I can’t say I visited Saddleback with much anticipation. Over the year’s I’ve become weary of the squabbling between the lovers and haters of its purpose driven ministry, but I had to experience it for myself. After visiting the stadium rock worship at the Dream Center, Saddleback’s orderly worship service felt just like that, a service.
Every component of it was timed to the tee. Everyone knew when to stand and when to sit. Many of the men war Rick Warren’s patented Hawaiian shirts. The message was well crafted, biblical and applicable with a dash of humor. No complaints. The rest of Saddleback though was like a Pastor’s playground.
The campus held eight different services in four separate worship tent… each one catering to a different musical style. The children’s center was a massive facility with Disney-esque amenities. They had their own palm trees, waterfalls, restaurants, and golf carts. I wasn’t sure how to process it all. Everyone else seemed like this was normal.
That’s when it struck me that though many people I know would not be interested in being part of a massive ‘institution’ like Saddleback (See largest churches in the world link). Yet somehow, while foreign to me in all it’s structure and opulence, this was a church that was missional and relevant to its surrounding culture.
I just found out that they’re going through their 40 days of community now. Part of that involves feeding all 34,000 homeless people in Orange County for 3 meals a day for 40 days! It’s amazing how some churches can take on initiatives like this and make an impact. In all sincerity the 40 days of purpose campaign and reading of the purpose driven life seems to have just come and went in my own church. We’ve never been ones to follow any mold though I guess. I’ve been very encouraged to hear that my old church, OCAC, in Ottawa has been effectively rallying behind it as a community.
This dude is so ordinary! Final thought… as bland and uncharismatic as I find Rick Warren can be… (I want to believe that he intentionally strips away all creativity, to offer a template, so others can adapt and be imaginative with his material in its rawest form)… Warren’s humble beginning, from a small group of seven people to a global movement, inspires me. Warren is a testimony of what God can do through those who are simply willing to dream and use their gifts for greater purposes.