Driven with a purpose…

Rick Warren is an evangelical anomaly, and some think that’s a good thing. In seminary, I heard countless slams on Rick Warren’s preaching style. I was taught in cheap, pithy platitudes that “seeker-services” were an oxymoron, if not “Satan-friendly.” Saddleback Sam was a joke, a marketing ploy to reach a certain kind of person who could bankroll a certain kind of ministry.

In my home church, there is a lady who is convinced that Rick Warren is the Anti-Christ. He’s compromising the Gospel. He’s a wolf in sheeps’ clothes, a purveyer of odd heterodox ministry philosophies.

And then there are those who think he’s sold out the abortion issue to host Barak Obama at his recent AIDS Conference, or that he’s compromised U.S. foreign policy by visiting Syria and North Korea. Some Southern Baptists still have their BVDs up in a bunch because he still supports the Baptist World Alliance. I have good friends who refuse to read his books, and I have former professors who take regular potshots at Warren’s publishing prowess though they themselves have yet to publish anything of substance in their fields of study.

But Rick Warren keeps pressing on. Perhaps more than any minister in our day, he takes the high road. When his critics are slopping up a third helping of potroast and potatos at Golden Corral, he’s serving up a truckload of grain to an African village. When they’re ranting and foaming about “expository preaching,” Rick Warren is uploading his topical sermons to the internet for them to plagiarize. When they’re hammering the church growth movement in which Saddleback is a key player, Rick Warren is just growing a church.

I may not do everything just like Rick Warren would do it, but I know that I couldn’t do a fraction of what he does. People in my church read his books, and they help them. My taxes are lower because Rick Warren took his case to the highest levels of justice, not to protect his own income — which he gives away at a Bill Gates proportion — but to protect the housing allowance exemption of pastors in small hamlet towns like Whitesboro and Wolf City. My sermon illustrations are more diverse because Rick Warren’s ministry team sends out helpful tools for finding fresh and creative ways to explain the low and lofty principles of Holy Writ.

When Baptists are bickering about booze, or whining about worship styles, or crying over Calvinism, or tilting over tongues, Rick Warren is trying to do everything he can to make a difference in his lifetime. The fact is, Rick Warren doesn’t need the platform of the Southern Baptist Convention to have his voice heard. He doesn’t need our committees, or our seminaries, or our publishing house. He doesn’t need Paige Patterson to approve his sermons, or Richard Land to get him on the White House guest list. He doesn’t need the IMB or NAMB to plant churches, and he certainly doesn’t need a room half-full of ballot-waving messengers to hear him preach when he has entire continents clamoring to hear him talk about Jesus, pure and simple. Rick Warren doesn’t need us, and I wonder why he sticks with us.

His harshest critics, it seems, are those who dwell in the house of his friends. It’s not hard to understand why he’s busy building his own house and not ours.

12 thoughts on “Driven with a purpose…


    Ben, you’ve nailed it man. We need more pastors like Warren. I need to be more of a pastor like Warren. I praise God for his steady influence in the lives of so many. Great is the impact of the kingdom because of his faithfulness.

    Rising above the fray should become a rallying cry for young pastors everywhere.

  2. Finally someone said this!
    We are eating our own and why? I suspect out of nothing but jealously. He is successful!
    And can anyone deny the fruit of his labor? I’m so glad you said this!

  3. Rick Warren’s books sit in a prominent place on my bookshelf, where I can get to them quickly. As a church staff member with responsibilities in lay mobilization, church growth and evangelism, new member discipleship and assimilation in a congregation that is half the size it was in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s sitting in a neighborhood booming with “Saddleback Sams” moving in by the day, I pay attention to what he says. Here in what was once called the “Buckle of the Bible Belt,” is an inner city neighborhood that has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of prosperous and affluent Baby Boomers and Gen-ex’ers moving in and restoring homes to be close to downtown and work, is a Baptist church graveyard. Within two miles of my office, there are nine Southern Baptist churches which have either declined into small congregations of 50 or fewer adults over 65, or have disbanded altogether. Aside from our church, a Vineyard congregation of about 300, and a combination Lutheran-United Church of Christ congregation, this part of town has no viable Christian churches with enough resources or stamina for ministry left. I’ve discovered, however, that Warren’s principles are relevant and viable in this setting. They work.

    Imagine that.

  4. Ben,
    You post is right on. If others would spend less time trying to pull others down to their level and more time trying to build up the Kingdom of God they would not have time to worry about Rick Warren.
    I noticed your favorite SBC VP was one of the first to jump on the attack Rick Warren bandwagon and release his attack to the media as an SBC VP. Is this really the type of leadership we need in the SBC?

  5. Ben,

    Some of your best writing and on a salient subject.

    When will the tradtional only crowd realize that, along with Rick, a great number of folks, cut from a different cloth, do not need them? How simplistic. Different = bad.

  6. Let us never get in the way of someone doing God’s work just because he or she is doing it a new way, or having more success, or ’cause they didn’t ask us first! Go Rick Warren, Go!

  7. Ben,
    You failed to mention the accuracy of their statistics due to the fact they purge their roles each year. On the one hand it might be good to see Rick and Ed Young Jr. involved in convention leadership. On the other, why take them away from their churches for any length of time.

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