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The purpose-driven pastor (Rick Warren calls Christian fundamentalists an enemy)
Philadelphia Inquirer ^ | Jan. 08, 2006 | Paul Nussbaum

Posted on 01/10/2006 10:06:56 AM PST by Terriergal

The purpose-driven pastor

By Paul Nussbaum

Inquirer Staff Writer

This week, it was the Rose Bowl players' breakfast. This month, it will be the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Then the President's prayer breakfast in Washington, followed by an entertainment industry conference in Los Angeles.

Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist preacher's son from tiny Redwood Valley, Calif., is much in demand these days.

The founding pastor of the Saddleback mega-church south of Los Angeles and the author of the best-selling The Purpose Driven Life, Warren is perhaps the most influential evangelical Christian in America.

With his book - the best-selling hardback nonfiction book in the nation - and Purpose-Driven Life videos and 40-day Bible study plans, Warren has created an unparalleled international network of millions of individuals and 400,000 churches, spanning faiths and denominations.

Now he wants to use his growing influence - and wealth - for an ambitious global attack on poverty, AIDS, illiteracy and disease.

"The New Testament says the church is the body of Christ, but for the last 100 years, the hands and feet have been amputated, and the church has just been a mouth. And mostly, it's been known for what it's against," Warren said during a break between services at his sprawling Orange County church campus.

"I'm so tired of Christians being known for what they're against."

Fresh from preaching to 38,000 congregants during Christmas week services, Warren was looking to the future by invoking the past.

"One of my goals is to take evangelicals back a century, to the 19th century," said Warren, 51, shifting painfully in his chair because of a back sprain suffered during an all-terrain-vehicle romp with his 20-year-old son, Matthew. "That was a time of muscular Christianity that cared about every aspect of life."

Not just personal salvation, but social action. Abolishing slavery. Ending child labor. Winning the right for women to vote.

It's time for modern evangelicals to trade words for deeds and get similarly involved, Warren contends.

At the end of his second sermon last Sunday, he reminded his largely affluent Orange County audience: "Life is not about having more and getting more. It's about serving God and serving others."

That, simply put, is his message. Give your life to God, help others, spread the word. It is the same message that Christians have been preaching for 2,000 years. Warren has updated the language, added catchphrases and five-step guides, but he readily admits "there is not a new idea in that book."

The Purpose Driven Life has sold more than 24 million English-language copies since 2002, with millions more in other languages. It has been popular with Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, with pastors and priests using it as a Bible-study handbook.

The book figured prominently in a hostage drama in Georgia last March. Ashley Smith, held by alleged Atlanta courthouse killer Brian Nichols, said he released her after she gave him methamphetamine and read to him from the book.

Warren "is able to cast the Christian story so people can hear it in fresh ways," said Donald E. Miller, director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. He is "a very important figure in evangelical Christianity," part of a "trend we'll see more of," Miller said, citing Warren's independence, social activism, informality and ability to reach across racial and national lines.

"The Gen X-ers are sick and tired of flash and hype and marketing," Miller said. "The soft sell of a Rick Warren is far more attractive to them than a highly stylized TV presentation of the Christian message."

Among evangelicals, Warren is more influential than better-known and more-divisive figures such as religious broadcasters Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell or radio psychologist James Dobson, and is often seen as the heir to the Rev. Billy Graham as "America's pastor."

Scott L. Thumma, a professor of the sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary and the author of a forthcoming book on mega-churches, said polls of church leaders often put Warren in first or second place among most-influential evangelical leaders.

"And one of the interesting things is that he crosses boundaries... . He's not just respected by the evangelical world but by many outside that world," Thumma said.

In North Philadelphia, the Rev. Herbert Lusk, the former Philadelphia Eagles running back who is pastor of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church and a prominent supporter of President Bush, brought Warren to town in November to raise money for aid to Africa. Lusk also tutored many of the Eagles' players and coaches in the Purpose-Driven Life program last year.

Lusk said Warren "took the principles that we preach about every Sunday and packaged them in a way that are palatable for Christians and non-Christians."

"The guy is a preacher's preacher... . He's the leading evangelical in the world, unquestionably," Lusk said.

Broadly defined, evangelicals are Christians who have had a personal or "born-again" religious conversion, believe the Bible is the word of God, and believe in spreading their faith. (The term comes from Greek; to "evangelize" means to preach the gospel.) The term is typically applied to Protestants.

Millions of Americans fit the definition, although estimates vary on exactly how many. Forty-two percent of Americans described themselves as evangelical Christians in a Gallup poll in April, while 22 percent said they met all three measures in a Gallup survey in May. The National Association of Evangelicals says about 25 percent of adult Americans are evangelicals.

Evangelicals are often equated with fundamentalists or the religious right, which annoys Warren. Although he's politically conservative - opposing abortion and gay marriage and supporting the death penalty - he pushes a much broader agenda and disdains both politics and fundamentalism.

Warren is a friend of President Bush and a repeat visitor to the White House. But he also met for several hours at Saddleback last month with Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to discuss issues such as poverty and the environment.

"I'm worried that evangelicals be identified too much with one party or the other. When that happens, you lose your prophetic role of speaking truth to power," Warren said. "And you have to defend stupid things that leaders do."

"Politics is always downstream from culture. I place less confidence in it than a lot of folks. I don't think that's the answer... . Politics is not the right tool to change the culture."

With his goatee and penchant for Hawaiian shirts and colloquial language, Warren embodies a laid-back approach to worship that resonates with Americans who have little allegiance to formal denominations or rituals.

His 120-acre hilltop campus, with palm trees, waterfall and meandering brook, is a kind of religious theme park, where worshipers meet in different buildings to suit their musical preferences, while watching simultaneous video feeds of Warren preaching at the main worship center.

Warren's father and grandfather and great-grandfather were all preachers. He followed their path by starting Saddleback in 1980 with his wife, Kay, and a congregation of seven. His ministry prospered in booming Orange County, as Warren went door-to-door, asking residents what they'd like in a church. For 15 years, he and his growing flock were nomads, meeting in schools, homes and other buildings. Construction started on the current campus in 1995, and Warren now has 80,000 names on Saddleback's rolls. Saddleback is a a Southern Baptist church, but it doesn't advertise the fact.

As the money has rolled in from his book, Warren said he has given most of the millions to the church and the three social-service foundations he has established. He stopped taking his $110,000 annual salary and repaid the church for his 25 years of salary since its founding. He and his wife became "reverse tithers," he said, keeping 10 percent of their income and giving away the rest, including $13 million in 2004.

This month, he is leading a trip to Rwanda, to train pastors and distribute medicine and money to battle AIDS and other diseases. It's part of what he calls his global PEACE plan (Plant a church, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, Educate the next generation).

Last month, he launched the first major evangelical effort to battle AIDS, convening a three-day conference at Saddleback to mobilize American Christians to help AIDS victims and raise money to fight the disease. Part of the battle for Warren is overcoming resistance from evangelicals who view AIDS as strictly a gay disease or even as divine retribution for immoral behavior.

Warren said he sees religious institutions as more powerful forces than governments for solving the world's problems.

"I would trust any imam or priest or rabbi to know what is going on in a community before I would any government agency."

But, powerful as churches can be in working for the powerless, they can't succeed without governments and nongovernmental organizations, Warren said.

Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century."

"Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism - they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other."


To read the rest of the series on the evangelical movement by Paul Nussbaum, visit

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; Mainline Protestant; Moral Issues; Other Christian; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology
KEYWORDS: apostasy; evangelicals; heresy; purposedriven; rickwarren
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To: Southflanknorthpawsis
First of all, my spelling of apostasy is the correct one.

Gee, and I was told by somebody that nobody is accusing Rick Warren of apostasy.

You must be nobody.

241 posted on 01/10/2006 8:44:43 PM PST by P-Marlowe
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To: RnMomof7

Hey Mom, good to see you again. I just bought The MacArthur Study Bible and all I can say is "wow".

242 posted on 01/10/2006 8:45:13 PM PST by buckeyesrule
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To: P-Marlowe
If your posts are any indication of your legal mind, I hope you are retired.

I realize you think you know it all, but why not give a serious Bible study a whirl. You may surprise yourself and see what some of us are talking about.

BTW, that wonderful minister, Warren, says (sarcastically) that "all we need is another Bible study". Mighty peculiar to most of us that know one could study the Bible forever and never stop learning.

243 posted on 01/10/2006 8:54:36 PM PST by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Southflanknorthpawsis
I don't pretend to judge Rick Warren's heart but I can judge what he does with God's Holy Word. When Biblical truth is forfeited for man's benefit and man willingly drives the faithful away for not adhering to the untruth, apostasy is alive and well and rearing its ugly head.

I just checked and it appears tht the last time you even quoted one single verse of God's Holy Word to back up anything you have said on this forum was November 22, 2004

That being said, I'd have to conclude that H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y is alive and well and rearing it's ugly head.

244 posted on 01/10/2006 8:59:57 PM PST by P-Marlowe
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To: Terriergal

Just what we need. An evangelical proponent of socialist liberation theology. This is the same dry hole Jummy Carter ended up at.

245 posted on 01/10/2006 9:03:41 PM PST by JCEccles
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To: blue-duncan
"What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of less than 80?" Your honor!"

Exhibit 1: Federal Judge John E. Jones, Dover PA.

246 posted on 01/10/2006 9:07:47 PM PST by JCEccles
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To: Terriergal
But, powerful as churches can be in working for the powerless, they can't succeed without governments and nongovernmental organizations, Warren said.

He really lost me here. I totally disagree with him. Christ will built HIS church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. We don't NEED the government's help.

247 posted on 01/10/2006 9:08:31 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: P-Marlowe
You are making a lot of effort. What's wrong....are you frustrated?

You cite a post that is consistent with anything I've said here and call it hypocrisy???? I won't speculate on what may be causing your confusion.

If you are implying that I don't post frequently, you are more pathetic than I thought. Unlike a few Freepers, I don't live here; only visit from time to time.

248 posted on 01/10/2006 9:10:36 PM PST by Southflanknorthpawsis
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To: Terriergal

The title of this is very misleading.

The man is right on in several areas:

A. He's right, Christianity shouldn't be associated with only one party or the other. While I feel that the Republican party is the most consistent with the teachings I find in the Bible, they aren't always right, and besides, saving souls always needs to be the first priority.

B. He's 100% right about poverty, AIDS, homlessness, orphans and the like. In my view, the government intervention is in large part the unpaid dues of the church, which should be leading more on these issues. Of course, there is a reverse effect, in that some of the reason the church isn't leading on these things like they should is because of the government, but there can be no doubt that far too often the Church has not lived up to it's responsibility on these things. Faith based initiative? Fine, but we can't wait for it, we need to start on it now.

249 posted on 01/10/2006 9:13:43 PM PST by zbigreddogz
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To: Terriergal

Hey, so far this has been a refreshingly civil thread. I've seen how nasty threads can get when someone feels their religious views are being attacked so thanks to everyone who has so far exhibited Christian charity. Thanks for the post; it helps those of us who are not familiar with the guy.

250 posted on 01/10/2006 9:18:10 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: metmom

Spoke too soon.

251 posted on 01/10/2006 9:42:20 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Terriergal

Pulp Fiction

252 posted on 01/10/2006 9:48:36 PM PST by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America)
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To: metmom
Spoke too soon.

Feel free to lighten up the place with a lawyer joke or two.

253 posted on 01/10/2006 10:05:03 PM PST by P-Marlowe
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To: Manfred the Wonder Dawg

I am sure Warren was not referring to the fundamentals of the faith when he made reference to fundamentalists. He was likely referring to people like Pat Robertson. If so, Warren is correct to criticize those like Robertson.

254 posted on 01/10/2006 11:18:47 PM PST by connectthedots
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To: subterfuge
Interesting. Why do you suppose so many churches are following him then? Mine did and I really didn't see the harm in it. Exactly what is the crux of his misgivings related to Christianinty? I've read a lot of conjecture here but no one is making a really good point. Just a lot of nit-picking at various interpretations of what he said, or meant.

there are a few people on this thread who think Billy Graham preaches a false Gospel, so one whould not be surprised at the attacks on Rick Warren. He's not exactly a professor at a high brow seminary, so why should anyone expect him not to preach the gospel in a manner that is effective with the vast majority of the people who hear it.

255 posted on 01/10/2006 11:33:37 PM PST by connectthedots
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To: connectthedots
If so, Warren is correct to criticize those like Robertson.

It's better to just ignore him than to take a shot at him... and miss. The collateral damage from this pot shot might come back to haunt Mr. Warren. A lot of people who number themselves among the fundamentalists have been Warren supporters.

256 posted on 01/10/2006 11:36:57 PM PST by P-Marlowe
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To: Full Court

Links don't work. Maybe it is God's way of saying David Cloud is a nut case.

257 posted on 01/10/2006 11:49:32 PM PST by connectthedots
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To: P-Marlowe
I have no doubt the Rick Warren believe and preaches the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I suspect that when he used the term fundamentalists in the manner for which he is being criticized, he had in mind a caricature of fundamental Christians. You know the kind; the anti dancing, drinking, having fun, movies, etc. types who insist that only overly modest dress is appropriate and that sex within marriage is only for procreation types. Also includes thos who think every event that occurs is the result of god's direct will. They do exist, and that is the type of fundamentalist about whom I think Warren is referring.
258 posted on 01/10/2006 11:57:09 PM PST by connectthedots
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To: xzins; P-Marlowe; walden; ClearCase_guy; blue-duncan; jude24

I don't know if this story is actually true or not, but it was reported that the former CJ of the USSC Rhenquist attended a rather large symposium attended by a large number of prominent attorneys and CEOs of large corporations. His opening remark was reported to be as follows:

"It is an honor for me to speak before such a large and imporatant organization, as I have done in the past. during my previous speach before this organization, I opened with a few lawyer jokes. This time, I will resist the temptation to do so again. The last time, the attorneys didn't appreciate them as being funny at all; and the business executives didn't think they were jokes."

259 posted on 01/11/2006 12:12:20 AM PST by connectthedots
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To: Manfred the Wonder Dawg
If adhering to those five tenants makes one a fundamentalist, I guess I are one....
260 posted on 01/11/2006 1:15:28 AM PST by Gamecock (..ours is a trivial age, and the church has been deeply affected by this pervasive triviality. JMB)
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