Main Content

Lucado visits with students about writing craft

Lucado visits with students in the JMC newsroom
Lucado visits with students in the JMC newsroom (photo courtesy of Cade White).
The last time Max Lucado (’77) likely visited the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication’s news room, he was a shaggy-haired columnist for The Optimist newspaper in the mid-1970s. Last Tuesday the best-selling Christian author sat in a chair, sipping coffee and sharing wisdom about the craft of writing with Abilene Christian University students.
Lucado was honored April 25 as 2016 Friend of the Year by Friends of ACU Library, thanks in large part to the recent donation of his papers to the Milliken Special Collections at Brown Library. The Max Lucado Collection, encompassing his three decades in preaching and publishing, contains more than 80 boxes of manuscripts, journals, artwork and personal correspondence. Others will be added as his career continues.
The next day, Lucado met with faculty at breakfast and with ACU Press officials at lunch before heading back home to San Antonio, where he is senior pastor of Oak Hills Church. Sandwiched between the two meal meetings was a rare opportunity to talk to students about the writing that has defined his career: 97 million copies of books and 125 million products overall – in 43 languages around the world. He is arguably the most popular Christian writer on the planet, and a walking, talking ambassador for the role his alma mater played in shaping his life.
Lucado earned a bachelor’s in mass communication in 1977 and a master’s in biblical and related studies in 1983 from ACU. His wife, Denalyn (Preston ’79) and two of his three daughters, Jenna (Lucado ’06) Bishop and Andrea Lucado (’08) also are Abilene Christian alums.
Students smiled and nodded in affirmation at one of his opening questions about writing: “Is there anything more lonely than an empty monitor?”
Lucado went on to discuss the nuts and bolts of of his craft – getting started, finding something worth the effort, capturing something of significance, motivation, editing, rewriting and other nuances of good writing.
“The secret to good writing is re-writing,” he said. “It strengthens it.” He advised students to “Let your work sit for a while. Let your mind cool. Come at it with a fresh set of eyes later. Allow yourself to be edited.”
Lucado admitted one of the hardest things to do is submit his work to an editor. “It feels like you’re being criticized but you have to set your ego out of the way and become a co-editor with your editor,” he said.
Named “America’s Pastor” by Christianity Today and “America’s Best Preacher” by Reader’s Digest and one of the world’s most influential people in social media by The New York Times, Lucado said it’s important for a writer to know his or heraudience. In his head, he envisions a person sitting across the table from him: a truck driver, a single mom, a person in a convalescent center. They typify the people with whom he hopes to connect with inspirational messages about God’s love and call upon their lives.
“I write books for people who don’t read books,” he admitted.
“All my books come out of sermons,” Lucado said, explaining that the way an audience reacts to his preaching helps him gauge the effectiveness of his message. He said he follows advice from the late Charles Spurgeon, a 19th-century minister in England who advised others to preach like there’s a broken heart on every pew.
Of his more than 31 books, Lucado said one written in 1997 for children – You Are Special – had a unique effect on him and holds a place close to his heart. He said his next book will be about how God helps people deal with anxiety in their lives.
Watch the upcoming Summer-Fall 2016 issue of ACU Today magazine for a look inside the Max Lucado Collection.