Got an email from a new attender that was wondering what our church's and my take is on Rick Warren. She said she and her husband had some concerns. Perfect chance for me to address what might be the concerns of others. So here's what I wrote back (with some minor edits):
Thanks for bringing your question to me. I really appreciate it.
My take is that Rick Warren is doing great work. His notoriety has made him a lightning rod of criticism, and his work (every word he says or writes) has been analyzed in detail like no one else's on the planet. Take the written and spoken words of Billy Graham or any other preacher/evangelist and I think you’ll find many things you disagree with and passages you feel are being taken out of context. In fact, do a Google search on Billy Graham or any other well-known evangelist or pastor you admire and you’ll find hundreds of websites dedicated to destroying whomever you choose. And the websites are written by professing Christians!
We have a whole different approach at Five Oaks. We don’t spend a lot of time picking apart and criticizing the work of other Christians. We love to celebrate what God is doing through others, even if they may come at it from a different slant than we would. We don’t expect them to be perfect or for every quotation from the Bible to fit our interpretation. We do stand up against falsehoods and unsound teaching, but I don’t think Rick Warren fits that category. In fact, he’s about as solid as anybody I know out there.
The PEACE Plan, which is the subject or our current U2 series, is based on Warren’s vision for getting a world-wide force of small groups mobilized to take on the biggest problems facing our world locally and globally. We’re using his strategy because it dovetails so well with ours, and he’s creating so many great resources to make it happen. We’re not doing it just because Rick Warren is doing it.
If you want to find out more about Warren, you can go to his website at www.pastors.com. You’ll see on the first page, for instance, that he just produced a new DVD series on worldviews with Chuck Colson. He partners with and is endorsed by almost every credible Christian leader in the world. John Stott co-preached one of the PEACE messages with him at Warren’s church. Stott is in his 80’s (he’s a British pastor/teacher/author) and is considered one of the greatest Bible teachers/preachers of our time.
While I was in Haiti two weeks ago, I taught the international version of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church to the Haitian pastors and leaders. It’s one of Warren’s strengths that he is so true to the Bible and to the basics that his material adapts well to almost every culture, and he’s always thinking about how to multiply what he does into others.
You and your husband may be an exception, but it’s my contention that hardly anyone who simply reads The Purpose Driven Life or hears Warren preach would come to the conclusion that he’s misusing the Bible or that he’s off-base on any important issue or doctrine. In almost every case, people who have problems with Warren have been influenced in their thinking by one of his critics. And my other contention is that if most people would read the work and see the life of most of his critics, they would be appalled at what else they criticize and how they approach the Christian life.
Again, thanks for asking for my opinion on this rather than just continuing to wonder about it or be turned off to what we’re doing. You may still be turned off in the end, but at least you’ll be more informed. :)
Let me know what you think about my take on Warren. I’d be interested in continuing a dialogue if you’d like.