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Spiritual Growth, Devotional

Has Warren Whet Your Appetite to Read?
by Ed Vasicek

During our first week of "Life With A Purpose" discussions, one of the men in our group mentioned that Rick Warren affirmed a well-known HPC teaching: God does not need us.

Rick Warren and I came to those conclusions separately; the point is pretty obvious in Scripture (Acts 17:24-25). Yet an occasional Ed Vasicek viewpoint does find its origin with Rick Warren. I tapped into Warren’s resources around 1990 (via cassette tapes), and I attended Warren’s Indianapolis seminar somewhere around 1992.

I have never been one to follow any particular individual; I make the Bible my primary source, but I must admit that many have influenced my philosophy of ministry over the years. Some such influencers include: John Piper, Gene Getz, Warren Wiersbe, David Stern, Howard Hendricks, and, yes, Rick Warren. Secular authors David Putnam and Peter Drucker have also contributed toward my eclectic perspective.

Over the years I have learned and implemented a lot of ideas and changes, some based upon Rick Warren’s suggestions. Although I reject his "seeker sensitive" model as God’s direction for our church (and disagree with Warren on a number of points), I have selectively incorporated ideas congruent with the nature of our congregation while dismissing others.

On a personal note, Warren was the first respected preacher with the audacity to say that a good preaching style would be a laid-back Christian "Johnny Carson" style. Although we don’t begin my sermons with "And now, here’s Eddie," his suggestion freed me to relax and level with people who I view and treat as my equals rather than congregants who need a scolding.

Rick advocated using humor while eliminating stuffy Christian "code" words (like the dreaded "we trust that," "colportage," and "family altar") and avoiding illustrations "about dead people from England." He encouraged pastors to trash the whole "pretend" thing that still infects much of the evangelical world. We can say "I’m worried" without getting lectured as to how Christians must not worry but are merely to be "concerned."

More than any other Christian leader, Warren gave ministers permission to be themselves—and to be authentic. We needed someone else to affirm what we ourselves sensed: evangelicalism, like Catholicism before it, depended upon an artificial (pretend) church environment. This, in turn, communicated a division between the faith of the Bible and the real world. Warren had an effective ministry—without playing the pretend "create an aura" game or bowing down to what was then the party line. Rick Warren was nothing short of a laid-back reformer.

Have you heard me say, "At the judgment seat of Christ, Christ is going to ask you 'Why weren’t you more you? Why didn’t you utilize who I made you to be, and, instead, tried to be someone else?'" Got that from Warren back before you had ever heard of him.

Warren writes on page 75 of The Purpose Driven Life, "You don’t bring glory or pleasure to God by hiding your abilities or by trying to be someone else. You only bring him enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you."

Warren’s book is a good "big picture" summary of the purpose of the Christian life. It is not meant to be deep, detailed, or accurate down to the detail. I would like to call many of Warren’s assertions, "rounded-off truths." Some of his assertions have exceptions or are open to challenge. But that is who Warren is: a man of God who presents a concise sketch of the big picture. He is not a theologian or a scholar. That is not his strong suit.

And folks, here’s my point: the best way to grow and learn from Christian authors or teachers is to hone in on their areas of excellence, to take the eclectic approach. Webster defined "eclectic" as "selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles." With the Bible we should not be eclectic, but with human authors, we should always be.

My list as to how other authors have impacted me would show that Warren has been merely one of several. Others have contributed and are contributing as much or more toward my development as a Christian, a human being, a man, father, husband and pastor. I suspect you have room to grow as well.

So where do you go next? My advice: keep reading your Bible and keep reading other good books as well. Keep reading. You might check out John Piper’s, The Pleasures of God, or if you want a classic, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Men might really enjoy The Man in the Mirror by Pat Morley while women might pursue Understanding the Men in Your Life by Kevin Leman. James Dobson has penned some fine works about the Christian family. You can’t go wrong with Swindoll, Wiersbe or Howard Hendricks.

But how can I recognize truly good books? That depends upon what you mean by "good." If you mean entertaining or inspiring, well, you’ll need to read someone else’s column. I enjoy a good Perry Mason mystery, but it does nothing for my walk with God. If, on the other hand, you mean books that will nurture your soul, one thing to look for is the publisher.

Here are some solid publishers in order of my preference: Moody Press (or Moody Publishers or Northfield), Navpress, Victor, Broadman, Holman, IVP (Intervarsity Press), Baker, Hendrickson, Zondervan, Tyndale and Bethany House. Others, like Nelson, Word, and Revell have some great books, but they have some pretty shallow ones as well. Some small publishers, like Friends of Israel, are wonderful, but I do not have space to list them all.

I have noticed that Christians who spend time in the Word AND read good Christian books become much deeper than those who do only one of the above or those who only read "feel good" stories. So if The Purpose Driven Life has touched your soul, let that inspire you to read on.

Pastor Ed

Reprinted from the May 2005 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.

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