Skip to comments.The purpose-driven pastor (Rick Warren calls Christian fundamentalists an enemy)
Posted on 01/10/2006 10:06:56 AM PST by Terriergal
LAKE FOREST, Calif. - 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 http://go.philly.com/religion
Spoke too soon.
Feel free to lighten up the place with a lawyer joke or two.
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.
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.
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.
Links don't work. Maybe it is God's way of saying David Cloud is a nut case.
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."
>>That should send some chills up the spines of any unsaved visitors.<<
What better thing for them to hear than:
"...and sinners plunged beneath that flood,
loose all their guilty stains"?
"We love you Lord, we love you, we love you" x12
Considering that you can't love the Lord properly unless your sins have been washed away.
See, that's the whole thing right there - I've been to the seeker churches, I've sat in on the sermons, and ALL of what I've heard has been the very simple message of "Trust in Jesus". Now, while that phrase is very sound for the believer, it does nothing to the unsaved, who doesn't know WHY he needs to trust Jesus, nor what he's being saved FROM.
The sermons I heard only spoke of calling on Jesus in times of need - like He's some sort of ATM. No mention of sin, no mention of the vileness that seperates us from God, no mention of the weight of our iniquities - just luv luv luv huggy huggy luv luv cotton candy theology.
Do you see what I'm saying? If the message is, "You're ok, but Jesus can make you better!", then why should the unsaved listen to anything beyond hearing that he's ok? If he's ok, why does he need to be any better?
People need to be convicted of their sin, not smokescreened with spiritual Similac.
>>Is your church in a rural area surrounded by cornfields?<<
No, it's about a half-mile from a huge industrial park. Why do you ask?
You need to get out more.
Out *where*, Marlowe, since you seem to know so much about me.
Have you looked at the Reformation Study Bible? Theological notes and commentary by R.C. Sproul - I've found it quite edifying.
>>Also includes thos who think every event that occurs is the result of god's direct will.<<
God is not Sovereign over His creation?
If more pastors realized that they are not called to be a friend, but a Shepherd, then this apostacy would not run so deep.
Imagine yourself as an unsaved and uninformed and naieve agnostic that does not know a word of Christian lingo and who has been invited to a church located in a cornfield 20 miles from civilization. You haven't been in a church since you were knee high to a grasshopper, maybe not at all.
You go into the old wooden church building and are met by a bunch of solemn faces who look at you like you are some outsider. You look around at the altar and above the altar you see some kind of tub and you have no idea why they would have a tub in a church. You take your seat. Then the service begins with these formerly solemn faced people erupting into a wide eyed and joyous chorus of "There's a fountain filled with blood." Some of the children tug on their parents' arms and point at you, the stranger in their midst.
Now honestly wouldn't that send chills up your spine?
Well, you certainly haven't described my church in the least, but I do thank you for proving me right.
You've placed feelings and environment as stronger than the Word of God.
Emotions don't save, old wood doesn't save, pop-christian music doesn't save, being in the right environment doesn't save. Only Christ saves, and He's not beholden to any method other than the sound preaching of His Word. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
Christians aren't responsible for the comfortable feelings of newcomers, they're responsible for the sound preaching of God's word.
That being said, I think you'd be hard pressed to find true believers who are not welcoming to newcomers. The love of Christ being in us, we understand fully well the condition of the unsaved, and we are joyed when someone is drawn into fellowship with us.
God's sovereignty. Obviously that person is attending that morning for a reason. God has drawn them that morning according to His good pleasure. Why would any believer NOT be happy about that?
You seem to have a pretty dour misconception of anyone who's not party of the Happy Clappy set. Have you used the phrase "The Frozen Chosen" within the last month? :-)
Oh, and you still haven't told me *where* I should get out to.
Conversely, you are spiritually bankrupt. You just know that you are broken and don't know how to go about fixing yourself. You venture into a modern "worship facility" and are bombarded with flashing lights and everyone worked into a frenzy singing the umpteenth go-round of the latest market driven happy clappy praise chant. This totally clashes with what you are feeling. This is not where you are, you stumble out in a confused daze.... How is that any different from your scenario?
My scenario was an (apparently feeble) attempt at humor.
Maybe a comedy club.
Your scenario is very apt, GC.
In my days as a heathen, I was invited to my brother's "Born Again" worship center (none DARED call it a church!), and went willingly.
When they were all up singing and dancing in the aisles, some crying hysterically, some shouting like they had Tourettes' Syndrome, I felt obligated to "join in" and act the same way. No one else was standing still and heck, I didn't want to be the only one, so I acted the part.
My brother and several of his friends saw me acting as the rest of them and saw this as a "sign" of conversion, and began pressing me for months to return and join them in all manner of 'studies" (read: social hour) and 'events' (usually block parties where only the church members showed up to applaud each other for doing such a good work). When I declined and showed no interest, I was met with hostility. "What, you come to worship with us, and then don't do anything to follow-up? What's wrong with you?", etc.
A terrible experience to say the least, but looking back on it with new eyes, I can see the deception as clear as crystal.
With regard to Rick's personal life I probably wouldn't call him apostate. However his teachings are so vague that they allow heresy to flourish, and error if left unchecked gives rise to further error. (e.g. a little leaven leavens the whole lump) I cannot judge him by his personal life since I have no access to that. I judge his teachings. He is sorely mistaken, and refuses correction because he has not publicly realized his error and fixed it. I can also judge that.
I have stayed up many nights, for months, into the wee hours crying and praying, and physically trembling before God before I took that step with complete assurance, and before I rebuked my own pastor for his cavalier, deceptive, politicking attitude and behavior.
I have far less problem with them than with 'permissivists.'
Truthfully, I know that Rick is far more conservative than he says publicly. That is a political facade, and I look at it as virtually synonymous with cowardice as well. John Macarthur has written a book _Ashamed of the Gospel_ which I think applies quite well.
go to www.seekersensitive.com and post your story on the forum there. It's a great place. Not too well- known ...yet
You have been delphi'd!
Also this one from a public school website: http://www.illinoisloop.org/committees.html Shows how the technique is used to build consensus and eliminate dissenters. People use it all the time and don't even consciously realize it, it's so ingrained in our society.
Another good resource is Dean Gotcher's "Diaprax" seminar
which is similar -- exposing the Delphi method at work, how the group works to make you go along with it against your principles.
Yes. Where is that found in Rick's book, PDL?
I don't get what you're saying. Rick was commenting on the five fundamentals being a narrow definition of Christianity. It's as wide open as you can get.
Why is that so hard to understand? Yeah sure there are narrower Christians, legalists, that call themselves fundamentalists, but that is not what he said.
Yup. Also keep an eye on Jim Wallis for this position.
Isn't that exactly what Rick Warren forces you to sign?
And at the other extreme (at least he fiqured it out):
To: attendees of Spring Meadow Creek Community Center
From: Pastor Andrew M. Slick
Subject: Change of Direction For The New Year
During my annual winter sabbatical, which took place this year over the Christmas season, I decided to try something new. I put away all of my books on leadership and strategy, and focused instead - on understanding the Word of God, as well as on prayer and fasting. Through this time of prayerful reflection on God's Word, the Holy Spirit brought me to the point of conviction on many matters, the most significant of which are as follows:
I must confess that I used to say that not being relevant was a form of irreverence to God. But when I look back on it now, I see that my idea of "relevance" was not reverent to God's holiness at all. On my sabbatical, I read 1 John 2:15 which says "Do not love the world or the things in the world". It suddenly occurred to me that I was teaching our church to love the things of this world, through ideas like worship that's designed to sound just like secular music.
I made the mistake of regarding worship as an 'experience' rather than a heartfelt act of obedience; I should have asked God how He would like us to worship. Looking back on things now, I see that I was using the word "relevant" to mean - almost anything worldly that would get people to come to church. I confess that I disregarded the bible's commands to avoid worldliness, and did the opposite by using worldliness as "bait" for the unchurched. I know now that the evangelistic relevance that really matters - is the relevance of the Savior to lost sinners, and not our attempts at seeming relevant according to worldly standards, by talking like the world, looking like the world, and behaving like the world.
Because of my stubborn refusal to see that my idea of relevance was disobedient to God's commands against worldly conformity, I usually only preached sermons that I thought you would be interested in. Unlike God's prophets who were not results or numbers oriented, I was "afraid of the people". I was afraid you wouldn't come to church anymore if I lingered on topics like depravity and wrath and the right use of the law. I also preached too much about my own philosophies on life, and these often had little to do with what the bible says. It's clear that this caused many harmful consequences for our church.
You see, I had almost forgotten that people are born again by the Holy Spirit, and although I used to deny it, I had essentially been trying to save them myself, through clever techniques and human creativity. I know that I relied too much on the strategy formulas of men, and overlooked God's definition of what a successful pastor is. Looking back on it, I see now the damage caused to our church, by following these human strategies. I should have listened to those who tried to warn me, but instead, I shut them out.
I admit it. I bought the modern bill of goods that "doctrine divides", and because I felt that it was impractical and not really necessary, I neglected it, and even spoke-out against doctrine. I now realize that my doctrinal errors have lead to many practical errors in the way we've done things at our church. I understand finally, that I was wrong to diminish biblical teaching in favor of things that would make you feel involved and boost your self esteem. Regretfully, in doing this I was showing the Lord that I did not trust His Word. But from now on, I'm going to take
John MacArthur's advice, for pastors to spend a minimum of 20 hours per week in the study of the Word of God.
I'm done spending so much time reading things on topics that the bible does not call me to excel in, such as "leadership techniques". Often, these distracted me from loving my flock anyway, and showed me instead - how to manipulate you. I know now, that this was wrong.
I now realize that my goal of saving lost souls had become my own personal agenda, and an end unto itself. Instead, I should have realized that souls-saved are a means to an end, and - that end - is the glorification of God. I had been evangelizing for the wrong reasons. Had I really kept the end-goal (of God's glory) in mind, I would have cared about glorifying Him in my evangelism methods, rather than just trying to force results, using almost any tactics that persuaded people to make "decisions" for Christ.
Lastly, I believe now that I've confused the purpose of our church meetings. I finally understand that 'church' is not primarily for evangelizing the lost. I should have never tried to cause true believers, who didn't agree with my evangelism schemes, to feel unwelcome here. From now on, the unchurched are still invited to attend, but we're no longer going to try to make them feel comfortable through worldliness and entertainment. Like the churches of old,
if the normal means of preaching fails to convert them, then we will trust the sovereignty of God, rather than trying to save them ourselves through our own creative inventions. From now on, our church will focus on purity and not pragmatism, as God showed us to do in Acts.
I know that this letter will come as a big surprise to you, but as your pastor, I must be true to God, and not to man. I refuse to sell-out any longer, and I am putting aside my own dreams, goals, and desires to be creative. To whatever extent that those things had become idolatry to me, I now repent.
From this point forward - we are going back to a biblical plan for our church; a plan that follows God's strategy, and not man's. We are going to avoid getting off course again in our understanding of what the scriptures teach. Evangelism is VERY important, but from now on - it's going to be more of something that you do, than a primary mechanism of our church meetings.
I realize that as we step away from things like entertainment in church, our attendance may decrease, but this too is in the hands of the Almighty God. I now cast myself at His feet, and whatever happens from this point forward, I know is His will.
To God be the glory.
Devoted to Christ and to the sheep under my care,
Your Pastor, A.M. Slick
So glad you see it right off!
Thank you. That is an encouraging reply.
I didn't say he doesn't have some good ideas. But you cannot compromise with a rattlesnake to get your 'godly' ideas accomplished.
I agree. I will admit I've been very emotional about this since I was essentially publicly dragged behind the purpose driven horse with my hands tied at my church, with no real explanation to the people of my church as to what my 'great sin' was except that I 'insulted' (rebuked) the pastor in an email which I also cc'd to two other men who had also tried to very GENTLY take him to task many times and for their efforts were disenfranchised and marginalized and given the cold shoulder.
BTW my pastor is scared of women. That didn't help. lol
Your point being? (for those who haven't seen the movie, like me)
That takes guts. Sounds like this pastor had a real awakening.
Jumping in late and having not read the entire conversation... do you mean "sign" literally? I've been a Saddleback member since 1999 and I've never signed any kind of covenant. Forgive me if that's not what you meant; I don't have time to go back and reread the discussion. Fifty new emails await me...
Have a great day, everyone! Day 24 of measurable rain in Seattle. Don't move here. :-)
I would agree with you here. And it is an excellent book. I highly recommend it.
I might as well. Going to church breaks my heart now, whereas opening the Bible does not. Maybe I should just stick to the Book.
We left a church that became polluted with Hybels stuff, which is not that much different than Warren. Same hymnal, different page. Church shopping was very discouraging for the reasons you described. But we did finally find a great conservative, fundamental and evangelical church that isn't off on some strange tangent. It is PCA church (although we were at another PCA church but weren't as comfortable). I have to say that after about 5 - 7 yrs of not being comfortable or actively seeking a church, I feel like I am truly at home. It is wonderful to be with other believers who put Christ and His word first in their lives.
I know many people in the same situation. Most have found church homes in the PCA, Orthodox Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist (we went to one in our area for a while, we liked it, but it is not where God directed us to be) and some other smaller Baptist or Evangelical Free (I think that is what it is called - senior moment at the moment!) or Cavalry churches. I am sure there are a few more, but I can't recall right now. My prayers are with you that you
Look at the purpose of the interview, the people asking the questions, the questions and the entire interview. You are taking a very small portion out of context. He explains what he means by Fundamentalism and why he and Jerry Falwell no longer are a part of the movement, not that they don't agree with the five Fundamentals.
He does not force any one to sign anything. If you want to be part of the small group bible study then you agree with those in the group to accountable, just like in any other commitment. It has made our bible studies more intentional rather than the usual convenience. People used to wander in 15-20 minutes late unprepared until they commited themselves to being there prepared and on time and if they could not come notifying the bible study leader. We call it consideration for the others in the study. If you want to be a member of the church you agree with the covenant. If you don't agree you don't have to join but you can still attend and be part of the bible studies.
The problem with Christian Fundamentalists is that they've sort of spoiled evangelization for the rest of us. They are so annoying with the way that they are known to badger people about whether Jesus is their personal Lord and Savior that I hold them largely responsible for the hostility toward Christianity in this country. Not that a little proselytizing is anything like as bad as the leftists make it out to be. But most of us believe in Jesus' invitation to "Come and See", and that the Holy Spirit converts, we are powerless to do so. And that doing the works, as you described, is to show the face of Jesus in obedience to The Great Commission, and that wins hearts more than words.
Did you accuse your pastor of Apostasy? Or were you concerned that perhaps he had left his first love? The Church at Ephesus was not apostate. Warren has a different vision of the mission of his church. You disagree with it. You are free to find a new fellowship. Warren's sermons may be pablum for the spiritually filled, but they are often filled with milk for the spiritually weak and hope for the spiritually dead. Say what you will, but I suspect that they are a lot closer to the full gospel than you will get at a lot of other churches.
It does indeed. But any downsizing in church "membership" will be from goats running away, the sheep will remain.