Comprehensive Health Plan
Capital Punishment. Last Rites. Cape Fear. After Death. Hell Fire. Apocalypse Now. 911. Endorphin Rush. The latest movies?
Nope. Labels from Rick Warren's collection of hot sauces.
"Listen to this one," he says with a grin, reading from a label. "There is a point where pleasure and pain intersect, a doorway to a new dimension of sensual euphoria, where fire both burns and soothes, when heat engulfs every neuron within you. Once that line is crossed, once the bottle is opened, once it touches your lips, there's no going back. Pain is good."
Sounds a lot like ministry.
Rick Warren has known "the intersection of pain and pleasure" as pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church, a church he founded in Orange County, California, in 1980.
Despite the rapid growth of Saddleback, Warren writes in The Purpose-Driven Church (Zondervan) that "the key issue for churches in the twenty-first century is church health, not church growth." Leadership editors Ed Rowell and Kevin Miller, and photographer Bill Youngblood, recently spent an afternoon with Warren to talk about what it takes to develop a healthy church. That soon led into what it takes to be a healthy pastor.
Why do you say health should replace growth as the focal point for pastors?
Rick Warren: Because size is not the issue. You can be big and healthy, or big and flabby. You can be small and healthy, or small and wimpy. Big isn't better; small isn't better. Healthy is better.
There is no correlation between the size and strength of a church. I'm interested in helping churches become balanced and healthy. If they are healthy, growth will naturally happen.
I don't have to command my kids to grow. If I provide them with a healthy environment, growth is automatic. If growth is not happening, it means something's wrong, because it's the nature of living organisms to grow.
But kids reach a point where they stop growing physically
Absolutely. That's why I began trying to change the terminology from church growth to church health about ten years ago; church growth automatically means numerical growth to most people. That's just one kind of growth God wants in his church.
In the early 1980s, I used the term "church growth" because that was what everybody was familiar with. But I stopped using the phrase around 1986 because of the things I didn't like about the church growth movement.
I don't like the incessant comparing of churches. The Bible says it's foolish to compare yourself to others. If you find somebody who's doing a better job than you, you get discouraged. Or you find you're doing a better job than someone else; you become proud. Either way, you're dead in the water. Another thing I didn't like was the movement's tendency to be more analytical than prescriptive. A lot of the church growth books were not written by pastors; they were written by theorists. I want a doctor who helps me get healthy again, not just one who tells me I'm sick. One best-selling book on small groups was written ...