Rick Warren is an evangelical leader, best-selling author, and founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with his wife, Kay, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a single family to fill the pews. Today the church has a 120-acre campus, 22,000 weekly attendees, and has provided spiritual guidance and source material to over 400,000 ministers worldwide.
He also leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, 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 the Ministry ToolBox, his weekly newsletter. His previous book, The Purpose Driven Church is listed in “100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century.” Forbes magazine called it "the best book on entrepreneurship, management, and leadership in print.”
Warren received his BA from California Baptist College, his MA from the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Ministry from the Fuller Theological Seminary. Warren has recently taken on several issues previously ignore by the evangelical community; he is the most prominent signatory of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," and is the co-founder and co-director (with his wife) of The Global PEACE Fund, which fights poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Warren has spoken at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Union, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Question: How is technology changing your work?
Rick Warren: Technology is very, very important at Saddleback Church. Every time the Word of God has been put into new technology, there has been a spiritual awakening in history.
And we’ve always been fast forward on this, because Billy Graham was a great influence on me. Billy Graham was one of the first guys to use movies; to use simulcast; to use things like that.
Saddleback was, I think, the first church to ever use a fax machine to get the message out. And in the early ‘80s when there were about 13 faxes in the entire world, I started a weekly inspirational devotional, and I would write it for business leaders. And we would fax it out to business leaders who wanted it, and we’d call it The Fax of Life. And then these business leaders would fax it to their downlink, and they would fax it to their factory workers and all that. And that fax machine was going 24 hours a day in the early days of fax.
When the Internet came on, Saddleback was the first church on the Internet. It was in 1992. That was before there was Netscape, or Internet Explorer. We were using Gopher, and Mosaic, and FTP.
We were the first church on the Internet. And I decided instead of going on television and putting my sermons on TV, that I would put them on the Internet and allow other pastors, and priests, and ministers to download them around the world. And then I could help them instead of building a giant kingdom ministry myself to encourage other people. So I don’t copyright anything I do. And hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pastors around the world – literally – on a daily basis download my sermons.
One example – I got to tell you this one – is in our network of churches, we have close to 500,000 churches around the world in the Purpose Driven Network. And what that means is I know more about a lot of disasters before other people do because I have people on the ground before it gets announced.
For instance, when the tsunami hit in Southeast Asia a couple years ago, I was up about 4:00 in the morning on my computer – it was after Christmas – and all of a sudden an e-mail comes in from a friend of mine who leads the largest church in in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It’s a 5,000 member church – a Purpose Driven church – and he said, “Rick, as I’m typing this we just had a major earthquake. It was so strong I’m sure a tidal wave is coming.” He is e-mailing me before the tidal wave has hit.
So I get my staff and within minutes we are contacting our network of churches all down the Thai Coast, Sri Lanka, Banda Aceh up in India. We’re saying, “Take your relief teams and head to the coast. A tidal wave has probably already happened.” We had teams within minutes headed for relief.
The same thing happened in Katrina. We had 6,800 churches in our network that were in the path of Katrina. Six hundred of them lost their buildings – most of them poor, African-American churches.
And we took up an offering for Sri Lanka, which was $1.6 million for the tsunami. And nine months later took up a $1.7 million offering for Katrina people.
And what we decided to do was care for the caregivers. Anybody can buy water and cots, so we said we will pay the salaries of these people who have lost their own homes; lost their church, their synagogue, their house of worship. They’ve lost their friends and they’ve all moved off. But if we pay their salary they can help rebuild the city. So we paid the salaries of many of those pastors almost a year.
Recorded on: December 11, 2007