Driscoll and Warren

 This article is about the relationship between ‘seeker-sensitive’ guru, Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, Southern California, and New Calvinist, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle.

The great influence of Rick Warren

According to Time magazine, ‘when 600 senior pastors were asked to name the people they thought had the greatest influence on church affairs in the country (USA), Warren’s name came in second only to Billy Graham’s… many believe that Warren, 51, is the successor to the elder Graham for the role of America’s minister.’[1]  Preaching magazine describes Rick Warren ‘as a model and guru for today’s new generation of preachers and church planters… he is widely known as author of The Purpose Driven Church (which shaped the views of thoands of pastors about how the church can be changed) and the huge best-seller The Purpose Driven Life…  His own sermons, made available via the Web, have become models for many young pastors in the United States and around the world.’[2]

 The influence of Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is one of the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastors. In 2010, he was named one of the 25 most influential pastors of the past 25 years by Preaching magazine.[3] ‘Not only did Driscoll pastor Mars Hill as it grew from zero to mega-church in America’s most unchurched city in less than a decade, but he also has launched a national network of church planters that is touching cities across the nation. Reformed, emerging and controversial, Driscoll is a model for thousands of young pastors who read his books and listen faithfully to his podcast sermons.’[4]

 Rick Warren’s Ministry

As a student Rick Warren earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from California Baptist University, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary, and Doctor of Ministry from the liberal Fuller Theological Seminary. As a young pastor his vision was to establish a church that would be ‘a place where the hurting, the depressed, the confused can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness and encouragement.’  Over the decades of his ministry Warren has become a global strategist, theologian, and philanthropist. He also leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to the ‘Ministry ToolBox’, his weekly newsletter. His book, The Purpose Driven Church (1996) is listed in ‘100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century.’[5] His most popular book, The Purpose Driven Life (2002), has sold 30 million copies and is the best-selling hardback book in American history, according to Publisher’s Weekly. The blurb on the back cover of The Purpose Driven Life promises: ‘This book will help you understand why you are alive and God’s amazing plan for you – both here and now, and for eternity… This is a book of hope and challenge that you will read and re-read, and it will be a classic treasured by generations to come… The Purpose-Driven Life is a blueprint for Christian living in the 21st century…’  But this is a false promise, for The Bible tells us how to please God—by faith (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible is a believer’s blueprint for life, not Warren’s book, which presents the heresy of easy believism.Warren tells the reader: ‘Receive his Spirit… I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.” ’  Warren’s false gospel has little place for repentance.

During the 2008 US presidential election campaign,Warren hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency at Saddleback Church, in which he questioned both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. In January 2009, the victorious candidate Barack Obama askedWarren to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration.Warren prayed:

Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone… you are the compassionate and merciful one and you are loving to everyone you have made… I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Here we should note that the words of Warren’s prayer—‘You are the compassionate and merciful one’—echoes the opening of all but one chapter of the Koran.

 Saddleback Community Church

Warren has built his church on contemporary rock music, giving seekers what they want, including easy believism. The emphasis is on meeting people’s needs, and telling them that God loves them and has a good plan for their life. Worship at Saddleback provides something for everyone’s tastes. The Overdrive Worship service ‘is filled with guitar driven, rock infused worship sure to amplify your experience. You’ll feel like you’re worshiping in a musical concert setting! The message will follow, video cast live from the Worship Center.’[6] The Terrace Café Center invites you to ‘grab a cup of coffee and relax in this outdoor worship environment. Located on the top of the Plaza Building, the Terrace Café is a perfect place to bring your friends for fellowship and a causal worship experience.’[7]

For a critique of Warren’s teaching see http://www.sacredsandwich.com/warren_scripture.htm

And watch this excellent documentary, by Elliot Nesch, on Warren’s false ministry.


 Mark Driscoll admires Rick Warren

In Confessions of a Reformission Rev, published 2006, Mark Driscoll writes of his admiration for Rick Warren: ‘The changes brought about by Warren are revolutionary and very important. His ecclesiology has become the standard for the contemporary evangelical church. God has used Warren’s insights to bring untold numbers of people to Jesus, and Warren has become one of the most important Christians in our generation. Sadly, there was a time when, as an arrogant young punk, I was critical of his work.’[8] With these comments, Mark Driscoll placed himself firmly in the Rick Warren camp. He regarded Warren as having set the standard for the contemporary evangelical church.

 An article in Religion Today (March 2008), tells of Mark Driscoll’s excitement when he received a telephone call from Rick Warren. Grace Driscoll picked up a ringing phone and told husband Mark that it was Rick Warren who wanted to speak to him. Mark was so surprised that he asked his wife if she knew what he’d done wrong. But Warren just wanted to encourage the author of The Radical Reformission: Reaching out without Selling Out (2004) and Vintage Jesus (February 2008). Clearly thrilled by Warren’s encouragement, Driscoll joked on stage: ‘Rick has a lot of time on his hands. All he’s doing is “funding a cure for AIDS” across Africa.’[9]

Mark Driscoll meets Rick Warren

In his blog (September 19, 2011) promoting the Resurgence Conference, planned for October 2012, Driscoll explains how he first met Rick Warren. He refers to the phone call of 2008: ‘I first heard from Pastor Rick Warren perhaps a few years ago. He said he wanted me to fly down to a conference he was hosting, hang out, and get some time together. So, I did, along with a few friends…’

 Warren’s PEACE Coalition

In order to help pastors understand how the Purpose Driven model works, Warren began hosting the annual Purpose Driven Summits to challenge pastors with a manifesto for personal, relational, missional, cultural and structural renewal in the church. During the 2008 Summit, which was an by-invitation-only event, more than 1,700 select influencers from ministry, business and government, representing every state and 38 countries, assembled for renewal and a roadmap for global action.[10] The goal of the Summit was ‘to spread love, forgiveness, and hope to a lost and hurting world through P.E.A.C.E…” [11] At the event, Warren unveiled PEACE 2.0 and launched the PEACE Coalition, a “network of networks” built of churches, businesses, denominations, NGOs, governments and individuals acting as peace partners, peace patrons and peace ambassadors. A number of magazines including TIME, Christianity Today, Reader’s Digest, REV, The Christian Post and Outreach, attended the summit and witnessed the birth of Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Coalition.[12] P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym that stands for Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation. Invited to the Summit, and included in the list of speakers, was Mark Driscoll.

Ingrid Schlueter from Voice of Christian Youth (VCY)America also received an invitation:

“Hi Ingrid, On behalf of Pastor Rick Warren, I would like to personally invite you to attend this year’s Purpose Driven Church Gathering (May 20-22) at our wonderful campus inLake Forest,California. Pastor Rick would not only like to invite you, but pay for you to come out and spend three days with this group of national and global leaders. We are anticipating close to 2,000 leaders will gather to learn from our guest speakers…. Sincerely, Erik Rees, Saddleback Church”.

 Warren criticised

However Ingrid Schlueter did not agree with theWarrenpurpose-driven, seeker-sensitive agenda. She responded:

“Dear Erik, I am in receipt of your invitation offering an all-expenses paid trip to Saddleback’s worship conference. I cannot accept your invitation. In the world of live church webcasts, book publishers, websites and so on, it is no longer necessary to travel to see a church to understand what it is all about….  One of your speakers, Pastor Mark Batterson, recently referred readers on his website to the writings of New Age teacher, Eckhart Tolle, featured by Oprah Winfrey. He said that Tolle’s book, Practicing the Power of Now (2002), was instrumental in the way he thought about life…. Also featured… is Pastor Jentezen Franklin. … who featured a Michael Jackson Thriller dance on his church platform at a Halloween-themed service, complete with a haunted house set-up on stage….

“Additionally, you have Pastor Mark Driscoll… and I’m not about to subject myself to his disobedient use of coarse jesting in the name of ministry. It does not comport with the Scripture’s requirements for conduct in the office of the ministry. Pastor Mark Beeson ofGrangerCommunityChurchwill also be there… [He] claims personal responsibility for the sex-sermon-campaigns by churches across the nation. These campaigns have brought complaints even from the unregenerate who are sick of their children getting hit with lewd materials in public places. Any pastor who is responsible for this kind of filth has nothing to share on the subject of worshiping our holy God.”

Driscoll chosen by Warren

But Driscoll, unlike Ingrid Schlueter, had no qualms about accepting Warren’s invitation to be a part of his PEACE initiative. Here is Driscoll’s account of his first trip to Saddleback:

‘At some point on my first trip to Saddleback Church, I asked Rick why he had reached out to me. With grief on his face, he said that some years prior he had made a list of young pastors he was praying for and thought might be used by God to serve the greater Church. However, over the years he had crossed off the list those pastors who had disqualified themselves through acting sinfully or believing heretically. Over half the list was out of ministry. But I was one of the guys still on the list. So, he was praying for me, concerned for me, and wanted to extend a hand to help me in any way he could. He was very kind, and very genuine.’

So Warren had been observing and praying for Driscoll’s ministry over a number of years and liked what he saw. Warren had no problem with Driscoll’s crude language and coarse jesting in the pulpit, and no concern about Driscoll’s mocking of Scripture, and Driscoll’s promotion of tattoos, no concern about Driscoll’s obsession with sex or Driscoll’s links to pornographic websites, and no concern about Driscoll’s support of the holy hip-hop scene. He clearly saw in Driscoll a young pastor that could be useful in creating Warren’s vision for the Church.

Driscoll continues:

‘Since then, he [Warren] has been faithful to call me now and then just to check in and see if he could encourage or serve me in any way… Some of his staff members have come up to Seattle to visit us and have helped our leaders think through how to steward the resources God has entrusted to us so that we might be faithful to Jesus and helpful to people. I’ve also returned to Saddleback to speak at one of their conferences on the theme of the cross, a topic Rick assigned to me, giving me the honour of preaching the gospel without any restrictions.’

Driscoll explains how Saddleback staff help Mars Hill organise its Easter event in Qwest Field—where the Seattle Seahawks play. After the Easter serviceWarrenwas on the phone to Driscoll:

‘He was his usual upbeat self, calling to see how Easter had gone from my perspective. He had been praying for us, had followed along online, and wanted to congratulate me on our biggest service ever, as well as ask if there was anything else he or his staff could do to be of service.’

The relationship between Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll is now so close that Driscoll felt confident in inviting the big man to be the keynote speaker at the two-day Resurgence Conference at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA (October 2012).

Other speakers included Greg Laurie of Harvest Ministries, Craig Groeshel of LifeChurch.tv, Miles McPherson of The Rock Church, James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel and rap artist Lecrae.

 Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3.3)

The significance of this relationship is that it demonstrates that Driscoll is completely given over to the false, seeker-sensitive religion of Rick Warren. Driscoll is prepared to join and support Warren’s heretical view of Christianity. Here is Driscoll assessment of Rick Warren’s ministry. He writes:

‘Rick Warren is a brother in Christ. Having spoken with him on the phone, spent time at his church, and shared dinner with him, I can assure you that he loves the Bible, loves Jesus, loves pastors, loves the church, and has a heart for the world.’

So the two false teachers have found that they have much in common, especially their love of contemporary worship. The Saddleback sound system, band, singers and presentation would rival that of any secular rock concert. Warrenstated that one of the first things a church should do is “replace the organ with a band.”[13] Driscoll stated that he loves punk rock and hip-hop.

Another area the two false teachers have in common is their love of casual worship. A feature of both is casual dress in the pulpit. Rick Warren gained a reputation for his brightly coloured Hawaiian shirts in the pulpit. Dressed in a casual shirt, khakis and loafers, Warrentold his audience, ‘Get comfortable. This is as dressed up as I get in this church. My idea of winter is I put on socks, and obviously I don’t think it’s winter yet.’[14] Driscoll gained a reputation for his vulgar T-shirts, one with an image of Jesus as a DJ, another with skull and cross bones, others with blasphemous slogans, such as, ‘Jesus is watching you download porn’ and, ‘If I have to find Jesus, does that mean he’s hiding’.

Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll, both false teachers, have much in common. They deserve each other.

You can learn more about Mark Driscoll’s ministry in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from belmonthousebooks.com/


[1] TIME magazine, 7 February 2005, ‘The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals inAmerica’: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1993235_1993243,00.html

[2] Preaching magazine, The 25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years, by Michael Duduit;  http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11629162/page-2/

[3] http://pastormark.tv/about

[4] Preaching magazine, The 25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years, by Michael Duduit;  http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11629162/page-5/

[5] http://www.rickwarren.com/about/rickwarren/

[6] http://www.saddleback.com/lakeforest/aboutus/servicetimesanddirections/

[7] http://www.saddleback.com/lakeforest/aboutus/servicetimesanddirections/

[8] Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, 2006, p107

[9] Religion Today, Monday, March 17, 2008, http://www.religiontoday.com/news/the-gospel-according-to-mark-driscoll-11570991.html

[10] http://rickwarrennews.com/conferences-resources_backgrounder.html

[11] http://christsimplicity.wordpress.com/tag/saddleback-church/

[12] http://www.crossroad.to/News/Church/archive/purpose-driven-2.html

[13] The following article by Dennis Costella is from Foundation Magazine, March-April 1998 (Fundamental Evangelistic Association, http://www.feasite.org/Info/fbcprice.htm), cited from, http://www.wayoflife.org/database/growthstrategy.html

[14] Ibid.

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