Rick Warren on Muslims, Evangelism, and Missions

By Brandon Cox

Rick at Radicalis

En Espanol

Editor’s Note: Pastor Rick Warren has often said that “you never win your enemies to Christ, only your friends.” And he’s gone far past the limits most believers are willing to broach in order to form friendships and love a world in need of Jesus. Because of this, he’s often the target of unfair criticism and unfounded rumors. If you’ve longed for Pastor Rick to clear the air with boldness and clarity, keep reading. Along with another article we published about how Rick is a bridge-builder, this article answers the questions you might be asking. It’s the transcript of an interview between Rick, the Christian Post, and myself.  Read on…

QUESTION: Do people of other religions worship the same God as Christians?

WARREN: Of course not. Christians have a view of God that is unique. We believe Jesus is God! We believe God is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not 3 separate gods but one God. No other faith believes Jesus is God. My God is Jesus. The belief in God as a Trinity is the foundational difference between Christians and everyone else. There are 2.1 billion people who call themselves Christians… whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, or Evangelical…and they all have the doctrine of the Trinity in common.

QUESTION: A recent newspaper article claimed you believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that you are “in partnership” with a mosque, and that you both agreed to “not evangelize each other.” You immediately posted a brief refutation onlineCan you expand on that?

WARREN: Sure. All three of those statements are flat out wrong. Those statements were made by a reporter, not by me. I did not say them …  I do not believe them… I completely disagree with them … and no one even talked to me about that article!   So let me address each one individually:  First, as I’ve already said, Christians have a fundamentally different view of God than Muslims. We worship Jesus as God. Muslims don’t. Our God is Jesus, not Allah. Colossians 2:9 “For in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”   Second, while we urge our members to build friendships with everyone in our community, including Muslims and other faiths, (“Love your neighbor as yourself”), our church has never had any partnership with a mosque.  Friendship and partnership are two very different levels of commitment. Some of our members have hosted a Bible study with Muslim friends, which I applaud, but I’ve never been to it, and a Bible study certainly isn’t any kind of partnership or merger! It’s just crazy that a simple Bible Study where people explore Scripture with non-Christians would be reported as a partnership and others would interpret that as a plan for a new compromised religion. Just crazy!  Third, as both an Evangelical and as an evangelist, anyone who knows me and my 40 year track record of ministry knows that I would never agree to “not evangelizing” anyone!  I am commanded by my Savior to share the Good News with all people everywhere, all the time, in every way possible! Anyone who’s heard me teach knows that my heart beats for bringing others to Jesus.

QUESTION: That same article mentioned that you ate an Iftar dinner with Orange County Muslims. What is that all about?

WARREN: It’s called being polite and a good neighbor. For years, we have invited Muslim friends to attend our Easter and Christmas services and they have graciously attended year after year. Some have even celebrated our family’s personal Christmas service in our home. So when they have a potluck when their month of fasting ends, we go to their party. It’s a Jesus thing.  The Pharisees criticized him as “the friend of sinners” because Jesus ate dinner with people they disapproved of. By the way, one of my dear friends is a Jewish Rabbi and my family has celebrated Passover at his home, and he attends our Christmas and Easter services.  I wish more Christians would reach out in love like Jesus.

QUESTION: Why do you think people who call themselves Christians sometimes say the most hateful things about Muslims?

WARREN: Well, some of those folks probably aren’t really Christians. 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” And 1 John 2:9 says “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”  I am not allowed by Jesus to hate anyone.  Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.