A New Fan

I haven’t posted in a while, but I thought I would close out this month by sharing with you a comment I received on my recent post entitled, ” Saddleback’s “On Fire” Church Growth Strategy“. It’s from Ray Harris, the lead pastor at The Point Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Here’s what Ray said:

You criticize what Pastor Warren wrote for a newspaper (internal or external)? Do you know him?

I don’t. But when I was 17, he spoke at a youth conference in Fresno, CA and the Holy Spirit used his message to call me into ministry along with several dozen other teens.

When I was in the jungles of Bambu, El Salvador, I met a pastor in the village of 60 people who was leading his congregation of 12 thru the PDL.

The associate pastor I work with daily was greatly influenced by Dr. Warren and much of our church’s success in reaching the twenty-something generation of Fort Wayne, IN has come from an PDC understanding we both embrace and use.

I am quite certain I could max out your blog with testimonies of how God has used Dr. Warren’s sacrificial way of life and teaching to impact others – not to mention the major global emphases that he is leading right now.

Perhaps you might take a moment to weigh the advances of the gospel that could be credited to God’s work in Dr. Warren against your view that he is promoting himself or Saddleback in a press release that was written in the heat of the SoCal fires.

This might bode well for you as we are promised that we will be judged as we judge. And the measure you are employing is going to take some significant work and effort on your part to weigh out.

You might want to start advancing the gospel by shutting down your blog and instead, sharing what Christ has done in your heart with your neighbors and friends. I say this with seriousness and not to start an argument.

I think you have a great deal of work to do to measure up to the level of judgment you are leveling.

Ray R. Harris

Now, I know I am gonna take some flack for what I said in response. I mean after all, he’s a lead pastor and I’m nothing but, well, me. But dammit… well… just read what I wrote.

Ray… I hope you read this.

1) Yes. I know Rick Warren. I have known him for almost 20 years now. And I would consider him a friend and someone I respect. I am not sure how this is relevant (but you seem to). Let me ask you something… you criticize me, but do you know me?

2) If you read this post and my subsequent comments you will see that I give plenty of praise to the good things Saddleback does… especially during this crisis.

3) Excuse me, but are you really so ignorant as to think that just because someone does plenty of wonderful, amazing things in the name of God… that they also aren’t able and capable of doing very self-serving things to advance their own name. The two are not mutually exclusive nor do they cancel each other out.

4) This is an age-old situation we have… but you find it ok to judge me and what I have done or not done based solely upon this blog. You do not know me personally yet you have concluded somehow that I don’t share with my neighbors and friends, for example. Apparently, you have prejudged my spiritual depth. Often church people like yourself do those sorts of things…and this is largely why this site exists… to point out how stupid that is to do to someone. I don’t fault you for this judgment… you are free to do so. I only point out that it weakens and silences your position.

Rick is promoting himself and his church. It’s a press release for God’s sake. You said it yourself. I personally think it to be somewhat (but not altogether) self-indulgent. You don’t. Why can’t we leave it at that?

No, instead you make it about judgment. Not just about what I wrote or said, but about me as a person. Certainly, I am self-serving a lot of the time. And I think Rick Warren can be as well on many occasions (all you have to do is attend his Sunday services and see how many times he mentions his books to know that). But I don’t think either one of us is a pompous judgmental ass…. that’s reserved for stupid church people.

22 thoughts on “A New Fan”

  1. LLLLLLET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMBLE!!!…in a fuzzy warm Christ-loving brotherly kinda WAAAAAAAYYY!what?Steve, kinda disapointed in you there. I was lookin’ for that good ‘ol SCP style smackdown…more like patronizing pat on the head…Good thing this wasn’t Pay-Per-View…I would have been pissed.Oh, yeah, and I think you handled that quite nicely.good times.

  2. I think he was genuinely concerned for Rick Warren’s image more than anything. I wonder if Rick Warren is a type of mentor to him – which would be my guess. Sometimes we outgrow mentors that stop growing – simple as that. “You might want to start advancing the gospel by shutting down your blog and instead, sharing what Christ has done in your heart with your neighbors and friends. I say this with seriousness and not to start an argument”I wonder why Christians always go this route when they think you are in the wrong somehow…like the need to be ‘saved again and again’ in Pentecostalism. This has happened to me a few times with people that said the same to me – and they bid me adue – because they knew if they hung around they were gonna learn a new trick or two (ie: insight into reality first off). His answer was ‘shut the blog down’Real answer is ‘get involved Ray in the blog also if you are so concerned’

  3. The thing that strikes me the hardest is the attitude this guy seems to have over you “judging” Rick Warren in your blog post. As Christians are we not to judge thos within the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 leaps to mind in this case. Now, if Rick Warren is a member of the body of Christ, is he not fair game for judgment by other Christians? The only way I can see this guy having a legitimate case against you for judging here, is if Rick Warren is considered to be outside the body of Christ. If that is the case, he is then God’s to judge.

  4. Thanks for posting something in response, and Merry Christmas!Parallel thinking (or lateral thinking) was created by Edward de Bono and popularized in the business world through his book <>The Six Thinking Hats<>. It helps everyone to think in different ways and look at all sides of an issue together.Really, in practice, it helps everyone see that reasonable people may have different opinions, but they just might agree on some points. When people argue, they tend to leave out facts and opinions that may not support their case.

  5. I can say I don’t often take the side of steve in these little sparing sessions, but these time I wanna give props for a very truthful, intelligent response to a very uneducated naysayer.

  6. Man, am I like a showstopper or what? I swear there’s a rule at Stupid Church People that when JimmyBob posts something, everyone else is supposed to be silent for awhile. Sorry guys.

  7. Jeff, I was the High School Pastor and back in those days (’89-’92), the church met in a local school gym and we had about 4,000 people in attendance (very intimate in comparison). We were a small staff in relation to today of course. In those days, it was a very different climate at Saddleback. I had the opportunity to get to know Rick (as much as any youth pastor gets to know their Sr. Pastor.) When I got married, Rick and Kay were a very important part of our young marriage… and Kay specifically was a unique pastor’s wife. She’s the smartest and most caring pastor’s wife I worked with… uninvolved with “churchy” things but highly involved for caring for the other staff wives particularly. The youth staff and spouses would gather regularly at their house and Kay would lead us in Bible Studies during the summer.And you mention Starbucks… I regularly run into staff members from the old days at Saddleback there. I believe I shared a story of running into Rick Muchow (the worship guy) awhile back, or Doug Fields (our kids go to school together) and just last week I ran into Steve Rutenbar… all who I consider “friends”…. although we do not socialize or go to lunch together.Yeah, I thought about the definition of a “friend” after I called Rick that. If I saw Rick in a Starbucks, he would immediately come over (or I to him), we would shake hands, hug and ask about each others families by name. The last time I visited Saddleback, about a year and a half ago, I arrived early and was sitting in the back row (some things never change) and Rick walked out on the stage prior to the start of the service. People were milling about all around, but Rick glanced up and we made eye contact. He smiled and waved, and to my surprise, jumped down off the stage and made a beeline in my direction to hug me and say hello. Although I didn’t always agree with Rick while I was on staff, and I oppose a great deal the ways Saddleback has handled their “business”… I still respect and care for Rick Warren… and I think he feels the same way about me (at least that’s what he would say in the press release). 🙂

  8. To Ray Harris, I think it’s obvious that Rick and his church have done good things. I also think it is obvious that Steve is a bit more sensitive to the goings on at Saddleback than most. But no matter what great things you attribute to Rick Warren, the fact is that he is certainly not above reproach nor do I believe he would claim to be. I’m not sure how having Steve shut down his sit would help? Don’t intellectuals deserve a witness and a forum as much as anyone else? I think you misunderstand. This group has already dealt with the simplistic and moved beyond it. What Steve is talking about is very important. It’s not to be dismissed. The church growth people, blinded by “success” have very sadly not yet begun to see the damage they have done. I just want to see a survey done at Saddleback (or any mega-church for that matter) which shows how many people came to faith at Saddleback (and if those seeds are “scorched by the sun”) verses how many people were drawn their as consumers from other churches (doing nothing for the Kingdom of God). And more importantly I would love to see the impossible to gage information regarding non-churched peoples reactions to the church growth movement over all. Certainly the emergent church has grown out of distain for the “business” of these churches. Rick is a major part of this if not a major leader of this and a reason for much of the antipathy from my generation. I would argue that his self promotion (and also church rather than Church promotion in general) is a very destructive entity for our time (if not the most destructive entity for the catholicity of the Church). Rick’s promotion of self and of Saddleback is a spiritual matter and goes right to the heart of what Steve is saying. Why dismiss this debate so hastily?

  9. Let’s try some parallel thinking on this topic instead of argument.Everybody state the facts about Rick Warren’s press release statement, then give a positive thought about it, then give a cautious or negative one, then give a creative one (like what he could have done different or said different), and then give your gut on the issue.I’ll go first…1. Fact – Rick released a statement during the California wild fires that spoke of how Saddleback Church and its people were responding to the crisis.2. Positive – Some people could have been encouraged to read about it and spurred on to further involvement and good works.3. Cautious/Negative – Rick’s statements may possibly be seen as bragging and prideful to the point that outsiders could view it as arrogance instead of charity.4. Creative – Rick could have just quietly done the work and let someone else report about their efforts.5. Gut – My gut tells me that Rick has become such a celebrity that he feels the pressure to report and make “official” statements on behalf of Saddleback’s efforts. I mean, if he reported nothing or worse <>did nothing<> as a church, would critics rise up and question him? Nobody really questions the humble/non-celebrity churches. They are free to help as they wish.Someone else try this. It makes you think in more ways than one.

  10. Steve,Guys like him will never get it until they get severley burned. I was one of those guys, like most of us here at SCP. I was going to send him a response via email, but I thought what’s the use. Besides, I had a hard time carrying on a dialouge with someone whose e-mail begins with HeyRay.

  11. Steve – I don’t always see everything the same way you do but on this post I think your reply to him was right on the money!Is there a SCP equivalent to the Darwin Award? Because his note to you may put him in the running…along with that prophet guy…(some people call him “Tim?”)

  12. <>12 For what is it to me to be judging those outside [the unbelievers]? You are not judging those within [the body of Christ]!13 Now those outside, God is judging. Expel the wicked one from among yourselves.<> (aforementioned passage, Concordant Version, stuff in brackets added by me.)In this chapter, Paul is telling the Christians in Corinth that he’s heard there’s “prostitution” among them (one of their own was sleeping with their father’s wife); and that rather than calling the person out on his behaviour, they simply brushed it off as if it were nothing. He then advises them to bring the problem out to the open, let the man try to defend his actions; and, if he couldn’t, he should be kicked out of the congregation.Anyhoo, yes, Rick Warren is–very much–fair game. *nods*

  13. You do know what time of year this is, right Jimmybob? 😉I’ll bite. I’ll skip to part 2.2) Positive: Saddleback was actually doing some <>good<> to help those affected by the wildfires, instead of sitting on their hands and just praying or something like that. (Not that prayers are necessarily bad; but you know what I mean.)3) Negative: The way the press release was worded may’ve made Rick Warren come across as holier-than-thou (e.g., “look what <>we’re<> doing”). Also, Christ taught that it’s better to do charitable acts “in secret” and be rewarded in the open later, than boast about them. One could say Saddleback was violating scripture in putting out a press release.4) Creative: See Jimmybob’s post.5) Gut: I didn’t see a whole lot wrong with it at the time. Now? My feelings are a bit more mixed.

  14. I almost got sucked back into that way of thinking, while reading Ray’s response. But your rebuttal got me ‘unbrainwashed’ again. What’s that verse about the log and the speck? ;o)

  15. If we think something matters when somebody in control says or does something, wait, who is in control? Why are we thinking that there is somebody in control who matters, other than our self. Jesus is not a person, jesus is everywhere. And, that’s a baseline. Who we are is Jesus one thousand steps beyond. When each person does what is meaningful to them, we are not critical we are creative. That is a teaching, and a learning.

  16. Ray, just like most Christians in this country, are just so full of their own self-assured righteousness that they just don’t fucking get it.The point is that Armeichruch is a wholly owned subsidy of Sony/BMG. It’s like the Ferengi Rule of Acquisition: Faith can move mountains…of inventory. Everything else are just quasi religious platitudes designed to keep the faithful in line and subtly inform those outside of the church that they simply don’t belong and that they’re morally inferior.

  17. IMO, the “prophet” is waaay worse (and the #1 candidate for Stupid (Non-Churched) Person of the Year).That said…This pastor’s best advice is “shut the blog down”?! Has he even <>read<> through this thing, or even your other one? You’ve poured your heart out on more than one occasion here (and there).<>Real answer is ‘get involved Ray in the blog also if you are so concerned’<> (society)I’ll drink to that.

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