At the Exponential West Conference held recently at Saddleback Church, Rick Warren called Pastors to repent of what he called “localism” and to join him in adopting the final 3,000 plus unreached unengaged people groups.
Warren, author of the Purpose Drive Life (32 million copies sold) and leader of one of the largest churches in America, is looked to by many aspiring church planters and Christian leaders.
The Exponential West conference drew well over 2,000 leaders and had a very large number of people watching online. There were many great leaders present and joining via video and 75+ workshops offered throughout the week. As the last speaker of the conference, Warren used his time to address leaders on the topic of Insuring Your Ministry Lasts a Lifetime.
Bi Focal Vision
He called Pastors and aspiring leaders to maintain a:
- teachable spirit,
- a pure heart,
- a clear purpose, and
- a bi focal vision.
The bifocal vision Warren was referring to has to do with maintaining both a local and a global ministry focus.
He chastised leaders who say that they will wait until they are a certain size before planning and engaging in global mission. When asked rhetorically,
“When should I have a global vision?”
“Before you plant the church.”
God’s Heart For the Nations
He then began to lay out a slew of verses referencing God’s heart for all people saying there are over 250 verses in the Bible concerning the nations, from Genesis to Revelation.
“Will you repent of your localism and outsourcing of missions?”
He pointed out that so much that is done in missions is being done by those outside of local church.
Some would contend that this is a good thing and that local churches, for the most part, are not set up to be missionary sending structures. However Warren points to the blessing on his own Saddleback Church coming from the fact that they have been involved in global missions from the beginning.
Warren said that Saddleback has sent over 24,000 of its members to every country on the face of the earth.
He believed that this was the primary reason they have experienced so much growth and blessing as a congregation over the nearly 35 years of their existence as a church.
Ultimately Warren was calling Pastors to stay involved in global mission and not just their own blocks, neighborhoods, and cities.
The Final Frontier Project
To me the most exciting part of Warren’s exhortation was for Pastors and churches to adopt the over 3,000 last remaining unreached, unengaged people groups, by the end of the decade.
These are people groups that Warren says have
- No Bible
- No Believer
- No Body of Christ (church)
This is not the first time Warren emphasized what he is calling the Final Frontier Project.
In April of 2013 Christianity Today ran an interview called Rick Warren’s Final Frontier where he outlines his desire to reach the last remaining unreached, unengaged people groups.
Warren has always been a big proponent of missions. Our ministry’s founder Ralph D. Winter was one of the people that had a big impact on his thinking in regards to unreached people groups and the special kind of evangelism that is needed to reach them.
Recovering From Tragedy
On the very same day the CT article ran, Friday, April 5, 2013, Warren announced that his son Matthew died due to suicide after a long struggle with depression.
I had just finished reading the CT article and was excited about Warren’s backing and leadership on this global mission initiative. It wasn’t long that I, along with the rest of the world, would hear the crushing news about his son. Rick Warren went off the grid to care for his family and grieve.
The Apollo Phase
He is now back and picking up the Final Frontier Project once again. In 1980, Warren vowed to retire in 2020, after 40 years in the pulpit. He now has six years left to go. In the CT interview in 2013, Warren spoke of what he called “The Apollo phase”—saying,
We’re going to the moon, which means we’re making sure that we get a church and a Bible, or at least part of the Scriptures, translated, and a Christian in every one of those 3,400 unengaged people groups.
Even if Warren does retire from leading Saddleback in 2020, I can bet you that he will not be idle. I believe he will make it his life’s mission to see his Final Frontier Project come to pass, mobilizing what he calls the Caleb Generation, those retiring in the next 10 years. Saying to Christianity Today,
“The Caleb generation, retiring in the next 10 years, I intend to mobilize for the Great Commission. I say, ‘You think you’re going to go home and play golf? Not a chance.'”
I am thankful to have Rick Warren as an advocate for the final frontiers of God’s global mission, the last remaining unreached unengaged people groups. His voice in the days to come, will again, not go unnoticed. His influence will make a difference and hopefully help to launch a new zenith era in global mission with the best North American Pastors clamoring to be involved.