Archives For Rick Warren

Green Leaved Tree

Purpose Driven ChurchWhen I wrote The Purpose Driven Church, I predicted that church health – not church growth – would be the primary concern of the 21st Century church. I believe that prediction is proving itself true.

The New Testament says a lot about the health of the church. Consider just a few verses:

“As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing. …” (Ephesians 4:16b, NLT)

“The focus of my letter wasn’t on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church.” (2 Corinthians 2:9, Msg)

“You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other. …” (James 3:18, Msg)

Church health is the key to church growth. All living things grow if they’re healthy. You don’t have to make them grow – it’s just natural for living organisms. As a parent, I didn’t have to force my three children to grow. They naturally grew…

Continue Reading


Leaders are often lonely. It’s tragic when ministry leaders can preach to large numbers of people while slowly dying of personal isolation. For the sake of your emotional and relational health and your long term effectiveness, you need to develop friendships. Here’s why:

  • God formed you for fellowship and for friendship.
  • Friends help us to grow spiritually.
  • Friends hold us up and support us when we suffer.
  • Friends keep us accountable to life with integrity.
  • Friends are fun! We need to enjoy life with people.

Obviously the best place for people to find friends is at church. This is why we encourage people to get involved in a small group and volunteer alongside others on a ministry team. But pastors often struggle to know whether or not they should get close to people, especially people in the church. But the risk we take by getting close to people is always worth it. It was worth it for Jesus, and it’s worth it for you as a church leader.

Knowing that you need friends is only the beginning. Actually building friendships is vital. So how do you do that? If you really want to have great, deep, meaningful,…

Continue Reading


The Bible says, in John 7:13, “No one had the courage to speak favorably about Jesus in public” (NLT). Even some of history’s greatest spokespeople for the gospel have struggled in their resolve to proclaim the truth boldly. The Bible says in Acts 18:9, “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent'” (NIV).

In our current cultural climate, it’s more intimidating than ever to stand up for biblical truths that are seen as politically incorrect. And in order to do so, courageously, believers need a thorough understanding of the world that is framed by Scripture.

Everyone thinks about the world through a particular lens, or filter. We refer to this filter as someone’s “worldview.” And in our post-Christian culture, most Christians have a non-Christian worldview. In other words, a big part of our preaching assignment is helping our listeners to see the world through the lens of a biblical worldview.

Our task is not necessarily to shape the specific opinions that people should have on a particular topic, unless the Bible directly and clearly addresses it. Instead, our job is to present a biblical worldview…

Continue Reading


Once a month, I take an extended period in my prayer time to pray specifically, by name, for the next generation of pastors. Over my 40+ years in ministry, I’ve watched too many great guys burn out, flame out, and drop out before they’ve made it to the finish line. Rapid church growth doesn’t impress me anymore. Rockets burn out fast. Sustained growth decade after decade is what impresses me.

So I pray for your personal life and character. I pray for your family, and I pray you’ll stay focused on God’s five purposes for your life and church. I pray you’ll maintain a humble, teachable spirit, so you never stop learning and increase in effectiveness every year. I pray you’ll have the skills to break through every one of the predictable plateaus growing churches face, and you’ll know what to do when you get discouraged. Your ministry matters to the Kingdom, and it matters to me. We need you to make it to the finish line.

Then, the other day, God said, “I don’t want you to just pray for these guys. I want you to share with them all the lessons in…

Continue Reading


The Bible clearly states “all have sinned.” It is my nature to sin, and it is yours too. None of us is untainted. Because of sin, we’ve all hurt ourselves, we’ve all hurt other people, and others have hurt us. This means each of us needs repentance and recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “time heals all wounds.” Unfortunately, it isn’t true. As a pastor I frequently talk with people who still carry hurts from 30 or 40 years ago. The truth is, time often makes things worse. Wounds left untended fester and spread infection throughout your entire body. Time only extends the pain if the problem isn’t dealt with.

Based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory, this recovery program is more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of. Over the years I’ve witnessed how the Holy Spirit has used this program to transform literally thousands of lives at Saddleback Church and to help people grow toward full Christ-like maturity.

Most people are familiar with the classic 12-step program of AA and other groups. While undoubtedly…

Continue Reading

You don’t know it all. There are limits to your knowledge, ability, and energy. And while the competitive nature of our culture, which often sneaks into our lives in ministry, would have us to hid all of our weaknesses in fear, there is tremendous power in becoming vulnerable with people.

Deciding to become vulnerable is risky. As church leaders, there will be people in our congregations who don’t want us to be human. They would prefer that we wear a halo and pretend that we’re never really tempted to sin in the same ways that they are. They feel safer if we, as spiritual leaders, are immune to the crass realities of life.

But when we hide our weaknesses, three big problems arise:

  • Our weaknesses get worse, feeding off of the shame and secrecy.
  • We become dishonest and hypocritical.
  • The truth inevitably comes out and people are disillusioned as a result.

So is bearing our vulnerability worth the risk? Absolutely. Here are some important reasons why vulnerability is a forgotten virtue of great leadership…

1. It’s emotionally healthy.

Maintaining an image of perfection requires enormous amounts of emotional energy. One of the reasons we sometimes get so stressed out and depressed is…

Continue Reading

Ready to Serve

Pastor, you were created by God to serve your congregation. What he told the prophet Jeremiah is also true for you: “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NCV)

God redeemed you so you could do his holy work. In God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill, and this gives your life great significance and special value, no matter how discouraged you may feel right now. You are not God’s child by this service, but as God’s child you were created for this service.

The Bible says, “You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you.” (1 Peter 2:9, GW) Anytime you use your God-given abilities to help others, you are fulfilling your calling. In some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying – “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes with which to see, a new set of ears for listening, two new hands for which to help, and a new heart for loving others.”

You’re not only the eyes, ears,…

Continue Reading


Every church loses people. It’s a natural part of living in our current culture. Two to three percent will likely move away – more if you’re in an urban area. One or two percent will die. And some will just fade away and stop attending without connecting to another local body. Obviously these figures will vary depending on your local context.

You can’t stop people from moving. You certainly can’t stop them from dying. But there is one group of people you can do something about. Some of the people who leave are people who started attending, became regular attenders or even members, and then fell away within a few months because they never really became rooted. They simply didn’t stick.

There are only two ways to experience net growth as a church: reach new people, and keep the people you reach. And you must focus on doing both of these.

Reaching new people

The biggest single difference between churches that are growing and churches that are struggling is that growing churches invite new people well. Promoting your church through advertising is a great idea, but most of the people who actually walk through the doors and experience what…

Continue Reading

Pastor, you may have a large crowd of attendees on Sunday morning – and still not have a congregation. The fact is that the crowd must become a church. They must be assimilated. Assimilation is simply the task of moving people from an awareness of your church to attendance at your church, and then to active membership in your church.

The community talks about “that church.” The crowd talks about “this church.” But the congregation talks about “our church.” Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.

What you’re battling, in this culture, is America’s rampant individualism. You rarely find “Lone Ranger” Christians in other countries. But America is full of “floating believers” – Christians who hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. They have not been taught that the Christian life involves more than just believing – it also includes belonging. We grow in Christ by being in relationship with other Christians.

Since the incorporation of new members into your church fellowship does not happen automatically, you have to develop a system and structure to assimilate and keep the people you reach.

Before people commit to joining your…

Continue Reading

Saddleback Patio

The encouragement you personally offer people before and after the message may be as vital to their spiritual growth as the sermon itself.

Saddleback Church’s Lake Forest campus is situated in a beautiful spot in southern California, where the sun shines most of the time. So we’ve been able to save money most churches have to spend on facilities by using outdoor spaces.

There is a rooftop terrace that serves as a venue where families can go to watch the service. The baptistery is outside, surrounded by chairs for friends and family to watch and cheer on their loved ones who’ve trusted Christ. And there is a large patio filled with tables and a bookstore. This is where we send people for more resources, for small group curriculum, to sign up for various events and areas of service, and to greet one another. And just off the patio is an area called the Prayer Garden, where our ministers can meet and pray with people who are hurting.

One of my favorite places to be on any given weekend is the patio. I love people! And when the message is over, whenever possible, I head outside and ask…

Continue Reading

Saddleback 25th Anniversary

Easter is coming! And it will be one of the most well-attended Sundays for churches this year. Wise church leaders will take advantage of the opportunity to present the simple but profoundly hopeful message of Jesus’ resurrection to all of the extra guests who come.

One of the secrets to Saddleback’s growth over the years is big days. There are three holidays we’ve used powerfully – Easter, Christmas Eve, and Mother’s Day – and then a few other weekends such as the kick-off or celebration of a big campaign. We plan for those days and we use them as an evangelism tool and as a stimulus to motivate our members on to growth for the rest of the year.  These days are big high points and there are some real advantages to planning big days with a special emphasis, particularly around Easter.

Here are nine reasons why high attendance days can be so meaningful. 

1. Big days build morale.

Without a doubt, people enjoy being a part of something big, something exciting. It develops unity and pride among our people. When people work together, there’s just a sense of excitement. It’s hard…

Continue Reading

No one’s life is an unbroken chain of victories. We all experience setbacks, defeats, losses and failures. Consider the example of baseball – not even the greatest of players bats 1,000%. The same is true in ministry – we all make mistakes, even as we seek to serve God.

Since failure is something every one of us will, at some time, experience, one of the most important skills you can acquire is the ability to respond to it in a godly fashion. It has been my observation that successful ministers know how to turn every failure into a learning experience – creating a stepping stone for future success.

The first thing to do when you’re faced with any failure is to analyze why it happened. Although there may be a variety of reasons – many out of your control – here are five common causes of failure:

When you don’t plan ahead

As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail.” Proverbs 27:12 says, “A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them” (LB). Moving your church towards greater growth and health requires a lot of planning. You not only need to plan how to…

Continue Reading