On Visiting West Coast Churches Post 1 – My Time at Saddleback

When I was visiting LA a few weeks ago I had the privilege of worshiping and visiting a few churches: Saddleback Church, RealityLA and Mariners Church (I intended on attending Mosaic as well but ran out of time). In the weeks since, I’ve been thinking the nature of large church environments, West Coast culture and the Northeast, what I liked and what’s thrown me off.

Now, sometimes I think it’s a good idea for a pastor to not be in church on a Sunday. This was tempting, not when I woke up that Sunday morning but back in March when I was planning out the trip. I was also tempted by the thought, “Everyone knows the West [Read more…]

Reflecting on the Tragic Death of Matthew Warren

There are many who are mourning the tragic suicide of Matthew Warren and unfortunately, there are some who are attacking Rick & Kay. Some have identified themselves as Christians while some of have identified themselves as non-Christians. Some in the latter group have generalized all Christians as naive or have stated this tragedy suits them for whatever reason. Grace and peace to them. As far as those who identify themselves as Christ-followers, I consider their attacks as shameful, unloving and unfit of the name Christian – wake up.

I’m writing this post not because I feel I have anything remarkably unique to add, I’m writing in hopes of adding to the side of sympathy and collective mourning. My heart is heavy for Matthew, for the Warrens and for the many like Matthew.  I’m writing for those who are struggling with mental illnesses – may God’s grace and peace find you.

Let’s be clear – there is only one response to a tragedy like this and it involves sympathy and mourning. But I [Read more…]

Reflecting on Rick Warren’s Invocation

Here’s what I know:  Although I’m working on it, I’m too snobby to appreciate a guy like Rick Warren.  Anytime, you sell so many books and appeal to so many people, and you’re not the humility of Billy Graham or the self-sacrifice of Mother Theresa, I usually only see you as a fear-mongerer like some or a car salesman like others (see how I am exercising wisdom by not mentioning names in negative light?). 

Warren does not inspire me with his prophetic wisdom like a McLaren, nor dazzle me with his intelligence like a Scot McKnight.  I am not mesmerized by his speaking ability like Tim Keel nor envious of his creativity like a Rob Bell.  I could go on and on but you probably get it.

So why do I like Rick Warren?  First, the Purpose Driven Life was a good book. Though I could have gone without the 40 Days of hype that surrounded it, at least it was a worthy book for thousands of churches to read together (yes, in addition to the constant reading of the Scriptures).  Though I’d like to say Jesus Creed or Secret Message of Jesus or New Christians, in the last 10 years, I cannot think of another book that so many millions can read together.  It is my opinion that we could have gone without the various accompanying journals, workbooks, and boxer shorts, I appreciate that Warren isn’t churning out multiple books a year.  Third, for a guy who makes a lot of money, he doesn’t look or act like it.  I only wish to say this is refreshing and will bite my tongue on any comparisons. 

The next set of reasons has to do with his influence.  I know many pastors that are very influenced by Warren and Saddleback and he uses his credibility well.  His concern for many world-crises like poverty and  AIDS has changed the minds of so many from disregarding such things “social gospel” to carrying the gospel torch and calling such things part of the work of the church.

Lastly, the fact that a conservative pastor like Warren has such a relationship with President Obama is amazing!  (Yes more amazing than Falwell and Flynt which I wish people would remember.  The only thing that can top this is if Dobson and Pagit become friends).   At risk of sounding naïve, the inaugural invocation is not as spectacular to me as it may be for other people.   I’m just inspired that Obama wanted him.

As far as the actual prayer, I thought it was as good as it’s going to be.  I liked that he used his everyday, common guy personality, that he didn’t come out in a Hawaiian shirt (that he hasn’t worn in 3 years because doesn’t want that to be his signature), and that he didn’t come out pretending to be Billy Graham.  He prayed as a man asking for God’s blessing on the President, the people that follow him, and the world at large.  This is a good thing and I hold a great deal of respect for this man.

Reflecting on Rick Warren's Visit to NYC

Today me and our jr. high youth pastor went to see Rick Warren at the New York City Cultural Center in Brooklyn.  Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing.  I love the guy named “Rick” who has the last name “Warren”, while I am cautious of the brand of Rick Warren.  I think he’d say the same on a good day. 

The event promoted the New York City Leadership Circle and a bunch of other things.  For instance, (in case you haven’t heard), Warren is promoting a new movement called, “40 Days of Love” and he preached a sermon to us on the topic.  Honestly it was very good.  Of course it was, after all, you don’t get to me “Rick Warren” the brand by not being good. 

I couldn’t help but like him. He’s got personality, gives off a down to earth quality and is prepared to speak on the topic of choice.  He’s interesting, inspiring (and now I’ll use any word that doesn’t begin with letter ‘i’), and seems to enjoy what he’s sharing.  To contrast that with other leaders who seem to be annoyed that they have to explain these types of things to their audience.  They tend to come across as condescending.  And miserable.

This launched quite a few thoughts.  Like what makes someone a mega-church pastor?  Is it calling, talent, pedigree, money, education, the right people around you (social pedigree), circumstance, vision, etc?   I have nothing against who God sets up in the places He desires to.  However, I get frustrated with the “game show” senior pastor, if you know what I mean.

In the course of this morning, Rick spoke of Saddleback and several huge surrounding churches.  He mentioned Greg Laurie and plugged his event at Madison Square Garden in October.  This got me thinking, how we do not have nearly the East coast equivalent o mega-churches led by iconic pastoral figures.  I think the two most popular North East Coasters are Tim Keller from Redeemer and Joe Fosch from Calvary Chapel.  In the South, there are probably more but I can only think of Andy Stanely.  Anyway, this got me thinking why and the differences between the Northeast and California culture.

I am concluding that it has to be more then the Jewish and Catholic strongholds in the Northeast.  Some of it has to do with our elitism, lack of hospitality, the northeast pace (yes I realize other parts are busy too but here they call it the New York minute and until they change it to the Milwaukee minute, you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt), and I don’t know how much of it is spiritual warfare. I’d have to do some more thinking about these things but it got me concerned in a weird way.  I don’t want more mega-churches, in fact, I think they’ll be sorta of a dinosaur eventually except for the mega-mega churches but that’s another story.  I think I became concerned that more mega-churches will form in our area.  Everything always starts in California right?