Verdict: Rick Warren Is One of The Most Dangerously Influential Teachers in Modern Times
Part of how this Discernment ministry operates is taking in reader questions about prevalent teachers. Rick Warren was tied for the lead for the most active requests at the start of this research and was selected. You can make a request here and see our answered verdicts here.
Richard Duane Warren, commonly known as Rick Warren, is an American Evangelical pastor, author, and speaker. Born on January 28, 1954, in San Jose, California, he is widely recognized for his influential contributions to Christian ministry and his best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Warren’s early life was marked by a strong religious foundation. He grew up in a Christian family and developed an interest in the church from a young age. After high school, he pursued his education at California Baptist University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following his undergraduate studies, he continued his theological education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree.
In 1980, Warren, along with his wife, Kay, founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. The church started as a small congregation that met in a home, but it grew rapidly and became one of the largest and most influential churches in the United States. Saddleback Church gained attention for its innovative approach to ministry and its emphasis on community outreach and engagement.
One of Warren’s most significant contributions to the Christian world was the publication of his book “The Purpose Driven Life” in 2002. This book became a global bestseller. It outlined a holistic approach to life based on five biblical purposes: worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship, and discipleship. The book’s success solidified Warren’s reputation as a thought leader in contemporary Christian theology.
In 2021 Rick Warren would ordain women as pastors and would eventually replace himself with husband-wife pastors Stacie and Andy Wood, as Saddleback Church transitioned leadership. This move would instigate a two-year long process to remove Saddleback Church from the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rick Warren tried on numerous occasions to justify women pastors citing less-common arguments that are from erroneous readings of Scripture.
The Great Commission
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 NASB1995
Rick Warren uses this passage on evangelism to apply it to church governance. He states that by denying women ordination, only half of Christians are able to fulfill the Great Commission. Rick Warren’s argument is inconsistent, as he bloviates about how he has empowered all in his church to fulfill the Great Commission, stating that if you bring someone to Christ, you get to baptize them at Saddleback. If this is the case, that the Great Commission applies to the ordained clergy and the layman alike, how does this substantiate a case for female pastors.
For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Acts: 2:15-17 NASB1995
Rick Warren furthermore argues that women were preaching at Pentecost citing Acts 2 where the believers spoke in tongues to communicate the gospel. The verse is not speaking of delivering a sermon, as the passage shows us that Peter did. It’s a complete non sequitur to extrapolate female pastors from this text.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
Matthew 28:5-7 NASB1995
Rick Warren erroneously calls Mary Magdalene delivering a message the first sermon in church history. Good news was delivered, but this is more akin to a courier than a pastor of a church. That’s not to diminish what happened here and how Mary Magdalene being chosen to be witness glorifies God. This simply doesn’t substantiate a case for female pastors especially as she did not have a role in church leadership going forward.
These are Rick Warren’s arguments, and they fall flat on their faces.
Egalitarianism and Feminism go against Scripture and this holdover from modernism has led many denominations astray. Rick Warren going from a Southern Baptist background to egalitarian should rightly be seen as deconstructing his faith in real time. In 2023, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention would hear a tired old Rick Warren have an argument with God and vote to sustain Saddleback Chruch’s disfellowshipping from the SBC.
Affirmation of Homosexuality
Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church has a documented history of openly affirming homosexuality. In early 2023, Andy Stanley underwent scrutiny for his affirmation of homosexuality. Previously unknown was that Saddleback Church would be hitched to North Point Community Church on this issue.
Greg & Lynn McDonald are members of North Point Community Church and are activists on this issue. They authored a book titled Embracing The Journey which has been well received by homosexual affirming false teachers, including the Matthew Vines. As a result of both the book and their connections with Andy Stanley, the McDonald’s are put on the Unconditional Conference.
Chris Clark is a long-time pastor at Saddleback Church who has a transvestite child which seems to be the impetus for their affirmation of homosexuality and transgenderism. They are the leaders of the grooming ministry at Saddleback known as Lead with Love. The “support group” ministry is named after its parent program, Embracing The Journey. Chris and Elisa Clark will be speaking at Unconditional Conference on how to start “support groups” at churches.
After this information was reported and prior to the Annual Southern Baptist Convention, active steps were taken to suppress information about Chris Clark hosting groom groups at Saddleback. In addition to the groom groups no longer being showcased by Saddleback, either due to event expiration or an elaborate coverup, the Unconditional Conference, in which Pastor Chris Clark was slated to speak at in September 2023, no longer lists him as a breakout speaker. In fact, Embracing The Journey, the host of the conference also scrubbed Chris and his wife Elisa Clark from their website. However, this page was successfully archived.
Rick Warren’s also hired a replacement for himself who was compromised on the issue of homosexuality. Andy Wood teaches that homosexual desires are not sinful. Therefore this is partially affirming of homosexual sin, while Saddleback has since gone in a more affirming direction.
Embrace of Branch Covidianism
Rick Warren would be among the myriad of pastors who sinned by closing their churches in 2020 because the government told them to. This sin has contributed to the poor economic conditions that the country faces years later. Of this, Rick Warren is not repentant. In an interview with Barna Research Group, Rick Warren promoted lockdowns and furthermore attacked pastors who faithfully held in-person gatherings as selfish. He further claims that the officials at the CDC, specifically mentioning Debbie Burks and Robert Redfield, are good Christians.
Warren essentially argues that because the government violated everyone’s right’s, it was not an anti-Christian move. But wicked rulers knew exactly what they were doing when they asked pastors to close down their churches. And most pastors did not understand the times they were living in. Rick Warren continues the naivete that the government was at any point acting in the interest of public health.
Rick Warren is in complete support of lockdowns and then boasts about how because lockdowns created financial instability, his church was able to operate as the largest food bank in the area. So instead of standing up for people’s right to earn a living for themselves, Rick Warren supported that which made these people need food for him to publicly provide in the first place. He accuses pastors of feeding their egos by holding indoor worship gatherings, but his boasting in this interview is far more telling.
This is like creating a problem for you to solve so you can be a hero. Rick Warren goes on at length about how he believes that people are most receptive in times of crisis. Whether or not this is true, the takeaway is that his mentality about evangelism is entirely a pressure sales mentality or a negotiation in which one side lacks bargaining power.
Moreover, Saddleback Church would impose mask mandates well into 2021 imposing an apartheid treatment for those unjabbed. Very few notorious megachurches went this far.
Rick Warren’s promotion of lockdowns and mandates is evil in and of itself. However, it is also a tacit recognition that the state is head of the church which is a gospel issue. His lack of repentance is also on record.
Embrace of Social Justice Gospel
Rick Warren undoubtedly went and remains woke. In 2020, Saddleback Church was hosting virtual “racial healing sessions.” The event was specifically for black congregants and not white congregants, unless they were interracially married. Rick Warren also channeled his wokeness in an interview with Barna Research Group where after deriding Christians for being too political, Rick Warren went off at length celebrating the woke struggle sessions he had following the death of George Floyd. Rick Warren believes that listening and lamenting cures racism, despite the ease of which this can be abused to manipulate people. Rick Warren has brought a political ideology, Cultural Marxism, into the church all while claiming the church is too political. Abject hypocrisy is quite run of the mill for Warren.
Rick Warren’s ego is more massive than his stature and has become the subject of a niche internet meme following his unscheduled speech at the 2022 Annual Southern Baptist Convention where he bloviated his accomplishments. Of all the personalities Evangelical Dark web has reported on, Rick Warren’s is the most egotistical.
Rick Warren will create a diet plan (the Daniel Plan) but still be overweight. He will decry pragmatism yet be the embodiment of it. Rick Warren has systematically deconstructed his teachings and reputation, becoming too liberal for even the Southern Baptist Convention to tolerate. Ultimately, Rick Warren had his argument with God and lost. Warren is a textbook example of liberalism’s creep into the church and its ability to infiltrate using church growth schemes. At the time of initial publication, it is quite obvious that Rick Warren is a false teacher, both unqualified and heretical in teaching and practice.
Rick Warren is perhaps one of the most influential figures in the modern church due to his elaborate infrastructure and bestselling books. Yet in acquiring this influence, Warren ultimately pleaded to messengers of the SBC to follow him in his abandonment of Scripture in Deuteronomy 13 fashion. Thus, the whole ordeal of his recent behavior has revealed him to be a wolf no longer in sheep’s clothing. Rick Warren is a Category 5.
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