Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life

Rick Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Life, The Purpose Driven Church and leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, which is a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to his weekly newsletter Ministry Toolbox. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold 25 million copies. Rick Warren is very influential among Evangelical people, and as pastor of the Saddleback Church, the author of best sellers he is very influential in church circles. So you may want to check these sites out: The Purpose Driven Life site, Rick Warren’s Bio, The Saddleback Church site, and this is an index of sites Rick is involved in.

So if his people find this Blog as a result of a web search, let me offer a sincere welcome to our humble Blog.

He's a pastor just like many of us have been. Maybe he would like to tell us he never has any doubts? The ministry creates doubts, since pastors in churches see about everything there is to see coming from church people. And many many times it's absolutely ugly. Sometimes pastors will even despise some people in his church, even as he must preach on something about love or forgiveness directly in front of the very people whom he despises. The ministry is a dangerous "calling," since ministers see the true nature of Christianity as it's lived by his(or her)parishoners. It's ugly. And yet a pastor's job is to be a cheerleader for the Christian faith and the church, when he knows it's not working much at all in the people he pastors.

I have been in the ministry, and I can tell you story after story of people in the church--I mean among the leaders too--who operated on the pleasure principle, even though they were well-respected at church. [As the biggest example of this, the BTK killer was a respected member of a Christian church before he was caught]. I know the parable of the tares and the wheat, but the closer I got to people in the church, I hardly ever saw wheat. I would usually respond to this situation by saying that Christianity doesn't necessarily make us better than non-Christians, it only makes us better than we would have been if we weren't Christians. But why doesn't Christianity make us better people than non-Christians--I mean noticeably different? Why?

From my experience whenever someone in the church did something good, it could be accounted for by some ulterior motives, or it was done out of guilt, or fear of hell.

Christianity is the one religion where it's claimed that God the Holy Spirit indwells within the Christian alone. No one else can claim that, according to Christians. God somehow takes up residence in a Christian's life. So why isn't there a difference between the behavior of Christians and that of non-Christians? At least this is what I saw as a pastor, and that's a unique perspective that no one but a pastor will ever know in quite the same way.

I myself wasn't ever able to live the life I knew I should out of gratitude for what I believed was God's saving act in Jesus. If someone responds by saying "John, you just never gave yourself completely over to God," I'd respond by saying that I did so with everything within me. And if that isn't good enough, then I cannot do it. And I'd turn around and ask the very same question of that person, "Have YOU given yourself completely over to God?"

I just found that the Christian life was impossible to live. The tension between the already and the not yet, the guilt for not doing enough, and the fallen examples of church leaders I had before me was too much. Jesus purportedly said his burden is easy...his yoke is light. But it was the heaviest burden I have ever experienced.

No wonder Christian people buy up Warren's books. They feel an intense need to get it together as a Christian. He offers them hope. But after reading his books they'll go looking for another fix, because the Christian life cannot be successfully lived, even knowing that his or her sins are completely forgiven.

21 comments:

Kaffinator said...

Yes I'm sure that 25 million copies of a non-fiction book speak to the fact that "it's not working much at all".

With blithely ignored discrepancies like this, the t-blog "DC is a hoax" theory gains more strength every day.

John W. Loftus said...

The fact that he's sold that many copies shows how the Bible isn't good enough of a read to help people change, does it not? Which means there are 25 million Christians who feel the need to change their lifestyles who are buying books to help them change. What it doesn't show is that his books help that significantly.

Charles Swindoll, Max Lucado and him all sell these kinds of books, likened to self-help books, because deep inside Christians feel the need to live better lives. That's a good goal, of course, but from a pastor's perspective, people in the churches we pastored remain the same, and I think Rick knows this.

These books all serve the same function as exercise equipment bought by people who want to lose weight every New Year, who use it a few times, then sell it at a garage sale. But only a handful actually use them and lose that weight. So likewise, these books sit on a shelf and collect dust after people looked through them, while the authors increase their financial portfolio.

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

> The fact that he's sold that many copies shows how the Bible isn't good enough of a read to help people change, does it not?

Oh brother. Even on its own twisted basis, this argument refutes itself. How many copies of the Bible do you think have sold...last year alone?

> That's a good goal, of course, but from a pastor's perspective, people in the churches we pastored remain the same, and I think Rick knows this.

How could you possibly know that people they pastor remain the same? How could you possibly know that Rick thinks this? You're just making it up, aren't you?

> So likewise, these books sit on a shelf and collect dust after people looked through them, [...]

I read my copy--twice. Went through a small group study with it for a few months. And my copy was used.

> [...] while the authors increase their financial portfolio.

If you knew anything about Rick Warren you would know that book sales allowed him to gave all of the salary he ever collected from Saddleback, right back to Saddleback. Warren is certainly not above critique, but to say he is sitting around counting moneybags is a mischaracterization that is either malicious, unfair, or completely ignorant.

CalvinDude said...

kaffinator pointed out:
---
Warren is certainly not above critique, but to say he is sitting around counting moneybags is a mischaracterization that is either malicious, unfair, or completely ignorant.
---

Not only that, but since when is it a sin to earn money? Jesus Himself said the worker deserves his wages (Luke 10:7). It's not like Warren is out robbing people for his money. He's produced a product that people make their own decision to buy. I'd say he's managed the market pretty darn well, even if I don't agree with all his theology.

But that's the thing. When I disagree with his theology, I critique his theology not the fact that he's a successful author. Attacking success is nothing more than a red herring tactic more commonly found in Marxism designed to provoke the idea of class warfare as a debate position.

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff, I'm sure his books help Christian people who read them and study them, like you did, at least as long as they ponder his thoughts. When I asked why people need books like his when they have the Bible, I meant that his books are probably read more often than the Bible itself--why? And whom do you think pays Rick his salary?

Still, I spoke about the doubts that ministers like him have given that we see Christianity lived (or not) daily--which was my main point from a former pastor's perspective.

John W. Loftus said...

Calvindude. Nothing is wrong with being successful or earning money. But address the main point of what I said.

The ministry creates doubts, since pastors in churches see about everything there is to see coming from church people. And many many times it's absolutely ugly. That descibes me, and I suspect other ministers experience the same thing, but we keep quite about it because our livelihood is at stake, and self-help, is after all, pop-psychology, which does in fact help people. Ask Dr. Phil.

And why are Christians in such a psychological mess in today's world such that they need these things?

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

> When I asked why people need books like his when they have the Bible, I meant that his books are probably read more often than the Bible itself--why?

Before I answer, how about you decide whether you are going to argue that people read PDL more often than the Bible as you just did, or whether it sits on a shelf and collects dust, as you argued in your post just above it. Debating one Loftus is fun but debating two of him might just send me into glee-overload.

> And whom do you think pays Rick his salary?

Right now, I’m guessing, his publisher. I’ve heard he continues to draw a salary from Saddleback but “reverse-tithes” it, meaning he gives 90% of it back.

> Still, I spoke about the doubts that ministers like him have given that we see Christianity lived (or not) daily--which was my main point from a former pastor's perspective.

Please refer me to any such statement made by Mr. Warren implying that those under his pastoral care are not increasing in their walk with Christ. Saddleback, in fact, employs a rigorous, measured process to build up believers and equip them for service. CalvinDude and I may not think him Truly Reformed but there can be no doubt that he is undertaking the work of pastoral service with vigor, integrity, and no small amount of success.

If the people in the church you pastor were not growing as Christians then the blame does not fall on them. It falls on you. Ephesians 4:11-13 and passages like it make it quite clear upon whose shoulders this responsibility rests.

John W. Loftus said...

Kaff, both the Bible as his books sit on most people's shelves collecting dust, even if his book is probably read more than the Bible--Okay? Sheesh. If you cannot figure it out then don't bother wasting my time anymore.

the blame does not fall on them. It falls on you.

Bullshit! But if that's the case then I suppose you'll blame the pastors in America for the lame commitments Christians have, eh? Anybody but God. God is never to be blamed, according to you.

John W. Loftus said...

By the way, do Christians measure success by numbers and book sales? Hmmmm. Have you heard of Jeremiah?

CalvinDude said...

John,

My comments were just an addition to what Kaf had said and were not intended as if they were a response to your main point.

But your main point is what? That if the Bible were truly clear then Warren wouldn't need to write his book?

If so, I think that's a fallacy. It'd be like saying, "If 2 + 2 = 4 were really clear, we wouldn't need to teach it in school. We teach it in school, therefore 2 + 2 = 4 is in doubt."

But maybe that's not what you meant. I must say that I didn't find your point all that clear :-) Perhaps you can explain exactly what you are looking for?

Kaffinator said...

Hi John,

> both the Bible [and] his books sit on most people's shelves collecting dust, even if his book is probably read more than the Bible--Okay? Sheesh. If you cannot figure it out then don't bother wasting my time anymore.

So on the one hand, you imagine Christians to be so hungry for the self-help wisdom they fail to find in the Bible, that they devour the text of PDL like schoolkids in a candy store. But on the other hand they do no more than give PDL a cursory, disinterested scan and then stick it on the shelf, next to their unused Bibles, never again to be read.

But actual statistics, had you bothered to look them up, clearly indicate that the Bible does not sit unused on Christians’ shelves. In 2005, almost nine out of ten evangelical Christians reported that they have read the Bible in the last seven days.

Do you have access to statistics on how often PDL is read? Or are you just making more stuff up that you can’t substantiate? No, I cannot figure out what you are saying because it changes with each post, yet somehow never corresponds to any observed reality.

> But if that's the case then I suppose you'll blame the pastors in America for the lame commitments Christians have, eh?

Pastors are not the only factor affecting Christians but it is clear from numerous passages that church leadership bears the primary responsibility for guiding Christians into closer and more effective discipleship. If a congregation stagnates, the leadership is really the only place you can look for the reasons why. It is a terrible and terrifying burden, which is why the ones who rule well should be considered worthy of double honor (1 Tim 5:17).

> By the way, do Christians measure success by numbers and book sales? Hmmmm. Have you heard of Jeremiah?

I suppose you quoted all those statistics in your original post to show that Warren is an utter failure? Numbers are not the goal, but they are not irrelevant, either.

Steve said...

John, your book will not even scratch the surface of Ricks book(s). In fact I can't even find where yours is rated.

I agree with Kaffinator. You seem to have backed yourself into a corner on this one.

It is becoming more and more clear that you Mr. Loftus were never the Christian that you claim to have been. I believe that many pastors get frustrated, but I doubt that most love their sheep the same way you loved yours. Dagoods on the other hand, is a very likeable de-convert, who by the way, is 'much mo' better a debater than you. More pleasant at the very least. But alas, he's not trying to sell a book here.

John W. Loftus said...

I'm not trying to compare book sales here. My book will never even come close to his sales. I'm not jealous, either. And I'm very happy you'd rather read what Dagoods writes, Steve. He is very good, very reasonable, and very likeable. I agree with you. I like reading what he writes, and I'm very glad he's on board here.

I'm just sharing a former pastor's perspective here. And I'm also trying to get Rick's attention.

Sandalstraps said...

I'm also trying to get Rick's attention.

That is one of the most honest things I've ever read. But I've got to ask, why do you need or want his attention? His project is not a defense of the Christian faith, nor is it in the least bit intellectual. His project is communicating a version of the Christian faith which appeals to people looking for an emotional and life changing experience, and has little if anything to do with reason.

There is, as best as I can tell, little overlap in your interests or projects, so it seems to me you're either trying to:

a.) shamelessly promote yourself by using his name to mislead people into going to your site while looking for him - not exactly the height of intellectual honesty, or

b.) pick a fight with someone whose work has little to do with yours.

Or, perhaps, both.

I've found some of the pieces here interesting, well thought out, and worthy of consideration by Christians who desire to critically engage their own belief systems, but I have to say that this shameless self-promotion is disgusting.

John W. Loftus said...

Sandaltraps,

I am a promoter. That you should understand. I come by this naturally as a former minister. Shameless? Why should I feel ashamed? I first promoted this Blog by saying I was a former student of Bill Craig's, which is true. I said it in the head bar, and a few other places. And I was blasted for doing that, just like you are now doing. But if I hadn't done this, my Blog would have very few readers, and I alone would be posting stuff that few read, like you do.

I am also an evangelical atheist on the web. I believe people will be better off without believing in a father sky-god. And if I can get a few of Rick's people to take a look at what we're doing here, then that's what I want. If they see a link at all they will also see our Blog name: Debunking Christianity. They will only click on the link if the Blog name interests them. I am just trying to get them to see the Blog name. Although, it doesn't seem to be working. And I do have a point in my opening post, something no one yet has commented on here. Maybe you'd like to?

I suppose you know nothing about advertising, do you? Probably everything you have ever bought in your life was promoted in some way that you would disapprove of, if you knew the thinking behind the promotion.

Besides, I usually find that the people who say they are disgusted at something I do, have done things that I would be disgusted at too--a typical Christian characteristic, liberal or conservative.

John W. Loftus said...

But I just realized we don't link to you, so I'm changing that now.....

Daniel said...

Those last two paragraphs really resonated with me. I remember teaching on "counting the cost" and on "dying to self". In spending some time reflecting, Xianity asks absolutely no less than for us to attempt to change our very nature, which is quite hopeless, of course. We CAN change our actions and behaviors within limits, some of them temporary, but we can never change the fact that we are animals with animal needs--sex, security and safety. To get those things, we always find ourselves clashing with the prescribed "dying to self"--the induced cognitive dissonance is treated with prayer and immersion, blind faith, with a sprinkle of hope.

If our pastors were honest, they ought to never have "testimonies" invited and brought into their sermons that they cherry-pick out of the group. Pastors ought to write a newsletter for their congregation every month which reports [anonymously, of course] on the progress of each prayer report, not just those that have turned out well:
"Person X has been in our prayers for 7 months now for healing, and X just passed away last night of cancer"
"Person Y's child committed suicide last night after years of prayer and counseling"
"Person Z had a back pain and during our last 'holy ghost filled meeting', Z's back pain left them" [wait till tomorrow to hear the new report on that one ;) ]

How many Christians need the "fix" of hope inspired from testimonies to believe that they really can change? That they can be a new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17)? How many Xians would keep believing it if they knew the failure rate and unanswered prayer rate?

John W. Loftus said...

"Person X has been in our prayers for 7 months now for healing, and X just passed away last night of cancer"
"Person Y's child committed suicide last night after years of prayer and counseling"


LOL. Of course, negativity in a church will get you fired! You have to be a cheerleader. You need to pump up their faith. the only chance prayers will be answered is if you create the climate for people to believe they will!

Joe E. Holman said...

John Loftus said: "I am a promoter. That you should understand. I come by this naturally as a former minister. Shameless? Why should I feel ashamed? I first promoted this Blog by saying I was a former student of Bill Craig's, which is true. I said it in the head bar, and a few other places. And I was blasted for doing that, just like you are now doing."


Oh, boy! Does this bring back memories! You know how it is, John; Just like in the ministry, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't!

LOL! Ah! Human nature never changes!

(JH)

Troy said...

This is a very intense exchange, and I'm hesitant, but I'd add this:

I'm not a professional minister, but I am senior warden on vestry in an Episcopal parish. That's something like chairman of a governing board. I've seen plenty of politics, bizarre personalities, even oddballs...personal agendas, egos flaring, immature behavior, all that. Some of these people (unlike me) have been in the parish for many years.

Yeah, ministry is tough. In part it's like going backstage at a play where the make-up comes off, though that's not all I've found there.

This does not cause me faith-despair, at least yet. I'm certainly not worshipping the people in my parish. It's true Christians are told we have the Spirit within us, but if so, we surely retain free choice and change slowly in most cases.

I genuinely believe that Jesus has made and continues to make a difference in my life over the last six years, and I've seen others in my parish, dysfunctional and wounded and even spiteful, who still live very active faiths.

I think of one of the older couples in our parish who strike me as very chip- on-the-shoulder, very we've-always-done-it-this-way, yet they volunteer with death-care hospice, with the food bank regularly, and I know they give money to the needy as well as time. It appears they have a genuine faith. Even with these two, and I feel I know them fairly well (drinking with a man more than once provides insight) I don't think the good things they are doing are just to look good. I think they've had rough lives, rough pasts growing up in what in their day was very rough country, it comes out in who they are, but they also have a different side. Am I seeing Jesus' work in their lives or their own attempts to change based on what they believe or a mix? I can't know empirically. But I don't believe that faith doesn't change people.

I have talked to a number of people know believe God is changing them though they continue to struggle with their character defects, and have other defects, as we all do, they don't even know they should struggle with! In the case of one person what I'd call bigotry, which exists alongside his faith in Christ and what appears to me to be an actual Christ conscience. When I see someone striving to love more because of his or her faith in Jesus, that says something to me, and I do see this just as I see the other, more human side.

Yes, someone can choose to love more because of faith or even non-faith, but that's another issue.

On unanswered prayer: no doubt, most, or many, prayers are not answered, but some, even with my skeptical bias, eerily do appear to be. For me, one actual miracle (and I've only witnessed a half-one so far in my life) would be enough. I can't assume God is supposed to be my cosmic valet and protect me from all suffering; anyone who says God answers all his prayers should come to my parish and I'd be happy to give him a list. Our choir director just resigned (over politics, mostly). The teaching that all prayer is answered, perhaps, is marketing in some instances, deception in others, though I don't know of many Christians who make such claims, and no none personally.

And lastly, I think we'd all agree we should do much less 'blasting' on this planet. My gosh, I fight this with myself. Whatever we believe, we all fall short of what we think we should and could be. Humans need community, not mutual assault.

t

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Troy, for your comments.

Humans need community, not mutual assault.

I understand, and I agree. From my perspective the community one experiences in the conservative church, especially the more involved someone gets, is less than that found in a local Lodge.

There are the usual power struggles, of course, and you'll be surprized to see the same tactics done by church people as do the people in the local Lodge.

In the chuch if it's not the big problems, like a minister who leaves with his secretary, or molests the choir boy, or pilfers the church money, there is pettiness and slander and a list of rules and overwhelming guilt.

I find more community in a bar and on a pool team. At least there we can have fun, be competitive and get to know people. If we don't like someone we can avoid him.