NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For Christians to fulfill the purpose of their lives, they must care about what God cares about most: that his lost children are found, Rick Warren said during a presentation based on his "Purpose Driven Life" book Feb. 11 at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of The New York Times best-seller, underscored the urgency of missions, noting that in modern times of jet planes and the Internet there is no excuse for failing to fulfill the Great Commission of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
"We are called to go to the whole world for the global glory of God, and really, every single area in the world is now available to you," Warren told staffers in LifeWay's church resources division.
After recounting the story of his father's dying words to "save one more for Jesus," Warren noted that evangelism is one of the five purposes for which God created every human life.
The first four purposes for every person, he said, are to bring pleasure to God, to be a member of God's family, to become like Christ and to serve God.
The Lord takes pleasure in his people and desires more than anything for them to know and love him, Warren said, noting that love doesn't really mean much unless it's bestowed on something.
"God made you to love you," he said. If Christians don't get anything else done during the day, he said, they should make it their goal to know God a little bit better and to love God a little bit more.
The second purpose, to belong to God's family, indicates that a Christian not belonging to a church is an orphan. "The Christian life is far more than just believing in something; it's belonging," Warren said. And belonging to a church necessitates loving the church, which is called fellowship.
"Life is the dress rehearsal, the preparation, for eternity," Warren said. "We're meant to practice now what we'll be doing for eternity, which includes fellowshiping with other believers."
The third purpose, to become like Christ, signifies that from the very beginning, God wanted his people to be godly. God is far more interested in what his people are than what they do, far more concerned with their character than their comfort, Warren said.
"Every problem has a purpose: to make you like Jesus. And if God is going to make you like Jesus, he's going to take you through the same problems Jesus endured," he said.
There were times when Jesus was lonely, hungry, criticized and misunderstood, times when he didn't have his needs met and times he was discouraged, Warren said. But all of those circumstances led to the shaping of Jesus' character, and all of those circumstances in the lives of God's people lead to the shaping of their character.
"He didn't spare his own Son through those problems. Why would he spare you?" Warren asked.
He also noted that sometimes in order to develop a particular quality in his child, God will place a Christian in circumstances that seem just the opposite. For instance, he teaches people to love by placing them among unloving people, and he teaches peace in the midst of chaos.
The fourth purpose, to serve God, means that Christians are meant to use the spiritual gifts, the heart, the abilities, the personality and the experiences that God has shaped in them to help each other.
"Everybody needs a ministry in the body of Christ and a mission in the world," Warren said. "A non-ministering Christian is a contradiction."
Touching again on how God uses circumstances to develop character, Warren said God uses painful experiences more than anything else to shape people for ministry, and God never wastes a hurt.
"Who can better help the parents of a Down syndrome child than parents who have a Down syndrome child? Who can better help an alcoholic than someone who has been an alcoholic? Who can better help somebody who's going through the pain of a divorce than someone who went through a divorce?" Warren asked. "The very thing you resent most in life has the greatest potential for your ministry."
The fifth purpose, to fulfill a mission, flows from a life rooted in the first four purposes because anyone who is successful with the first four will be fervent in sharing what they know with others who don't yet know Jesus, Warren said. Christians who know their purpose will automatically want to fulfill the Great Commission, and anyone who knows and loves God must care about others the way Jesus does, he said.
Warren's presentation, complete with interspersed songs by a band from Saddleback, was given once to LifeWay's trustees and church resources employees and again that evening at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Opryland Hotel, in which he was the closing keynote speaker.
Warren's Purpose Driven Life has sold 1.6 million copies, lifting it to No. 2 on The New York Times hardcover advice best-selling list. Warren's first book, "Purpose Driven Church," also was a top-seller.
More than 16,000 people attend Saddleback's worship services each week.
By Albert H. Lee