America’s pastor?

rickwarrenHas Rick Warren become a media darling or what? The man certainly knows how to communicate a message and apparently has no trouble using the mainstream media to do so. And reporters are eating up this guy and all the wonderful things he does, including his “reverse tithing,” in which he says he keeps 10 percent of his income and gives the rest away ($14 million in 2004).

In a glowing Washington Post story Saturday, reporter Paul Nussbaum gives us an update on what the sandal-wearing, goatee-sporting, Hawaiian shirt-clad Rick is up to these days:

“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.

Warren was tagged as the next Billy Graham a long time ago, but I think many reporters miss a critical distinction between the two. Graham was an evangelist unassociated with a church or a denomination. Warren is a fourth generation Baptist preacher and his church is Southern Baptist.

By all accounts, Warren is on the brink of becoming the most influential evangelical Christian in the United States. And this Washington Post story is dripping with The Message that Warren preaches.

At the end of his second sermon on that recent 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 that “there is not a new idea in that book.”

Well is that the same message Christians have been spreading for 2,000 years? Did Warren say that, or is that the reporter helping us readers along? Cite the source, Mr. Nussbaum.

PurposeOther than that small beef, I am having difficulty finding something to pick at in this story, except that it may have been too positive. The muscular Christianity theme worked well — for Warren — and there was little a negative word to say about the guy.

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.

“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 he is often seen as the heir to the Rev. Billy Graham as “America’s pastor.”

This could all easily backfire on Warren. He is human and he will make mistakes. And with the increasing public scrutiny, any mistake will be blown sky high. Just ask Peyton Manning.

Warren is riding high, but as I’m sure he is aware, many popular American preachers have been taken down tragically. And the media will not hold back in trashing him, even if all he does is trip up a bit. Perhaps Warren’s connection with a church structure will help keep him straight. He answers to other humans in a formal way, unlike most independent television evangelists.

Print Friendly

  • dk

    You might be interested this:

    Faith: New Generation Is Looking Back
    by Uwe Siemon-Netto
    “According to Olsavicky, today’s young Christians often desire the exact opposite of what the Rev. Rick Warren, a Californian church growth promoter, preaches. Warren shouts at fellow pastors, “Why are you still using that pipe organ people hate?”

    Note what Siemon-Netto says about the LCMS.

    Anti-Warren LCMS “confessional Lutherans”:

    Bunnie Diehl (Lutheran blogger at WORLD) on Warren:

    The rest of your story–the missing downside–is about how Warren is another manifestation of the Evangelical denial of either McLuhan’s maxim (“the medium is the message”) or the possibility that Warren’s church, or any mass-media dominated church, is corrupting things essential to the faith if not confessional and denominational integrity. It is clear that Warren’s model of how to do church has big implications for how people will understand and be “the church.” That’s a huge and often unwanted influence in many denominational churches.

    I think the only reason why these conflicts don’t get much attention (which are rampant and critical to understanding American protestantism) is that the dominant conservative protestant media–basically CTI–has a vested political and financial interest in not engaging such an incredibly divisive issue. Look at their advertisers.

    Some time in the mid-late 90s CT did do a big cover feature on megachurches that had a little hemming and hawing about the crisis it could sometimes pose for some small denominational churches. The author barely touched tip of the iceberg, and I’m sure they knew it. Financial and membership growth is ultimately what matters and confers status and authority in the evangelical world.

    This leads me to another point:

    Does GR assume that religious media organs completely “get religion?” That they have no significant biases against certain religious perspectives within their own folds?

    I can’t recall any GR critiques of articles appearing in World, CT, or smaller publications. Why not? Why not engage them here right along side the NYT? Might that lead to some biting of hands that feed? I think it would increase your audience and impact.

  • tmatt

    I am on the road, but let me briefly respond to you major point. I agree with much of what you have to say.’

    We struggle to make a dent in MSM coverage. Early on, we decided to limit ourselves to religion in MSM. We do not cover the thousands of religious news sites and publications — UNLESS we think they raises issues that the MSM has missed. We do not actually devote posts to their daily work. That simply is not our niche.

    Even if you gave me 10 more writers, I could not even scratch what we are supposed to be doing.

    One other reasons: As you can tell, we struggle to avoid theological debates here. If we start covering theologically oriented publications, that would be unavoidable and we want to steer out of that.

    We want to handle MSM journalism. We back the work of places like Poynter and Pew.

  • dk

    Why would intra-protestant conflict over the church growth movement, Rick Warren, etc. count as “theological debate” as opposed to intra-protestant conflict over homosexuality-related issues, the in/acceptability of catholics at their schools, etc.? Are you pursuing some kind of neutrality which would be compromised by commentary on “theological deabtes?” Most of the “political” debates you cover belie theological debates, and pointing that out seems to be something you do frequently. You do not have to participate in a conflict just by noting one exists.

  • andy chamberlain

    Lots of points to make here..

    dk’s selection of articles were of out of that genre that always make me fidget, and may bring out the worst in me, I don’t know.

    ‘New Generation Is Looking Back’ is a pro church organ piece. Unfortunately the writer feels the need to criticise contemporary worship music in the process. I quote:

    “A new generation of worshipers is confounding pastors and church musicians alike.

    No sooner had they got used to sometimes nerve-wrecking new forms of worship smacking of trivial entertainment, than a youthful thirst for tradition seems to be the liturgical aroma of the day.”

    Contemporary worship music, for those who use it as their medium for sung worship to God is not “trivial entertainment” and to say so is offensive. I have no issue at all with organ music, or any other musical medium; the question is: are people worshipping God? If they are then let them have the medium they choose.

    The next piece is a lot of bad writing disguising some points that are worth discussing. (Purpose Driven Life” Sells 20 Million Copies )

    There are so many sneering quote marks in this piece that a stray one even makes it in to the title. But lets look at a couple of paragraphs:

    “CNBC showed clips of a jovial, pot-bellied, 50-year-old Rick Warren “preaching” in his short sleeve Hawaiian shirt, Christian rock bands, strobe lights, Saddleback’s midway, food courts, out door musical venues, shops, gardens, children’s rides and other activities.

    Warren told CNBC that he thought, “Worship should be fun.” He wanted to create a church, “for people who hate church.””

    There a whole bunch of cheap tricks in this piece, again lots of quote marks to rubbish what Warren says, including his preaching. Because he is fat maybe he is greedy, because he wears a Hawaiian shirt maybe he is trivial, because he is jovial maybe he is stupid.

    It’s a shame because although this piece is a bit of a moan about a Lutheran organisation shrinking, at it’s heart are some serious questions about Warren’s theology. The writer leaves me unmoved by his arguments, but the questions are worth wrestling with.

    What made me smile was a comment on Warren Olsteen and Hybels, and their lack of Seminary education:

    “Coincidentally, Olsteen, Hybles and Warren did not graduated from a seminary.”

    I hope you got the joke too.

    The last one is by someone called Bunnie Diehl and is headed with the title: “Bunnie Diehl: If you don;t like it just go away”.

    Well, I didn’t like it so I went away.

    Anyway, I am not particularly pro-Warren, or pro Saddleback other than to say I am ‘pro’ my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have read Purpose Driven Life, and I have looked at what Warren’s church have to say about their basis of belief; I find much of the criticism aimed at him, and the church, disappears when you look at what they say. Here’s what the Saddleback church basis of belief says:

    Getting criticism from other Christians can be a sign of success in ministry, and I wish Rick Warren well. As tmatt says, the press will be ready to come down hard on the slightest indiscretion. I hope he has some good friends around him and a healthy personal relationship with Jesus; that might just save him.

    But if he does something wrong will he get any kind of balanced coverage? Will he get a chance to explain himself? Will the news content be objective? I wonder. And whilst the media are throwing their stones at the guy, will any who feels smug about it really be following the life Christ calls them to?

  • Zeus Yiamouyiannis

    I’ve read the Warren’s book (“The Purpose Driven Life”), and what I appreciate is that it lays out the entire way of thinking of evangelical fundamentalism, and does so in a very accessible way. Everything you want to know about how to reach the modern aspiring believer is there, the psychology of reward, the reconditioned new age affirmation, the simple language, the supplying of meaning in a confused age, all with a transcendent payoff. It’s no wonder to me why this book is so successful. The need it addresses is very great, and no one (including progressive Christians, me included) has really created a better alternative. Mostly, we simply react, and that WE have to change.

    This is where Warren’s book is enormously helpful to the progressive Christian. I don’t happen to agree at all with Warren’s theological content, but his book should be studied deeply for the extraordinarily effective way it lays out its message. Furthermore I think it would be unfair to call the book or Warren manipulative. I think he generally makes good points about being good to other people, etc. Hearing him interviewed, I believe he is both sincere and committed to doing many of the things progressive advocate but conservatives do not: i.e. having compassion for people with AIDS. He is a bridger in many ways: new age psychology mixed with Old Testament fundamentalism. I still call him brother, even as I disagree with his central message.

    A progressive message is harder to achieve but still far simpler; “Your life in God, in the Living Christ is NOW, not a prelude to an idealized afterlife. You have the capability and the responsibility to act in loving-kindness and compassion in all things in Jesus’s name to draw forth God’s will on Earth. This is its own magnificent reward.” It is a truer and deeper acceptance of Christ because it implies no instrument. I don’t follow Jesus because… (I can get into heaven), but because I acknowledge the glory of Jesus’s presence everywhere, including here, and that recognition, and living according to that recognition IS heaven.

    The rest is speculation. How many forms might that living take? What will it be once we die? But these are secondary and take care of themselves, when one accepts what IS and stops living in the future or the past. This also makes us absolutely duty-bound to confront injustice, intolerance, to create love where we see outrage or fear, to provide the life-affirming, to replace confusion with ineffable mystery and wonder rather than the patent fundamentalist answer. Ours is a democratic, deep and clarifying acceptance of God’s presence and grace inspiring us to enter the seas together to help heal a suffering world rather than the charismatic man-mediated evangelical assurances which begin and end in the sheltered port of “personal relationship”.

    Harder to do, for sure, but absolutely necessary. This means we have work to do. A labor of love, a cleansing sweat of spirit. So onward we go, in Christ’s name.


  • David

    While I don’t know about Hybels and Olsteen, Warren is a seminary graduate (MDiv Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and PhD from Fuller Theological Seminary). Apparently these institutions don’t “count,” somehow.

  • Pingback: conjectural navel gazing; jesus in lint form

  • Michael

    This thread has been helpful because I never understood the dislike/distrust of Warren. I enjoyed the Purpose-Driven Life, which–as an ELCA Lutheran–should have been a tip-off why more conservative Christians would be unhappy.

    Rightly or wrongly, you have to admire his focus on poverty issues which is not a theme that arises from many social conservative voices.

  • DK

    Nobody is throwing stones at Rick Warren, and that is what’s weird. Mr. Pulliam mentioned the conspicuous absence of critique, dissent, or even concern in MSM coverage of his ministry. Look at the picture of the guy! This is a man who is talking handily about his “missions in a box” that will rapidly remake whole African nations by using his church resources and growth/organization model. That’s pretty unprecedented stuff. If he’s not being criticized or even laughed at, it’s probably because the MSM thinks he’s ood, harmless and “nice,” so they’re giving him the nice-guy treatment in the era of “try to be nice to the fly-over people” journalism. For now.

    I think Andy Chamberlain’s “criticism” of those articles (esp. of Siemon-Netto) is the sort that just complains that the authors’ views and prejudices are not his own. But that is beside the point; I did not post those links as examples of ideal journalism. I posted them as examples of an unrepresented but widespread and deep-seated though mostly unorganized hostility toward Warren and the church growth movement. The more casual discourse of the WORLD blogger and especially the comments on her post (including many from several pastors) gives you some unvarnished insight into that.

    This is significant phenomena for journalists and other culture watchers; it ties into a number of stoiries covered in GR, maybe most recently the Hochschild-Wheaton affair. What commenters fail to understand here so far is that traditional Lutherans, Anglicans and Calvinists have an intuition or explicit conception of Warren-style evangelicalism as the ruin of all they hold dear, if not open heresy. Free church evangelicals from SBs to independents have an ecclesiology that the magisterial reformers never accepted and fought quite stridently. This stuff is coming around again, and after a long period of repressing the significance of eccleiology in the interest of unity and group self-advancement, it will return with a vengeance for Evangelicals as Richard John Neuhaus has been predicting lately.

    But like some creationist and intelligent design promoters or the “worldview weekend” type folks (who are also inclined to dislike Warren, Hybels, etc), these kinds of traditionalists get treated by the ascendant evangelical press the way the MSM treats them or used to treat them. It’s partly a natural reaction of containment and control–let’s not upset the apple cart by giving airtime to the rabble. But that’s too easy of a dismissal.

    Michael–it’s interesting you identify the ELCA in opposition to “conservative Christians” and see Warren as more amenable to non-conservatives. (liberals? who dominate the ELCA?) In the main, Warren appeals to a politically and theologically conservative demographic relative to their current positions on the usual poll topics. By that measure, the WELS and LCMS Lutherans are “conservative” while the ELCA is not. But deeper down, the WELS and ELCA have a common free churchy, zwinglian evangelical or more anabaptist (and southern baptist) notion of the church, clergy and “the priesthood of all believers.” This one thing that separates the WELS and LCMS, with the LCMS adhering to a traditional, catholic conception of these things and the WELS rejecting it. The WELS and ELCA both can and do get into Warren; the LCMS cannot yet accommodate Warren without becoiming like these others and breaking from its historic identity and the doctrines that fortify it. Interestingly, in the LCMS, “Warrenizers” and their opponents (which includes Lutheran approximation of Opus Dei) roughly parallel the post Vatican II worship wars in the Catholic church.

  • Michael

    That’s interesting DK. My take on Warren was that while I understood his “positions” may be different from mine (or the ELCA’s), his approach was pretty appealing. Maybe it was his soft-pedaling and 21st Century approach that I found appealing. For that matter, I like watching Joel Osteen and completely understand the attraction.

  • shari

    Rick Warren is preaching another gospel, and so is Joel Osteen I do not like these mega churches. I am a young christian and I dont need worship to be just like what is seen in the world. and stop it with “conservative christians”
    dont want to help the poor. I used to be on welfare and i will never support it. “conservative christians” feel that God calls THEM to help the poor not government

  • DK

    I’m not sure what you’re saying after your 2nd paragraph Zeus, but I agree with you up to there. Except I was unable to force myself to read PDL. I’ve read plenty of crap fiction and historical material, often of a dull polemical nature, all for the “understanding” it might offer of certain people. I barely choked down some Hybels once in a “small group” of reformed church underoing Warrenization. I’ve spent a good deal of time in ELCA and WELS churches undergoing Warrenization. I ‘ve seen the attraction, the motives behind it, and the results. I could barely read the first third though. Anecdote-Small Point-Excessive and Superficial Elaboration. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Maybe its that these sort of books never really wrestle with inherent tensions and contradictions in life and Christianity. In this they are very American. Optimistic. Faith in win-win scenarios. Sacrifice, suffering and tragedy (being forced to choose between two essential goods or two serious evils) are absent or shunted to a separate series of material for those unlucky people who face this stuff.

    On an unrelated tangent, I’d like to see someone ask James Howard Kuntsler and other anti-suburbanists what they think of the megachurchgrowth phenomena and if any of those guys have read each other. Church growth has been a pretty suburban and white affair that offers community to alienated metro-suburban folk who left either small towns and rural areas or the old city neighborhoods of their forbears. It’s a tale of race, religion and class that megachurchers have addressed. Locally I’ve been in middling sized churches that want to go mega- and make pilgrimages down to Hybels’ church, but their other biggest passion about growth is NOT going into the city. The biggest local megachurch franchise has a dozen spinoffs and their first plants in the city were designated as ethnic/minority churches until the latest one where the pastor defined their “territory” as the whole white/middle-upper class zone–at least in terms of how the average underinformed person sees the area.

  • Jonathan S

    I’m curious about your characterization of the WELS. I saw from tNP, that you live in Milwaukee, which is Vatican City for the WELS. Having grown up in the WELS, I’m not sure I agree with your description of the WELS, in contrast to the LCMS and in connection with the ELCA. How is WELS free-church, zwinglian, and/or anabaptist? And at least from my upbringing, there’s NO WAY a WELS church or pastor would advocate using Warren. (Anything non-WELS was anathema.) How do you see this embrace of Warren in the WELS? I ask simply because, although no longer WELS, I don’t see your characterization as accurate, so I’m curious.

  • Douglas

    You folks need to do some very serious research and study about Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven® Empire. He wants to dominate the world with it!

    These are two good places to start:

    External links to critiques of Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven® movement

    Articles, essays and audios dealing with concerns raised regarding Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven® movement, his teachings and associations.

    Criticisms of The Purpose Driven® Life

    In spite of its widespread use and endorsement, including Reverend Billy Graham calling it a classic devotional, some in the Christian community have been critical of the book for various reasons. Jimmy Swaggart and John MacArthur criticized the book as “pop gospel.” Others have expressed concern that Warren’s methods do not adequately account for individuality, providing a one-size-fits all approach to spirituality. Many Christians have expressed concerns with The Purpose Driven® Life and the teachings of Rick Warren for their ‘Walmart-esque’ business models, their humanistic worldview, Eastern philosophy and Mystical influences such as walking the Labyrinth, Breath Prayers, Mantras, Chants, Hula Praise Dancing, Contemplative Repetitive Prayers and other practices considered by many Christian’s to be un-Christian and/or even of the occult, entering the church. However many of these influences have been used by the church, most specifically, Eastern Orthodox, for centuries.

    Another common complaint is that Warren fails to present the evangelical Christian gospel accurately–failing to accurately represent the nature of sin, repentance and hell, for example. Critics also frequently complain that The Purpose Driven Life contains many examples of inaccurate exegesis, and that it makes frequent use of inaccurate Bible translations or paraphrases.

    Secular criticism can also be found. For example, a series of Business Week essays explain that the business models of the mega-churches. Given that the overall growth of evangelicalism in the US is flat, so what is all the talk about God doing a magnificent work or revival in America, especially as boasted by many of the Rick Warren clones? The reason, according to Business Week, is similar to when a Home Depot or Wal-Mart moves into a small town. All your needs can be met in one place so the mom and pop shops close up. The same kind of market-driven philosophy is taking place in the church.

    The following articles, essays and audios deal with these and other concerns regarding the Purpose Driven® Life movement particularly, and Rick Warren’s teachings in general.

  • andy chamberlain


    Although it is tangental to the main arguement, I do want to respond to something you said. I quote:

    “I think Andy Chamberlain’s “criticism” of those articles (esp. of Siemon-Netto) is the sort that just complains that the authors’ views and prejudices are not his own.”

    Well, I hope not. I want to talk to people who do not share my views; it’s a refreshing and healthy thing to do. I want to debate well, and disagree well with others. I would enjoy reading an articulate critique of Warren’s position, but character assassination, and using “quotes” to communicate disdain just irritates me.

    Within the Siemon-Netto piece there wasn’t very much to disagree with actually; and I accept that you weren’t representing all of these links as your own views. What I took exception to was a dig at contemporary worship music. Drawing on aspects of worship culture from any time in the last 2,000 years is great, but no one needs to attack contemporary worship to do it, it’s not a competition, so let’s not treat it as one.

  • DK

    I can explain more if you email me. I’m not going to go into detail about individual churches here. Suffice it to say that if you have connections and/or can make a church a hit in inner-city Milwaukee, the WELS (and the ELCA) don’t give a rip what’s behind that success or what it might entail in hidden costs.

    On the zwinglian or anabaptist point, are you familiar with the WELS position on the status and role of ordained ministers in contrast to the LCMS? This is probably a key categorical separator between varieties sof protestants–what is ordination, who can perform it, and how does it make a pastor “different.” But even the oldline traditionalists have trouble explaining why only an ordained minister can say the words of instituion during communion.

  • DK

    Andy C., I didn’t see your post. What I meant is that you did things like dismiss Siemon-Netto as a complaning lover of church organs–a self-evident fuddy-duddy.

    If you want an articulate critique of Warren from a rather non-partisan observer, try Alan Wolfe’s “The Limits of the Purpose-Driven Life:
    Can Twenty Million Readers Be Wrong?”
    Christian Smith’s critiques of “moralistic therapeutic deism” taking over evangelicals strikes me as probably having guy-smiley megachurchers in its sights. (Does Joel Osteen really have his church chant Queen’s “We are the champions?”)

    You seem to be assuming that it is impermissable to take digs at “contemporary” worship music and related stuff, apparently with the idea that there ought to be room for everyone and it’s just a bunch of style choices. This is absolutely not true. To admit that thinking within some denominations would be to fundamentally change them. They cannot accept this “cosmetic style” way of thinking about liturgy (bound to the sacraments) without ceasing to be the church as they have defined it since they began.

    It is indeed a zero-sum situation in a lot of churches. In any denomination of any size or age, there are architectural designs and worship practices (liturgies that are not considered cosmetic) that are integral to the church community and bound to its understanding of the church. If you modify these in substantial ways, you’re liable to make a new church and lose the old one with a lot of people completely devastated, as if they had their family taken from them–which is literally how they’d see it. I guess this is really hard to understand from a free-church perspective. You have to have a sympathetic, experiential appreciation of the other side.

    Warrenizing confessional protestant churches in my experience go about it slowly enough to let the old folks die off or quietly leave so there isn’t a fight. The trouble is when this results in the denomination breaking up into congregations that don’t resemble each other at all in what they believe and do.

    I think a lot of dissent with what ecclesially careless people like Warren have instigated (or what they’ve been allowed to instigate) lies ahead. It may contribute to a breakup of big-tent Evangelicaldom. I was pretty surprised to see that CT, the main organ of evangelicalism’s trans-/non-denominational political solidarity recently allowed its faith and leadership division set up a blog that is almost a self-parodying shill for the “Emergent Church Movement,” which is definitely more controversial than Warren at this point. Emergent could be described as a frequently mega-church funded and backed transmogrification of the classic Warren or Hybels model to suit the younger set, including those Siemon-Netto describes.

  • Herb

    I was at a seminar last weekend where Saddleback’s P.E.A.C.E initiative was presented in detail. It was a little bit disturbing that the speaker (one of the Saddleback leaders) thought that this is a “unique moment in the history of the church” (not an exact quote, but close to it). Something entirely new in the history of the church.

    We were blessed because a seminary professor also held a session on similar movements in church history, starting with Acts, through the Nestorians, Jesuits, Franciscans, Moravian Brethren, Methodists, SVM, Lausanne Covenant, to name but a few.

    I would feel more at ease sometimes if these folks had more of a sense of history, rather than what appears to me to be a grandiose overestimate of their own importance.

    Anyway, if it mobilizes more people to be involved in the Kingdom of God, I’ll rejoice with all my brothers and sisters (Phil. 1:18)

  • Steve May

    Quote: Jimmy Swaggart and John MacArthur criticized the book as “pop gospel.”

    Do you see what Rick Warren is doing for church unity? He’s got Swaggart and MacArthur agreeing with one another.

  • andy chamberlain

    Wise words from Herb above. In fact, it is very important for mega churches, new church movements, house churches, emergent churches, and all of similar stripe to understand the history culture and legacy of the church over 2,000. I include myself in this broad grouping, and we need to remember we didn’t invent church in the last century.

    In the UK, there was a period where some of the new charismatic churches had about them a sense of arrogance. There was an attitude that said “we have got it right and you have got it wrong” or even worse “we have found out THE way God wants church done from now on…and you have got it wrong.”


    Now, with a greater maturity, and humility, comes a greater understanding of the rich legacy of the past. Looking at some of the things Christians have said and done over history is like finding treasure. What this process also does is give us all a greater appreciation of other traditions in worship, liturgy, and practice that are far from our own; that is a very good thing.

    DK – this also touches on our discussion. I have no issue with church organs, or other forms of worship, I have no reason to; and to do so would be hypocritical. But, to have a dig at contemporary worship music for what it is, is not reasonable; any more than it is reasonable to have a dig at other worship practices from 100, 500, or 1000 years ago for what they are. The issue is this: is God being worshipped by His people?

    And of course these things are not cosmetic, or trivial. I understand pressures to change worship practice (and there is a huge literature on this) are very serious, and have a deeply profound effect on the nature of denominations and churches.

    But these challenges will come, and as you say some will be devastated by the consequences. Communities are forced in to asking hard questions: “Who are we?” “What is it that makes us who we are?” Worse still, different people come up with different answers; it will feel like family break up to some. Here is where a respect for the history and variety in the church, and the variety of expressions of worship, will help. I can cope more easily with my brother taking a different path if I know he is still worshipping God.

  • dan mcgowan

    I don’t fully agree with everything Rick Warren says or does – - but I’m also not ready to slam him up one side and down the other just because he has decided to step outside the box of “normal” or “typical” church in order to reach people with the gospel. What’s the big deal? Is he teaching heresy? If so, let’s do all we can to end his ministry. However, if he is teaching Biblical principles – albeit – in ways we might find “uncomfortable” then so be it. Some of us are so bent on destroying the bold leaders of the faith – - and usually that’s because of pride…

  • Herb

    Dan, I wasn’t wanting to slam Rick Warren. As a brother in Christ, we’re on the same train. I was looking overseas at the big number of short-term teams that are going to be arriving soon. If they connect up with long-term aid workers who know the language, then this can be a real asset.

    On the other hand, I have seen long-term ministries — built up over several years with painstaking patience and grace — severely damaged by a group that came to show everybody how to do it. Or sometimes they just didn’t take the time to explore what else was going on, and how they could fit in.

    Saddleback, like many churches, sends out its own missionaries. “By-pass the agency and do our own thing” — seems to be the motto. So far so good But inevitably, these folks need others for networking and fellowship. Plus, those of us in an agency have generally made a lot of mistakes already that others don’t have to necessarily repeat.

  • dan smith

    to be honest i dont give a rats rear end about a church org,or building or doctrin or paster,Christ said follow him,You can hair split untill his return ,And not get the point,Take the teachings to heart,More show,less blathering,Many call themselfs christian,many christians will be shown the door,As well.And told not so politely to go to hell.ya but didnt we teach in your name didnt we heal in your name ect..we lead by following christ,for them who claim to know the mind of God know not the mind of christ,because they obey not,rather by witty doctrine and traditions they snare the weak minded