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[CHRISTIANITY] Rick Warren's 2nd Reformation

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  • madchinaman
    Warren s second reformation The global PEACE plan will test his proven ability to unite people. By GWENDOLYN DRISCOLL The Orange County Register
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 11 1:31 PM
      Warren's second reformation
      The global PEACE plan will test his proven ability to unite people.
      The Orange County Register

      Pinpoints of light float in Saddleback Church's main worship center
      and, like a constellation framing a planet, surround the stage and
      the goateed, blue jean-wearing man at its center.

      It is the candlelight Christmas Eve service at Saddleback, and
      celebration is the theme of Rick Warren's sermon.

      Christmas, the Saddleback Church pastor tells the audience, is a
      party, and, "God likes a party."

      The audience chuckles, then listens appreciatively as Warren reminds
      his flock whom the party is for: Jesus Christ.

      Seamlessly, Warren shifts gears.

      "When I wrote the book 'The Purpose-Driven Life,' the very first
      sentence was, 'It's not about you,' " Warren says. "You were made for
      more than success. You were made for significance."

      What follows is an introduction to both "The Purpose-Driven Life,"
      the book that has built Warren's name, and to his PEACE plan, the
      program that may cement it.

      The members of Warren's flock have heard the pitch many times. But
      tonight is not just for them, but also for the global audience Warren
      hopes to draw to his increasingly ambitious cause and his many

      Warren's Christmas service is being taped by the Armed Services
      Television News network and Fox News. On the Christmas weekend and
      with a one-hour documentary about the PEACE plan, Fox aired a segment
      on Saddleback 12 times. A link with the Fox News logo on the
      Saddleback Web site takes the viewer not to the network but to a
      video of Rick Warren talking about what it means to follow Jesus.

      It is by any measure a mark of Warren's national stature.

      It is also a departure for Warren, who says he never wanted to be a

      The Christmas broadcast, however, may be a recognition of who Rick
      Warren increasingly is: the country boy-turned-political kingmaker,
      the Southern Baptist pastor who hopes to lead an
      ecumenical "reformation" of the Christian church, the master
      communicator whose gnostic style has stripped Christianity of its
      mystery but also of its difficulty, attracting in the process a new
      generation of worshippers.

      How important is Rick Warren?

      "Quite important," says Mark Noll, a Notre Dame professor regarded as
      a leading authority on evangelical history.

      Like many of the new generation of powerful pastors mentioned as
      possible successors to the Rev. Billy Graham, Warren has his fame
      vested in the "holistic gospel" – on social issues such as poverty
      and the environment – rather than the divisive political themes that
      have characterized the evangelical movement for the past three

      Unlike other pastors, Warren is not merely interested; he is
      organized, a master marketing tactician and a savvy user of the

      "He is responding to (issues) that are already there," Noll
      says. "But he's also mobilizing efforts that take advantage of those

      The result has been a slew of "purpose-driven" products and programs
      linked to a concerted strategy of organization and expansion. In
      2007, a third entrance to the Saddleback Church's 120-acre campus
      will open and with it, Warren predicts, "another burst of growth." A
      third "purpose-driven" book is in the works, as is another "40-Day"

      Warren's pursuit of growth, along with a visible enjoyment of
      celebrity, has led some to question whether Warren is building a
      worldly, rather than a spiritual, kingdom.

      It is a charge Warren vigorously denies.

      "Our mission and focus is changed lives, not promoting or selling
      products," he says.

      Yet lives do not change without concrete effort and organization.

      The PEACE plan relies on an in-development Web site to organize,
      train and send missionaries, and a not-yet-launched "40-Day" campaign
      to mobilize churches.

      The nascent nature of these PEACE "products" may explain why in the
      Rwandan village of Ruhuha, where small Saddleback groups traveled in
      March, Warren's "second reformation" of the Christian church has yet
      to begin.

      That "reformation" posits a new world of church-based evangelism and
      good works, sparked by exchanges of PEACE missionaries.

      Although more than 10,000 members of Saddleback Church have gone on a
      PEACE trip, none has returned to the village of Ruhuha.

      Of the 11 members of the original group of March missionaries, only
      two expressed interest in returning to Rwanda. Another says he may
      travel with a PEACE team to the Middle East in May. Others say they
      will find ways to do PEACE closer to home.

      Trips to places like Rwanda are, after all, expensive and
      challenging. Such trips are also crucial to sustaining the good will
      Warren and his church have reaped.

      "It (was) a good gesture to come here, but if they don't do
      something, people could become discouraged," says Eugene Ntagengerwa,
      the Rwandan owner of a local coffee company who helped show the
      Saddleback group around.

      Bob Bradberry, the Saddleback trainer who sent the small group to
      Rwanda, acknowledges, "You can't create momentum going in only once a

      Bradberry says the church is working to send in groups at least once
      every three months and to make visits more practical.

      But with so many places in the world to visit, the PEACE plan is
      designed to work only if early pioneers like the group that visited
      Ruhuha in March are replaced by successive waves of Christians from
      Saddleback and other churches.

      Will they come?

      The answer may depend on Warren himself.

      Great movements, after all, are often the story of great men and of
      their particular historical moment.

      Warren's hero, the crusading 18th-century British politician William
      Wilberforce, helped end British slavery. His Proclamation Society
      also ushered in an era of Victorian prudery.

      Like Wilberforce, Warren is a product of a time and place that color
      his interpretation of the religion he so passionately promotes. That
      interpretation believes in Jesus Christ's transformative and saving
      grace. It also believes that homosexuals are unnatural, that women
      cannot minister to men, that dinosaurs walked Earth with man and that
      people who are not born again, including Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama
      Buddha, are in hell.

      Even Warren agrees the PEACE plan will succeed as an ecumenical
      movement only if it is authentically about the often-
      mentioned "common good." He also acknowledges he will succeed only if
      he proves himself a true representative of the elusive center and
      not, as some fear, an evangelical Trojan horse, carrying a particular
      ideology to the world in the guise of an appealing, purpose-driven

      His many admirers believe in the sincerity of his intentions and his
      church's ability, in the words of one observer, to "call the
      audibles" – to admit mistakes and change course. Could Warren imagine
      a decade ago that he would be dining with gays, inviting Democratic
      politician Barack Obama to speak at his church and advocating – in a
      limited way – on behalf of condoms?

      "Forgiveness is your greatest need, (along with) purpose and
      meaning," Warren tells his Christmas Eve audience.

      In the end, the search for the center may necessitate the containment
      of ideas with the greatest potential to divide. It may also be
      Warren's most appealing trait.

      Warren has taught evangelicals that "you can still love someone and
      still have a difference of opinion," says Julie Ellis, one of the 11
      Saddleback missionaries who traveled to Rwanda in March.

      "Rick's the first guy I've heard say, 'It's time the world knows what
      we're for and not what we're against,' " says Mark Broussard, a
      fellow missionary. "I love that."

      Then there is the awakening effect of the PEACE plan itself, which
      may ultimately be Warren's greatest legacy. Charitable work by
      organized church networks is hardly a new idea – Catholic churches
      and other denominations have quietly gone about this for years. But
      charitable trips by amateurs groups is a new phenomenon, and its
      effect can already be felt in the passion Saddleback's missionaries
      brought home with them from Rwanda, along with digital photos and
      woven baskets. One year earlier, how many of them understood Rwanda's
      terrible ordeal, much less dreamed of visiting the country? Now their
      lives will never be the same.

      "Words cannot describe how my heart will forever be changed by the
      beautiful people of Rwanda," one Ruhuha missionary, Elizabeth
      Brummett, wrote in a thank-you card to her trip sponsors. "One of the
      many lessons I learned is, no matter what little people have, no
      matter where you live in this world, the most important things in
      life are God, your family and love."
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