Q & A: Rick Warren
Have you paid attention to the new faith-based initiatives released by President Obama and Joshua DuBois focusing on the four issues of responsible fatherhood, reducing unintended pregnancies, increasing interfaith dialogue, and reducing poverty?
Those are great goals. My fear is that if all of a sudden you have to compromise your convictions to be part of the faith base, that will kill it. People will simply ignore it. Saddleback has never accepted government money for any PEACE Plan project because we don't want the strings attached to it. While the faith-based initiatives have great promise, if it becomes an issue where you can't just hire Christians in a Christian school, that will effectively kill them.
I know a lot has been happening recently at your church. Just a few weeks ago, you baptized 800 in one day.
I was in the water for over five hours. I had webbed feet. It had to be a record. You know, it says in Acts that at the day of Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized and added to the church that day. We had 2,400 added to the church that day. The world belongs to Saddleback. When we started Saddleback, it was a white suburban church. We speak 65 different languages. It's the United Nations. I baptized an Egyptian General; I baptized probably 50 or 60 nationalities.
After you posted an invitation to the baptism and membership, some bloggers criticized the promotion. In the promotion, you said new members could have their photo with Pastor Rick and get a free one-year subscription to The Purpose Driven Connection. Why did you advertise the event that way?
In the first place, I think every person should take a picture with the pastor who baptizes them. That's a memento, that's a spiritual hallmark. That's not anything new. It wasn't like, oh, this is something we've never done that's going to attract people. In the past 10 years, Saddleback has baptized over 20,000 new believers. We are, without a doubt, the most evangelistic church in America. There are churches that are bigger than Saddleback, but there are no churches that reach more people for Christ than Saddleback. There are no churches that send as many people into the missions field. There's not a church that has sent 8,000 people into the missions field.
The magazine is simply the index of the resources for people to start a small group. And they thought that drew people? (laughs) What about the 20,000 people who have joined in the past 10 years? It certainly wasn't a promotional event.
You recently launched a magazine during the economic recession. Do you have doubts about Readers Digest Association's financial stability?
No magazine is doing really great right now. These are tough times for print magazine right now. The reason we chose Reader's Digest is that they chose us. Tim Collins, who was a major owner and investor in Reader's Digest, had read The Purpose-Driven Life and became a friend of mine, and he called me up and said, "I basically bought this company and I want to give it to you for a platform."
Do you know how many people you're reaching yet?
I don't know yet. We're putting out five issues this year, it's a quarterly magazine. Our goal is to start 10,000 of these Purpose-Driven Connection groups.
How has your church been impacted by the recession?
Well, we have been impacted, but not in giving. Giving is up compared with last year. Recessions come and go I've been at Saddleback 30 years and we've been through three or four different downturns.