Rick & Kay Warren Extended Interview

Read more of Kim Lawton’s August 11, 2006 interview in Toronto with Rick and Kay Warren:

KIM LAWTON: We’re here for the International AIDS Conference. Let me start with Kay. Why has this issue become such a passion for you?

KAY WARREN: [It was] completely unexpected for me to begin to be an advocate for HIV. I picked up a magazine one day, and it had an article about AIDS in Africa, and I decided to read it. I didn’t really care at that moment. I couldn’t tell you why I was compelled to read it, but I did, and when I did I saw that there were 12 million children orphaned in Africa due to AIDS, and where I live I didn’t know a single orphan, and so the thought that there were 12 million children orphaned anywhere due to anything was — it was as though someone just ripped this huge blindfold off my face, and it haunted me. After a period of time of just reflecting on that and not knowing what to do with that, I realized that God was calling me to care about people with HIV, and I did, and it began this incredible journey. It changed the whole direction of my life. It changed what I care about and —

RICK WARREN: I’ll say.

KAY WARREN: — what I talk about, what I think about, what I read, what I do.

RICK WARREN: She’s a very disturbed woman.

KAY WARREN: Yeah, I became a seriously disturbed woman. And it started so small and then has mushroomed into a huge ministry.

KIM LAWTON: You’ve been at it for a while. Have you seen progress? It’s such a huge problem and so entrenched. Do you see some forward motion?

KAY WARREN : I do. I do. People who know me would agree when I say I’m more of a pessimist. Rick is the optimist; I’m a pessimist. So for me to be optimistic is really a big deal, and I am optimistic —

RICK WARREN: We were just talking about this yesterday. We’re seeing more and more churches care about it. We’re seeing the visibility rise. AIDS was a big issue in the ’80s, and then it kind of became old news for a lot of people. And part of it was this issue that it’s a chronic disease in America now. We have the medicines [so] that you can live for a long time. I talked to a guy yesterday who’s had AIDS for nearly 20 years. And so we don’t see it as so life threatening anymore in America, as long as you have the medications. But what most people don’t know is around the world it’s still a death sentence. You’re going to die within months or years, and there’s a lot more urgency with that. But I think just in the last few years, even as Kay began to talk about it, and I and then others, particularly in churches —

KAY WARREN : I’ve seen movement in our church —


KAY WARREN : You know, four years ago I was this lone voice in the wilderness talking about HIV, and people were very startled by that, and like, “What? What do we — we’ve never talked about things like that.” Now people will walk up and go, “Hey, how’s the AIDS ministry going?” They care about it. They want to be involved. They want to learn. I think our church is a microcosm —

RICK WARREN: I do, too.

KAY WARREN : — of what’s happening in other churches.

RICK WARREN: When Kay had the first meeting, there were maybe a dozen people showed up.

KAY WARREN : No, six.

RICK WARREN: Six people showed up. Today it would be a congregational issue. It’s what we call a signature issue for Saddleback [Church in Lake Forest, California]. It’s almost like Celebrate Recovery, which is another signature issue for us that we say we really — this is something we want to be known for.

KIM LAWTON: What about the evangelical movement as a whole? That’s not something evangelicals have been known for. Do you feel your message really is penetrating there, or do you still feel resistance?

KAY WARREN : Both. I think it’s penetrating, and I still think there is some resistance. It doesn’t upset me that much. I don’t feel judgmental about that or angry at the evangelical church, because I was sitting in that exact chair just a few years ago. So I really feel like I know some of the issues that keep people from becoming involved or caring. Twenty-five years into the pandemic and most people still don’t know how HIV is transmitted. They don’t know that you can’t pass it by sitting next to somebody and talking them, touching them.

RICK WARREN: Hugging them.

KAY WARREN : Hugging them.

RICK WARREN: Kissing them.

KAY WARREN: They don’t know, and so there’s still a huge fear factor. I think there is prejudice, there are myths, apathy. You know, most people say —

RICK WARREN: “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

KAY WARREN : Yeah. “I’m busy. My life is really full. I don’t really have time to take on something like AIDS.”

RICK WARREN: I think that’s a big issue. A lot of people say, “Yeah, I know it’s important. It’s just not important to me.” It becomes [important] to most people when they finally put a face on it.

KAY WARREN : Yeah, when it becomes personal, when they know somebody.

RICK WARREN: A relative, a friend, a boss, a mom, dad, kid or something like that, and all of a sudden, “Oh, this is a big issue.”

KAY WARREN: It’s not just 40 million people infected around the world. Suddenly it’s a person with a name and a face and a life that you can relate to. When that happens, people are much more apt to want to get involved, to care.

RICK WARREN: We do a conference every year — Purpose-Driven HIV/AIDS conference. We always do it on November 29-30 and December 1, because December 1 is World AIDS Day. Last year on the last day we invited people who had HIV to come to the stage, and we said, “We’re going to pray for you,” and for many of these people, it was their first — oh, why don’t you tell that story?

KAY WARREN : Well, it was so moving. I was standing at the edge of the stage, where people had to come to walk up onto the stage, and as I got to hug each person who came out onto the stage, some of them could hardly walk, they were sobbing so hard. They were so overcome with emotion, and they would grab onto me and hug and just whisper things in my ear like, “I never thought this day would come. I never thought that I would be accepted in the church, that I could tell somebody that I had AIDS.” And so, when they stood out on the stage with us, it wasn’t like —

RICK WARREN: Holding hands together —

KAY WARREN: — wasn’t like they were — oh, what’s the word? They weren’t object lessons. They were just people, and suddenly all the people from the conference — we had them come up afterwards — there were hundreds of people hugging and hugging.

RICK WARREN: Oh, at least 30, 45 minutes [they] literally stood in line —

KAY WARREN : — hugging and crying —

RICK WARREN: — to hug these people, and these people were just weeping, and they said, “It’s such a healing time,” both groups.

KAY WARREN: The people who were infected with HIV and then the people who were not. The time that they spent together — there’s one really incredible story from that. It was a young man named Carl, and he was gay, and he had been rejected, had been told [by] several churches he wasn’t supposed to come, they didn’t want him there anymore. And then he found out he was HIV-positive. Well, he had just begun medication probably a couple weeks before our conference, and I found out two weeks after our conference that he had been one of the young men on the stage and that he died. His mom, when she was telling me about it, through her tears said, “You know, he was rejected all those years by the church and feeling like God didn’t care about him. And then he was HIV-positive.” And she said, “Now he’s dead.” She said, “But you know what? He died knowing he was loved.” And she said, “I’ll never ever be able to replace that, that some of his last days were [spent] knowing that God loved him, and that other believers loved him.”

KIM LAWTON: Many people have an image of the evangelical world as very judgmental.

RICK WARREN: I think evangelicals in particular — we’re coming late to the party. I mean, obviously I mean it’s not a party, but —

KAY WARREN: — to the table.

RICK WARREN: Late to the table, because when this thing broke out in the early ’80s, most people — the face of AIDS was a white gay guy, and they’re going, “I don’t relate to that.” But the truth is around the world the face of AIDS is a black or brown woman. More women have AIDS than men. In fact, more children have AIDS than there are gays in the world. It’s an issue that is not just one particular segment. In Africa, 99.5 percent of Africa claims some kind of faith, and yet there are millions of people with HIV. The church has AIDS. It’s not something outside the church. I know pastors who have AIDS.

KAY WARREN : It’s not an “us and them.”

RICK WARREN: It’s not an “us and them.”

KAY WARREN: Which is, I think, where the conversation has been for a long time. You know, “We’re in the church and anybody who has AIDS is outside of the church.” And just nothing could be further from the truth. In our own church, as we have created now a place for people to say, “I’m HIV positive. I’m sick,” suddenly there are people who will say, “You know, for 20 years, I have carried this.” I’m thinking of a man in our church who for 20 years the only person who knew really was his wife, because in the church that they had been in when he was diagnosed, they told him they didn’t want him to — they told him to leave, they didn’t want him there anymore. So they figured, “Okay, well, we’ll stay in church. We’ll change churches, but we’ll never tell anybody else that I’m HIV positive.” And for him to stand in front of our congregation and say and give his testimony and get a standing ovation — he said that’s a moment he will never ever forget.

RICK WARREN: If you take the word AIDS out of the equation, and if I were just to tell you there’s a disease out there that 40 million people are living with right now that’s incurable, and it’s going to grow exponentially over the next 10 to 15 years, and 28 million people have already died, and it’s left 14 or more million people in Africa orphaned by it, people go, “Whoa. What do we need to do about that?”

KAY WARREN : We’ve got to do something about that.

RICK WARREN: The biggest enemies are apathy and ignorance, dealing with those two.

KIM LAWTON: You’ve talked a lot about Africa and the international focus your ministry has been taking. This year in particular you launched the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. How is that going? What are you trying to do?

RICK WARREN: The Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan is a plan to mobilize average, normal, ordinary people to make a difference in the world, wherever they are. We’re the first generation where you can go anywhere in the world within 24 hours, which means this makes the world much more accessible to normal people, particularly Americans [who] could actually get out on the field. The old idea of missions was you either give your entire life to it, and you move to a place like Zambia, and you’re there the rest of your life, or you don’t go. Well, that leaves most people totally uninvolved. It’s what I call the “you pay, and you pray, and you stay out of the way,” and you let the professionals do it. The problem is there aren’t enough professionals to solve the world’s problems. There will never be enough doctors to solve the health problems of the world. There will never be enough teachers to solve the education problems of the world — illiteracy. There will never be enough missionaries to care and comfort and share the Good News. It has to be done by normal, ordinary people. The P.E.A.C.E. Plan is a plan that we developed over a period of time — it actually came out going on a trip with Kay to Africa on an HIV/AIDS event when we were trying to learn from the African church how to do it in our church, because they’re so much ahead of us. In the last two years, we’ve had over 7,000 members of Saddleback overseas on a P.E.A.C.E. Plan tour. P.E.A.C.E. stands for Partner with congregations or Plant a congregation if there’s not one there; Equip servant leaders; Assist the poor; Care for the sick; and Educate the next generation. [It] takes on what we call the five global giants — the five problems that are so big the United Nations has failed at them, the United States has failed at them, and the only thing big enough is the global church, which has 2.3 billion people in it. People forget that the church is bigger than China. It speaks more languages than the United Nations. It has more volunteers than all the NGOs in the world put together. Nothing comes close to the size of churches — the broadest distribution networks, the most volunteers, local credibility — all these different things that make the church poised to deal with these issues of spiritual emptiness and corrupt leadership and poverty and disease and illiteracy, which are problems that affect billions of people, not just millions.

KIM LAWTON: I’ve heard people say that’s kind of a broad agenda —

KAY WARREN : Just a little.

KIM LAWTON: — and it’s kind of naive to think that somebody can tackle all of these things that, as you mentioned, the U.N. and everybody else has taken on.

RICK WARREN: The world is always changed by people who don’t listen to conventional wisdom. I think we often set our goals too small and try to accomplish them too quickly. This is not something we intend to do in five years or ten years.

KAY WARREN: Or by ourselves.

RICK WARREN: Or by ourselves. It’s giving the rest of our lives and mobilizing the network that’s already there. We’ve seen this happen over and over, both in Katrina and in the tsunami in Southeast Asia. It was empirically proved that churches can deliver services faster than even government or NGOs. It’s just proven over and over and over. It’s the big lessons of the last few years. When the tsunami hit in Southeast Asia, we immediately notified our network of 400,000 churches — the Purpose-Driven network around Thailand and Indonesia, Banda Aceh, back up into India. We actually had relief teams headed for the coast within minutes of the tidal wave, literally within minutes. It was so much faster than anybody else, because we were mobilized at the grassroots.

KIM LAWTON: Since we’re talking internationally, let’s discuss North Korea. A lot of eyebrows were raised when news came out that you were going there and then that you are going to go back and preach.

RICK WARREN: The first missionaries went to Korea about 120 years ago, and 20 years after that they had the first national revival, kind of like our first Great Awakening here in America. That was 100 years ago. It’s called the Pyongyang Revival. Next March 2007 is the 100th anniversary of the Pyongyang Revival, and for whatever reason — I don’t know why — they have decided in Korea that they’re going to allow the first public meeting of Christianity, actually a stadium event, in about 60 years. The committee contacted me and said, “Will you go?” Well, my policy has always been I go wherever I’m invited, regardless of politics. I’m not a politician. I don’t go to places for political reasons. As long as I can share the message, am not limited on the message, that I can share the Good News of Jesus Christ, I’ll go anywhere. I knew that I’d be criticized. People say, “Well, you’re being a pawn. You’re being used,” and things like that. The truth is I want to get the Good News out. To me, when Billy Graham went to Russia before the communist regime collapsed; when the pope went into Poland to support Solidarity and to preach the Good News; or when Mandela went back into South Africa — there are lots of things that people get criticized for: “Why are you going there?” My reasoning is why not? There are people in North Korea that have not heard for 60 years there is a God. He made you, he loves you, and he has a purpose for your life. If I get the chance to do that, I’m there.

KIM LAWTON: What has all the globe trotting and meeting the presidents of nations meant? Did you ever imagine this, Kay, marrying a minister? How has your life changed?

KAY WARREN: I did always want to marry a minister. My dad was a pastor, and he was a great pastor, so I had a good experience growing up. And so that was okay with me — to marry a pastor. I knew when I met him at 17 — I know that sounds really cheesy, but it’s the truth. I knew when he was 17 that God had his hand on this young man in a way that I had not experienced in other people that I had met. Of course, I had no idea what that was going to — I just knew that–

RICK WARREN: Neither did I.

KAY WARREN: No, we had no idea. We’re both from small churches, lower middle income families. I mean, we had no idea. But it has been a very incredible, exciting, fulfilling — I say it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. It’s exhilarating because we’re partnering with God, and it’s terrifying because we’re partnering with God. You know? It’s both of that.

RICK WARREN: When we started Saddleback Church, now 26 years ago — we were both 25 at the time — I thought, I’m going to give my life to one church forever, I mean for the entire life. My goal was to stay in one church for life and to train other pastors. Those were the only two things I really wanted to do. I didn’t want to be on TV, didn’t want to be on radio. In fact, that’s why we never publicized or did our shows on TV, you know, worship services on television, because I didn’t want to be a celebrity. I was very happy just being a local church pastor and training pastors, and that’s what we did for about 24 years. The church grew, and we traveled around the world pretty much under the radar, but training about 400,000 pastors in 163 countries. It was very nice — what we call our stealth strategy, not being known. But the book PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE kind of blew that cover, and all of a sudden it speeded up things enormously. We had decided that the first 10 years of our ministry would be the local ministry — that’s from ’80 to ’89 — and the church grew from Kay and [me] to about 6,000 people. Then in the 1990s I said, “Okay, now we’re going to go national.” What I meant by that is we’re going to help other churches, particularly little churches. I wrote the book PURPOSE-DRIVEN CHURCH, and I dedicated it to bi-vocational ministers who are in churches that are so small they can’t afford a full-time priest or pastor or minister, whatever. In the 1990s, the next decade, we trained about a quarter of a million pastors and church leaders here in America. Then, when it came to the 21st century, I said, “‘Okay, now we’re going to go global,” and almost all my focus is on the developing world. There are 2.1 million pastors in the developing world [who] have no training at all, okay? Zero training. Actually, it happened from an event that when Kay and I were in South Africa, she was going to Mozambique and Malawi to study churches on how they do HIV, and while we were there I did what I do. I do training, and we simulcast it to 400 sites across Africa. After it was over I said, “Well, take me out to a village. I want to just go see a typical church.” So we get in the Jeep, and we go out to a village and meet a young pastor, and he walks out — it’s a tent church. It’s 75 people in a tent, and they have 50 adults and 25 kids orphaned by AIDS. They’re growing food in a garden, and they’re feeding the kids, and they’re putting them in a school in their tent, and the kids are sleeping in the tent at night. I thought, “This church is doing more for the poor than my megachurch,” and it just really broke my heart. Kay’s heart had been broken, you know, a year or so earlier. But it really grabbed me. The pastor walked out to me and he said, “I know who you are.” I thought, “How do you know who I am?” He goes, “You’re Pastor Rick.” Now I wasn’t on television on a weekly basis and things like this. He said, “I get your sermons every week,” because Saddleback was the first church on the Internet in 1992, and we put every sermon I’ve ever done — I don’t copyright — and we put it on the Internet and we allow other pastors, particularly those in small churches, to download it and get the material. I said, “How do you get my material? How do you get sermons? You don’t even have water or electricity in this village.” He said, “No, but they’re putting the Internet in every post office in South Africa. They’re called PITS — Public Informational Terminals.” He said, “Once a week I walk an hour and a half to the nearest terminal, and I download your sermon. And I walk an hour and a half back, and I teach it to my people.” And he said, “You know, Rick, you’re the only training I’ve ever had.” When I heard that I said, “I’ll give the rest of my life to helping guys like that.” That was when we got real serious, and the book just created the platform that allowed us the visibility to work with government leaders, business leaders, and church leaders on the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.

KAY WARREN: One of the things I would just add to that that I love about where we are in our lives is the unexpected, which is to talk to heads of state or people who have power in this world. But at the same time, we also get to be with those who have no power.


KAY WARREN: So we’re with the people who have a voice in a society and those who are voiceless. We may go from a presidential meeting in some place to a home visit to somebody who’s dying of AIDS —


KAY WARREN: — in a mud hut or a stick hut.

RICK WARREN: All in the same day.

KAY WARREN: Or really go from one to the next.

RICK WARREN: Here’s an example. When we were in the Philippines about a week ago we started the day going to a leprosarium. Kay and I went, and there were maybe about 300 people who had been deformed by leprosy. We went and we prayed with people and we talked with people and encouraged them. We took a guitar player with us and sang some songs and actually went to minister to them but were more encouraged by them, which always happens. We went from that event to the headquarters of the Philippino army, navy, and air force — their Pentagon, and spoke to a thousand generals, colonels, and admirals, many who were doing Forty Days of Purpose, and I thought, we went from the leprosarium to the Pentagon in literally about 30 minutes.

KAY WARREN: But we get to reflect to those who have voices the voice of those who don’t. We get to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice, those who don’t have any power. We get to take that back to the people who do, who can make a difference. That’s an incredible —

RICK WARREN: The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence. It’s not for your own ego. It’s not for your own gratification. When the book came out, we could have gone and bought a tiny island and retired and had people serve us drinks with little umbrellas. But when you write a book and the first line is, “It’s not about you,” then you figure, okay, the money’s not for you that comes in and the fame’s not for you either. You’re supposed to use it for good and for God.

KIM LAWTON: Because you are a cancer survivor, Kay, I wanted you to reflect a little bit on how you’re doing and how that has also played into some of this.

KAY WARREN: I’ve had a cancer diagnosis twice in the last three years — a breast cancer diagnosis and then last year melanoma. Twice in the last three years I’ve sat in a doctor’s office and looked at statistical charts, you know, and that’s very disconcerting. I have gone through treatment for both. Right now the doctors say everything’s fine but, you know, two things I would say about that. One is while I would never ever ask for cancer, I’m very grateful for what I’ve learned through it, because it has given me an empathy with sick people. I’m with sick people all the time and I know what it’s like to receive a life-threatening diagnosis. I know what it’s like to [lie] in your bed at night and wonder if you’re going to live as long as you always hoped you would. And so that has given me tremendous empathy.

RICK WARREN: To lose all your hair and be nauseated and —

KAY WARREN: Yeah, with medication making you sick. So, I’m grateful for that. And the second thing is that it has increased my passion for living, because I’ve realized I don’t get to control how long I live. I have absolutely no control how long I live, but I do get to control how I live. It has caused me to just live what I consider as full-bore passionate for God, for his purposes, and for his people, and for that I’m very grateful.

RICK WARREN: And I love that. She’s not just a seriously disturbed woman, she’s a passionate woman.

[Interview continues with Rick Warren]

KIM LAWTON: Say more about your recent South Korea trip.

RICK WARREN: We had two things that happened there that [were] really big. One of them was the largest pastor’s training in history. Twenty-two thousand pastors showed up. They had to change the venue a couple different times. And the other thing was they decided to do a rally in the World Cup soccer stadium. Well, now, that stadium had never ever been filled in history. They’ve never filled it. And we were all going, “It’s raining. Nobody’s going to come.” Even David Cho, pastor of the largest [Protestant church] in the world, said, “I don’t even have the faith to believe it will be filled.” But on the day of the rally, we literally had a miracle. It stopped raining. The sun came out for about 12 hours. The stadium stayed dry through the three-hour meeting that night and through about three hours until everybody got home and then started pouring again. And they not only filled that stadium, which is 75,000 seats, but we had about 30,000 people outside, watching on video screens on the outside. And so, it was record breaking for Seoul, and we just go, “That is an amazing thing. It stopped raining just long enough to have that event.” I enjoyed going to Korea, because I also went and visited the troops up at the DMZ. Spoke to the military base there — Yongsan — and had a great time with them, and then met with the president.

When we go into a country, we have a strategy of trying to meet with three different groups of leaders: business leaders, government leaders, and church leaders. I believe the five global giants, these problems that we’ve talked about, can only be resolved with what I call the three-legged stool. You’ve got to have public sector, private sector, and faith sector. Last January I spoke at the Davos World Economic Forum, and I told them, I said, “It’s going to be more than just private-public partnership. You’ve got to have the third leg of the stool.” Government has a role. The role of government’s primarily three-fold. Number one is to provide safety and security for the people. Keep us out of war. Protect us from terrorists, crime, things like that — safety and security. Second is provide opportunity and freedom so entrepreneurship and people can prosper in a free society, where there are laws that allows us to have private property and things like that. And the third thing is to enforce the law. You’ve got to have stop signs. And so government has an important role in bringing stability to a nation, a country, a company, or a church. Business has a role too in these problems of disease and poverty and illiteracy, because they bring expertise to the table, they bring capital to the table to invest, and they also bring management skills, which — most businesses, most churches, and most governments are poorly managed. They don’t really get done what they’re called to do. But the church has three things that business and government don’t have. They have the widest distribution. It’s a network. I could take you to 10 million villages [where] the only thing in it is a church. They have the biggest volunteer pool — 2.3 billion people claim to be followers of Christ. If you mobilize just half of them, you’d have a billion people in this compassionate work force, and they have local credibility. At the local level, people trust their pastor.

I know my community better than anybody. I’ve been in Saddleback Valley 26 years. I’ve listened to people’s problems for 26 years. I’ve loved them. I’ve now watched an entire generation grow up. When I started Saddleback Church, my daughter Amy was four months old. Today she’s married and has two children, so I have grandchildren. I watched an entire generation be born, go through preschool, get into grade school, learn to read and write, get into those awkward junior high years, have their heart broken in high school, go to the prom or not get to go to the prom, you know, graduate, go off to college, come back and start their family. I love that stability. [Alvin] Toeffler talks about in a book, FUTURE SCHOCK — that in times of rapid change, people need islands of stability. They need something in their lives that doesn’t change. They know that it’s going to hold on to them, it’s going to anchor them. I like that, so that’s why I’ve never moved from where we started the church. People say, “Oh, that’s old Pastor Rick. He’s been there nearly 30 years.”

KIM LAWTON: You’ve been there 30 years, but things have changed so much for you personally.

RICK WARREN: They have.

KIM LAWTON: How has your relationship with Jesus changed, even in the last couple of years?

RICK WARREN: I find my relationship to Christ is much closer, because I have to depend on him moment by moment. I find myself thrust into situations that I would have never imagined myself being in, and oftentimes going, “What am I doing here?” In the last year I’ve spoken at the United Nations, at Cambridge and Harvard and Oxford and the Global Health Summit, and all different things. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve figured that I would be invited to speak at places like this. And yet, I do believe in what I call the stewardship of influence as well as the stewardship of affluence. And that is you use whatever God gives you not for your own benefit, but use it to help people who have no benefit. And when you use whatever God gives you, he gives you more of it. When you use it well, he gives you more of it. I have found myself constantly surprised in the people that I meet and the opportunities that I get. When people ask me, “What can I pray for you?” I always say the same three things — pray for humility, for integrity, and generosity, because these are the three antidotes to the three traps that leaders always fall into, which is pride, okay, or materialism or some kind of personal pleasure. It could be sex, it could be any other addiction — pornography– it could be anything. When people get under tremendous stress, they tend to start saying, “Well, I deserve this. I owe it to myself.” And so I never travel alone. I have not ever even been in a room with a woman who is not my wife, with the door closed, ever in 26 years. I’ve put some parameters around my life. Billy Graham’s one of my mentors, and he taught me a number of these things just by his own example in life, of building parameters that keep integrity in your life.

And then the generosity was a lesson. When Kay and I got married 30 years ago, we started tithing, which is the biblical principle giving the first 10 percent back to God. At the end of the first year, we raised to 11 percent. At the end of the second year of our marriage, we raised it to 12 percent, the end of the third year to 13 percent. Every year of our marriage, we would raise our giving at least a percent. Why? Because every time I give, it breaks the grip of materialism in my life. The only antidote to materialism is giving, because materialism’s all about getting. Every time I give, my heart grows bigger. Every time I give, I become more like Jesus. We’ve been married 31 years, and we’re actually reverse tithers. We give away 90 percent and we live on 10. I find the generosity the easiest part. I find the most difficult part is this constantly being under the spotlight. I think being under the spotlight all the time blinds you. I don’t think that’s good for your character. That’s why it’s good to have children and grandchildren. It’s good to have a local church, where people don’t treat me like a celebrity. They [say,] “Oh, that’s just old Rick,” and we need those people who are not impressed with you. It’s very easy to impress people if you’re on the road all the time, and that’s why I’m not an evangelist. I’m a pastor. Evangelists typically travel around all the time, and they’re always preaching the Good News — the Gospel. I’m a pastor of a local church. I’m not a televangelist. I’ve never had a televised program. I’m a pastor. A pastor’s role is to care and comfort, encourage, teach, and everything that I do, even when I meet with world leaders, is from a pastor’s heart.

KIM LAWTON: Are there particular spiritual disciplines you follow to keep your own faithful spark? Sometimes a pastor, and someone who travels as much as you do, can sometimes almost go on autopilot.

RICK WARREN: Right, right. Exactly.

KIM LAWTON: What do you do to make sure that that your personal spirituality stays alive?

RICK WARREN: There’s the physical gauge, and the emotional gauge, and the spiritual gauge in your life. The one that can run out for me the easiest is the emotional gauge, which is the gauge when you’re always with people, always giving out. There have been days in the last 38 days when I was in 13 countries that I thought, “If I have to take another picture or sign another book or just be compassionate to one more person, I’m going to run out of energy.” I developed a long time ago some habits. One of them is what I call “divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.” Divert daily is everyday you do something that’s not work-related. You do something that relaxes you. It could be banging on the piano, working in the garden, going swimming, working out at a gym. You’ve got to figure out what causes you to divert daily, so that your life is not all ministry, your life is not all work. I’m fortunate that God has given me an amazing team of men around me — six, eight guys — that we literally like each other. We love each other, we have fun together, we talk about when we retire everybody buying a Winnebago and traveling together, you know, or Harleys or whatever. You have to have people around you that you enjoy life with. Then you withdraw weekly. The Bible says every seven days you take a day off. If God put that in the Ten Commandments — I mean, that’s right up there with don’t commit adultery and don’t murder. It says you remember the Sabbath. You take a day off once a week for worship. Well, Sunday is not a day off for me. I’m doing six services at Saddleback on a typical weekend. Even when I travel I schedule a day off, a Sabbath, on a regular basis through our travels. And then abandon annually means you just go out and forget it all. Right before we went on this recent trip, I took four generations of my family to Hawaii. We rented a big house, and we sat in there and just had fun for a week, you know, and just enjoyed the great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and kids, and had a great time. I took my three boys — son-in-law and two sons — right before I left salmon fishing. So you just do stuff. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured. So you have to have spiritual disciplines which are pretty common that people know. It’s like daily quiet time with God, a time of prayer and Bible study.

KIM LAWTON: Do you do that?

RICK WARREN: Oh, yeah, of course, and I read through the Bible on a regular basis. I memorize scripture. I pray. I evaluate my life on a regular basis. The Bible says, “Test yourself. See if you’re in the faith.” You have to check yourself on the disciplines. It’s just like working out or anything like that. In working out, I’ve actually had a guy who’s a trainer with, actually, the Angels baseball team. [He] was a guy in my church, and he said, “Hey, Rick. Can I work with you?” And I said, “Fine.” So that kind of accountability is good for you. But you have to balance all the areas — physical, spiritual, relational, emotional. People say, “How do you motivate others?” and I say I don’t. My whole goal is just to keep myself motivated. If I’m motivated, if I’m on fire, it’s going to catch with somebody else. You must never let your personal life be outpaced by your professional life. If you do, [if] your professional life takes more of your time than your personal life, then that’s called stress, okay? And it’s called worry and things like that. Worry is a sign that you’re trying to be God. The greatest stress reliever to me is this sentence: God is God, and I’m not. [It] used to be in Saturday Night Live. Chevy Chase used to say, “Hi, I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not.” I could imagine God saying to a lot of us, “Hey, I’m God, and you’re not. You’re not the general manager of the universe.” And the greatest stress reliever is take God seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously, you know? The problem is we do the opposite. We take ourselves way too seriously, and we don’t take God seriously enough. It is not by accident that humor and humility come from the same root word. If you can laugh at yourself, you’ll always have plenty of good material.

KIM LAWTON: I want to ask you about the perception many people in our society have of evangelicals and the evangelical movement, especially the tie with conservative politics. You are speaking out on some different issues that other evangelicals don’t emphasize. What do you think about how many people perceive evangelicals, and how are you trying to break that perception?

RICK WARREN: It’s interesting that the media has to rediscover evangelicals about every seven years, and they’ll put a cover on TIME or NEWSWEEK and say, “Here are the evangelicals,” like they have to introduce this segment to America. Well, the fact is, you know, about a third of America are evangelicals. They’re a bigger segment than the media is, and it’s not like they have to be introduced. They’ve been there all along. They’re your neighbors, they’re your friends, and they’re not whackos. They’re just normal people. An evangelical is somebody who believes the Bible is the word of God, believes Jesus is the son of God, and believes that we should share the message of Good News with other people. We don’t believe in coercion. I mean, we do believe in persuasion. In other words, everybody come to the table. You share your ideas, I’ll share mine, and may the best ideas win.

As an evangelical, my greatest fear is that evangelicals will get pigeonholed and defined by politics rather than by theology or by love. I don’t think it’s good for any denomination, any religion, or any segment of Christianity to be co-opted by either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Personally, I’m actually registered as an Independent, and I did that because I have friends on both sides of the aisle. I have friends who are Republicans, and I have friends who are Democrats, and I’m for my friends. People ask me, “Are you right wing or are you left wing?” and I always say, “I’m for the whole bird,” you know? A one-winged bird didn’t ever get off the ground. We need the value and the beauty of democracy, and the beauty of pluralism is there’s a free exchange of ideas. Nobody is right all the time. I’m not right all the time. I don’t agree with anybody all the time, and I don’t even agree with myself all the time.

It’s pretty common knowledge that I’m a friend of President Bush. I think he’s a good man. I think he has a tender heart for helping people. He’s done far more about this HIV/AIDS than any president in history, and now he’s got the new malaria initiative and things like this. I believe in his heart he believes in compassionate conservatism, and I’ve talked to him about this, and he gets caricatured. What people don’t know is that I’m also friends with Al Gore and John Kerry. John Kerry was in our church just a while back, and I sat in my office and talked with him. I have a hard time being pigeonholed, because I lean conservative on certain values, and I lean more liberal or moderate on other values, because I think they’re both right in different areas. I think that we have the personal responsibility of moral behavior, and we have personal responsibility of needing salvation from God. But I also think the social structures in our world need to be more fair. The difference that I would have with the typical liberal is that I would agree with them we need to care about injustice, and poverty, and the oppressed, and the poor, and these things. I just disagree with them on the solution. Many of the liberal people tend to say, “Well, the solution is government.” I couldn’t disagree more. The government cannot solve the problem and never will. I believe the solution to these problems is the church and that the church should be responsible for caring for the sick, and assisting the poor, and educating. This has historically been the goal of the church. It’s surprising to people to know that 95 percent of all the hospitals in the world were started by Christians, and 95 percent of all the schools in the world were started by Christians, because Christianity is a healing and teaching faith. Jesus did these things, and usually in countries the first hospital and the first school were started by missionaries, because Christians care about these issues.

I want evangelicals to be known not for what they’re against, but what they’re for. Yes, there are some things that I believe are flat out wrong. There is no doubt about it, and I’m not wishy-washy about it. But my agenda is bigger than simply those issues. My agenda is to be as big as the agenda of Jesus.