NASHVILLE, TN — Christian leaders should establish their ministries on the promises of God, megachurch pastor and author Rick Warren said Wednesday at Proclaim 16, the NRB International Christian Media Convention.
Speaking at the evening worship service, Warren asked the Christian broadcasters, pastors, and others in the audience, “What is it that makes Christian leadership Christian?” The answer, he said, is “it’s based on the promises of God.”
“Base your ministry not on your talent; base your ministry not on your abilities, not on your cleverness, not on your giftedness,” Warren said. “Base your ministry on the promises of God.”
While he had planned to preach a sermon, Warren said he recognized when he woke up that morning that God wanted him to share how He had faithfully kept His promises in his life.
“In every opportunity of my life, and in every crisis of my life, God has given me a promise,” Warren told the audience at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
The pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, and author of The Purpose Driven Life cited eight promises God had given him in Scripture and explained how the Lord had fulfilled them during a 45-year period. The promises included those when he was called into full-time Christian ministry, when he and his wife were newly married, when God indicated he was to attend seminary instead of plant a church, when the Lord showed him he would pastor a “missionary-sending church,” and when their son committed suicide.
While, he and his wife, Kay, are celebrating 40 years of marriage, Warren recalled how the first two were extremely difficult. In the midst of that painful time, God gave him Galatians 6:9, which urges followers of Christ not to grow tired of doing what is right. That verse saved their marriage, he said.
A Christian leader’s “greatest ministry comes not out of your strength but your weakness,” Warren said. “We minister to people out of our weaknesses, not our strengths.”
Warren shared how he suffered burnout after the first year of what has turned out to be 35 years so far as Saddleback’s pastor. During that time, Jesus showed him He would build His church and promised He would provide it with “pacing growth,” Warren told the audience. “We overestimate what we can do in a year; we underestimate what we can do in 10 or 20 or 30 or even 40.”
His son, Matthew, had struggled throughout his life with depression and mental illness, Warren said. “Every day, his brain said, ‘Die.’”
“[Y]our illness is not your identity, and your chemistry is not your character,” said Warren, who is seeking to remove the stigma of mental illness.
When Matthew took his life in 2013, God gave him the promise given to David when his infant son died, Warren said. “I can’t bring him back to life,” he said of David’s words in II Sam. 12:23. “He cannot come back to me, but one day I will go to him.”
After his death, the letters that meant the most were from people whom Matthew had led to Christ. At the time, Warren wrote in his journal, “In God’s garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit.”
Everyone is broken, he said. “Pain can obscure God’s promises, but it can’t nullify them.”
After Warren spoke, singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith led the gathering in singing his worship song “Agnus Dei.” Smith also had led the audience in singing earlier in the service.
Warren spoke as well at a luncheon Wednesday that was part of NRB’s Pastors Track. He urged pastors and ministry leaders “to care about the whole world at the same time.”
About 3,000 tribes in the world have “no believer, no Bible and no body of Christ,” he said. Evangelical churches should not see Acts 1:8 – regarding Jesus’ disciples as witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth – as sequential but as simultaneous, Warren said.
“If you pastor a church, you must be a global church,” he said. “You’ve got to have bifocal vision in your church, in your ministry, in your broadcast.
“There is no sin in being a small church. There is a sin in having a small vision.”
Smartphone technology can help reach those unengaged tribes, Warren told luncheon participants. About 2.5 billion people have smartphones, he said.
“The future is not television,” he said. “The future is not radio. The future is not that laptop. The future is that phone. I’ve been in villages that had no water and no electricity, and everybody’s got a smartphone and Internet access.”
By NRB Staff
Published: February 26, 2016