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‘I Began To Drink’—Max Lucado’s Ministry Was Booming, but His World Had ‘Gone Crazy’

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Photo courtesy of Max Lucado

Twenty years ago, it appeared that the ministry of best-selling author and “America’s pastor,” Max Lucado, was thriving. At 50 years old, his church’s numbers were growing, tourists often visited during Sunday services, and his writing and speaking career was moving full steam ahead. However, what was not apparent to observers, said Lucado, was, “I was a mess.” 

“Our staff was struggling,” Lucado wrote in an op-ed for Fox News published Sunday, Sept. 10. “Departments were squaring off against one another. Tacky emails were flying like missives. Ministers were competing for budget dollars. A couple of invaluable employees, weary from the tension, quietly resigned. And since I was the senior pastor, it fell to me to set things in order.”

But Lucado was too busy to address these problems. “I had lessons to prepare,” he said. “The problem with Sundays is that they happen each week! In addition, I led a midweek prayer service and taught a weekly early morning men’s gathering. Deadlines were coming at me from all sides. I needed time to think, to pray, to study.”

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Max Lucado’s congregation is Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, where he presently serves as teaching minister. He is a prolific author whose books have sold 145 million copies, and his op-ed was adapted from his latest book (releasing Sept. 12) titled, “God Never Gives Up on You: What Jacob’s Story Teaches Us About Grace, Mercy, and God’s Relentless Love.”

In addition to being too dominated by deadlines to address the conflicts within his ministry, Lucado was having heart problems from the stress. Feeling pressure from his staff, his church, his publisher and, in fact, the “entire world,” Lucado was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

“So I did what came naturally,” he said. “I began to drink.”

In a September 2022 interview on “The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast,” Lucado shared that abusing alcohol is something he struggled with at a young age. “I was a mess in high school and college,” he said. “I was the guy you did not want your daughter to date. I was drunk at least three nights Thursday, Friday and Saturday or Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all the way. I was a barroom brawler.” 

Lucado was raised in church and learned about the Holy Spirit through a traveling evangelist while he was a senior in high school, but he went back to his “old ways” before he returned to Christ in his early twenties. And while Lucado’s op-ed described a watershed moment in his life at age 50, in his podcast interview with Dr. Ed Stetzer and Daniel Yang, Lucado described a different pivotal moment that occurred while he was in his 30s.