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: What is your legacy?
Rick Warren: Well I have really several goals in life.
My first goal is to restore responsibility to individuals; to restore credibility to the church; and to restore civility to society. My goal in life is the Good News and the common good. I’m for both. I believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ, and I believe in the common good of our society for people who don’t accept Jesus Christ; that we’re in this together. We got to make it together. As a pastor, I’m working for the second reformation of the church. Five hundred years ago we had the first reformation in England. We need another one now. It’s not about beliefs. It needs to be about behavior. It needs not to be about our creeds, but our deeds.
And the problem today in the church is not what Christians or followers of Jesus believe. It’s today they just don’t practice it. If they did what Jesus did, there’d be a whole lot more peace in the world. There’d be a whole lot less stress in the world. There’d be a whole lot less conflict. And one of the problems that I really feel called to is the restoration of civility to our society. One of my mottos is Wilberforce who had two models who had two great goals in life.
One was the abolition of the slave trade.
And the other was what he called the restoration of manners to society. Now I believe that we’re just becoming more and more rude with each other. And civilization is losing its civility. You do not have a right to demonize somebody just because you disagree with them. They may be Muslim. They may be Jewish. They may be Christian. They may be straight or gay. They may be Democrat or Republican. And you can disagree with them, but you don’t have the right to demonize them. And we’ve just gotten mean-spirited, and civilization is losing its civility.
We need to get back to the original meaning of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean I will treat you with respect and dignity even if we totally disagree. I’m clearly pro-life, and I believe that because of what the Bible says. But I’m not going to demonize somebody who is pro-choice. And I can have a civil discussion and a disagreement. I’m not saying we have to paste over our differences and say, “Oh no. We really believe the same,” because we don’t. But we treat each other with respect and don’t call each other bigot, or murderer, or these cancerous words that are out there.
And so I’m trying to bring a new civility to society. I’m trying to broaden the agenda of evangelicals.
In the last few years, evangelicals actually became captivated to a political philosophy. I think that’s wrong. I don’t think religion, whatever it is, should ever be held in captive to either Democrat, or Republican, or anything else. We need to stand above that so we can offer advice to both sides.
And I’m always asked, “Are you left wing or are you right wing?” And I say, “Well I’m for the whole bird.” Because if you only have one wing, you’re going to fly around in a circle. And the truth is it takes two wings to fly this government. Nobody is right all the time. The Democrats aren’t right all the time. The Republicans aren’t right all the time. So we need to just kind of pick and choose and say, “What are we learning from this and that?” And I have Republicans who are my friends, and I have Democrats who are my friends, and I’m for my friends.
Recorded on: December 11, 2007