Rick Warren has come under a good deal of fire for preaching a gospel that is focused on personal fulfillment rather than repentance of sin and dieing to self. I believe that criticism is well earned. But that is not the only problem with his teaching.
Last spring, just after he launched his site Pastors.com (the about page starts, “This blog is a place for pastors to have an honest dialog about issues they face as leaders of their churches.”) he posted an article in which he encouraged people to lie to children when a pastor is removed due to sin. This directive is not just off message, it is outright telling people to sin and to sin against the vulnerable. It is calling sin good. Here it is, complete with two compliments. Note the paragraph on what to tell children [bold mine]:
What Happens When a Staff Member Falls (letter mentioned in podcast)
May 1, 2007 · 2 CommentsDear Saddleback MemberIn 2007, I plan to write you several times to help you understand some of the behind-the-scenes procedures and strategies of our church family. In this letter I want to explain what happens when a staff member at Saddleback must be removed because of some sin.TAKING THE INITIATIVE (Proverbs 28:13)
If a staff member voluntarily confesses to me, or to our Staff Pastor (Bob Baker), and repents before being found out, Bob or I counsel that person privately. Depending on the violation, they may be allowed to remain on staff while recovering. If a staff member does not take the initiative, they are suspended from staff immediately while the elders consider their situation. If a staff member continues to lie about their sin, they are fired immediately.WHO IS TOLD? (1 Cor. 5:11-13)
Sin is to be confessed only as widely as it affects others. Private sin requires only private confession to God. Personal sin that involves others requires interpersonal confession to the people involved. Public sins (those that affect a large group of people in our congregation) regrettably must be dealt with publicly as a warning to others. The Bible says that those who teach are held to a greater public accountability because of their visibility to those they teach. (James 3:1, 1 Tim. 5:20)Children have a fragile faith and often idolize their leaders. Parents should be careful not to talk about fallen staff in front of children so they don’t lose heart. If asked, you should simply say “They resigned,” That’s all children need to know.RESTORATION (Gal. 6:1)
The goal of church discipline is the restoration of a person’s life, marriage, and possibly ministry. This is hope and prayer, but it is not an automatic conclusion. Our church has a specific restoration process which includes 1) confession and restitution 2) counseling and testing, 3) regular accountability to a group of pastors, 4) prayer, 5) refraining from ministry to focus on maturity, 6) strengthening character and marriage, 7) Bible study and Scripture memorization, and 8 ) rebuilding and proving credibility. The fallen staff member must humbly cooperate with our restoration process which may last up to a year or longer.
Restoration does not mean being restored to the staff of Saddleback. That would not be best for the former staff member or the volunteer workers in that ministry. We are a high-visibility, fast-moving congregation. After the restoration process is finished, we would want to see that person slowly re-enter ministry in a less visible church with smaller demands. Usually after restoration, the person re-enters a different type of ministry than the one they led before their fall. This is because our most effective ministry always comes out of our own deepest hurts and experiences.
SPIRITUAL AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR THE FAMILY (Gal. 6:2)
Sin always hurts others who are innocent, so we provide spiritual and emotional support to the family of the offender. Depending on the situation, severance pay may be provided so the former staff member can focus 100% on rebuilding his/her life.
OFFERING FORGIVENESS & REBUILDING TRUST (2 Cor. 2:7-8)
Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. Forgiveness is offered immediately, even before it is asked for, but forgiveness does not remove the consequences of sin. (Gal. 6:7). Leadership is built on trust, and trust must be earned. While trust can be destroyed instantly by a single decision, it takes time and proof of change before anyone can be restored to ministry or leadership. The Bible commands that they be tested first. (1 Tim. 3:10, Philip. 2:22)
DOING ALL THIS IN HUMILITY & LOVE (Eph. 4:2, 1 Cor. 10:12, )
The Bible says “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” It also says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” Now is the time to review your own life and marriage. If you haven’t heard the message by Kay and me “Affair-proofing Your Marriage” I strongly recommend you get a copy this weekend.
Satan is always trying to destroy or discourage God’s Flock by defeating the shepherds (pastors). We are a church family and we must stand together with Craig and his family during his restoration process over the next year.
Saddleback is a strong, mature, and healthy church. In past situations like these, our church family has pulled together, rallied, and become even more stronger and committed. We believe in Romans 8:28. I love you and I look forward to seeing you this weekend.
“Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God.”
Hebrews 13:18 (The Message)
Categories: Rick Warren Ministry Podcast
2 responses so far ↓
My husband Scott had submitted a short comment criticizing the post but it was not approved by the moderator. I posted an additional comment pointing out the problems and encouraging Mr. Warren to amend the article, but my comments were not approved either.
This is my rejected comment:
My husband sent this article to me and I am concerned with the advice given to be dishonest with children about leaders removal from service.
Chiefly, straight out, scripture tells us not to lie. Telling children that some one resigned when they were in fact removed is a lie.
I could just stop there, but as a family therapist, I think it is important to discuss some of the destructive consequences of such a policy.
First, Warren makes the point that children “often idolize their leaders”. Yes they do, and that is sin in itself. (1 John 5:21 – Little children, guard yourself from idols.) That idolization should not be protected, it should be challenged. Children should learn from their youth that everyone who thinks they stand should “take heed lest they fall”, and that even the most well respected leaders can fall into disobedience to God.
Now this should be done in an age appropriate manner, and details of the sin need not be disclosed, but leaning the lesson that disobedience to God results in painful consequences at age 6 makes a powerful impact that may spare a child from falling into serious sin at age 16 or 26 or 66. When you see that one of the most influential people in your community cannot get away with sin, you learn the fear of God and the respect for the rules that keep you out of danger.
Second, and this should be blatantly obvious, not telling a child that someone is no longer a trustworthy leader puts them at risk for victimization and false teaching of all kinds! Why would you allow a child, whose minds and hearts are so mailable, to remain respectful of someone who is in selfish/unrepentant sin and not being lead by the Holy Spirit?
We don’t want children to idolize respectable people much less untrustworthy people.
Third, children are not stupid. If you lie to them, they will eventually figure it out, even if it is not until adult hood, and they will stop trusting you. If someone at 26 finds out that they were lied to about what was going on in their church, they may question everything that was told to them during their entire experience at that church and with those who lied. I have seen it happen.
I think that there are few things that shake ones faith more than being lied to by a church.
Fourth, again, lying is a sin. Don’t do it. Even to protect someone.
Such unfortunate events are potential teaching moments. They can wonderfully enhance a child’s understanding of grace, and, most dynamically, secret and unrepentant sin. They give them a chance to learn important lessons from others mistakes so they don’t have to learn from their own.
I am sure Mr. Warren sincerely believes that this policy is helpful in keeping children innocent, but I strongly encourage him to rethink this and change this article. Because bottom line, it is telling people to sin against their children.
Ginger Taylor, M.S.
When I looked through the site, I noted that the only comments that had been approved were those that praised Mr. Warren or his comments. (If you know me, you already know my feelings about silencing dissenting opinions).
Because the comments were not posted, I sent an email to the site. After a short email exchange with Eric Busby, Saddleback’s Pastor of Channel Development, it became clear that although he stated that his claim that, “we are unlikely to develop a policy prohibiting critiques of Pastor Rick Warren because we want to encourage honest dialogue on matters that concern the entire listening audience”, his follow up comment, “Unfortunately, we do
receive a large number of comments and are unable to approve them all”, was just PR speak for “we are not posting your comment, buh-bye”.
I noted that currently pastors.com seems to be continuing the same, ‘only fawning comments welcomed’ policy.
So… with twenty thousand people going to his church, has not one person stood up and insisted that he change this article so that it is not telling people to sin?
If not, why not?