Archives For Pastor Rick Warren

Why Celebrate Recovery Works

I’ve never kept this much of a secret: Celebrate Recovery® is my favorite ministry at Saddleback. We have lots of great ministries at our church, and I love all of them.

But hands down, Celebrate Recovery is my favorite. Why?

This ministry is one of the best expressions of what God wants the church to be. Celebrate Recovery is all about life change. People come into this ministry broken and battered, turn their lives over to Christ, leave behind the hurts, hang-ups, and habits, and discover a new purpose for living.

Then they become leaders in our church. Celebrate Recovery has produced more leaders at Saddleback Church than any other ministry.

I can give you a whole list of reasons why Celebrate Recovery works. It emphasizes personal responsibility. It calls for a commitment to Jesus Christ. It expresses healing and emphasizes growth within a community. All of those are critical reasons why God changes lives through Celebrate Recovery.

But I think the biggest reason so many people who enter the program find lasting change is because it’s based upon God’s Word. It’s based upon the actual words of Jesus.

That’s what makes Celebrate Recovery…

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How to Be Spiritually Ready for Easter

It’s just a few days before Easter. We’re always in a spiritual battle, but if you’re like me, this is when you’re particularly vulnerable to spiritual attack. Everything intensifies during Easter because Satan knows God is getting ready to do something incredible through your church.

So what do you do?

I’m guessing you’ve preached from Ephesians 6 on multiple occasions. I want to remind you that preparing for spiritual warfare isn’t just for the people we teach. As leaders in God’s family, we’re in the battle, too.

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (NLT).

Let’s look at what we need to do in order to stand firm:

  • Belt of truth (6:14): This represents integrity, which means not compartmentalizing your life so you’re behaving one way in the pulpit and another way the rest of the week. If you…

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Why You Need to Think Like a Fish

You can’t be a good fisherman unless you learn to think like a fish. You need to learn their habits, preferences, and feeding patterns if you want to catch them. Certain fish like smooth, still waters. Others like the rushing rivers. Certain fish are bottom-feeders. Others like to hide among the rocks. If you don’t understand the patterns of the fish you’re trying to catch, you’re wasting your time.

The same is true when you’re trying to reach people with the Gospel. Jesus gives us a great example of someone thinking like a fish.

The Bible says in Luke 6:8, “Jesus knew what they were thinking” (GW). In fact, multiple times in Scripture we read that Jesus knew what people were thinking.

But here’s the problem: The longer you are a Christian, the less you think like an unbeliever. I don’t think like a non-Christian; I think like a Christian. In fact, I think like a pastor. That’s even worse! It’s two steps removed from the people I want to reach.

You can tell just how differently pastors think than spiritually lost people when you look at church…

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Preaching For a Decision this Easter!

Your Easter sermon this year will come down to two words: Will you?

You’ll likely have more unchurched guests at Easter than at any worship service all year long. They’ll come because their mother invited them to dinner, and church is a prerequisite. They’ll come because it’s a cultural tradition. Or they’ll come because you sent them an invitation.

Regardless of why guests show up for Easter, it’s a great opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

That’s why those two words matter.

Will you? Will you make the decision to follow Jesus?

Frankly, every sermon comes down to the words “Will you?” Preaching that leads to life change enlightens the mind, engages the emotions, and challenges the will.

Many pastors embrace the need to enlighten the mind and engage the emotions, but they avoid challenging the will. You can’t preach for a decision unless you’re willing to stand on the Word of God and humbly yet forcibly challenge people.

You need to ask people to make a decision. How do you do that? Let me give you six ways I ask for a specific decision, particularly the decision to follow Jesus:

  1. Use…

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If you only measured people’s spiritual health by their social media accounts, you’d think growth was always easy and seamless. Think of all the times you see photos of open Bibles, pious quotes, and snappy theological one-liners in your Instagram feed.

But we all know that’s not the whole story. Spiritual growth isn’t smooth. Sometimes we grow by leaps and bounds. Other times we struggle. We fall back into old patterns.

In the language of recovery, we call it a relapse. The alcoholic goes back to the bottle. The overeater gains the weight back. The gambler goes back to the casino. The workaholic fills up his schedule again. We tend to repeat the patterns of our past and slip back into old hurts, hang-ups, and habits.

In fact, the longer you’re a part of Celebrate Recovery®, the more you begin to see relapse patterns in your own life and in the lives of others.

First, you get complacent and comfortable with short-term gains and think you don’t really need to stay involved in recovery. Then you get confused and wonder whether your original hurts, hang-ups, and habits, were really all that bad. So you compromise…

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How to Focus Your Ministry Like Jesus Did

Your ministry will be shaped by either your priorities or your pressures.

If you don’t decide what’s really important in your ministry, you’ll have people lining up to do it for you. You know as well as I do that many people in our churches have lots of ideas for our ministries. Without a sense of focus, you’ll be pressured to do all kinds of things in your ministry, regardless of whether it’s what God wants you to do.

You must line up your priorities by God’s standards.

It’s like light. When you concentrate light, it has the power to burn. Light defused has no power at all, but if you focus it under a magnifying glass you can burn grass. If you concentrate it even more, it becomes a laser that cuts steel.

When you learn to concentrate your ministry, you’ll be more effective.

But you don’t just need a to-do list. You also need a not-to-do list. Why? Because effective ministry means knowing what you personally are and are not called to do. The more you concentrate your life, the more your life will have impact.

How Jesus…

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Easter services are among the most important events at your church each year. You not only celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but you also have one of the best opportunities all year to reach new people.

In chapter 14 of The Purpose Driven Church, I shared some ideas on how you can improve the guest experience at your church. With Easter coming up, I’ve put together this checklist to help you prepare for the big day.

Now is the time to get started!

  • Include a map of your church on all advertising. A small map can provide clarity, especially if mapping apps can’t locate your church accurately.
  • Create a system to give guests the best parking spots. At Saddleback, we have a sign at our property entrance encouraging guests to turn on their headlights if they want a reserved parking spot. Then our parking team directs them to spots near the worship center.
  • Make sure you have clear signage. Show people how to find the most important places on your campus, including restrooms, information tables, coffee/snacks, kids ministry, and student ministry.
  • Prepare greeters to welcome your guests. The first…

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3 Ways to Fight Complacency in a Ministry Leader's Marriage

Being in ministry doesn’t make our marriage immune to complacency.

It’s way too easy for us to get so focused on ministry that we forget our responsibility to our marriage. God doesn’t call you to focus on helping other people to the point that you ignore your spouse—our family is a higher priority!

When we’re too busy to have time for our spouse, it’s a sign of marriage complacency. When we don’t have time to talk, or to just be together, we have allowed our marriage to become a low priority.

Take a realistic look at your marriage, do any of the following apply to you?

  • Infrequent expressions of kindness or affection
  • Rarely say, “I love you.”
  • When together, you’re often distracted or not “present”
  • Lazy with little things that show respect like taking the trash out, leaving a mess, etc.
  • Superficial conversations
  • Bickering
  • Apathetic or critical heart towards your spouse

Here’s the solution to complacency: court your spouse. I’m convinced if there were more courting in marriage, there would be fewer marriages in court!

The Bible tells us this in Ecclesiastes 9:9: “Relish life with the…

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6 Key Evangelistic Strategies to Help Your Church Grow

I believe church health matters much more than church growth. Healthy churches grow. They grow stronger through worship, warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, and broader through ministry.

And they also grow larger through evangelism.

Healthy churches follow Jesus’ pattern by reaching out to new people with the Gospel.

Here are six evangelistic principles, modeled by Jesus, that will help your church reach new people.

1. Know who you’re trying to reach. No church can reach everyone. The moment you plan a worship service and pick a music style, you’re telling people who you’re trying to reach (and, conversely, who you’re not). If you try to reach everyone, you probably won’t reach anyone.

We know Jesus had a specific evangelistic target. He tells us that directly in Matthew 15:24: “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel” (NLT). Of course, that doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t love everyone. He did—and still does! But he was evangelistically targeting the lost sheep of Israel.

The same is true of Peter and Paul. Paul writes in Galatians 2:7, “Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility…

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Helping People Change Their Autopilot

We’re all tempted by something. It’s proof of being alive. If you’re not tempted, you’re not breathing.

So the question isn’t, “Are you tempted?” The question is, “What are you doing about it?”

The key to overcoming temptation isn’t to resist it. You need to replace temptation, not resist it. Whatever you resist, persists.

You might be thinking, “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘resist temptation’?”

It doesn’t.

The Bible tells us to “resist the devil” (James 4:7 NIV). We’re to resist the tempter, not the temptation.

When I was a little kid, my mom would make chocolate chip cookies, usually before dinner. When I would go up to the table to look at them, my mom would say, “Don’t you eat those cookies, Ricky.”

“I’m not, Mom. I’m just smelling them.” Of course, right?

But those warm, freshly baked cookies had my attention.

That’s where a lot of people are when they come to Celebrate Recovery®. Something has their attention. Maybe it’s alcohol. Maybe it’s sex. Maybe it’s codependent behaviors. Maybe it’s shopping.

Or maybe it’s chocolate chip cookies.

And here’s the worst part: Whatever gets our attention, gets us. The Bible tells us in James 1 that whatever gets…

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What's More Important for Your Church: Growth or Control?

The church has been on the front lines of some of the greatest humanitarian crises of the past few decades. The church has 2.3 billion people worldwide and is the biggest institution on the planet.

You might look at those numbers and ask yourself, “Why isn’t the church making a bigger impact in the world?”

I believe one reason is because the most creative people in our congregations must go outside of the church to start new ministries.

Why are they doing this?
Because the church wants to control them.

Instead of working within a church, many of these leaders form a 501(c)(3) to tackle the pressing issues of their communities. Today, there are tens of thousands of nonprofits in America doing what the church did for generations. We’ve structured these ministries right out of the church.

To broaden the ministry impact of your church, you will need to make the difficult choice to give up control.

You can choose control, or you can choose growth. But you can’t choose both.

Choosing growth over control means looking for ways to say yes when someone wants to start a new…

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Four Habits that Help People Become Like Jesus (discipleship)

There’s no such thing as instant spiritual growth; it’s a gradual process of development. The Bible says, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

Spiritual growth is a journey, and that means it takes time. Sure, we want to speed up the process, but we can’t. It’s a lifetime journey where God teaches us one lesson at a time to develop our character so we become more like Jesus.

At the core of this journey are disciplines that help us grow spiritually. These disciplines—or habits—aren’t new; they’ve been around for thousands of years.

We are the sum of our habits. Here’s the truth: You can preach the greatest sermons in the world, but your congregation won’t grow deeper spiritually until you help people learn how to practice spiritual habits on their own.

At Saddleback, we focus on spiritual habits in CLASS 201. We teach four specific habits that are essential to every growing Christian. These aren’t the only habits that help you grow spiritually, but they…

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