Committed to Serve
About the Guest
At 16 he dedicated his life to the Lord. Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association, talks about growing up as the son of the great evangelist, Luis Palau, and admits to having some doubts during his college years, but eventually concluded that God was worthy of his faith and allegiance. Find out how the Lord has led him to reach the nations since then.
At 16 he dedicated his life to the Lord.
Committed to Serve
Bob: Kevin Palau, the son of evangelist Luis Palau, was a student at a Christian university when he had a spiritual awakening.
Kevin: I just began thinking, “Wait a minute! What do I really believe?” I just hadn’t thought through certain issues of my own faith. I went through a quiet couple of years of soul-searching before having a very clear sense of, “This is the truth. I don’t have to understand every detail. I don’t have to be able to explain every nuance of who God is and what He’s like and why He allows certain things. He is worthy of my faith and allegiance.” And I have never looked back.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It doesn’t matter who your dad is; Kevin Palau says you’ve got to make a decision to follow Christ for yourself. Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, our guest today has been known for years as the son of an internationally- known evangelist; but it occurs to me that in recent days, he may have become better known as the brother of the fool. Have you thought about that?
Dennis: I hadn’t. What a way to introduce our guest! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, we had—I should explain—we had Kevin’s brother, Andrew Palau—
Bob: —join us, not long ago, to talk about his new book which is called The Secret Life of a Fool.
Bob: So, I’m not calling him a fool; he called himself a fool! I’m off the hook on that; don’t you think?
Dennis: So, Kevin, would you call your brother a fool—at least, back then, when he was acting the way he was?
Kevin: It’s funny. No, I laugh because—you know—we love—even in those times when Andrew was not walking with the Lord at all, we had a great love for each other as a family. There wasn’t any anger around it; but when a kid crashes the family car three or four times—yes, I don’t know what else you’d say.
Dennis: And the police show up in the middle of the night?
Kevin: And the police show up in the middle of the night. Of course, in reading that book, half of that stuff in the book, none of us in the family really knew. There were some definite eyebrow-raising—
Kevin: Yes, revelations in the book. It’s worth picking up and looking at.
Dennis: Well, you have not been the fool. You are currently the President of the Luis Palau Association, which is an evangelistic association that preaches the Gospel, here in America, and how many countries around the world?
Kevin: You know, I think it’s something close to a hundred different countries, over almost 60 years of ministry, where we’ve had a chance—Dad, directly, and my brother Andrew and others—to proclaim the Gospel.
Dennis: Your dad has spoken to how many million people in his lifetime?
Kevin: It’s somewhere—
Dennis: A lot of our listeners may not know Luis Palau, but he really is a hero.
Kevin: It’s been an amazingly encouraging journey to be on—for me to work with Dad. It’s something like 50 million people at events, face-to-face, and then hundreds and hundreds of millions through the media. Dad has been a great, faithful proclaimer of the Gospel.
Dennis: He started back in the early ‘60s with the Billy Graham Association—kind of became an intern back then. He preached the Gospel around the country and around the world. Now, you’re following in his footsteps, really, in giving leadership to the next generation of this ministry. I want to back it all up, though, and ask what it was like to grow up as the son of a worldwide evangelist. You weren’t the fool, like your brother—like Bob was talking about.
Bob: Were you the older brother? Were you the self-righteous older brother?
Kevin: You know, in some ways I suppose that’s true. I had a twin brother—so Keith and I were the oldest. We’re identical twins. You know, we were just like the proverbial good kid who didn’t really think about rebelling—not because we were particularly better—but just fairly quiet temperament, studious, loved to read, not the “life of the party”-kind of a person. I didn’t have the incredible wealth and network of friends that Andrew did—kind of ran in the “brainiac” crowd at Sunset High School in Beaverton, Oregon.
Dennis: You didn’t live the entertaining lifestyle?
Kevin: Not at all! A book—a book—it wouldn’t even make a pamphlet. My life story would not be too entertaining. [Laughter]
Bob: Did you come to faith as a child?
Kevin: I did. I was like, I suppose, many people who have grown up in the kind of home that Keith and I and the rest of us did. I can remember half a dozen times of praying to receive Christ, “...to make sure. I’m pretty sure I have, but just one more time—”
Bob: —“just in case.”
Kevin: —“just in case; it couldn’t hurt.” Then, at 16—I really look back on that as really a more adult recommitment of my life to serving God. I kind of look back on that as a real “planting the flag” and saying, “My life is going to be about serving Jesus Christ.”
Bob: And what was it that happened at 16 that stirred that in you?
Kevin: You know, again, a fairly typical situation of a Christian camp. Hume Lake Christian Camp in central California. A speaker named Bill McKee, who was a great speaker back in the day. He just gave a very challenging, “Are you willing to stand up in front of this group of kids?—only—if you really mean it—stand up and declare that your life is going to be 100 percent committed to Christ.”
You know, you have that—palms sweating and the, “Am I really going to stand up?” But doing that and having that be something the Lord uses to remind you, “You stood and very formally said this was what you are going to do.”
Dennis: You’d grown up the son of a man who had stood up in front of tens of thousands of people in mass rallies in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. You had a picture of what that looked like. How much did that play into your surrender to Jesus Christ as a 16-year-old?
Kevin: Well, you know, it’s funny. Not a lot—not as much as people might think. I think I tended to disassociate, at the time, what Dad did—which was wonderful. We had the privilege of traveling around as a family during breaks from school—spring vacation, summer—going and being a part of what we would call crusades in those days. Now, we call them festivals. But I think I tended to just kind of observe that as something that Dad did—wonderful—people coming to Christ—but I didn’t really see it as something directly related to me because I definitely did not grow up thinking I was going to be part of the Palau Association.
People may tend to assume, since three of the four of us Palau boys work with the Palau Association, that it must have been just assumed as you grew up that you were going to work with the Association. The thought never crossed my mind, all the way through college. The thought never really crossed my mind that I would be working with this organization.
Dennis: You went to Wheaton College?
Dennis: Was there ever a time at Wheaton when you kind of—well, you know, it’s easy to be a Christian—a follower of Christ—at a school like that. I mean, you’re beginning days with prayer. There’s chapel, there’s teaching about the New Testament and Old Testament. You have great professors in a college setting. Did you ever kind of begin to stray off in your own direction during that time?
Kevin: You know, certainly not overtly. In fact, from the first Sunday, freshman year, Keith and I went to a little church. We went there every Sunday, all four years. We were leaders in a little, small thing called World Christian Fellowship. At the time, there were probably 15 of us in the basement of Fischer Hall. It was the missions group. This was back in 1981. We thought—Keith and I, “You know, Dad’s Luis Palau; and we love missions.” That might be what each of us, in turn, thought we wanted to do.
That group grew, in those four years, to hundreds of students. On the one hand, kind of helping lead a group at this evangelical school about being passionate about world evangelism; at the same time, my junior and senior years at Wheaton were the first time I really experienced doubts about the Bible and the Christian faith. It’s funny—not because professors were planting doubts; but just in going through some of the study that you do when you’re at a little bit of a higher level of studying, “Where did the Bible come from?”
I just began thinking, “Wait a minute! What do I really believe?” I just hadn’t thought through certain issues of my own faith—not in terms of my personal commitment to Christ—but in some of the big, tough questions that we encounter. I went through a quiet couple of years of soul-searching before having a very clear sense of, “This is the truth. I don’t have to understand every detail. I don’t have to be able to explain every nuance of who God is, and what He’s like, and why He allows certain things. He is worthy of my faith and allegiance.” And I have never looked back.
Dennis: We’ve already established the fact that here you and your brother are leaders at Wheaton, among the students. Your other brother, Andrew, was a rebel—
Dennis: —a fool, as Proverbs would describe.
Kevin: Right; exactly.
Dennis: Looking back on it, if we could have interviewed Andrew during that period of time, he would have had a different answer to this question than the question you have today. “What do you think your dad and your mom did right in raising you?”
Kevin: You know, honestly, it will sound very trite and almost obvious; but they lived out the Christian life very consistently, and lovingly, and without hypocrisy. I think—you know, it is funny how often people, over the years, would come up to any of us—Andrew, or Keith, or I, or Steve—and say, “Oh, it must be so hard! You must have seen certain things.”
Literally, I would scratch my head and say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Thankfully! But, again, that says something about the consistency of Dad and Mom’s love for each other, their love for the Lord, their passion about serving God, and being normal, too—as odd as that might seem. “Normal” in the sense of there wasn’t this highly-legalistic, “We’re going to get up every day and do this!”
The Christian life wasn’t this negative, angry, rule-keeping thing—“God’s angry at you!” There was a sense of, “There is a loving heavenly Father—who demands full allegiance—but living the Christian life is the most joyful, wonderful experience you could possibly have. Why would anybody want anything else?”
That’s what we experienced in our home—was a consistently lived-out Christian life that didn’t leave room for that duplicitous, “Dad’s saying these certain things; but I know, behind the scenes, he’s doing this, that, or the other.” There wasn’t that! That has been the most obvious thing to me—a very consistently-lived godliness.
Dennis: It’s interesting. I’m listening in my headphones. Our engineer, Keith Lynch, just said, “That’s the same answer your brother, Andrew, did give.”
Dennis: I mean, even though he was playing the fool.
Kevin: Yes. You know, he always said that, once he came back to the Lord. He always said, “Trust me. This was not because Mom and Dad were hypocrites, and I experienced all this hypocrisy in our local church. It was I chose—” That’s why he would specifically say that he was a “fool”. He chose to go that way.
Dennis: Yes. I had you share the story and, really, what your thoughts were for a couple of reasons. One is—some parents, right now, are in the midst of dealing with a fool.
Dennis: And they want to blame themselves. Certainly, there are no perfect parents—there was only One perfect One who walked the planet—but, secondly, I just want to encourage parents to keep on keeping on. Keep on teaching the Bible, keep on living out your faith, being in love with Jesus Christ, talking about the life He gives you, what you see through His eyes, how He uses you, how you’re impacting other people, how you’re imparting the truth about Him to other people. All of that is caught by your kids.
Kevin: That’s right.
Dennis: I mean, here today, you’re raising a family of three; and you’re trying to pass that on to your family.
Kevin: Absolutely. And as Dad said—I heard him say this a million times, over the years—“God has no grandchildren.” There’s this sense that, somehow, being born in a Christian family passes it on like a virus or like eye color. That’s the heart of the evangelist, “It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a Christian home or a Christian country. You need to make a commitment to Christ for yourself.” I think it can be difficult for kids who grow up in pastor’s families or Christian leaders; but, thankfully, in our case, Dad and Mom, weren’t perfect by any means, but they really lived it out in a consistent way.
Bob: In the basement of Fischer Hall at Wheaton, when you were gathering with 10 or 15 other students and talking about world evangelization, is that where you thought you would end up?
Kevin: You know what? I thought I was going to be a missionary to the Muslim world. It was for no particular reason—other than reading an article in a missions magazine, when I was a senior in high school, that made the very plain point that there were some thousands of percent more Christian workers focused on the already-Christianized world. As we all know, there’s a huge need for a Gospel ministry, here in the US, and Western Europe, and Latin America; but the point was there are so few people devoting themselves to trying to share the Gospel in the Muslim world.
Bob: This was when we were just beginning to talk about the 10/40 Window.
Kevin: The 10/40 Window. I can remember hearing that term, and it was a time when—
Dennis: Well now, wait. Before we go any further, what is the 10/40 Window? What does that mean?
Kevin: Well, the 10/40 Window—and Bob, you may be able to define it a little bit better than me; I always forget—it’s the latitude and longitude. It’s basically this band that goes across North Africa, and through India, and Asia, between, I think, the 10th and 40th parallels.
Bob: Parallels; right.
Kevin: I’m butchering it to some degree, but that band—if you picture a world map—that is where, by far, the majority of the people in the world who don’t know Christ live. It’s mostly Muslim and Hindu.
Bob: And you thought that you’d be living in one of those countries?
Kevin: That was the thought. My thought was, “This is where the need is. I want to go where the need is greatest.” I felt once Michelle and I got married—my wife and I met during college. She was a home girl from Portland, Oregon; and I was off at Wheaton College. We both had a heart for missions—we both were planning to go get some further education, post-college, and then go live somewhere in the Muslim world—Pakistan or someplace—learn the language—Urdu, in that case. My thought was, “Then we’ll go live in a place like London, where there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis, and share the Gospel there, where it’s a little more open.” That was kind of the dream at the time.
Bob: But you wound up back in Portland, Oregon, in what I’ll call the 9:30 window—because that’s when FamilyLife Today is heard on KPDQ in Portland. [Laughter]
Dennis: Nice, Bob, nice.
Kevin: Good segue.
Bob: A lot of people wake up in Portland to—I heard someone say that, “Portland is where young people go to retire.”
Kevin: That’s it; exactly. [Laughter]
Bob: So you wind up back in Portland, doing what?
Kevin: Well, you know, Michelle and I got married, right after Wheaton. The thought was, “I’m going to work at the Palau team for one year because”, you know, “it would be good to get settled into married life. I’ll just do whatever I can to kind of help the ministry. Then, we’ll go off, and go to seminary, and move on.” It was funny—within about three months of working at the Palau Association—I can still remember this—Michelle and I kind of both looked at each other. She wasn’t working there, as far as a staff position, but we were talking all the time. We both said, “You know, it just feels like God is leading us to stay.”
The thought, at the time, was, “Maybe God could actually use us in a greater way—even toward the Muslim world—if we stayed within the Palau Association than if we just took off as an individual couple and tried to reach a few people here and there.” There was a sense of the scope and the magnitude of what we saw God doing through the Palau Association, which was mobilizing and unifying the body of Christ in a city. That really grabbed my attention.
Dennis: So you sunk the roots down; and you’ve been there, now, for more than 25 years.
Dennis: You’re the President. Looking back on that, that was a huge step of faith at the time. What would you say to a couple who have, perhaps, been feeling a tugging of God’s Spirit speaking to them and saying, “I have something more for you. I have an assignment for you”?
Dennis: Now, by the way, I think there are really two ways that works its way out. One is by truly going somewhere else and proclaiming the Gospel; but for many, I think it’s staying put where they are and having a ministry in their community, their neighborhood, their city—having an outreach there.
Bob: Maybe something around marriage and family? Is that what you were thinking?
Dennis: I was thinking about The Art of Marriage®, Bob! [Laughter] I mean, I just heard, before I walked in here, that we’ve now had more than 175,000 people go through The Art of Marriage in a little over 13 months.
Bob: It’s been interesting to hear how many people, as they’ve been presenting an Art of Marriage event in their local church—how many people are coming to faith—
Bob: —coming to a local church for a marriage event, and hearing the Gospel, and responding to it, as a result of that.
Dennis: Yes, and I think it’s a set-up for people to have that ministry. But I want to go back to my question to you—to a couple, who are feeling that tugging of, “I want to get on the playing field. I want to get in the game.” What would you say to them?
Kevin: Yes! Well, first off, I would say, even if it feels difficult and it’s almost rocking your world, go with it, and let it tease itself out. Spend time in the Word. Seek the advice and counsel of wise spiritual mentors in your life, whether that’s someone like a pastor, or associate pastor of your church, or someone from your home Bible study, that you know well—but talk about it. Don’t feel that you have to get an immediate clear answer—some audible voice—or something almost supernatural. Trust that God has people in your life who love and care for you—if you’ve put yourself in that position. Let them speak into your life, and just soak yourself in God’s Word—and with your spouse, in particular. Give God time to say, “What is it? What are my unique gifts and abilities? How could God use me?”
As you’ve said, Dennis, it is not just simply overseas—maybe, it is. For most of us, though, it’s God wanting to use us right where we are. You’ve been put in a position where nobody else has quite the unique set of relationships and open doors that you do. Luis Palau or your pastor do not have the ability in your workplace, in your school, in your neighborhood. If we could just get more of us to see the mission field around us, every single day, so many more people would be reached.
Dennis: I want to underscore something you said. You encouraged a couple to talk together and to talk to God. You know, sometimes it’s our wives who prod us men into action. They’ll say, “Sweetheart, there are the needs of the orphans—”, or, “You know, they talked about this deal on FamilyLife Today. Maybe we—let’s look that up. Let’s talk about that a bit.” I just want to encourage our female listeners not to shrink back—
Bob: It’s okay to nudge? Don’t nag, but nudge is okay?
Dennis: That’s right. Nudging is okay. Nagging is like being nibbled to death by a duck. The other thing I wanted to say to your point about a lot of missions being right here, right now, where we’re living, within our sphere of influence—I have said for years that the needs of marriages and families are a Trojan horse to be able to take the Gospel to your next door neighbor—
Dennis: —to your neighborhood, to your business acquaintances, to the people you meet at your kids’ school. It’s a great tool! Why? Because people don’t get married to become unhappy; and yet, most are. They’re wondering how two imperfect people make this thing work. The answer is, “The only way it’s ever going to work is when the risen King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, takes up residence in a broken heart, and begins to save us from ourselves, and allow two imperfect people, with all of their baggage and mistakes, to come together in peace, and in kindness, and in gentleness with each other and to turn that relationship into a marriage.”
Bob: You’re saying that anybody who has an interest in trying to see that happen—we’ve got tools that can help them make it happen; right?
Dennis: We want to help people who want to make a difference where they live. We’ve got the tool of The Art of Marriage. We’ve got a new one, coming up for men this fall, called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood—a video series.
Bob: It’s based on the book that you wrote on that subject. I think the point is—if you’ve got interests and passion—you may think, “In our marriage, we’ve got issues.” We’ve all got issues! That shouldn’t keep us away from trying to help others in their marriage, in their family, helping them to grow as men.
Again, if you’d like more information about some of the tools we have available—The Art of Marriage—how you can host an event, or how you can lead folks through a small-group study, using that material—or you want to find out more about the new Stepping Up video series that’s coming out this fall—or if you want to attend the National Simulcast that we’re hosting on August 4th, there’s information about that available on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
If you’d like more information about the work that the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association is doing with their city-wide festivals that they are hosting, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. The information you’re looking for is available there. FamilyLifeToday.com is the website; or if you have questions that we can answer for you, call 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
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And we want to encourage you to join us back again tomorrow. Kevin Palau is going to be with us again, and we’re going to talk about his hometown—Portland, Oregon—and how God is using the Palau organization there to make a difference where they live.
Kevin: We thought, ‘What would it look like to serve the community, with no strings attached? Could we mobilize thousands of believers to love and serve the city? Would that help break down some stereotypes?’”
Bob: We’ll hear that story tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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