Rick Warren’s Appearance at Driscoll Leadership Conference Stirs Controversy

Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church wrapped up a two-day conference yesterday on leadership in Christian ministry, which featured among other speakers, Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life. Prior to the event, Driscoll released a video outlining why he decided to invite Warren to the conference, an offshoot of his ministry called “Resurgence.”

According to Dustin Stout, who observed Warren’s presentation, Warren spoke on the life of Moses and how God used him to be an influence for the Lord’s causes.

“The power wasn’t in the stick, it was in the surrender,” Warren said, referring to the rod that turned into a serpent. “What is in your hand?”

He also stated that the purpose of influence is to “speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves,” focusing on the issues of abortion and the orphaned.

“Nobody can speak up less for themselves than unborn children,” Warren said.

He also told the audience that life is “not about you,” but rather about the call to be a good steward for the Kingdom.

“Forget ‘servant leadership’ and just be a servant,” Warren outlined. “Influence is determined by your faithfulness prior to it.”

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Preceding the event, Mark Driscoll, who has come under fire himself for using profanity from the pulpit, released a nearly 7-minute video outlining his reasons for inviting Warren, knowing that many would question his decision.

“He has people who love him and hate him, and I am, quite frankly, one of the guys who really appreciates him,” Driscoll explained. “[H]e actually does things, and has something to teach us if we’re actually humble enough to learn it.”

He outlined that he believes that Warren is one of the most influential people in America today.

“Last presidential election, perhaps the only time that I can remember where the two candidates came together, was on the stage at his church to be interviewed by him,” Driscoll said. “And he’s just done it again. Romney and Obama … will be coming to Saddleback Church.”

However, others have expressed their concerns about Warren since the release of his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life.

“He seemingly seeks to be all things to all men,” stated writer Tim Challies. “[W]hen it comes to Warren, there appears to be a great deal of malleability. He will be one thing for one audience and another thing for another audience. He will move seamlessly back and forth. He will be A and then not A as the situation demands.”

In 2007, Warren invited Hillary Clinton to speak at his “Global Summit on Aids and the Church” conference, during which she received a standing ovation. Barack Obama had also been invited to speak the year prior.

In 2009, Warren spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America. At the event, he called upon “Muslims and Christians to form an interfaith coalition to combat prejudice and stereotypes.” Sayyid Syeed, one of the Islamic Society’s leaders, has confirmed that he and Warren have worked together on projects addressing the epidemics of malaria and AIDS.

Warren was also invited to deliver the invocation during the inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama. The openly homosexual “bishop” Gene Robinson was similarly asked to deliver the benediction. When Warren learned of Robinson’s appointment, he applauded the selection, stating that it was rightly done “all in the name of common ground.”

Some also take issue with his evangelistic methods.

“The ground we have in common with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts and interests as human beings,” Warren wrote in his book The Purpose Driven Church. “You cannot start [a sermon] with a text, expecting the unchurched to be fascinated by it.”

“There’s a reason some people refer to him as the ‘Purpose Driven Pope,'” an objector named Hester stated. “And yet, there he is — at the same conference with Mark Driscoll.”

“[I]t truly does appear as though a new, ecumenical evangelical magisterium is forming as these leaders continue to influence and promote one another,” commented Christian Research Network Associate Editor Erin Benziger regarding Driscoll’s invitation to Warren. “As the visible church continues to weaken and compromise its stand for Biblical truth, the call for unity at all costs grows stronger and louder. Accompanying this seems to be a revival of the same man-centered, ‘purpose-driven’ doctrinal obfuscation which has been infiltrating the visible church for some time.”

Besides Warren, other speakers at the two-day Resurgence Conference included Greg Laurie of Harvest Ministries, Craig Groeshel of LifeChurch.tv, Miles McPherson of The Rock Church and James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel.

According to the Resurgence website, the leadership organization has four focuses: Gospel-centered theology, spirit-filled lives, complementarian relationships and missional churches.

“We are working on everything a tiny team possibly can to train Christians and churches around the world to lead Gospel-driven lives and ministries,” the organization states.

Author and pastor John Piper also came under criticism in recent years for extending an invitation to Warren to speak at his “Desiring God” conference.

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