When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.~Proverbs 11:2 (New International Version)
Sometimes we all make the mistake of declaring just how wonderful we are and why people should really want to be like us. In a fit of self-righteousness that can only be explained as prideful possession, Pastor Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame and of the renowned (if only by Mr. Warren himself) Saddleback Church, issued a challenge on his Facebook status today that seemed to irk quite a few people and provoke an onslaught of commentary on both sides of the issue of pride and boastfulness. Myself included, many thought his attitude was quite arrogant.
I am a huge fan of the Purpose Driven Life and have even gone so far as to list it among my favorites under the category of books on my own Facebook profile. Lest you think I’m trivializing its importance by reducing it to an occupant on my top ten list, well, I am. It is one thing to write something inspiring, motivational and life-changing. It is quite another to go out and tell everyone that what you’ve written is inspiring, motivational and life-changing. And while the subject of scrutiny here is not the book, but the author, I think it is relevant to say a few words about how the popularity of the book may have caused a bit of hubris on the part of its author to overshadow the “purpose” of his flock.
I really hate to throw stones, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Generally, I give people their due. I have no problem with Warren’s success and I certainly wish him the best. But when a pastor declares that the members of his Saddleback Church congregation are somehow more godly than other churchgoers, it chafes a little. Judging from over 160 comments directed at his original post, I’m not the only one who took offense. From someone who gave us insights such as, “…help me to realize that building my life around myself instead of you will only lead to emptiness and meaninglessness…” and, “Father, I don’t want my life to be driven by anything but love for you. Help me to center my life on your plan and purpose for me, and not worry about the expectations of others,” a challenge to the effect of “I challenge any church in America to match the spiritual maturity, godliness & commitment of any 500 members of Saddleback” seems somewhat hypocritical.
My personal comment to him was:
“It’s wonderful that you are doing such good work, but really, is it necessary to toot your own horn in this manner. With all due respect, I’m not sure that’s how it’s supposed to be done.
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.~Matthew 6:1-4
The “church” seems to be so preoccupied with numbers and power and being THE church that will minister to all sinners that it sometimes forgets why it ministers and for whom. You have done so much; don’t lose sight of it all by trying to use the stats to impress others. I am no one of consequence, and I prefer it that way when it comes to what I do for God and in His name.
Maybe I’m taking it all too seriously, but I believe that God meant what he said about pridefulness and about giving ourselves too much credit for the good works we do. Is He not at the root of every good thing that is done? When we lose sight of that and we start chanting the pep-rally-oriented calls that, “My team is better than your team,” how are we helping anyone to see the power of Christ? Sorry for the verbal smackdown here, but I’m disappointed in Pastor Warren’s approach. The power of the church is actually the power of God. If the church thinks that its power rests solely in the innate godliness and spiritual maturity of its members, then it has indeed lost sight of where those attributes came from.