Thursday, December 18, 2008

Barack Obama and Rick Warren

The headline on this morning reads: Obama's Inaugural Choice Ignites Outrage.

The headline is followed by these words: Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents are criticizing President-elect Barack Obama for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month. Warren opposes gay marriage and abortion rights, putting him at odds with many in the Democratic Party.

Forget the liberal groups and gay right proponents...I wonder how the Christian right will respond to this. Rick Warren has been a lightning rod among Christians for years. Talk about in-fighting...Warren has been the cause of a lot of fighting among churches, leading ultimately to numerous church splits.

It was partly because of him that my home church lost over 100 people...many of whom had helped build the church with their own hands some 35 years earlier. When the leadership decided that the church needed a massive refocus, they decided to use Warren's Purpose Driven Church as a guide.

You should have seen how many of the older crowd at the church laid eggs and had cows. Fueled by a ridiculously hateful and lie-laden web site, these people consider Warren the anti-Christ. Some even brought in brochures and articles from the web site "proving" their point. Warren just about ruined that church.

Warren is a lightning rod...and that's why I love him! He's a lightning rod because God is using him in some pretty phenomenal ways, and when God moves, people on the left don't like it, and sadly, people on the right don't always like it either.

What God is doing through Rick Warren doesn't fit inside any one's box.

Through Warren's ministry, God is unifying the fractured American church (Warren is a huge proponent of churches breaking through divisive denominational lines and coming together) and bringing help and hope to those devastated around the world by AIDS (this is where much of his money and time are going these days). Warren has sold millions and millions of books over the years, and God is using his elevated status in the world to bring the message of peace, reconciliation, and hope to those who need it most (hardened, crusty Christians and those suffering with AIDS).

And for those who think he compromises the non-negotiables of the gospel, I beg to differ. I saw him a couple of nights ago on Fox's Hannity and Colmes. Hannity was trying to interview him about his new book, The Purpose of Christmas, but Colmes wanted to spar. He asked Warren if he really believed that there is only one way to God, and on national TV, Warren replied by saying, "This is not what I say. This is what Jesus said. He said that no one comes to the Father but through Him, and I have no reason not to believe Him."

Colmes then asked him if he really believes that every person needs to be saved, and Warren replied, "If God says we do, and if He sent His Son, Jesus, to do it, then I believe we all need to be saved." Warren didn't back down at all in the face so some pretty tough and pointed questions.

I - for one - am thrilled that Rick Warren will be participating in Obama's inauguration. In a culture where so many Christians give Christ a bad name, Warren is a breath of fresh air. His humanity, authenticity, love for others, and desire to make Christ known to all people makes him someone I can stand behind.


Matthew Valdiviez said...

My previous comments have been rather arrogant in their antagonism, and I'd like to apologize for any offense I've given. I have a sincere question, though, about Rick Warren as a contemporary hero of the faith. I'm told that his church in California records an average weekly attendance of over 20,000. I'm not really sure I understand how an assembly so massive can constitute a church. What sort of confessional intimacy can such a pastor possibly have with the individual members of his flock? Can genuine teaching really take place for an audience of that scale? If his so-called "Purpose-Driven Church" culminates in that sort of juggernaut, should his model of church-building really be taken seriously? Is this the sort of thing that Foothills is hoping to grow into? It certainly wasn't the model being taught here a decade ago.

Mike Potter said...

Warren's "Purpose Driven Church" is not intended to culminate into a huge church like his. That's not the intention of the book at all. The purpose of the book is to help churches become more biblically purposeful - in a day when so many American churches have no clue why they exist and have no plan for moving forward.

The book encourages churches to consider building their ministries and infusing purpose in their churches based on the following five biblical elements: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism.

This was very helpful with the church I served at before coming to Foothills. It was a 36 year old church of about 1,000 people in desperate need of an infusion of purpose and meaning. Before I arrived, the church staff had gone to a "Purpose Driven" conference and were greatly challenged. They knew they needed to do something, and the principles from Warren's book provided them with the "something" they needed.

When I arrived, I was not familiar with Warren's book, so I had to take a "Purpose Driven" crash-course. As I read the book and studied the material, I began to see how the principles from his book could - in fact - help bring purpose and direction to a directionless and purposeless church.

We took the five principles and adapted them to the specific culture and personality of the church. When we began to infuse purpose into this once stagnant church, it energized about 90% of the people. For the other 10% (about 100 people) it infuriated them. They liked things they way they were, and no matter how biblical (and logical) the changes were, they refused to by into them. After months of friction, they decided to leave the church and start their own, which was the best thing that could have happened to that church.

All this to say that Warren's "Purpose Driven Church" - if used correctly - can help usher in purpose and direction to a directionless church. As far as Foothills is concerned, there is no need for this. The church has been built on a solid foundation of purpose, thanks mainly to Pastor Rob. We are very purposeful in many areas. My desire as the pastor is to continue to build upon the purpose and direction that is already there.