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While going through some past video footage I ran across a message given by Rick Warren about the founder of our mission, Dr. Ralph D. Winter, and the impact he had on Warren.  Rick Warren has been called “America’s Pastor” and was named one of the top 25 evangelicals in America by TIME magazine, along with Winter.

Though Ralph D. Winter was little known by many outside of the evangelical missions community, his impact continues to be felt.  In the same video mentioned above, John Piper– a Pastor known throughout North America for his frontier missions zeal- also talked about Winter’s impact on him personally in his beginning days as a Pastor.  Both Piper and Warren were greatly impacted by Winter’s life and thinking.

In this post I want to spotlight some of the quotes I discovered from Warren’s message.  They reveal more about both the background and formation of Warren and the way Winter impacted him.

Pastor Rick Warren

Speaking at Ralph Winter’s Memorial Service in 2009.

“Ralph Winter was a Cal Tech engineer who engineered a revolution; a revolution in world missions and it changed all of us.”


“He invented a whole new language system- E-1, E-2, E-3- only an engineer would think that up.  ‘ta ethne’, ‘people groups’, bounded and centered sets’, ‘the warp and woof of missions.'”

Speaking of Lausanne ’74,

“He created a seismic shift in world missions.  We were all changed.  No one could ever look at the world again the same after that. And it influenced an entire generation.”

Warren mentions being a short term missionary in Japan and reading a Christianity Today issue in ’73 for “Key 73.”  Warren says, “I was weeping the whole issue.”

“I became an addict of William Carey Library.  I think I read everything William Carey Library ever published.”

Warren picked up a book called, “Church Growth in Burundi” and asked himself, “Could you ever apply missiological concepts like this in an American context.”

Warren also reveals a little of his own spiritual heritage saying, “My great-grandfather was saved under Spurgeon and sent to America as a missionary.”

“Ralph said,

‘you don’t judge a church on the seating capacity but on its sending capacity.’ That was burned into my mind.”


“A crowd is not a church.  You can turn a crowd into a church if you know the Jesus method of discipleship.  Come and see to come and die.”

“I read everything he (Winter) wrote.”

“I remember when Ralph and Roberta got this hair brained idea to buy the Nazarene college.  He had a hundred bucks. I thought-

‘I love this guy. He’s audacious.”

I used to tease him (Winter) about, “walking in a Winter Wonderland.” (crowd laughs)

To Winter, “you are the only guy who thinks bigger than me.”

“I’ve had three mentors in my life and vision.  They were all giants. Bill Bright, Billy Graham, and Ralph Winter.  To me, in my book, they all had equal impact…in just different ways.”


“He was a mile a minute thinker.  One of the most creative people I’ve met in my life.  And I thank God for him.”

“Roberta (Winter) did the first retreat of Saddleback Church.”

After being featured in TIME magazine, Winter calls Warren saying, “We’ve got to leverage this for the Great Commission!”  Warren replies, “I know Ralph.  I’m trying my best.  I’m really trying.” (crowd laughs)

“Ralph lived Acts 13:36.  It’s the epithet of this great man.  ‘David served the purposes of God in his generation then he died.’  He served that which never changes- God’s purpose, Jude tells us that it is the ‘faith once delivered to the Saints’- but he did it in a constantly changing world.  He did the timeless in a timely way. He did that which never changes in a constantly changing context. He did that which is eternal, but he did it in a relevant way…and then he died.  That friends is the evidence of a life well lived.”

While in South Africa Warren came up with the P.E.A.C.E. plan.  The first person he called was Winter.  Warren says, “Of course, he wanted to change it. (crowd laughs)  But he always had corrections that were smart, wise.”

“What is the legacy of Ralph Winter?  It is not the institutions.  It is not the publishing.  It is not even the speeches.  It’s the people.”


“In the last four years, 8012 members of Saddleback have gone overseas to over 100 nations because of what Ralph Winter taught me.  Thank you God for Ralph Winter.”

In 2009, Ralph Winter passed into glory.  He was succeeded by a young leader named Dave Datema, a man chosen by Winter himself.  In 2012, God brought me from Thailand to serve in the mission Winter founded in Pasadena, the Frontier Mission Fellowship.  I have served Dave Datema and the Office of the General Director which now includes Bruce Graham and Chong Kim.

What an incredible legacy we have the privilege of serving together.

On a side note: Piper, who sat next to Warren on the stage at Winter’s memorial service, later sat down for over an hour to talk to Warren about doctrine in this fascinating interview: John Piper interviews Rick Warren.

Suggested reading to learn more about Dr. Ralph D. Winter’s history, impact, and legacy:

The Ralph D. Winter Story: How One Man Dared To Shake Up The World of Missions by Harold Fickett

Ralph D. Winter: Early Life and Core Missiology by Dr. Greg Parsons

I Will Do a New Thing: Unreached Peoples and the Founding of the U.S. Center for World Mission by Roberta H. Winter

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