Monday, April 12, 2004

Response from A Saddleback member 

I got the following email recently, in response to this post:
You know - I'm amazed at everyone's comments, including your review. I am a member at Saddleback Church and have been attending for about 15 years.

I think you missed something. I was at the same service as you - and there were plenty of people with Bibles, as I was one of them and so were my neighbors

on either side of me. Also, there was a prayer right after the music worship, and Rick said a prayer right after his sermon. I don't know what part of the prayers

you didn't understand as being prayers: Do the words "Dear Heavenly Father...." confuse you?
If you expect to walk into church and have a Bible and Hymn Book handed to you, this church is not for you. Mature Christians carry their Bibles with them to church service, and Saddleback Church recognizes this and doesn't feel the need to hand one to everyone that walks in, nor have them sitting there in front of them.

Rick teaches straight from the verses in the Bible, and it references the verse from which ever Bible it came from every single time. Maybe you missed that also?

It is not necessary to take the entire context of a scripture for teaching, only what is necessary and applies to that particular subject being taught. That is how we

learn to understand how God is speaking to us in the Bible - by breaking it down. I'm not a teacher and even I know that. That is what Rick does, he breaks down

the verses to be able to apply it to what he's teaching. Hey - we live in the year 2004, not the year 204. He is taking God's word and applying for today's living.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not everyone will learn from this method, and that's ok, too.
Instead of ripping apart the church, maybe you should have been out on the patio after the service talking to other attenders and asking them what they like about the church, checking out the patio tables & seeing what they have to offer, and speaking to Rick Warren himself. He makes himself available on the patio after each service. I happened to see him out there after the service that day.

Yes, it's a big church. I started attending the church when it was very small and attenders were going to a high school gymnasium. But they had some wonderful

building fund campaigns and saw the church family do amazing things to help raise money to build the church. BUT, not everyone will like the size of the church,

it can be intimidating, and some prefer a smaller church. Saddleback DOES encourage finding a small group to have lessons weekly to learn more in each person's

spiritual walk. BUT Saddleback DOES have a Mid-Week service in which they do teach from the Bible verses right out of the Bible....and it is very good.

Anyhow.....you missed the point of the church because you were too busy ripping it apart and criticizing. Rick has managed to reach thousands and thousands

of people and they have accepted Christ. That is to be commended. Interesting that in Jesus' day he also reached thousands and thousands of people and he

was also criticized for it.....
Good luck with finding yourself and God Bless You....
Leah LaRosa
Saddleback Church Member

ps - I'm sure you won't post this on your "review website" but would like to see you do so.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for manipulation. Naturally, since she didn't think I'd post this, I am posting it. With a few comments, of course.

Thanks for taking the time to read my article and to write this email. Here's my response.

Being big doesn't insulate you from criticism. My church is tiny, and we get criticized. So why shouldn't you? Yes, Jesus had thousands of followers, but almost all of them abandoned him. False apostles and false messiahs in their day also had thousands of followers, but that didn't keep Paul and Peter and John and Jesus Himself from criticizing and even condemning them to hell. I'm not going so far as to say Warren's a false apostle. But I do disagree with a lot of things he does. Size of itself doesn't mean anything. And neither do claims that 'people are growing'. Besides being totally unverifiable, it's also something that is routinely claimed by all the cults and heresies out there. So let's just get that out of the way.

I never said there were no Bibles. I just didn't see any. Pastor Warren's preaching is set up so that you don't need to use them. He does not encourage people to read the passages for themselves, at least not on that Sunday. And if they prayed, it was of such low importance in the service that I missed it despite the fact that I went there for the purpose of understanding how they did worship, how they prayed, etc. It's possible I missed the first prayer, though again I was looking for things like that. The prayer after the message was not an address to God. It was called a prayer, but it addressed us, not God. I remember this clearly because it was so different than what I normally associate with prayer.

No, you don't have to say everything about a passage that could possibly be said. My point was, Pastor Warren taught the opposite of what that passage actually teaches, and ignored verses that would have revealed his error. This is inexcusable for a man of Warren's knowledge.

I was not interested in what they do on Wednesday nights or in their small groups. I wanted to see what their main worship service was like, what a 'seeker-sensitive' service looked like, and I did. That's what I reported on. I never implied that my knowledge of Saddleback was exhaustive. I just told people what I saw. I did go talk to the people at the book tables, I watched a baptism between services, and kind of generally stood around outside for about an hour before and after generally looking lost and alone to see if anyone would come talk to me so I could find out what they thought of Saddleback, but nobody did.

I understand that you'd be loyal to your church and your pastor. As a pastor, I am glad to see when people are loyal. But your first loyalty is always to the universal church, and to the truth of Scripture. So when a brother comes with some criticisms, I'd encourage you to carefully think about them rather than simply attack that brother's knowledge and sincerity.

Yours in Christ,
Matt Powell

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