The son of an international evangelist, Andrew was born with the blood of a soul-winner in his veins. But as his recent book The Secret Life of a Fool reveals, a different energy motivated him for much of his life – rebellion. Andrew’s life is a testament to the saving grace of Jesus – how His blood can put a man on a journey from shame to grace…
Family Christian: So, is this your first book?
Andrew Palau: Yes. I came to the Lord 19 years ago and I’ve had it on my heart to share this story in printed form, but I’ve always felt a check in my spirit because it’s a little humbling. I understand why God didn’t really open the door until now… With greater life experience and maturity it’s been a much more effective tool than it would have been before.
FC: So your dad is Luis Palau, an evangelist who is known all over the world. If you grew up with what we imagine was a stable background, what happened to make you turn away from the Lord?
Andrew: That’s a good question. It wasn’t a moment in time where I just ejected from whatever faith I claimed to believe. I would describe it more this way: I was raised in a Christian home and my parents are regular folks, but they were faithful. With my mom and dad, what you see is what you get, and that is a good thing. So I never really changed my mind about the Lord, I think I just never really received the truth for myself. I heard the truth, I was compelled, I saw the value [of faith], but there was another thing at work in me… rebellion. I loved to party and I liked to impress my friends, so I turned primarily to that. And once that hook is in you, you’re hook, line and sinker. It’s hard to explain sometimes [why I didn’t accept Christ] because I was without a human excuse. I didn’t have a deep dark secret – just my own foolish, rebellious self-seeking heart.
FC: So your struggle wasn’t that you were super-rebellious toward Christianity, it was more an enticement to the things of this world…?
Andrew: Yes, but of course they go hand and hand. That “if you’re not for me, you’re against me” thing… So [when you’re in rebellion] you’re simultaneously against the Lord. For me, it wasn’t a sense that this [way of living] was foolishness toward God; it was a desire to impress friends. It’s embarrassing to say, but it was basic fundamental selfishness, looking for a high, constantly looking for relationships with women that I could take advantage of. The world says “That’s living, go for it,” and in your heart you say “Yeah, I’m going for it.” Then 27 years later, I’m trapped and all of the results that I was warned about are starting to surface.
FC: So did you realize you were making selfish choices along the way or did you kinda grow into it and one day just discover, Wow, I’m in bad shape?
Andrew: I grew into it. I was very duplicitous because I didn’t want to cause trouble. For me it was the weaselly, wormy way to follow the path of lease resistance. I was happy to just work my way through my stages of selfishness. I didn’t care who I hurt, I only cared about accomplishing the things I wanted for myself.
FC: So what finally changed?
Andrew: I think some things began to shift and change; some of the things that had become the foundation of my life. Like, what had been fun started to become a trap. Eventually it began to evidence itself for what it really was... the foundation began to crumble. And well, the results: shame and guilt just started to build up. The world says guilt is bad but the fact of the matter is you’re guilty because you’ve done wrong and there’s a penalty to be paid. No matter what the world says, that’s a burden [to live with]. I couldn’t really slough it off. I mean, I could in seasons and become callous to it. But if I was awake in bed at night, sober and away from the people who said everything was fine, my mind would just flood with all of the garbage in my life, the people I had hurt and the lying, cheating, stealing and arrogance. It was out of control and I hated that feeling. So to rid myself of facing those anxieties, I would party or drink by myself. Abusing alcohol – that’s a way we mask. I don’t recall overtly looking out to say “maybe this God thing is the thing.” It really was the efforts of others in my life, interceding, sharing an alternative and possibility. I’m so grateful that people didn’t give up on me.
FC: So where were you living during this time?
Andrew: I was in LA for awhile. I went to the University of Oregon in Eugene and then went to Boston, worked my way up the corporate ladder, putting a good face on. I was working in retail so I slowed down my partying because I had to get up and go to work. I’d had dark days. The drugs in particular were haunting me, not just the Lord and people engaging me, but the darkness that comes along with drugs and alcohol. [They] confuse, confound, discourage – that was happening in Boston. I did put a mask on, I was good at going through the motions… and that was up until 1993.
FC: So, in your book you share an experience that happened in a bar…
Andrew: It should have shaken me up more, but I never did forget it. It didn’t change me initially. [In the book] I described a couple of incidents where the enemy was revealing his desire to have me. So the music was pounding and out of the blue, this guy approaches me and says “You’re a believer. You’re a believer, right?” So I thought someone in the bar knew who I was. To get him off my back, I said “yes,” overtly hypocritical, and when I did he said, I knew it, “I’m a follower of Satan too.” I really don’t know how to identify that thing. It was a spiritual encounter and it really did shake me up. Without a loving but bold, clear intervention of God’s people listening to His Spirit, the Gospel and the power of God unto salvation, I don’t know where I would have ended up. My parents in particular kept close relationship [with me] so when my time came; they were able to be used by God in that work. What I desire for myself is what I saw in my parents’ life. And not just for me, but as an evangelist, watching God work in their lives is powerful, very exciting.
FC: So looking back, can you identify what some of the hurdles were that kept you in that cycle of sin?
Andrew: You know, the multiplicity of lies that we buy-into are just beyond me to capture, but… I’d say, a desire to soften our stupidity and foolishness. I try to be so honest in this book. I could find a million ways to blame [other people for my unbelief], but what good is it? The Bible says we are without excuse; the evidence is all around us. God is calling us and we’re without excuse! The biggest challenge [I see] is we want to blame the Church or hypocrisy we saw, or [Christianity seems] obtuse and doesn’t keep up with the times. But no one is going to stand with us in that Day of Judgment. We’re going to face the Maker and we will be solely responsible for our actions. Being confused about that is deadly.
FC: What do you think about the Church in America?
Andrew: We have our weaknesses and we should identify them, but there’s nothing new under the sun. We can look back at history going in cycles, but right now I’m excited about the young people. I’m 45. We’re young and our peers are leading the church in America. We have a good legacy and I love the heart of our people. The young people love their cities and the people around them. [People] are engaging their communities, taking a relational approach to sharing the Gospel. It’s exciting! I was so far away at their age; I’m excited to see fired-up, committed, young people in service to the Kingdom. It’s a good day in America. We need to dedicate ourselves to the power of the Gospel with massive strides in our festivals and outreaches, a heavier emphasis on really leading the way. We need to be champions of the least and the lost. We can’t lose sight of building a foundation for the Good News to be delivered. Keep pressing on to be champions of good deeds and loving people. There’s nothing kinder than giving the invitation to the banquet saying “c’mon you gotta come!” I hear these ideas, “if necessary use words,” I can see how that can be a huge wakeup call, but then again, you can’t share the Gospel if you don’t use words. The younger generation can go in a big pendulum unnecessarily, it’s important to stay in the center [of that balance].
FC: (teasing) It’s a shame you can’t be a little more bold, Andrew…
Andrew: (laughs) So I was out of that old life 19 years before I wrote the book, but I’ve been sharing my testimony from right out of the gate. You know that passage, “those who have been forgiven much, love much”? I think those of us who have been more radically rescued are equally humbled, and maybe less confused about what is necessary. A rescue operation [for unbelievers] is what’s necessary – for all that God has done for us, what is keeping us from joyfully enthusiastically sharing the Gospel?! We have to rescue those who are staggering toward slaughter! Proverbs 24, right? I read this and I was broken. Verse 11-12 says “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?” I was so convicted, it has a little bit of a negative spin, but the Good News resonates so deeply. I know the eminence of that in my life. But [think of] that idea that God would repay us for what we’ve done… the soul-winners crown, a beautiful unnecessary gift. The master said go, so I go... I have these motivations and encouragement. The other [verse] I love but don’t understand is Daniel 12:3 “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, like the stars forever and ever…” What does that even mean? Who is that for? Those who lead many to righteousness? I guess the jokes’ on me – it’s no less true for a baker, attorney, barista, student, pastor or evangelist, our work is to prepare others for works of service; to mobilize the body to action… preparing them to receive the crowns of righteousness that we’ll just throw back at His feet anyway. Like you said, I get excited.
FC: (laughs) So what do you and your family do to relax? Andrew: A lot of my family members are in the ministry, so we’re traveling all of the time. When we can all get together, it’s few and far between. With small kids at this age, I just revel at being home, getting them off to school, being involved in their sports, life and life in abundance. I don’t think about relaxing too often, but when I do, I do it in abundance! My wife is Jamaican, so we go [to Jamaica] whenever we can. My wife’s side of the family loves the Lord too, [so we understand the meaning of] “to whom much is given, much is required.” When I look at what God rescued me from, and what my life is in this free nation that I live in – there’s a lot required of us. The more we engage, the more we can have that in abundance.
FC: What music artists do you like to listen to?
Andrew: Well you know I listen to tobyMac! We’re brothers-in-law. When I came to the Lord at 27 it was at a Luis Palau crusade, I met the woman I later married and her sister was dating tobyMac. I knew nothing about Christian music, and he’s a Christian rapper, so I thought, are you crazy? But he’s incredible… Once I grew in my faith, I thought man, I’d been to a lot of Grateful Dead shows and enjoyed live shows, but I had never seen anything like Toby’s show.
FC: Did he pay you to say that?
Andrew: (laughs) I’m gotta face him again soon, so I might as well get the word out now.
Needless to say, Andrew has moved from one rebellion to another. This time, it’s a rebellion against the stuff of earth, a rebellion against a casual, status-quo Christianity. Today, Andrew is not just recognized as a son of an evangelist, but he is an evangelist in his own right. He helps to bring organization and creativity to the outreach events of the Palau Association, regularly sharing the Gospel with tens of thousands worldwide.
Andrew can also be heard on a daily program titled Reaching Your World which airs in over 25 countries on more than 850 radio stations.
Click here to learn more or purchase The Secret Life of a Fool