The Shockingly Ordinary Purpose-Driven Life of Rick Warren

How a Krispy Kreme-loving, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Baptist preacher is changing the way Christians think.
Rick Warren

Rick Warren

credit Baptist Press

Before his junior year in high school, future megachurch pastor Rick Warren knelt in a cabin at summer camp. "God, if you're really alive, I want to know you," he prayed. The response? Nothing he could hear or see. "No thunder, lightning," Warren says. But it didn't deter him.

Some three decades later, Warren writes nonfiction bestsellers and leads one of the largest evangelical congregations in America. His book The Purpose-Driven Life has hovered on The New York Times best-seller list for several months, selling more than 6 million copies so far. Saddleback Community Church, the congregation he pastors in the Los Angeles suburb of Lake Forest, California, shot from seven at its founding in 1980 to the more than 17,000 who currently crowd into six weekend services. He has counseled Hollywood celebrities, Wall Street power brokers, and has been a guest in the George W. Bush White House.

"It's not about you. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God."
— from The Purpose-Driven Life

The secret of his preaching and publishing success? Warren sees himself as a communicator, as someone able to transmit the mysteries of the faith to ordinary 21st-century people. USA Today recently described him as a master marketer of a single message: "You are here for God." And Warren probably wouldn't quibble with that summation of his ministry.

"I am in essence a translator," he says from his comfortable office at Saddleback. "I love to challenge myself to teach theology to non-theological people, without telling them it's theology and without using theological terms." Indeed, this self-described "stealth evangelist" may be, in the words of Christianity Today, "the most influential pastor in America."

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