Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church was honored by Mark Driscoll as a father in the faith after speaking to aspiring pastors at Resurgence Conference 2013 this morning. Warren exhorted future leaders of the church to be on guard against three common temptations, and to surrender themselves to God's service in whatever way He desires to use them.
Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll have been long-time friends - early on in Driscoll's ministry when Mars Hill was forming, Warren faithfully resourced and served the inexperienced pastor's growing church. Driscoll soberly introduced Warren as one of the most loving and generous men that he has ever met.
Pastor Rick began his message to aspiring church leaders regarding three prevalent snares for those in ministry and their antidotes. He sat in a chair and spoke candidly, as a loving father does to his sons, and reflected on why God has chosen to bless him with a growing ministry.
"According to your faith, it will be done to you," Warren said, paraphrasing Matthew 9:29. The long-time pastor encouraged young ministers to expect the Lord to do magnificent things through them - "God is looking for people to use, and if you get usable, He will wear you out," he says. Most people, Warren contends, are not willing to pay the hefty price of faithful pastoral ministry: the cost of a good character, which he contends comes through pain, suffering, difficulty, and criticism - "It doesn't come through popularity and ease and getting your way every time," he says.
Pastor Warren read from 2 Chronicles 16:9a:
"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him" (English Standard Version).
God doesn't need someone to be educated, rich, or talented to be used by Him, he says - they only need to have the right heart. Knowing this, satan will try to ruin a pastor's character. The enemy's three main weapons - which, Warren says, are heavily used in American advertising - are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (see 1 John 2:16).
The lust of the flesh, says Pastor Rick, is the temptation to indulge in pleasure - whether physical pleasures like sex, food, and drink, or other pleasures like engulfing oneself in sports games. The enemy tried to use this temptation on Jesus when he was fasting in the wilderness - satan told Him to relieve His hunger pangs by turning stones into bread. Warren explains that while Jesus had the ability to do this, the miracles that He would perform were meant to help others see Him as the Messiah; not to benefit Himself. Pastor Rick warned pastors that they, too, will be tempted to meet their own needs with the gifts that God has given them for the benefit of others - "satan doesn't mind you using your strengths, as long as you use them for your personal benefit," he says.
The antidote to the lust of the flesh is integrity; wholeness of character is what will make men resistant to the lust of the flesh, Warren says. When believers refuse to compartmentalize their lives, they will be less likely to give into temptations to pleasure - a pastor's life should be consistent between their ministry, their home life, and their social sphere.
The lust of the eyes is the temptation to be greedy. The enemy told Jesus that he would give Him his kingdom if Jesus worshipped him - Warren attests that pastors, too, can be tempted to cater toward the wealthy for personal gain. Pastor Rick has seen "too many" pastors let money lead them astray, and has been especially on guard against this temptation since writing "The Purpose Driven Life," which is the biggest selling hardback book in American history. "I knew that God was putting me in the spotlight, and I had to live above reproach," says Warren of the tens of millions of dollars he has received from book sales.
The antidote to greed, Pastor Rick has found, is generosity. Warren challenged his audience to be faithful stewards of God's financial blessings. "I dare you to trust God with your money," he said - Warren attests that if we don't, then we don't really trust God. He believes the Lord chose to bless him with writing "The Purpose Driven Life" because he had had a track-record of generosity for 38 years. Warren challenges believers to look in their checkbooks and in their calendars in order to see what they truly value - "The way you spend your time and the way you spend your money tells me what's really important to you," he says.
Pastor Rick and his wife decided to repay Saddleback Church for his pastoral salary of over twenty years, and he no longer draws a paycheck from the church. Warren has also founded three non-profits - a foundation for orphans, "Acts of Mercy" for people with AIDS, and a foundation for training pastors. He has also taken the Peace Plan to 196 different countries, planting churches which educate and meet the needs of people in dire poverty.
The last temptation Warren covered was the pride of life - the desire to have status, or to be envied by others. In the wilderness, satan told Jesus to throw Himself off of the temple so that angels would catch Him and He would prove to be the Son of God. Warren says that God's idea, however, was for Jesus to be worshipped because of His death on the cross - not for showing off His glory. Pastor Rick exhorted young pastors to be on-guard against the temptation to use their ministry to show off, instead of using their gifts to glorify God.
The antidote to pride is humility; while believers are highly valued by God - so much so that He Himself would come to die on the cross for our sins, that we might be forgiven - we ought not seek praise from others. "Humility is not denying your strength, humility is being honest about your weaknesses," Warren says. He believes that one of the blessings of being criticized by others is that it causes you to depend on God and breaks down the fear of man in your heart - pastors will have great peace when they "live for an audience of One," he says.
At the end of Warren's message, he prayed with the men and women attending the conference to surrender themselves to God's plans for their ministry, and to give them integrity, generosity, and humility - hearts that are pleasing before the Lord. How do you stay faithful to the end? "It's all about character," he says.