The more I see and listen to pastor and author Rick Warren the more I like him. He strikes me as totally unimpressed with himself and completely committed to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
Don’t get me wrong. I am inclined to think that Warren’s "purpose driven" concept is a good one but the content he pours into it is not purposeful enough. To put it another way his definition of purpose is just too small. This is where a more theologically developed view of divine purpose would help him if he studied, and used, the great Protestant catechisms. (The next issue of our Reformation & Revival Journal has a marvelous serious article on this very point written by theologian Jonathan Wilson; cf. Volume 14, Number 2, Reformation & Revival Journal.)
But Rick Warren is a man of integrity, a man who speaks with simple clarity and a very big heart. He comes across, at least on television, as caring and very soft spoken. In contrast to some of our more harsh spokespersons in our evangelical movements he shines as a star for graciousness and balance.
Warren recently spoke at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) in Birmingham, England, during their July 27-31 meeting. Since Warren is a Southern Baptist, and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted itself out of the BWA as a form of protest last year, his speaking was particularly important at this time. Warren called the SBC’s withdrawal from the BWA a "silly mistake." I agree with him. And I am glad he said it openly since his word carries considerable weight at this point in time, especially with younger leaders. (Jimmy Carter also spoke at the BWA meeting, a decision that makes the separatist leadership of the SBC even more than nervous and oppositional.)
Warren and his wife gave $25,000 to the BWA when the SBC stopped funding this international ministry that it actually helped to start early in the twentieth century. I think the Warren’s gift is a class move. It is also consistent with the way Warren expresses his convictions through his regular giving. If he is anything, he is a generous man, widely investing his large assets from royalties into kingdom work in the poorer parts of the kingdom of Christ.
At a news conference Warren asked, "Why would we separate from brothers and sisters in the world" like those in the BWA? Warren also noted that Baptists are too often "known for what they are against rather than what we’re for." So true. He added that he is praying for a second reformation that "focuses more on deeds than on words." I share that prayer, except that I think we have also lost a great deal of the real meaning of the words of the Reformation. We need a new reformation, for sure, one that takes both words and deeds much more seriously. I thank God for Rick Warren’s critical part in calling for this new reformation. I also thank God for how he is leading the way in showing the North American church how to love and give. May his tribe increase among megachurch leaders. I pray for Rick Warren, though we’ve never met.