All Christians are Hypocrites (Especially Megachurch Pastors)- Why Christians Can’t Try and Please the World

April 13, 2009

Dang-it, Rick Warren!

It never fails that every time someone gets to be well-known as a “Christian” leader they inevitably make us all look like freakin’ imbeciles!  Case in point, Pastor Rick Warren of Southern Baptist megachurch Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA.  

It’s hard to imagine that any person in touch with Christianity in America is unaware of who Pastor Warren is, either through his best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life or his nationally-televised 2008 presidential forum or his invocation during the Obama inauguration.  In fact, saying that Warren has replaced Billy Graham as the most well-known pastor in America is probably not a stretch.  

And of course, wherever one finds fame, one is bound to find critics, and Rick Warren certainly has his share of those.  Of late Warren has had to deal with criticism over his position on gay marriage/Proposition 8 in light of the aforementioned inaugural prayer he performed.  On April 6 he was able to address these critics during an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live.  Here is what was said:

KING: No matter what you may think of Rick Warren’s opinion on things, he’s an extraordinary guy and always a great guest and it’s always good to have him.

He’s pastor of the Saddleback Church. He’s the number one “New York Times” best-selling author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.” He delivered the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration. He comes to us from Irvine, California.

How did you handle all the controversy that resulted about the president selecting you?

PASTOR RICK WARREN: Yes, you know, Larry, there was a story within a story that never got told. In the first place, I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist. I never have been, never will be.

During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never — never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.

Ummm?  Okay.  So, apparently, as it turns out, Pastor Rick was just a poor victim of circumstances with mean people misrepresenting him.  In fact, he “never once went to a meeting [or] issued a statement” concerning Proposition 8.  Wait…. hmm….

What about this statement from the good Pastor prior to the November vote:

PASTOR RICK WARREN: Now, let me just say this really clearly: We [Rick Warren and Saddleback Church] support Proposition 8.  And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8.

So, “really clearly” Rick Warren wanted to make it known that Bible believing Christians should support Prop 8, and yet apparently this was not a statement or endorsement?  Right.  

Congratulations, Rick.  Obviously these statements are in contradiction, and the evidence is available to only about 3 billion people.  

Now, Warren has since had chances to make a third “really clear” statement on this, amidst many people calling his error (Al Mohler said, “I was extremely troubled by the way he appeared to be so anxious to distance himself from the same-sex issue and to make clear he was not an ‘activist’ and that he’d only addressed the issue in a very minor way”), but alas all his attempts look like a person running scared from something.  His biggest opportunity would have come during a scheduled appearance on ABC’s “This Week, however at the last minute (literally) Pastor Rick backed out.  Isn’t there some stuff in the Bible about accountability and integrity, particularly among leaders?

The larger problem here is not the gay marriage issue though, or Warren’s supposed support for/against/neither Proposition 8.  What is the issue is a man who got too big for his God.  I mean, Rick Warren is a superstar:  SBC megachurch pioneer, world-recognized author, confidant of our rock star president.  Rick Warren is the man, at least as long as he can keep everybody happy.  But that’s exactly what didn’t happen, and for the reasons Christ told us long ago:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money [Gk. mammon, possessions or money] (Matthew 6.24)

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8.34-38)

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15.18-20)

Pastor Rick, so eager to please any- and everybody, to keep the circle around him as big as possible, found himself at a fork in the road, a highly polarized place where it is not possible to reconcile the two divides, and yet he still tried to do it.  This is a perfect illustration of what happens when Christians are more interested in saving their own face than in shining the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” out to a world which has been blinded by sin (2 Corinthians 4.4-6)– they sacrifice their witness on the altar of popularity and public approval.  

A lost and dying world will never die to self and live for Christ like God calls them to if those of us who have been called already can’t stand on the Word of God.  The gospel we preach is meaningless if we aren’t preaching it from a transformed heart, refusing to censor ourselves because someone might call us a name or write us a nasty email.  We are to be taking up our cross daily, not searching for time to fit another White House dinner into the social calendar.  Let’s learn from the failure of Pastor Warren on this.  When it comes to pleasing God or pleasing men, we need to make the only choice that will be of eternal importance, for “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12) than that of the man whose friends denied him and whose people crucified him: Jesus Christ.