An Open Letter to Rick Warren

Dear Pastor Warren,

I think it’s time we talk, man to man as it were. I am guilty, as charged, of being critical of your methods as the pastor of a mega-church, and though it was not your intention that this matter be made public, or that I even be aware of it, it has now become so.  I believe though, Pastor Rick, that as a fellow Southern Baptist, I deserve an explanation. As brothers in the same denomination we owe it to the public to turn this unfortunate event into an enlightening one that edifies the church and is glorifying to God. This is the very least we owe each other as brothers who are committed to the Great Commission, and to the Southern Baptist Convention.

In the e-mail you sent to your staff entitled, for obvious reasons, “Please Take This Seriously,” you apparently intend to make a very serious point that who we follow on twitter is a witness to the world. In the e-mail, I am cited as an example of who not to follow because I apparently have “a worthless account,” that others may “think it is an account they should follow too, and then start getting their minds filled with negativity or even vulgar garbage.”  What tweet was it that sent you over the edge and made you decide I have an account that others shouldn’t be following? Was it the one where I astutely point out that “only Southern Baptists would have a committee on committees?” Maybe it was the David Platt quote from the SBC pastors’ conference that said, “Our problem is not that we’ve made some bad decisions. Our problem is that we are dead in sin.” I thought it was a great quote and I fully agreed and found it very edifying, though I know that flies in the face of your idea that all behavior is learned. Maybe it was the retweet of the hilarious @FAKEjdgreer account that said, “I’m personally grateful that LifeWay banned The Blind Side. That means more shelf room for Amish love stories.” That guy has a great sense of humor, but I can see where it might offend some people who enjoy being able to buy Amish love stories at LifeWay stores.  

You go on in the email to inform your staff that they need to, “Unfollow any anti-Christian, anti-Saddleback, or vulgar/sexual accounts that got automatically added.” This is not a friendly suggestion, this is a directive. It was in big bold letters followed by the statement: “If you don’t know the difference, I can start sending you the names of accounts that your account is following that is a poor witness.” Now I can assure you, Pastor Warren, that as a Southern Baptist, I am not “anti-Christian,” and I never post anything vulgar or sexual in nature. So, according to you, I must fall into the “anti-Saddleback” group. This is a false assumption, though; based on my critiques of your methods. The truth is, Pastor Rick,  I love people…all people…even you. In fact, I love them so much that I pray that all people who don’t trust in Christ as their Savior (all 4+ billion) would repent and put their saving faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins.  I’m sure we can both agree that there are many people, even in your church, that aren’t saved. My prayer is for their salvation, so ultimately I’m not as anti-Saddleback as you claim.

You seem confused as to what my goal is as a Twitter-er (Tweeter? …What’s the right word on this? Can I get a clarification? Since you have to advise your young staffers as to social media’s proper use, maybe you can “help” me.) My goal on Twitter, ultimately, is the edification of the Church, though I do like to have a few laughs along the way. According to Webster, edification means: to edify, lift up, or a moral improvement or guidance. It is something we are exhorted and commanded to do in Scripture. In fact I think the clearest definition of edification is found in Scripture:

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:12-16

I’m sure we can both agree that the Church, Saddleback included, needs moral improvement and guidance. This is what I try to do; I speak the truth in love…till we all come to the unity of the faith, so that the church may grow up in Christ and no longer be deceived by, and drawn into every wind of doctrine. I do this, this is my goal…for my home, my church, the small group I lead, and those who follow me via social media. As a pastor, shouldn’t this be your goal as well? What is it that someone like me would have to say to my 300 Twitter followers that should not to be heard? Shouldn’t Christians, your staff included, be able to discern for themselves who to follow on Twitter? If the people on your staff don’t have the ability to discern Biblical truth, on their own, then I am the least of your worries.

As near as I can tell, Pastor Warren that what I tweeted that so upset you was this:” Farewell @PastorMark http://bit.ly/KIaT5f // These are not the words of a Pastor, but of a goat herder.”

And this is in regards to Mark Driscoll’s comments about the mountain of bodies (of people who don’t agree with him or his methods) behind Mars Hill’s bus. This is spiritual child abuse that no pastor worth his salt should put up with, defend, or brag about. I am merely pointing this out. As Christians we are not called to follow any one pastor’s “vision.” We are called to follow Christ’s mission to be salt and light to a lost and dying world, and proclaim the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. It is NOT a popular message…however, it is the message we are called to.  No one person’s spin on it is superior to Christ’s own words, no matter how big his church is. I tweeted this to warn other Christians that Mark Driscoll seems to lack a pastor’s heart. A warning and an attack are not the same thing.

I look forward to a continued discussion, if for nothing more than to “keep conspiracy theorists from reading all kinds of dark motivations and nuanced nonsense” into this incident. Though I know we don’t see eye to eye on many issues, I want you to know that I’m praying for you, Pastor Rick, and I pray that God would have His way with your ministry.

Sincerely,

John Downey

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48 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Rick Warren

  1. There’s been a lot said regarding this post John. Instead of repeating what others have said, let it be understood that I echo the messages of those who support you. Never stop speaking the truth.

  2. Stand up for the truth and pay the cost. Mega-church is not the issue. Jerusalem was a mega-church, but it had sound doctrine and great leadership. Warren appears to be trying to insulate his core from the growing criticism of his message by censuring certain things. He couches it in the phraseology of a concerned pastor but another motive seems to break through.

  3. OMG, people are dying every day and THIS is what you guys are worried about…LOL. Who cares if someone has a mega-church? And no, you don’t deserve an explanation. Who do you think you are?

    • Bob,

      The author of this article is going to make claims that he wrote it in satire. I make the claim that he is doing it in an attempt to make a name for himself. He denies this, but given the lengths he went to make sure that it was reposted and retweeted on as many of anti-Warren/pro-Rosebrough’s view of orthodoxy sites as possible. If John Downey was telling the truth about this not being about his ego, he would take the post down and issue Rick Warren an apology for trying to build up a fake controversy in order to promote himself.

      • Jon,

        Why did you make speculation the basis for your reply? Perhaps not the best representation of yourself?

        I’m trying to figure out why you bothered to write a response in such a tone.

  4. Hello John. I just came across this article via Apprising Ministries. Pastor Ken is amazing. But to get back, I would have done the same thing. You used the right words and your message was clear to him and to the readers. Well, some biased ones will not see the intended message to him, as we have understood from the comments above. I will pray for Mr. Warren and his church. Stand firm in the faith. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’m with you on this. All the way. I was not familiar with your blog but I will be checking back soon. Keep it up regardless of what anyone else has to say.

  6. Thank you for your astute response. These days of so many following blindly after Emergent church leaders, it’s good to know there are some pastors left who follow after the Word of God.

  7. This sounds like nothing more than sour grapes and an attempt to make a name for yourself by trumping a controversy. Oh my good, Rick Warren doesn’t want to follow you on Twitter?!? Your life must be over. Hate to break it to you, but he doesn’t follow me either. I think I’ll write a letter and post it on my blog in the hopes that Chris Rosebrough will link to it and drive a bunch of traffic my way.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way…perhaps you’d feel differently if it’d happened to you. Which is truly the high ground: silence or an offer of an open door for forgivness?

      • This is not about an offer of forgiveness. This is about the bruising of your ego because Rick Warren decided that your Twitter account wasn’t worth following. Someone leaked the email or else you never would have known that Rick was not following you anymore. Writing this letter, sending out the tweets, and having them retweeted was just an attempt to prop yourself up.

        Consequently, I apologize for my typo in my original comment. It should say, “Oh my goodness,” not “Oh my good.” I was typing quickly and did not proofread.

  8. John,
    A very good response in my never humble opinion. 🙂

    And, as Rick responded at Matthew Paul Turner’s blog, don’t be surprised if he responds here. I’m no mega-church fan, but I do believe Warren is the real deal — as you seem to, as well.

  9. Well said, Mr. Downey. I applaud your reasoned responsive tone, measured with a hint of light sarcasm. One has to find a modicum of humor in this situation or it would be taken too seriously and get out of hand.

    Before yesterday, I did not know anything about you or the Dead Pastors Society, but I will definitely be checking your blog on a regular basis now. You have my prayers!

  10. Nice response, John. Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a ‘continued discussion’. Lovingly rebuking Warren is not exactly an invitation for a discussion with Saddleback.

    • I’m not holding my breath. I figure I’ll either get nothing or face some kind of intimidation tactic…but we shall see…maybe if CT picks up on it.

  11. Regarding the tweet that you identified as the kicker for this whole issue, I have this to ask and say: Why did Chris Rosebrough spend so much time analyzing statements that are 5 years old? I understand the issue with the harsh language. I don’t attend Mars Hill but I have listened to almost every sermon from the past two years. Anyone who listens to Driscoll week in an week out would be able to tell you that Mark…LIKE ALL OF US…is a work in progress, a man that Jesus is changing. To draw this isolated, unwise language out as a defining phrase for the ministry of a man and a church that is serving Christ’s kingdom in ways both powerful and gentle, is easily as irresponsible as Mark’s choice of words 5 years ago. By his own admission is many recent sermons (for instance, take the time to listen to even one of these: http://marshill.com/media/gods-work-our-witness), Mark was unduly harsh in many cases in the past, and continues to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in this area. Jesus told his apostles to “shake the dust from their feet” but we don’t define Jesus by that phrase.

    I just have a very hard time understanding the persistent work of some folks to isolate sound bytes from courageous leaders in all camps (Democrat, Republican, Christian, Reformed, Mega-church, you name it) and use them to discredit otherwise responsible, diligent service. This is a cultural cancer against which we must guard with much more circumspection than we do. I’m not saying I haven’t done it…I’m saying I, we, must stop.

    • I would agree with this except that these sound bites are very telling when used correctly as Rosebrough did here…The Bible says “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” I pray Pastor Mark would see the error of his ways.

      • It’s a matter of tense. I would have no problem with “…the mouth spoke.” I don’t argue about the problematic nature of Driscoll’s attitude in 2007. We all need to be remade and changed. The Holy Spirit changed Saul so much he needed a new name. It’s 2012. Give a listen to something more recent and see what you think, rather than snarking “Farewell..” a la Piper to Bell and closing the book. It doesn’t help.

      • Eh, I’ve listened to alot of his stuff…at one time I was a fan even…not anymore, I think since ER2 (probably before) he’s gone off the rails of orthodoxy. I pray that he would return to true orthodoxy.

    • Here’s the thing about the Mark Driscoll. The clip may be old, but the Bible tells us that what you reap you will sow. Mark Driscoll sowed something back. Has he repented of what he said? Has his attitude or methodology changed? Also remember, hes speaking to pastors and future church planters in the clip. He is TEACHING them how to run a church. Five years later we are here. What has the fruit been of all of this? Whatever he sowed, he is going to reap of it and I don’t think it will be a good thing.

  12. This is a calm, loving, and honest response, and therefore ideal for this situation.

    Perhaps it was simply a case of mistaken identity—a tweet from someone else was wrongly attributed to you. We shall see.

  13. Give me a break – This is exactly why unbelievers remail unbelievers. As Mahatma Ghandi stated, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” As for John Downey – If he were half as concerned as to what Christ thought rather than what Rick Warren thought this post on the blog wouldn’t even exist. Who cares if Rick Warren has twitter expectations for his staff??? Perhaps this site needs expectations for those who post open letters.

    • Thanks for your interest in my blog sir…and for not just simply saying nothing as a way to protest my blog. Your disdain for christians is noted.

      • Good Grief…diametric opposition to your blog catapults me into the arena of having disdain for christians? Lighten up and examine the duplicity of your open letter. You know Rick Warren will never reply to something of this nature. So one must ask themselves, why was it written? It has been reported that in a conversation between Billy Graham and Rick Warren, Billy Graham stated, “Never wrestle with a pig.You both get covered in mud,but only the pig likes it.”

      • Sorry man, sometimes I get a little too snarky for my own good. I’m actually hoping to raise the bar on the coversation and explaining myself a little better, and being as I was the one mentioned specifically in the email I must be on his radar.

    • And the best thing for you to do in response to all of this is come here and shame John, whose Twitter account was dubbed “worthless” by a haughty Christian in the media. John has every right to say whatever he wants, and I would hope he can expect to be loved by Christians regardless of what he expresses and how he chooses to do so. I don’t want to assume that you’re a Christian, but judging by your complete lack of compassion and understanding, I’m inclined to believe you are.

      I remain an unbeliever because I see no compelling reason to believe the Gospel. I don’t even expect Christians to be loving most of the time, so that doesn’t factor into why I don’t believe.

      • Thanks for having my back…I’m kind of surprised…but as far as I’m concerned Mr. Jones and me are cool. And now I’m going to go find my Counting Crows cd.

  14. Nice blog. I don’t know who you are or what some of the situations that you referred to are either. I found this link on Facebook. However, I find it not surprising that a pastor would direct his staff to unfollow someone. Even in good faith by RW, people tend to think that their decision on what is “Godly” is the only way. (I have to admit, I don’t get it why Christians I know are still buying Starbucks and Nike.)
    Please continue to tweet on. (I’m not a tweeter) Your word was fresh and real this morning and I appreciate your common sense and Godly attitude.

    • Thanks…It’s quickly becoming a long story…you maybe better off staying blissfully unaware. But basicaly I was singled out by Warren as someone that shouldn’t be followed on Twitter.

  15. Beautifully said, John. I think it’s a shame that Pastor Warren or whomever it was on his staff didn’t go the extra step to really look at the content of your tweets because if they had, this would not have been an issue in the first place. We are brothers in christ and it saddens me that an email attacking another brother went out to our brothers and sisters at Saddleback advising them to un-follow you. We all have our differences and we all need moral improvement and guidance, but in this case, our common bond is Jesus Christ and sharing the gospel with the lost world.

    I pray that Pastor warren does respond to your request for an explanation. I was un-followed on Twitter by Pastor Warren a few weeks ago and I too have no idea why he chose to unfollow me, but (thankfully) he didn’t use me as an example in an email to his staff. Our common bond (including you and Pastor Warren) is that we love the Lord and we want to see those perishing repent and place their trust in Jesus. Twitter is a powerful social media format for spreading the good news and it troubles me to see one brother attacking another brother unjustly.

    Keep up the good tweets, John.

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