A recent interview with Rick Warren

Warren isn’t fading away!! He is capable of raising an issue, getting people on board, making a difference and then moving on to another issue where the same thing happens all over again. One church consultant has commented that Warren has learned the secret of continuous revival.

I wouldn’t use the word revival, but I would use the word focused. Warren does not let his congregation rest. They are always conquering something. I think churches should always be conquering something, or at least part of something. Most churches are ill-defined. They meet on Sundays and then sort of do something the rest of the week. Not good enough for Warren. Shouldn’t be good enough for the rest of us, either.

Here is a recent interview in Financial Times.

Of course, the one thing many feel Warren leaves out is worship itself, even as much as he uses the word. This is less quantifiable and not so easily targeted in a growth plan. It’s not about how many people can be squeezed into a room. It’s an indefinable something where the converted gather to offer to God this thing called worship (I challenge you to define that one) and thus enter into the heavenly temple and join with innumerable hosts in praise. It doesn’t “do” anything. It just is. It has a value in and of itself. And for people to be attracted to it, they must see that value.

A liturgist Warren is not. For him, worship is simple, plain and pretty much detached from history. There are no creeds to repeat and teach, no wise and ancient prayers to offer, no consistent trinitarianism to weave into the service and protect, no time tried words for the congregation to use, etc. It is all in the moment. No guest has to struggle a bit wondering what’s going on. No novice has to feel left behind while he catches up. No marginal church goer has to fell, well, marginalized. It is all accessible – quickly, immediately, intuitively.

I wonder. How could anything that is 2,000 years old that has enfolded billions of people through time be so thoroughly stripped of history? Shouldn’t that raise an eyebrow, even by a newcomer?

Cardinal John Henry Newman in his book An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine asserts that this development is exactly what we should expect to find. But in Warren’s model, it is the thing that is missing, as if we could skip over 1500 years of church history and get back to “the thing itself.” In other words, let’s take away St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Benedict, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, the Westminster Confession of Faith. Since they weren’t part of the early church, they are expendable and do not have to show up at our worship services in any shape or form.

This is what troubles me, the ahistorical nature of this form of popular worship. History is massive. It might move slowly, but the weight of it gives it torque and force. It will not lie hidden. It will force itself through the broken places and its lava will flow into and over the church.

While the TV evangelists shape our faith for each new generation the underlying melody is sung by the generations past. They will be heard. They will teach us. And when the newest shows its vulnerabilities and instabilities, the people will turn back to the Church in its fullness and ask to be taught.

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