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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Rick Warren reflects on why Christianity is not dead in America as Newsweek proclaims

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HH: Welcoming back now into the studio Rick Warren, pastor extraordinaire, Saddleback Valley Community Church. We began this conversation on Tuesday, and I’ve held the rest of it for Good Friday, today, because this is the portion we’re going to talk about the church in America with a fellow who just knows more about church planting and building than just about anybody else I know out there. Rick Warren, we’re on Friday now, even though we’re unbroken in taping. Let’s go back and set up what happened to Saddleback Valley, when you started, how you started it, how you were called to Orange County, because I want to spend some time talking about the church in America, and you’ve lived it.

RW: Well, the church always begins with a vision in the heart of a person, and God’s method as a man, or a woman. And He puts something in a heart, and then says I want you to do it, and then when you are obedient to do it, He blesses it. And the more He blesses it, the more your faith grows. And the more your faith grows, the more blessings happen. And over the last 30 years, I’ve seen so many different miracles because of the struggles. Struggles are essential to growth. Problems are essential to the development of leadership. And I worry that in our nation, we’ve had such an unbridled sense of success years that people really get a little soft. And I think that this recession is actually a good thing. If you know anything about American history or Church history, that revivals are often in the seedbed of recession, that when things are bad, they’re good for the Church, that the good news actually gets better when the bad news gets worse. Historically, three things go up in an economy that’s going down. Church attendance goes up, bar attendance goes up, and movie attendance goes up. And they’re for three different reasons. People start going to church because they’re looking for meaning, they’re looking for a purpose, they’re looking for something that’ll give them definition to their life. They got to a bar because they’re looking for contacts. They want to be connected. When you’re going through the storm, you don’t want to be out there being a lone ranger, so people start focusing on relationships. And they go to movies because they’re looking for relief. All three of those are legitimate, but all three of them can be met in the Church, too. We have structures that are designed to A) teach you meaning, B) build the connection, relational connections, and C) bring relief to the different problems in your life, whether it’s financial problems or sexual problems or weight problems, or whatever.

HH: You are obviously thirty years into this. And is this the most difficult time in those thirty years for the Church in America?

RW: It’s the best of the times, and it’s the worst of times. I’m seeing such shallowness in so many churches that aren’t really making an impact. And it bothers me the emphasis on size.

HH: That’s odd coming from a guy who runs a 50,000 plus…

RW: Yeah, yeah.

HH: How many people are in Saddleback now?

RW: Well, typically on a weekend, 25,000, on a typical weekend. There’ll be 50,000 for Easter.

HH: For Easter, okay.

RW: Yeah. But there’s no correlation between the size and the strength of a church. Church can be big and strong, or can be big and flabby. It can be small and strong, or small and wimpy. Big isn’t better, small isn’t better. Healthy is better. And what I did years ago, in the first year of the church, I actually went through a year of depression, the second year of the church where my goal was Oh God, just get me through the day. It wasn’t build a great church. And during that period of depression, I spent a lot of time thinking, studying and saying…God said to me, you build people, and I’ll build the church. And I said well you know what the problem is, they didn’t teach me how to do that in seminary. How do you build people? And I went back, and I began to study how Jesus actually trained leaders. And I noticed that He took them through a systematic, sequential, constantly turning up the heat, the side of discipleship that brought them from total immaturity to high maturity. And so we began a system. And for instance, the very first words that Jesus said to his disciples, the very first recorded words are, they ask him a question. Peter and John are there fishing, and they turned around and they go, where are you going, Lord? And He says, come and see. It’s the first recorded words of Jesus – come and see. That’s about as low of a commitment as you can say to people.

HH: Yeah.

RW: But that’s where you start. And so for thirty years, we’ve said to Southern California and around, come and see. Come check out Saddleback. Just check us out, no commitment required, you don’t have to get dressed up and all these kind of things. And a lot of churches do what they would call a come and see approach, a seeker-sensitive approach. That’s the front door, but that is only 1/10th of what the church is all about. And if your whole church is built on simply attracting a crowd, a crowd is not a church. You have to have a strategy by which you turn a crowd into a church. And over Jesus’ ministry, over the next three years, Jesus started turning up the heat, and He would define what the relationship was all about. My daughter calls them DTR’s, defining the relationship moments, okay. When you’ve got a boyfriend, we need a DTR. And so Jesus would say you’re My disciple if, and then He’d add a qualifier, if you love Me, you’re my disciple if you stay in My word. You’re My disciple if you take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Me. At one point, Jesus says, turns around, now this is three years into his ministry, He’s built a relationship of trust and love, and He says you’re My disciples if you eat My flesh and drink My blood. And people are going ugh, what is He talking about? I mean, that was so yucky, so unbelievable. It says many people couldn’t handle it. It was too hard. And it said many people turned away and followed Him no more, because it just seemed so repulsive. And Jesus looks at the twelve disciples, and He goes, are you guys leaving, too? And they said well, where would we go, Lord? You’ve got the words of life. We’ve got no other place to go. Now here’s the point. There’s a big difference between come and see and come take up your cross and follow Me, because in those days, take up your cross meant you’re going to die. So there’s a big difference between come and see and come and die. And what we have today, Hugh, is we’ve got churches that are only single message churches. They’ve got half the message. We’ve got the come and see churches that come in and they do felt need evangelism, and they do genuinely good work in encouraging people, in taking people at 001 level, and bringing people in the front door who had no religious background at all. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that’s not all there is to church. Then we’ve got other people at the other end who tend to be more doctrinally smart people, and they tend to be the come and die church. And they tend to be real heavy on come and die, come and die, and they don’t do anything about meeting needs of…you know, I’ve got a mixed family of children, of step-children, and all of the different felt needs, of financial, sexual, social, relational, mental needs. And then we have these guys on one side criticizing those on the other. And what has made Saddleback grow consistently, 30 years of consistent growth, is we built a holistic thing based on the steps of Jesus. We start with come and see, and we move them to come and believe, come and love, come and take up your cross, come and die. And so we lead in both areas. In the last ten years, I have baptized over 20,000 new adult converts.

HH: Wow.

RW: There’s no church in America that is reaching more non-believers for Christ than Saddleback. That would be one thing. But at the other end, I have sent out in the last four years 7,766 of my members to world mission to 68 countries on their own expense, sending out missions. We have one of our 10 X 10 goals is a goal that we, Saddleback will be the first church in history that has sent peace teams to literally every nation in the world. The Bible says go to every nation. Saddleback will be the first church to do it. There are 195 nations. 193 in the U.N., and two nations that aren’t a part of the U.N. – Bosnia and North Korea, so we’re going to all 195…

HH: How are you getting into North Korea?

RW: We have contacts. We have contacts. I’ve nearly gotten into there once. I was up on the De-Militarized Zone, being invited in by our dear leader, and that day was the day they launched the first rocket, and they said this is not a good time.

HH: How about Saudi Arabia?

RW: Yeah, there’s some places you go in…

HH: Quietly.

RW: Quietly, that’s exactly right, quietly.

HH: You know, I’ve got to get to Islam in the course of this. This is Good Friday.

RW: Right.

HH: We’re talking on Good Friday, the first time this airs, and I suspect it will air a lot of Good Fridays into the future, Rick Warren. If someone’s driving around out there, they think we Christians are nuts, we’re celebrating the crucifixion and brutal death of the person we believe to be the son of God.

RW: Yeah.

HH: Give the quick message of what is Good Friday all about.

RW: Yeah, well, it is interesting that our faith chose a torture instrument as a symbol. Christians understand suffering probably better than any religion. And we understand that there is value, that there is redemptive suffering, that you can suffer for the behalf of others. And not only did Jesus die for us, die for our sins, but we ought to give ourselves to others, too. The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16. You see it every baseball game. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Most Christians know John 3:16. They don’t know 1 John 3:16, which is another book written by John, which he says, and this is how we know what love is, that we ought to give, lay down our lives for the brothers. In other words, the same thing Jesus did for us, He says I expect you do to for others. And that is the basis behind all of the “good works” that we’re doing at Saddleback with the poor, the sick, the elderly, the trafficking, education, things like that. If you go through church history, and go around the world, almost every state and city and country you go into, the first hospital and the first school were built by Christian missionaries. Why? Because we have a teaching, healing and a preaching faith. The Bible tells us Jesus went into every village teaching, preaching and healing. And so Jesus is not just our Savior, He is our teacher and He is our healer, and so we care about health care and we care about education, too. And of course, Christians have built all of the great institutions in America. And then they get taken over by people who lack the faith.

HH: Does America, and does the American Church do suffering well? This is not a country that suffers often. Occasionally we suffer greatly, 9/11, the recession right now, I know people are driving around right now, they’ve lost their jobs, they’re at wit’s end, they are maxed out, they are under enormous pressure. You know it a lot better than I do, because you’re their pastor.

RW: Yeah.

HH: What’s the word to them?

RW: Well, when you go through a major loss, let’s say you’ve lost your job, or let’s say you had a relative in the Towers, or something like that. I always say a number of things. First is you need to look at what is left, not just what you’ve lost. Life is really two, it’s a yin and a yang. There are two things in your life. There’s always good things going on in your life, always bad things. I used to think life was hills and valleys. You have a real high hill, and then you have a low valley, then you have a high hill. I don’t believe that anymore. I think you get both all the time at the same time. There’s never a time when everything’s going perfect in your life, there’s nothing bad. And then there’s never a time in your life when everything’s bad and there’s nothing good. And so life is really more like two railroads, two rails. And on one rail is all the good things, and on the other’s all the bad things, and no matter what you’re going through that’s bad, there’s always something you can be thankful for. And no matter all the good things in your life, there’s always something you need to be working on. So I would say let’s just take a guy out there right now who’s just been laid off. You know, the last three months, we’ve lost over 600,000 jobs each of the last three months, not counting the three million who lost their jobs last year. It’s interesting, it’s not as big a blow to a man to lose his job in a recession as when in a boom time. In a boom time, it’s what’s wrong with me. In a recession, it’s okay, I’m one of the guys that got laid off. So it actually doesn’t hurt as bad emotionally if 600,000 are getting laid off. It doesn’t feel like a personal attack. But what do we say to that guy? First, look at what you’ve got left, not what you’ve lost. Second thing, play it down, and pray it up. Minimize the pain, and maximize taking it to God. Talk to God about it. And the third thing is be grateful. Let me take you to Darfur, or Chad, or a hundred other places where most of the world would love to have your upside down mortgage, would love to have your debt, would love to have your car that can’t be repaired. Our problems are the rest of the world’s riches. So we just need a clearer perspective.

HH: How does that message go over, Rick, when you preach that message?

RW: Well, I…

HH: Do people hear it?

RW: I think so…

HH: Or do they get mad at you?

RW: Well, you know, I think you have to just talk about it in reality. And I always talk about it about myself. You know, it’s what I have to learn. The things I have to remind myself, you do a lot of first person talking. And I’ll say by the way, do any of you relate to any of this? I mean, this is what I’m feeling right now, because I have seen that. And you don’t have to go to Rwanda to do it. Just go across the border. You know, drive an hour south, and go over to the Tijuana dump, and you’ll see how people are living just like Slumdog.

HH: I’ve got to ask you about that. On Monday of this week, 2009…

RW: Yeah.

HH: If we’re replaying this, I had Amor Ministries talk to me, Two-thirds of their students and churches who are supposed to go build houses in Mexico at spring break cancelled.

RW: Really?

HH: Afraid because of the stories out of Mexico. What’s that tell you about the American Church, if anything?

RW: Yeah, well, it goes back to the fact that I do think that a lot of churches are shallow. I do think they do not have a systematic, intentional, Biblically-based discipleship program that is moving people from unbeliever to member to mature member, to having a ministry, to seeing their life mission in the world. And we’re in this people development process that we’ve been doing for thirty years. And I now have people who were born at Saddleback Church who are now on staff as pastors, you know, thirty years later, and are quite mature. And you can’t build that up overnight. My feeling is that too many times, we do masses and flashes, and you know, create classes and ashes, and just looking for the next thing.

HH: And so shallow roots…you said on Tuesday when we began this conversation, you overestimate what you can do in ten years, you underestimate what you can do in thirty years.

RW: Yeah.

HH: Are American churches getting this message, because we started this conversation because Newsweek has as its cover story, I’m going to that…

RW: Yeah.

HH: …is Christian America over, are we done.

RW: Yeah.

HH: And obviously, if the church isn’t renewing itself into deeper roots, it’s going to be done. So what do you think? Is it done?

RW: First place, it’s not going to be done, because it can’t be done, because all of history is dependant upon it. It’s the exact opposite. The only thing that’s going to last is the Church. The Church has outlasted every single thing else including the annual covers of Time and Newsweek at Easter that call for the demise of Christianity every year for 2,000 years. So I’m not, a cover of Newsweek is a water spider on the pond of life, okay? When I think about the power and the effectiveness of churches that I see out there, little ones doing a great job, big ones doing a great job, it’s interesting…Newsweek last week did a big thing on their website on the changing, massive changes taking place in the city of Compton. That place is being renewed in an amazing way. What they didn’t report on is it’s the churches that are changing that thing. We’ve been working with those churches. I’ve seen those churches in action. We’ve sent up four or five hundred people on weekends, every other weekend. It’s the churches that are taking the load off. See, here’s the thing. I, right before the end of President Bush’s retirement, he had done a global summit on malaria, and he asked me to be the closing speaker on malaria.

HH: I missed this entirely.

RW: Yeah, it was December. This was a December thing.

HH: This is the second Bush?

RW: Yeah.

HH: Okay.

RW: A global summit on malaria. And so he asked me to be the closing speaker, and there were a lot of people there, and there’s Melinda Gates and all these Senators, and all these humanitarians and business leaders. And I said I will only have need of about five minutes to make my point, but you will never be able to solve malaria, or for that matter, any other major social issue without bringing in the faith community. And when I talk faith community, I’m not talking about NGOs that are Christian. I’m talking about local congregations. It isn’t going to happen without that, and let me give you an example. I said let me show you four slides. And I put up a slide first of the western province of Rwanda. Rwanda’s a small country, ten million people, five provinces. The western province has about 700,000 people in it. And I said notice here are the three hospitals for 700,000 people. Now that is ridiculous, and you have to walk two hours one way to get to a hospital if you’re sick, and it’s all up and down mountains, and it’s not roads, it’s very difficult. And oh, by the way, when you get there, you discover that while there are three hospitals, there are only two doctors in that province. So actually on two doctors, and everybody else is just kind of a volunteer or a paramedical, and so, and doesn’t have any guarantee you’re going to get in. But I said by the way, of these three hospitals, two of them are faith-based, and one of them is state-based. So you would only have one hospital if it weren’t for the church anyway. Second slide, I put up the second slide, I said see these eighteen dots. These are the eighteen clinics in this region. Now a clinic in a third world country often means a bottle of aspirin on a shelf, and that’s it. I’ve been in clinics that had an old microscope and no medicine. So it’s not like a Walgreens or anything like that. It’s very little. I’ve seen some that are just simply a closet. And I said so there’s eighteen clinics. It’s still a day’s walk to any of these clinics. So if you get sick, you’ve got diarrhea, you’re going to have to walk up and down mountains for a day to go and get some aspirin. Oh, by the way, of these eighteen clinics, sixteen of them are faith-based clinics.

HH: Faith-based.

RW: Two of them are government, but sixteen of them are there. They wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Christian churches. And I said now let me give you the third slide, and I put up the third slide, and the area was covered with dots everywhere, just black with dots. Dot, dot, dot, dot, dots, all over the province. I said here are the 857 churches.

HH: Churches.

RW: Where do you think you would most like to get your help needs taken care of? Two day’s walk? One day’s walk? Or five minutes away? What if we were to mobilize churches for health care, and to be able to do this in third world countries? When I finished the thing, Melinda Gates came up to me and she goes, I get it, Rick. The church is the widest distribution, it’s already on the ground for health care. I said yeah, but not just for health care, for every other thing, too – job training, for education, for conflict management, for leadership development, and on and on. And I said let me tell you the story now. We took, eighteen months ago, we took eighteen churches in that one province. We said you pick two people from your church that you want to train as community health care workers that will work in, through and to your church. And so each of those eighteen pastors picked out two, so we had thirty-six in the initial thing, which by the way the Muslim mosque came and said can we be a part of it? And we said absolutely, sure, come on. So they picked up, and there were four Muslims who came in their shardors (sp?), and took the training with these Christian lay leaders. That group was trained, we taught them everything like why you need to boil water, why you need to wash your hands, why you need to hang up…

HH: Mosquito netting.

RW: …mosquito netting, and why sheets need to dry in the sun for sanitation, and on and on. And they were such fast learners. We were going into things like how do you deal with somebody who has AIDS, how do you administer ARVs, very technical stuff pretty quickly. That group grew to about 250, that group doubled again exponentially. And by the end of this year, a village, I mean a province that had two doctors will have over 1,500 trained community health workers working in that area, 100% through the church.

HH: Do you think you can, using this model…

RW: Yeah.

HH: …save the world?

RW: I think we can save part of the world. Saving the world is God’s job, and the Bible says, for instance, you will always have the poor with you. So I’m not looking for a utopia. But I am looking for the fact that people say where is God in the middle of all this? I’ll tell you where He is. He’s in the middle of all those people. And that is the body of Christ in action. If you say you love somebody and don’t do anything about it, your love’s worthless.

HH: I went down to the Dominican Republic last summer, and I’ve done Tijuana for years.

RW: Yeah, yeah.

HH: Every Southern Californian…we have a mission down there, we have a church, an orphanage we take there, so I’ve seen poverty, but I hadn’t ever seen anything like this.

RW: Yeah.

HH: …just the vastness and the lack of anything…

RW: Right.

HH: …plumbing, just, it’s overwhelming. You do this a lot.

RW: Yeah.

HH: How do you not say the poor will always be with us?

RW: Yeah.

HH: I don’t, but I’m curious, because I only do it every now and then.

RW: Yeah.

HH: You do this a lot.

RW: Yeah.

HH: How do you not, and the word is despair?

RW: Well, I’ve read a lot of Mother Teresa’s writings to be honest, because if anybody had a right to despair, she was taking people who were not going to get well, it was called the home for the dying. And the whole purpose was to help people die with dignity rather than try to make them well. And A) realizing that you’re doing this first out of love to God, okay? Yes, you love humanity, but number one, you love God, and it is an act of worship. Then secondarily, it’s an act of fellowship. It is an act of service, fellowship to there because they need it. And that one person, it makes a difference in their lives. And you do the best you can with what you have knowing that God’s going to settle the score. I do so much of what I do, honestly, out of gratitude. I do nothing out of guilt. I don’t think guilt works as a motivator.

HH: Let’s wrap this up, and I want to tell everyone about Purpose Driven Connection as well, and about the whole deal, and we’ll do that in the wraps. But the key is, did you ever foresee this for your life, Rick Warren? I mean, this…where did you come from? Biography – where were you born?

RW: Well no, I did not ever see it. I was born in Northern California. I was born in the Silicon Valley of San Jose, but I grew up in a little town in Northern California called Redwood Valley, up in the redwoods. It had less than 500 people in it. So when I first moved to Southern California and saw all the traffic at rush hour, and I realized that there were more people on the street in that one half a mile than I had ever seen in my town, I thought God, you’ve got the wrong guy. I now pastor a church that’s a zillion times bigger than the city that I grew up in. I mean, it had one gas station in that. I’ve given up trying to, I don’t predict the future. Life is…God’s will is not a map. There is not a map that you can see oh, where you’re going, because if you could see where you’re going, it would scare you to death and you wouldn’t do it. Instead, God’s will is like a scroll that you unroll it a little bit, and you read that. And if you act on that and you are faithful at that, He goes, okay, let’s unroll it a little bit more, and unrolls it a little bit more. I wasn’t looking for a magazine. That wasn’t even on my agenda. But I have a dear friend, Tim Collins, who is a billionaire investor, and bought Reader’s Digest. And he called me up one day, and he had passed out hundreds of Purpose Driven Life books, and he called me up one day and he said I bought this company to give you a platform, because I believe in the message of peace, and I believe in the message of purpose. And so here it is. And I said well, I’m not really interested in a magazine, but if we could use the magazine as an index of a dozen major tools that will help people connect to God and to each other on a daily basis, and without them having to come to a meeting, but we could connect them, for instance, we do a thing called Word To You, that downloads a daily Bible verse texted directly to your phone. We do daily e-mail addresses. We’re doing check-ups in all kinds of different ways of accountability. We’re doing these groups that are being set up, and one of the things I did is I reinvented the Sunday school quarterly for the 21st Century. In the 19th Century, or in the 20th Century, churches had Bible study groups for children and often for adults. And they called them Sunday school classes. And they were at the building. Those classes have now been replaced by groups that meet in homes, to a large degree. Bible study’s a home issue now, not a class issue. But you still need content for those classes.

HH: OH, boy, do you ever.

RW: And the number one thing, I did a two year study asking pastors what do you need most, and they said we need a constant stream of content. So what we did is I said I will reinvent the Sunday school quarterly for the 21st Century, and we’ll stick it in every magazine. We’ll do a DVD study, we’ll do a leader’s guide, and we’ll do a study guide workbook, and we’ll stick it in. And anybody who subscribes to the magazine will get one free year of small group material. So for instance, this year, the first quarter was a study called 40 days of love based on 1 Corinthians 13, how to deepen your relationships. There’s books to read, there are verses to memorize, there are studies that every small group…it’s like add water and stir. The second quarter, which we’re in right now, I did with Chuck Colson. It’s a series on worldview. And Chuck’s written two good books on worldview. Actually, I’m getting ready to do a third series on worldview teaching, starting on Easter. And we did this worldview series that I taught a series on worldview, Biblical worldview, and he wrote a book called The Faith, and he wrote another one called The Good Life, which was a lay version of How Now Shall We Live? Then he and I went into the studio, and we did an entire small groups series on worldview. Anybody who buys that magazine at Wal-Mart can go home, and for the next six weeks, they’ve got material for their small groups.

HH: You know, content for small group, it’s terrible.

RW: Yeah.

HH: It’s just not there. I just wrote a book on politics for small groups, because there wasn’t one out there.

RW: Right. Well, we need to take that book, and we need to do a DVD study to go with it, because one of the things we found, one of the things I learned, I’m a fourth generation pastor. Sermons are not enough to change people, because you only remember 5% after 72 hours. You have to reinforce it five ways. You’ve got to hear it, you’ve got to read it, you’ve got to discuss it, you’ve got to do it. There’s memorizing parts and all these things, so we call these campaigns, a third campaign is on answering life’s basic questions, like if somebody comes to you and says my dad is leaving my mom, and he thinks God wants him to be happy, or my brother is gay, what am I supposed to say, or you name it, okay? And so that’s the third series, meaning the summer, answering life’s difficult questions. And then the fourth one is a series on the Beatitudes related to recovery from healing habits and hurts, things like that. We’re already working on next year’s. I’m going to actually do one where we’re going to put out Pilgrim’s Progress in a modern version, and I’m going to do a series on the progress of the pilgrim, because I want people reading the classics.

HH: Hold on, buy me a little more time out there from Rick’s staff, Duane. This is very important, because I’ve got to tell you, the small group movement has been hobbled mostly because of terrible material.

RW: Yeah, terrible material.

HH: And I’m begging you to do one for married couples…

RW: Yup.

HH: …because we’ve been struggling to find, we’ve done, you get together a married group of people…

RW: Yup.

HH: …and there’s just nothing. It’s dross. It’s terrible.

RW: Yeah, marriage is coming up, I think it’s in the second quarter of next year. So what…the magazine is simply an entrée that’s an index to a website, a social network, sermons for pastors, books, the small groups materials, the stuff that we send you directly. And you can sign up for as many different ways of connections as you get.

HH: Do you have any idea how big Purpose Driven Connection’s going to get?

RW: Well, our first goal is to have 30,000 small groups by the end of 10 X 10.

HH: Are you already there?

RW: No, I don’t know where we are right now. I mean, it’s just getting started. And having 30,000…Saddleback Church has 4,000 right now, and it’ll be a quick jump.

HH: Is this the way to reenergize the dying church that Newsweek has, is this the way to take energy and purpose into every church in America?

RW: Yes, it is, and the way to do it is not to do it through events. Big events will never do it. You know, let’s get all the Promise Keepers together in a thing, and then we go home, and it’s over. Events don’t do it. You have to set up a process that any church can do so that then the average pastor who is so busy, and doesn’t have time to invent stuff, he’s busy ministering to his people, can add water and stir. And we say look, here is a way to bring alignment, because typically in a church, the pastor’s preaching on this, and the Bible studies in the group are on this, and then somebody else is doing this over there, and somebody else…and none of it really has any connection, whereas if you have in a campaign where you preach it on Sunday, you hear it, then you read about it for six days in a book, then you go to a small group and you discuss it and you watch a video, then you do a project on it together, then there’s a Bible verse for you to think about, carry with you, that produces not information but transformation. And that’s how I moved tens of thousands of people from total seeker to now out the back door going to Biafra, and going to, you know name a place.

HH: Two more subjects to cover with you, then you’ve got to get home.

RW: Okay.

HH: The impact of short term missions on people.

RW: Yeah.

HH: Why do it? Some people call it religious tourism.

RW: Right, right.

HH: Some people say it’s not good for the church.

RW: Right.

HH: Why do it? And what’s it do for people?

RW: Right. Well, the vast majority of short term projects are religious tourism, and they are actually hurtful. The Peace Plan is based on a radical model that nobody else is doing. And it’s based on the three passages of Scripture that Jesus did. When Jesus sent out his peace teams, he sent out the 70 three different times. And in Matthew 10 and in Luke 10 and in Mark 9, Jesus gives a series of instructions. He says do this, do this, do this, don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this, here’s what you do. As far as I know for the last two thousand years, missionaries have totally ignored those statements, and we’ve never done them. And yet they, if we don’t do them, what we actually do is more harming to the Church there than for us. So we do it Jesus’ way. And what we’re doing is quite iconoclastic, and I mean, it’s…I’m doing stuff now that’s totally different from what I did five years ago, things that we learned. But for instance, Jesus said when you go out, He said don’t take a purse. What’s he mean by that? Don’t give them money. The number one mistake that people do when they go on missions fields is they see something, then they want to buy something and build something. It creates dependency. Whatever you fund, you’re going to have to sustain. It robs people of their dignity, it creates victimhood, it makes, it puts the wrong…if you can’t fund it without Americans funding it, it should not be done, okay? So don’t take a purse. And I’m telling you…

HH: That’s bold, okay.

RW: Okay, it should not be done, because it’s not reproducible, it’s not sustainable, it’s not scalable, it’s not, as I said, reproducible. Then the second thing Jesus says, He says don’t take a staff. Well, what in the world does He mean with that, don’t take a staff? What’s the big deal about that? Well, historically, a staff is a symbol of authority. If you ever see the Pope, he’s got a staff. He’s saying I’m it, and you ain’t it. If you’re an archbishop, you’re walking around with a staff. It is a symbol that says you are here to serve me, not me to serve you. And He’s saying when you go into a village, you go as a servant, not as an authority, not saying…see, what we do is we go into a village, we see needs that we know how to fix this, and we plant our American ways, and we form a 501c3 which we do not need another 501c3, it needs to be in the church, of the church, by the church, through that church, and it needs to be initiated by them, not us. Jesus, the reason we call it the Peace Plan is Jesus said when you go into a village, He said you find the man of peace. Find the man of peace. And He said when you find the man of peace, you start your ministry with that person, and you bless him. And if he blesses you, and if he’s open and receptive, you do it. He said if you don’t find the man of peace, He says dust the dust off your shoes, get out of there, go to the next town, because you can always find somebody who’s more receptive. Who is the man of peace? Two things – he’s open, and he’s influential. He’s open to what you want to do, to the ministry, to working with you, partnering, and he’s influential. By the way, it could be a woman of peace. It could be the elderly grandmother in town who has all the trial knowledge, and when she speaks, it’s like she’s E.F. Hutton. And I have traveled all around the world, I’ve trained over half a million leaders in 162 countries in the last thirty years. And I’ve discovered you can find the man of peace in every country, in every church, in every business, in every government, and you find that person and then you work with them. Now here’s the interesting thing. The man of peace does not have to be a Christian. It could be Muslim, it could be Jew, it could be an atheist, could be an animist. Why? Because when Jesus sent the disciples out, there weren’t any Christians yet. He hadn’t died on the cross, He hadn’t resurrected from the dead. He said go find somebody who’s amenable. And so the Peace Plan that we’ve built is quite radical. It is a new reformation of mission. It’s doing mission in a whole different way than it’s been done, the exact opposite of what has been done for the last two thousand years, and yet it will be virally explosive. Where we went from no, two doctors to now 1,500 trained health care workers in less than two years, that kind of viral explosion as we get it out in the networks, and other churches begin to do this, will bring a whole new wave.

HH: Last question, because your guys are going to come in and beat me up and take you away. Young people driving around right now…

RW: Yeah.

HH: They want to be like Rick. They want to change their church or their ministry or the world. They want to do this.

RW: Yeah.

HH: And so what do you say to them? And secondly, to the discouraged, to those who are ambitioned but discouraged, what’s Rick Warren’s Easter message?

RW: To the discouraged, I would say the dream that God has given you, He intends for you to fulfill. We need to pay much more attention to our dreams. Many people say well, I could never do that. Well, stop doing that and go after your dream. When I started Saddleback Church, all I had was a dream. When I arrived here at 4:00 in the afternoon on January 1st, 1980 with a four month old baby and a U-Haul truck, and we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies coming in from Texas, I pulled off the off-ramp and found a real estate office, and walked into a man named Don Dale, who was a realtor, and I said my name’s Rick Warren, I’m 25 years old, I’m here to start a church, I don’t have any members, I don’t have any building, I don’t have any money, and I need a place to live. He started laughing, and he said well, let’s see what we can do. And of course where God guides, God provides. And within two hours, he had found us a condo. We signed the papers on it, he got us the first month rent free, and that man became the first member of Saddleback Church. I said Don, do you go to church anywhere? He said no. I said great, you’re my first member. So we started with seven people. All we had was a dream and faith in God. And if you are willing to fail, if you’re willing to fail, then God will use you, because you will learn from those failures far more than you’ll learn from the successes. We’ve done more things at Saddleback that didn’t work than did. We just go well, that’s an experiment, let’s do something else. And so go after your dream, believe…dream great dreams for God. The Bible says according to your faith, it will be done unto you. And so you get to choose how big God blesses your life. According to your faith, it will be done unto you. And the second thing I would say to those who are…there is, you cannot please God without taking risks. The Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God. And if you’re not taking any risks, then you don’t need any faith. And if you don’t need any faith, then you are being unfaithful. You see, we often today think unfaithfulness means not doctrinally correct. But that’s not what the Bible says. When Jesus tells the story of the three guys who were given talents, and two of them doubled their money, took a risk and doubled it, and one guy buries it in the ground, and the guy says I was afraid and scared so I did nothing. And he says to him, you wicked, lazy, unfaithful servant. Why? Because he didn’t take a risk. He didn’t take a risk. You cannot live by faith without being, taking risks. And so when I started in ministry, I was taking very small risks. And then they got a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger. And now I’m taking all king of…I’m global risking.

HH: So to the young person who wants to be like Rick Warren, take risks?

RW: Yup. I would say get yourself a mentor. You need four people in your life – mentors, models, partners and friends. You need a mentor who is alive, who can coach you, and by the way, it’s good to have multiple mentors. You can have one mentor who helps you in an area, and another one who helps you in another, because no mentor knows everything. For instance, I’ve had in my life many, many mentors. Billy Graham mentored me in terms of leadership in culture. Peter Drucker mentored me for years and years on leadership and management of an organization. My own father mentored me in how do you do relationships and get along with everybody, no matter who they are, okay? A man named Harry Williams, who was like a father to me, mentored me in evangelism, how to see each person’s need, and how to show that the Gospel can meet that need. So different people teach you different things. Then you need a model, and your model should always be dead. Don’t have a live model. You can have a live mentor, but not a live model, because you don’t know how they’re going to end up yet. And a lot of time, you have somebody who’s a model, and then all of a sudden, they flame out morally, and you’re going what happened? And so have a dead model. And then you need partners. Those are guys who’ll work with you. And then you need friends who are just going to love you even though you’re cracked.

HH: Rick Warren, I want to thank you for spending so much time with us. What a great Good Friday/Easter Sunday message.

RW: Good.

HH: Come back early and often, friend. God bless you, thanks for all the work that you do.

RW: Well, and I want you to know that I listen to the Hugh Hewitt Show. When I’m out, and on the radio, and I…so many times I’ve wanted to just dial in and talk, and then it’s like oh, I forgot the number. And so I’m going to have to paste it on my car.

HH: Any time. Any time you’ve got to get something out, we’ll make sure everyone gets the website. Rick Warren, my best to Kay and God bless you.

RW: Hey, I will remind everybody the state of the Church message that I’m going to be doing, we’re making it available to the whole nation, on April 19th, Sunday night. Go to, and I’m going to speak to the nation on where I think we need to go as churches.

HH: April 19th, Sunday night.

RW: Sunday night.

HH: God bless you, Rick.

End of interview.


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