Pastor Rick Warren challenged the church to work together to complete The Great Commission at a conference held March 18 at Biola University.
“One drop of rain can’t do much,” Warren said. “A million drops of rain can turn a desert into a garden.”
The influential pastor and author gave the opening address at the “Urbanization: Mission in the Context of the City” conference organized by The Evangelical Missiological Society, which advances the cause of world evangelization through their study of mission strategies.
Warren, the son of missionary parents, was himself a missionary in Japan during the 1970s. But it wasn’t until a trip to South Africa in 2003 that his heart became fully engaged in the cause of missions. When he went to Africa, he was not expecting this result.
“Sometimes God is sneaky,” he said. “You think you’re going on a trip for one reason, and you find out you really went for another.” As a pastor, he thought his primary focus should be training leaders and planting churches.
Problems such as illiteracy, poverty, and disease had not received much of his attention. “I’m sorry, Lord,” he said later. “Widows and orphans have not been on my agenda.”
The Africa trip inspired his vision for Saddleback Church’s PEACE Plan, which is designed to use “the world’s largest existing distribution network” – the church, to tackle the greatest problems faced by the world. Since the plan’s launch, Saddleback Church has sent 14,867 people to 195 countries throughout the world as ambassadors of ‘PEACE.’
With a billion people, the church has the power to make a difference by doing the things that Jesus did and taught, Warren believes.
The way people approach PEACE trips should mirror the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 10 when He sent out the twelve. “Don’t take a purse — that means don’t throw money at problems,” Warren said. “Don’t go as an authority, but go to serve.”
Saddleback’s PEACE Plan seeks to make an impact door-to-door, church-to-church, village-to-village. His teams always look for a person of influence when they enter a new area. “It’s very important to find a ‘man of peace’ in each village,” Warren said. “I’ve found you can find a man of peace in every village,” he said.
“It could also be a woman,” he added. “The man of peace could also be a Muslim, a Hindu, or an atheist.”
Now that Saddleback teams have visited every country in the world, a major initiative will target people groups without a meaningful Christian witness. “We’re going after every one of the 6,000 unreached people groups,” Warren declared.
He described one area of western Rwanda with only one medical doctor available to serve 10 million people. Saddleback teams trained 2,800 health care workers to fill the health care gap. Each health care worker will operate within their local church – which allows the church to resume its role in physical and spiritual care.
Warren recalled a conference he attended with Bill and Melinda Gates that sought solutions for some of the world’s most intractable problems. When Warren described his vision for health care, Melinda Gates responded, “I get it, the church could be a distribution point for health care.”
The influential church leader honored the attendees at the Evangelical Missiological Society conference. “I honor what you do because we are always one generation away from extinction,” he said. “It’s important to judge a church not on its seating capacity, but on its sending capacity.”