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ACNA'09: Pastor Rick Warren addresses Anglican Church in North America Assembly

ACNA'09: Pastor Rick Warren addresses Anglican Church in North America Assembly

By Cherie Wetzel, reporting from Bedford, Texas
June 23, 2009

Bishop Bob Duncan, in introducing the Rev. Rick Warren said, "He has accepted three speaking engagements this year: first there was that prayer event at the inauguration ; next he will address the largest assembly of Muslims in the United States on July 4 and then the Assemblies of God meeting in the fall. We are honored to have the Rev. Rick Warren with us today.

I am genuinely humbled I am to be with you on this historic event. I jumped at the chance to be here.

Isaiah 43: has words specifically for you in this situation. vs 1: the Lord says "Fear not. Fear not for I have redeemed you. I have called you out by my name you are mine. When you walk through deep waters I will be with you. When you cross the difficult rivers they will not overwhelm you. When you pass through the fires, they will not consume you. Since you are precious and honoured in my sight and because I love you, I will give up others in exchange for you. Vs. 5 Do be afraid. I will be with you. I will bring together your children; bring all my sons and daughters, everyone who is called by my name, those who I created for my glory. Vs. 10 You. You .[repeated for emphasis] You are my witnesses, declares the Lord. You are my servant whom I have chosen. Vs. 12 You are my witnesses declares the Lord and no one can deliver you out of my hand. Who can reverse it? Vs 18 forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing. It is now springing up. Do you not perceive it? The Word of the Lord. Response: Thanks be to God.

God loves to create new things. God loves to create new things. The Bible says his mercies are new every morning. He makes all things new: a new heaven and a new earth; it is new every morning. In Christ you are a new creation.

God's character never changes.

God's work never changes. God's Word for you never changes. It is "The Faith once delivered to the saints". We have an unchanging message in a constantly changing world. Everything manmade eventually wears out. And Christ said we must put new wine in new wineskins.

So, I can sum this homily up in simple sentence: Great Commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great Communion.

This is true of every level: every Parish; every Christian, a great country, a great company, a great Communion.

One day Christ was walking down the street and a man said to him, "What is the great commandment?" Christ replied, "Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, your mind and your soul. And the second is like unto it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Then, go into all the world and make disciples of all men. And Lo, I am with you always."

From the Great Commandment and the Great Commission we get 5 principles: 1) Love God with all you heart and mind and soul and strength. That is worship. Any time; with one person or 5000 persons. Love God with all your heart. Worship comes before service. 2) Then, love your neighbor as yourself. This is ministry. We are to worship and then minister/service. Give a cup of cold water ... 3) I didn't come to be served but to serve. This is the core of the Great Commission. Then, Go and make disciples. Tell them about Jesus. 4) Baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; mark them with the signs of God. 5) Teach them to be disciples

If you want God's blessing on your life, parish, communion, don't pray, "God bless what we are doing."

Instead pray, "God help us to do what you are blessing in this world."

What is God blessing? Worship, ministry, and mission.

Here are three sentences: if God is going to bless Anglican Church of North America we must do three things: 1) Get the Father's perspective 2) Follow the Son's pattern 3) Appropriate the Spirits power

The answer is in the Trinity: Know God's perspective; follow the Son's pattern and find and grab the Holy Spirit.

If God is going to bless this, you have to see the world the way God sees it; not the way government sees it, or educators or politicians see it. What is God's perspective on the world: John 3:16. "God so loved the world." I love that word "so". God SO loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoso believeth should not perish, but have everlasting life."

I wondered when I was growing up as the son of a pastor if this contradicts John 3:16; God so loved the world and then in 1st John he said, "don't love the world." In John 3:16 Christ is talking about the people of the world. In 1st John, Christ is talking about the value system of the world. Love the people; don't love the value system of the world. Lots of Christian are getting that reversed. They love the value system and hate he people. God never made a person he didn't love. With outstretched hands, he said this is how much I love the world. I love the world so much I would rather die than be without it and every drop of blood showered the world with His Love. God wants his lost children found.

It is amazing when you think about the father's perspective. Created entire universe so he could create this galaxy so he could create planet Earth. It is amazing how it sustains human life so he could create you and love you. The Bible said that, "Before the foundation of the world, I had you in my mind."

He wanted a family. That is God' perspective. God didn't need us. He wasn't lonely because he had the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

You were created as an object of God's love. That is the reason you will draw your next breath and the reason your heart is beating: because God loves you. Everything in my life and your life is a gift of God's love. If we want God's blessing, we must make God's agenda our agenda. His agenda is he is building a family and that Church is the only thing that will last. God's family will go on forever and ever and ever.

And if God has called you to serve in a local church as a priest, lay leader, staff member, don't step down to become the president of the United States. Or anything else for that matter. Nothing matters more.

Let me talk to my priest friends today. Nothing matters more than what you are doing. That God had put His children under your care, to guide, guard, nurture, train and release and send them out. If I knew a more important thing to do with my life, I would be doing it. I decided that I wasn't going to waste my life. When you are helping the church minister, disciple, evangelize, you are doing something of eternal significance.

In April we had a spiritual revival and over 19 days had 3000 people come to Christ and 1200 new believers and a new members class with 2600 people in it. That was April. I looked and said what is God doing here? God wants to fill your church with new believers. He looks for the warmest incubator he can find. Why us at Saddleback? We were ready for them. We had a process, a system to bring them to maturity. We were ready for them. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

People look at Saddleback and say how large should a church get? That is the wrong question. The question is who should be left behind. The church that doesn't want to grow is saying to the world, "You can go to hell".

Saddleback Church started with one other person, my wife Kay. My wife thought the sermon was too long at the first service and its been downhill ever since. Over the first 13 years we met in 79 different locations. I used to jokingly say, "If you can figure out where we are going to be this week, you can come."

At the Hope and a Future conference I said to you, "You may loose the steeple, but you won't loose the people. Christ did not die for property."

Not only though must we have the fathers' perspective but, everyone needs Jesus. Some say we want quality not quantity. How many of you are the second born child in a famly? What if your parents stopped with the first quality child? Would you be here? Quality produces quantity. We have to have the perspective of the Father.

More than that, we must follow the pattern of the Son. He gave s a model for ministry and said, "Do as I have done unto you." We have moved away from a Jesus model of ministry and how to grow disciples. When I was growing up, a person could be in a church 30-40 years and never grow up. You know, the same old behavior: attacking the priest, gossip, envy, refusal to cooperate. It takes more than sermons to build a church. We forget 95% of everything we hear in 72 hours. You want to impress a pastor, that is it. You work all week on your sermon, researching, looking for jokes, putting it all together. By Sunday, you are ready. By Wed they will forget all but 5%. The people who heard you preach for 20 years remember about 5% of what you said.

This is the Jesus model: he loved everybody. He fed the 5000, trained 70, discipled 12 and mentored Peter James and John, that's three. Jesus spent the maximum time on those who would bear the most responsibility. Here's the problem: it was incarnational, incremental, and seasonal. Twelve disciples moved through a systematic structure and process for 3 years. We're all different but there is a process. You learn them in order. There are things we need to learn at every stage of life. The Jesus system is moving people from unbeliever, to believer to teaching believer to missionary believer.

In the last 10 years I have baptized 20,000 new adult believers. We know how to bring them in, train them for ministry and send them out. In the last 12 years, we've had over 16,000 people in mission trips to 78 countries. How do we get that many out of one church? Use the Jesus model.

Jesus began by saying, "Come and see." Jesus went out to be baptized by John the Baptist. John said, "Here is the lamb of God." John's disciples said, "Where are you going?" He said, "Come and see." That's what your church could be.

At Saddleback, I always know who the visitors are. They sit in the back pew and by the exits. We have to have an open door funnel. The problem is a lot of churches leave them there and don't take them through the process of discipleship.

Jesus kept requiring more of the disciples. He would say, "You are my disciple "if..."

If you bear fruit; if you love each other; if you continue in my word. He was always turning up the heat in defining what it means to really follow Christ; to be a disciple The final one was, "You are my disciples if you take up your cross and follow me."

Jesus is saying come and die. Is there a big difference between 'come and see' and 'come and die'? There is quite a spectrum between the two. He turned in the crowd and said, "If you want to follow me, eat my flesh and drink my blood."

They said that is yucky. He lost many followers that day. He even looked at is disciples and said, "Are you going to leave me too?" They replied, "Where would we go? You have the words of Life."

Here is the problem: most churches go to one or other pole: they bring in community or attract a crowd. A crowd is not a church. These churches say, 'come and see' and then they never go any deeper. They don't move people into maturity, ministry and mission.

Then there are the 'come and die' churches. Everything is very serious in hopes that people will quickly move through the stages to maturity. Spiritual growth is incremental. It takes time. Spiritual growth in incarnational: the word becomes flesh, person to person.

We must get the Father's perspective and that becomes the passion of our hearts and then we plead for that God honour it. We must disciple people into the Word of God and that takes more than sermons.

Third thing: appropriate the Lord's Spirit. "Not by might; not by power but by my spirit said the Lord." The disciples came to Jesus with a prophecy question, "When will you restore Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons. BUT, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses."

They wanted prophecy; he wanted evangelism. Why talk about evangelism when they want to talk about what will happen in the future? He said this gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth. His gospel will be preached to every nation in every tongue. The moment that last person hears the Gospel and steps over the line into Christianity, BAM. We are out of here.

I hear people say I love Jesus but I don't need the church. They are extremely immature. The Church is the body, the bride of Christ. What you are doing is of utmost importance.

You need to understand when you see me out talking with other people and other groups, that I have no interest in politics. Jesus didn't die to save America, he died to save Americans. You don't change hearts in politics. I speak to all to build a bridge of love so Jesus can walk across.

My father was a pastor, and never had a church larger than 125. He would build the church to 75 then turn it over to someone else. He was a carpenter. He built 150 church buildings around the world. Even into his late 70's I have pictures of him on rooftops in Siberia , building another small church building.

In the last week of life, he had cancer and dreamed aloud. I sat there that last week of his life and listened to his dreams. Never mentioned any books he read, movies he went to, favorite hobbies or sports. He didn't talk about Guadalcanal in South Pacific where he was in World War II. He talked about building churches. All the details of building from the lumber to the electricity. Sitting by bedside in his last day, he started to try to get up out of bed, very agitated. He was persistent. My wife said, "Jimmy you are ill, you can't get out of bed." And yet he tried. Then my wife said, "You are dying and can't get out of bed; what do you want?"

He said, "I've got to save one more for Jesus." He repeated this over and over and over. "One more for Jesus." In the next hour, he must have said it 150 times. And I sat there by my father's bed and tears were streaming from my eyes and I was thinking about the heritage my father had given me. He reached up and put his frail hand on my head and said, "Reach one more for Jesus." Just like that; his final blessing.

Reaching one more for Jesus. That is the theme of my life.

Friends in next 365 days, 235,000 Californians will die. Most of them will go into eternity without hope. In next 365 days 2.3 million Americans will die, into an inescapable future. 54 million people in world will die without hope of good news. Is there going to be anyone in heaven because of you?

God did not call the Anglican Church of North America to be a reactionary group. In the first place, you didn't leave them. Some of my dearest friends are Nzimbi and Akinola and Orombi and the Lions of Africa. God is calling you out because he is calling you to a Great Commission, Great Commandment and Great Communion. Let me finish by praying for you. [Ed. Note: I stopped typing and listened to the prayer.]

This was followed by small groups speaking to each other about what they heard and what God was saying to them through this speech. Several people then reported on what their group had said, asking questions, which Pastor Warren patiently answered. The final question was followed by a long standing ovation.

I think I was most surprised by his clarity. The words flowed from him. They are part of his being; part of his reason for being. He has clarified issues that most people don't even consider until much later in life. He sees God's Word as promises and principles, both of which are to enliven and embolden US.

In some ways, he and the Rev. David Short, who lead the Bible Study this morning, are equally analytical. They understand the Scriptures in ways that make it easy for people to grasp the content, meaning and potential of God's Word Written. It was an extraordinary morning and I hope you can grasp some of the excitement by reading these transcripts.

The afternoon session approved the Canon law for the new Church. There was more discussion on the canons than there was yesterday on the Constitution. But, the issues raised were minor and replied to quickly and concisely. The final Title was approved at 3:27 PM and the meeting closed with greetings from foreign visitors and invited guests at 4:00.

In so many ways, I wish each of you could have been here. It was an extraordinary day.

----Cheryl M. Wetzel, reporting from Bedford, Texas

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