Rick Warren’s popularity has given him an enormous platform. It looks as if he will replace Billy Graham as “America’s Christian Leader.” I do hope that God continues to use Rick to speak to the nation (and to the world) in the same way that Billy Graham has been able to do. This week he is hosting the 2006 GLOBAL SUMMIT ON AIDS AND THE CHURCH, a conference drawing attention to the AIDS epidemic around the world. He is also spending a lot of time focused on the P.E.A.C.E. plan, a missions-initiative targeting the five “giants” of the global community: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
With popularity comes backlash.
This is the sad truth. And most of the backlash is from “evangelical” Christians. I have read a lot of the criticisms hurled towards Rick Warren through books, articles and endless blog posts…and for the most part I am baffled. I can understand if you do not like his use of 3 million Bible translations in one message. I can understand if you are upset that he has dropped the Hawaiian shirt and glasses for untucked, stripped shirts and a gotee, but to say that he is a deceiver, a New Ager or a heretic is simply laughable.
He recently emailed out a letter (through email) addressing some of the more recent criticisms. I confirmed with his office that this is the letter he sent to his church members and then out to those who have been connected to his purpose divine ministry. As a side note, the recovery ministry in our church, Celebrate Recovery, is a saddleback/purpose driven ministry and it is a wonderful way to connect with people in the community who are hurting. Here is Pastor Rick’s letter:
This weekend, I shared a very personal message on “Living By Your Convictions”.
When Kay and I announced the launching of the P.E.A.C.E. plan a few years ago, we both knew we could expect severe opposition coming from different angles. The P.E.A.C.E. plan empowers churches to do the 5 things Jesus did, and Jesus warned us, ” People will do to you exactly what they did to me. They will do it because you belong to me, and they don´t know the one who sent me.” John 15:21 (CEV) Millions of Christians throughout history and around the world right now know that persecution is real.
We are in a spiritual battle for the lives of billions, so we expect opposition. The Bible tells us that “Satan is the accuser of the brethren.” Unfortunately, sometimes Christians do Satan´s job for him. They accuse and criticize other believers. I´m sure that makes Satan smile.
The Bible says it is foolish to spout off about issues before knowing the facts, but the Internet has made it very easy to do. God says, ” He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame”. Prov. 18:13 (NIV) God also says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Prov. 18:2 (NLT)
Recently, 4 “bloggers” made accusations about my visit to Syria (between speaking in Germany and Rwanda). They based their accusations on a Syrian state press release! Of course, they had no idea what my motivation was, what I actually did and said, and the confidential results. But they attacked me anyway. Not a single newspaper carried the story, but several websites repeated the gossip without talking to me to get the facts. Most sites were already critical of The Purpose Driven Church and Life, and were just happy to have something else to attack.
Before going to Syria (as a pastor, not a politician) I called Franklin Graham who is very experienced in dealing with the Middle East and asked him what I should say. He said “Thank the government for protecting the freedom of churches from radical Muslims.” The Christian leaders I met with in Syria said the exact same thing. This does not excuse other government actions that we’ve all read about. But my visit was not political . My visit was to encourage the Christian leaders and to get permission from the government to do the PEACE Plan in Syria, which we were given!
Another blogger claimed I´ve invited Barack Obama to preach in my pulpit to the Saddleback congregation. Of course that is untrue. I´d never invite ANY politician to speak from the pulpit to our congregation. Never. The blogger got his facts wrong but he told everyone to call our church office and complain. Many of these people were quite rude and vicious to our receptionists this past week.
Next week, the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church will be held on the Saddleback campus. It is not a church service, but an international summit for pastors and world leaders. Leaders from churches, denominations, health organizations, NGOs, Christian organizations, governments, businesses, and entertainment will meet together to discuss how they can work with and through churches to end AIDS. Participants will hear messages from Laura Bush, Sen. Bill Frist, Sen. Sam Brownback, Bill Gates, Bono, the doctor who discovered AIDS transmission heterosexually, Franklin Graham, the President of World Vision, the President of World Relief, the President of Compassion, and about 30 other speakers who are concerned about AIDS. Sen. Obama is one speaker at a conference which includes Republicans and Democrats, Christians and non-Christians, pastors, business leaders, of all kinds of ethnicities from around the world. Yet the vitriol and unChristlike slander was over the top.
This weekend I taught a message called “Living By Your Convictions” where I´ve explained the 6 Biblical convictions that are the framework for all we do at Saddleback. The video of this message will be available to watch on http://www.pastors.com for free later this week.
Of course, you friends know my heart, my motivation, and my 26 year track record. What matters to me is not pleasure…possessions…prestige…politics…power.. or popularity. I couldn´t care less about these things. I care about bringing people to Jesus, and I will do whatever it takes to “Reach One More For Jesus” as my father´s dying words instructed me. No criticism will ever stop me from doing that.
Like Paul, God has called me as a missionary to non-believing cultures, and he has opened doors in amazing ways to share the Gospel behind lines that pastors don’t normally get invited to. Paul was willing to go anywhere and talk to anyone about Jesus. So was Billy Graham. So am I. I´d go into hell if I could bring some people out with me.
No matter where I´ve been invited to speak – to Congress; to the Davos World Economic Forum; at Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge; to the United Nations; the Foreign Affairs Council; from Rabbis at the University of Judaism to Muslim leaders in the Middle East, from Urban Gays to Rural Cowboys – my message is unchanged:
We all need Jesus! Left or Right is irrelevant to me. I´m not a politician. I am a pastor, and my calling is to go “to ALL nations and ALL people” with the saving knowledge of Jesus.
I believe the Good News with all my heart and I want everyone to have the opportunity to respond to it – not just those who come inside the doors of churches.
I hope you´ll email this weekend´s sermon transcript and email it to others when we post it for free on http://www.pastors.com. I love you all!