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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Where Do I Stand on Rick Warren?

Rick_warrenAs many of you know, a few months back I started a blog (that grew out of our Monday Morning Insight email newsletter).  It has been fun to write about all kinds of things that are of interest to pastors and church staff members... but one thing over the past few months has suprised me.  It seems that many pastors and church leaders can be as judgmental and critical as those we serve in our churches. OK, I'll  admit, this is probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  Please allow me to diatribe for a couple minutes...

Take the subject of megachurches and megachurch pastors for example.  It's a hot button for many pastors.  Just mention Saddleback, Willow Creek, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels or any well-known church or pastor.  Mention a new methodology like multi-site churches, or video venues and you'll have a good percentage of pastors feverently opposed.  Mention being culturally relevant, and some pastors will call you unorthodox, preaching a new gospel that isn't really the gospel at all.  Heck, mention tithing and you'll hear all kinds of differing opinions from pastors about how tithing is unbiblical.

Which brings me to today's subject... Rick Warren.  I'd never really thought Rick Warren was a 'controversial figure' until two things happened:  1.  We did the Purpose Driven Life program at our church and 2.  I mentioned him at the blog.  We actually had people leave our church because of Rick Warren and his "seeker sensitive" style. (and I thought SS was a buzz word for what the church was attempting in the early '90s).  It seems that a few people in the church (well, one, really) did a google search on Rick Warren and found websites that were dedicated to bring down the "Purpose Driven Movement".  Meanwhile, at the blog, some pastors told their feeling that Rick's theology was such that people really weren't getting saved because he made it too easy; the music was too contemporary; and Saddleback was too culturally relevant and worldly.  The world would be a better place without people like Rick Warren and churches like Saddleback (even IF people were getting saved, it's still a bad thing).

Now, I really don't want to get into a Defend/Attack Saddleback/Purpose Driven discussion here... but quite frankly... here is my point:

Why all the antimosity?
Why all the bad talk?
Why all the trash from other leaders?

This leads me into a piece written by Matt Friedeman over at Agape Press.  He states my thinking exactly... Here's what he writes:

"A question from this writer's blog:  Where do you stand on Rick Warren? I can't really tell through your links and articles. People either love him or despise him, it seems.

Despise him?  Why?

Here is a guy who, after seminary, looked for a relatively Christ-less place on the map and found the Saddleback Valley in California. He plants an innovative, purpose-driven church that wins thousands to Christ; starts a few dozen daughter churches; and writes a couple of best-selling books that are used in seminary classes and sold in secular bookstores across the nation.

Despise him? Only if you are jealous. Or you have some kind of quibble with his use of technology and contemporary music and the fact that he never buttons up for a church service.

Time for some of us to grow up and get over it. 

Not that the guy is perfect. I am quite sure that he is not. And his being a Baptist gives him a slightly different theological construct than my own.

Still -- anybody who is within the orthodox Christian faith, wants to evangelize the unredeemed in his corner of the world, is passionate about church planting and fervent in his role concerning missions, is eager to share his secrets, is apparently as humble as a man of his popularity can be expected to be and, joy of joys, has a happy marriage -- well, that is a saint to be counted as a brother and a friend.

He is a man worth emulating and praising the Lord for. 

And now this -- for his mid-life crisis he has decided to start a massive new international initiative called PEACE. It is Warren's plan to, in his words, "do the five things Jesus did while He was here on earth." It is an acronym that stands for Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.

The emphasis calls for churches and small groups to adopt villages where lack of spiritual leadership and holiness and where disease and poverty have kept people from knowing the abundant life God wants for them.

My hunch: some people out there will take Warren to task for sliding off into the abyss of the social gospel or some such thing. And I am sure, having read his Bible, Warren will lose no sleep over the criticism. For Jesus was about building His church, equipping the saints, assisting the downtrodden and disenfranchised, and making disciples (educated ones) for the work of the Kingdom.

"The world is my parish," John Wesley once said. And apparently Warren, in all the boldness with which God has gifted him, thinks the same. That he could participate with Christ in bringing shalom to the world well beyond Saddleback isn't a bad way to spend a good chunk of the last half of your life. 

Where do I stand on Rick Warren?  With him."

To that, I say "Amen"!


P.S.  Come back often and watch the discussion on this post.  I can tell you almost exactly what it will be and what direction it will take.  Watch it and see!  (wink)

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April 26, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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Amen to your post today!

While I have never read the “Purpose Driven Life” (it’s on my list to read) I really appreciated his comments especially during the Terri Shivo case. He was on Larry King one night and if he didn’t preach the Gospel of Christ. He didn’t pull any punches and was very faithful. My wife and I were very thankful for men like him with that platform.

Now, I grew up in Southern California down the Street from Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel, I remember the comments about him at that time too! How compromising he was, how he was letting those “new Christian’s” write their own music, how kids came to church in shorts and jeans! Those kids are now the “Rick Warrens” and “Greg Lowerys” who continue to spread the Good News! We should rejoice in their efforts not tear them down.

Should I do what God has called Rick to do? Well, if that it preaching the Gospel, helping the poor, discipline believers – then you bet I should. Should I do it in the “way” he does it? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean his “way” is wrong – it is unique to him and his call and as a believer who is part of the Body of Christ I have to understand and accept that each of us has a different purpose to fulfill. My job is to make sure I hear one day “well done you good and faithful servant.” My job isn’t to judge the way my brother is plowing his field but to keep my hands on the plow God has given me, and be faithful to that.

Who do I stand with – I stand will all those, who like Rick, are doing the best they can for God.

Pastor Al

Posted by: Pastor Al | Apr 26, 2005 11:22:46 AM

Ditto to article and comment. I too, have a few "issues" with bro. Rick's approach to handling the Word, but you know what? As I reflected on these things, I realized that I had even more issues with the my approach also - and I'm not impacting a 10th of the folk - saved and unsaved - that He does! In the final analysis - and I think this is biblical - it is God Who is going to "weed out the dross" in our lives before the Beama, not us (thank goodness, maybe that should be, "Thank God!")
PTL for the "good things" being accomplished in Christ's Name by Rick. That's all that will remain in eternity - as for all of us! Selah!

Posted by: Allan | Apr 26, 2005 11:38:48 AM

I rarely send any feedback to these kind of exchanges, but this one just toasted my cookie. I am a pastor and owe a great debt of gratitude to Rick Warren. I thank God for him. For the life of me I don't understand how any Christian with the love of God in his heart can criticize the obvious. God has used this man! This is the kind of critical attitude that has kept the church from being all the the church could be through the ages. May God help us!

Posted by: mike | Apr 26, 2005 12:00:23 PM

Thanks for sharing what many recognize, Rick is authentic, loves Christ and in teaching/shepherding reflects God's glory. I've got 50+ here and hundred's across Georgia blessed through his challenging his member, John Baker, to start Celebrate Recovery-a ministry to those with hurts/habits & hang-ups.Now he's serving the poor, as a Christian, I am thank-ful for he and Saddleback!

Posted by: Kipper | Apr 26, 2005 12:02:10 PM

I'm a seminary student; and it's amazing how many times Rick Warren's name comes up in class -- usually from a critical perspective.

Having come to know Christ through a "seeker sensitive" church, my response to those who criticize is a question: "Is there fruit?" Clearly, in this case the answer is "Yes." Debate scholarship directly with Rick if you choose (I don't agree with him on some areas of applying Scripture), but PLEASE see the forest and not just the trees.

We must not become our own worst enemies in the cause of Christ.

Rock on, Rick -- and everyone else who will yield in obedience to help bring the lost home!

Posted by: Ann | Apr 26, 2005 12:06:16 PM

I agree. This has always detested me about the church. The denominations, the arguments, the desention. No wonder people have so many problems with Christianity and Christians. The world doesn't have a problem with Jesus. The older I become, the more I see that I just don't know everything or even begin to understand everything. It's all my opinion. As long as someone adhears to the basics of the teachings of Christ, they are good with me. I truly believe it is the Holy Spirit that calls us all and leads us to Him.
Go for it Rick!

Posted by: Scotty Wall | Apr 26, 2005 12:06:58 PM

I so agree with this article. Bless you for being bold enough to get this out in the open. There are too many Christians who would rather grumble under their breath and talk bad about some one like Rick Warren rather than really open their eyes to see what he has truly accomplished. They are the ones hiding behind their traditionalisms and legalistic views claiming that they are in Gid's will by complaining about the worship music these long haired kids are singing, all the while that "Sunday-go-to-church" tie is about to cut off their air supply. Funny picture, but I see it all around.
Why can't people, instead of criticize, encourage, disciple, and grow with the next generation? When did it start being a democracy rather tahn a theocracy. We are human...God's way is a big way because he gives us so many avenues to reach the world. Let's bond together and build the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of God according to self.

Rick...if you are listening...keep preaching, writing, and doing...we'll keep praying for you, listening to you, and working along side of you!

To GOD be the glory!

Bro. Jamie

Posted by: Pastor Jamie | Apr 26, 2005 12:08:40 PM

Thanks for everything you said. I just made my second trip out to Saddleback--7 years ago for the Purpose Driven Church Conference and this month for the Purpose Driven Children's Ministry Conference. Few churches I have seen have a plan so carefully laid out to win souls, train them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, teach them to serve, and then send them back out into the community to win the lost to Christ. They are purpose driven from their heads to their feet, and their people get it. It was incredible to see young children who understand that God has created them for a purpose, and who are living it out. They are the first to share their mistakes and to tell you where they have failed. I can't wait to employ some of the things that I learned at this conference. Thanks again for standing up for a brother in Christ who is making a difference in this world.

Posted by: Sharon | Apr 26, 2005 12:12:58 PM

I want to say before you read this...I do believe that their are churches of all sizes bringing glory to our Lord...

I am an associate in a mega church and love it…I have served and pastured in smaller churches but am having a ball in a large church…

I use to follow the system Rick created back in 1979…I am 35 and learned about it in 1997…and we are still talking about it today…

Rick has created an entire culture…and is amazing…

I get flack all the time from people for being in a large church…or we do this and that just to raise numbers…etc

But when you see 500 to 1600 adults come to the Lord in a single year…in a smaller three thousand attending church like ours…you can’t write that off…

I can only imagine the amounts that are saved at Saddle back…Plus he has a culture where people are in ministry…

People think that mega churches are slow and hard to navigate…but the truth is that they are highly flexible…move at great speeds and mobilize huge amounts of people in a single e-mail…they have tremendous power in our culture…and now we see the growth through planting and multi-site churches…I also hear that the age of mega church is done…but I am not so sure…I see more and more mega churches evolving and their strategies are no longer SS churches…they are external focused…multi site churches exploding on the scene…

Churches that are growing are in team environments…low structure…and high innovation…

Growing churches don’t even hear the criticism…while the ones complaining are still arguing over the fact that we aren’t wearing ties on Sunday…and that has not been an issue for us since the nineties…it is a new age in our church…we are catching up to speed with the reality of the world around us and have found ways to present the gospel to those that need to hear it…

One more thing…Rick is more on mission for Christ than anyone else I know…those that complain I would challenge them to look at what they have done for the kingdom verses those they judge…how many people were saved…baptized…mobilized for ministry…grew in the Lord…

Rick is the man…and God has blessed him beyond belief…

Posted by: phill | Apr 26, 2005 12:14:19 PM

I can only wonder if this applies:
Taken from illustrations : Encyclopedia of 15000 illustrations published in searchable form by Wordsearchbible.com

10572. “Most Famous Preacher”
Harry Moorehouse, while still a young man, was conducting evangelistic services in a certain city in this country, but there was no revival both in America and in Great Britain, but in this city it was as though he were beating against a stone wall. Day and night he was on his knees searching his heart and crying out, “O God, why is there no revival?”
One day he was walking along the street, and the Holy Spirit showed him a large placard on which appeared these words: “Harry Moorehouse, the most famous of all British preachers!” At once he said to himself, “That is why there is no revival!”
He went to the campaign committee, and said, “Brethren, now I know why there is no revival. See how you have advertised me as the greatest of this and the greatest of that! No wonder the Holy Spirit cannot work! He is grieved and quenched because you haven’t magnified the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the wonderful One. I’m just a poor, simple, humble servant, preaching the glorious Gospel, and saying, ‘Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.’ ” (Cf: John 1:29)
—Alliance Weekly

Posted by: Kevin | Apr 26, 2005 12:15:24 PM

Rick has had a big impact on my ministry. He is doing so many things right, biblically, with humility, with vision, with purpose. He is kingdom-minded, passionate for Christ and His church, and equipping men and women around the world to be on mission with God.

So keep on keeping on Rick.

May his kind, his tribe increase.

Shame on any Christian soldiers who are shooting at him.

Posted by: Stan | Apr 26, 2005 12:16:29 PM

Thanks for taking the time to give Rick some credit. As someone on staff at a "seeker driven" church i have had to listen to the same criticism from those "religious, mature" christians who think that church is only for them. As a purpose driven church that has learned much from Rick and his style of ministry I am grateful that we present a relevant gospel to those who so desperately need it. It breaks my heart that people are criticized for doing whats necessary to bridge the gap between Christ and the lost. Thanks Rick for being faithful to what God has called you to do and not compromising the truth of the word.

Posted by: Josh | Apr 26, 2005 12:17:28 PM

With him!

Posted by: Jim Pritchard | Apr 26, 2005 12:19:29 PM

Is it true that at the announcement of his PEACE program, which was held at a stadium in SoCal, Rick sang the Jimi Hendricks song, "Purple Haze"?

Posted by: Ivan | Apr 26, 2005 12:24:58 PM

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry.... But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Paul--Philippians 1:15,18

Posted by: David Jankowski | Apr 26, 2005 12:25:40 PM

Great blog. I too thank God for the impact He is making on our world through the life of Rick Warren.

Posted by: David | Apr 26, 2005 12:29:22 PM

Amen!! I couldn't agree more. We as the Church body need to unite together and break down Denomination walls that have been built by man, I agree with you, I stand along side Rick Warren and say let's tear down the devil's plans and schemes and set the world on fire for the Lord.

Posted by: Pastor Brent | Apr 26, 2005 12:32:45 PM

To say that those who oppose Warren are jealous sounds like "sour grapes" to me. It's far to simplistic a category for those who disagree with you and despise the methods espoused by Mr. Warren.

While admittedly there will always be those who oppose this man in a "nasty" fashion that doesn't mirror the image of Christ, there are those of us that would be able to meet with him and treat him courteously, despite the fact we are dead set against the "Purpose Driven" system. As for me, I am violently opposed to the purpose-driven approach, but not opposed to Rick Warren AS A PERSON.

I was on his mailing list for approximately a year and one-half. Back in the fifties, we sometimes referred to Rick Warren's methods as "Madison Avenue Techniques". Definitely NOT a good thing in preaching the gospel.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that Paul told us that Christ set an example for us, "that [we] should follow in His footsteps." Try as I might, I don't find Him using "purpose driven" techniques. The only thing I find that drove the Son of God was from a totally diffeerent source.:

"Then was Jesus DRIVEN OF THE SPIRIT into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil..."

Would to God we ministers – and Christians – could be like Him! How much could be accomplished with a church driven of the Spirit!

Posted by: Garry Hickman, M.Div. | Apr 26, 2005 12:33:35 PM

"Is it true that at the announcement of his PEACE program, which was held at a stadium in SoCal, Rick sang the Jimi Hendricks song, "Purple Haze"?"

Does it matter?

Posted by: Dave Smith | Apr 26, 2005 12:34:49 PM

I can't imagine a more insane and foolish endeavor than trying to find fault or take to task the God centered work and influence of this faithful servant.

I have read his books and look to learn from them and model from them (where I can) as I pastor my church. Criticize him? Seems pretty petty and outright DUMB to me.

Posted by: Hiram Claudio | Apr 26, 2005 12:35:29 PM

Those that are bashing Rick Warren either one, don't know him personally, or two, are jealous of what he is doing for God and the effectiveness that he has exhibited through his many endeavors.

As bluntly as I can say it, it "sucks" that the church is so jacked up and divided that it can't even recognize the sincere efforts by a man like Rick to win the lost and make disciples for the gospel.

We are working on a program right now called the "Identity Crisis" that will aid youth ministries and churches in the area of image and relevance. We feel that this is a need within the church because the church has always been so far behind in these areas and the "world" doesn't pay attention to us because we are so outdated. The gospel message doesn't have to change, but our delivery of it should stay relevant and reflect the times that we are in. That's all that Rick is preaching, that we stay relevant to our culture and not make Jesus look like some dork or be an unappealing figure. He was more than that of course, but the world won't see that if all we have to offer them is TBN and the thousands of irrelevant christian programming that is thrown before them.

Rick Warren knows what's up and the church should take notice.

Posted by: Hector Garcia | Apr 26, 2005 12:35:54 PM

Thank you for your post on Rick Warren. Some of my fiends attend Saddleback which promoted me to check out the Purpose Driven Books for myself and find out what all the “buzz” was about. While they are adequate motivational and feel good books, I question the use of over 16 versions of the Bible used to quote scripture, using partial scripture, and out of context scriptural justifications. I sure Rick is a good person and means well, but taking the Word out of context troubles me and should trouble those who are true believers, not just church attendees.

God Bless you all and thanks for the blog!

Posted by: Pastor Gerald | Apr 26, 2005 12:37:56 PM

I so agree with your post. I just read the book, "This Little Church Went to Market." It was full of slander and should never have been published. It is one thing to disagree philosohically with Rick Warren. It is another to quote his detractors as evidence that Rick is spiritually bankrupt.

The one thing I would add to your blog is this: results does not mean Rick Warren is godly, right, to be emulated, etc. We must always go back to the scriptures. I think the reason he has had such an impact is because many of us have gone back to the scriptures and found that his basic principles are biblical. I think the reason God has blessed him is (unlike the post above about "famous preachers"), Rick has been a humble man who has not used his fame for his own gain. People may have heard his name or seem him interviewed once, but he is not a Christian "personality" in and of himself. I do not say that to be critical of the Jerry Falwell's or James Dobson's of the Christian world, but simply to illustrate the fact that Rick is somewhat unique in today's Christian culture.

Bottom line, those who are critical of Rick Warren will one day have to stand before God and give an account for it. In the meantime, I am glad that Rick continues to seek God and allow God to take care of the rest.


Posted by: James | Apr 26, 2005 12:56:08 PM

I like Rick Warren. I have read the Purpose Driven Church and the Purpose Driven Life. Both are right on track. Those who criticize his methods have a right to their opinions, but to openly trash the guy is a slap in their own face. Rick Warren has a passion to win the lost at all costs. You can see it in his books, his messages and his interviews. When one family moved from California to Michigan where I was serving on a church plant staff, this family gave our church resources that had been tested and proved. While the Purpose Driven Church model may not work in some venues, it is still a proven tract that many churches can replicate or at least borrow ideas from. Bravo for Rick Warren, he brings glory to God. To those who would criticize, I agree, they are just jealous. To date, I visit more churches than anyone I know personally. Many of these churches are filled with Dead Mans Bones. Many of these churches need a person like Rick Warren who is full of the Holy Ghost and power of God to bring these bones to life. In jest, I might say, I don't think the Holy Spirit knows that some local churches exist! Now for PEACE, a great idea, borrowed from Jesus. You can't get better than that!

Posted by: Peter Dodge | Apr 26, 2005 12:57:01 PM

I had the honor of serving on Rick's staff for 5 years. True, he is not perfect. Yet, Pastor Rick truly seeks the heart of the Lord in everything thing that he does for God. He is a great father, husband, and pastor. I don't see very many other church leaders willing to stand up and say, "Here is something that worked at our church. Perhaps you can draw some ideas from what we did and start something in your church." I thank God for leaders like Pastor Rick Warren!!!

Posted by: Pastor David | Apr 26, 2005 12:59:51 PM

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