buffet. The Lord’s going to have a challenge in the Rapture getting us off the ground. But the biggest thing I wish we’d work on isn’t our waistline. I wish we’d just be more accepting of people. Let everybody in! Let everybody get next to Jesus, and He’ll fix what’s broken in all of us. But if we keep people away. ...
We’re all uninvited guests standing at the door keeping other uninvited guests out. If it hadn’t been for that sheet falling from the sky in Acts 11, none of us would know God. Peter had all those laws from the Old Testament convincing him that Gentiles shouldn’t be allowed into the family of God. And God told him, “What I’ve called clean, don’t you call unclean.”
If we can just get people next to Jesus, we’ll discover again how lovely He is, how wonderful He is, and that He knows we are all broken. We’re sinners, but He’s going to get us home if we’ll just follow Him.
evangel: What are some of the painful life issues you believe your comedy and music help to alleviate for your audiences?
LOWRY: I’ve got ADD. I used to have ADHD, but my age is starting to eliminate the hyperactivity. It gives moms hope when they think I turned out all right.
I’m not so sure about myself; God’s still working on me. This is boot camp. I’ve told God, “As soon as You’re done working on me, just take me home. I’m ready.” This is where we walk by faith.
All my eggs are already in one basket. I’m not trying this God out to see if He’s for real. He is for real. He loves me. Jesus proved that on the cross. And when He rose from the dead, He assured our ticket out of here to spend eternity with Him.
evangel: What does Christianity offer that the self-help books don’t?
LOWRY: Help when you can’t help yourself. Self-help is one thing, but God’s help is another thing entirely. I admire people who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but I need the grace of God.
The wonderful thing about God is He gives grace; He helps you when you can’t help yourself. And after you’ve tried all the self-help books — and that’s fine, go down that rabbit trail if you need it — you’ll come to the end of your rope and you’ll find Him standing there waiting to catch you.
evangel: You stand up and share your faith with thousands of people at a time. Do you find it any harder to talk with someone about Christ one on one?
LOWRY: Oh no. It’s much easier, and I love it so much more. I enjoy standing and sharing with a crowd. But I love sitting on my back porch with somebody who may not know anything about me. They may be an atheist, or struggling with something. And I love it.
I never force it. It just happens. God will always crack a door, and I’ll push it open. When you force it, it isn’t natural. But if you look for the Holy Spirit to crack the door and if you’ll just gently push at it, you’ll discover that people are interested in eternal things.
I think there’s something in our DNA that remembers Eden … remembers walking in the cool of the day with God. We’re all trying to get back there, regardless of whether we’re using alcohol or drugs or anything else. We’re just drinking at the wrong well. It’s like the Samaritan woman. She was thirsty; she just needed to find the right well.
evangel: If you were to name three people who have impacted your life the most, who would they be?
LOWRY: Gloria Gaither, Chuck Swindoll and my pastor, Stan Mitchell. Gloria worked on me for 13 years to turn me from a rabid fundamentalist into a person living by grace. Chuck Swindoll’s book The Grace Awakening was a turning point for me that really showed me that God loves me. Stan Mitchell’s sermon series on Henry Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved was almost like getting saved again.
Those people have created “glory to glory” experiences for me along the way. You know, every time I’m with Gloria I get some new revelation from God through her. She’s an amazing, insightful woman. I’d love everyone to be able to read The Grace Awakening. You can listen to Stan Mitchell’s six-part series on Life of the Beloved for free at marklowry.com in the “oratory” section (under the “outside the mind” button at the top) where I have some of my favorite preachers. That series turned my life upside down.
evangel: What’s a thought you’d want to leave with someone reading this interview?
LOWRY: I wish I had the words to tell you how much God loves you. I pray every night before I go out on stage, “Lord, please help me make it clear.” I don’t really think words can convey it, but they’re all we have.
I wish you could see yourself the way God sees you. If you have children, the way you look at your children is only a broken image of how God sees us. Jesus told us that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more God loves us and wants to take care of us.
God is rarely in our plans. But He’s always in the interruptions. And sometimes those interruptions don’t feel like God is on your side. When you get that doctor’s report, perhaps, or you go through a divorce, it doesn’t feel like God is anywhere around. But He is there. He’s using those things to draw you to himself..
This interview originally appeared in the May 22, 2005, Pentecostal Evangel.