Newsletter 588 – Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Reflections

Rick Warren High-Key Shoot 9-13-07, By Scott TokarI was impressed with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church when it was published in 1995. In contrast his Purpose Driven Life book bored me when it appeared later so I put it aside although it seemed like everyone I knew was reading it. Last week’s newsletter indicated that I finally had read and learned from the revised version, titled What on Earth am I Here For? What follows are random highlights that could be helpful for ourselves and our work with students, coaching clients or others.

  • Page 173 presents a key idea that challenges some of our long-held views of success: “Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the ‘abundant life’ to mean good health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of their dreams,” plus, perhaps, professional acclaim, impressive resumes, influence, business success and affluence. Some believers assume that these often come through faith and prayer. That “self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who exists to serve us in the selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment [and success.] But life is not about you,” Warren writes. We exist for God’s purposes.
  • Those purposes include serving others as best we can and focusing on relationships. Warren writes that “relationships must have priority above everything else…. How you treated other people, not your wealth or accomplishments, is the most enduring impact you can leave on earth.” I, Gary, believe that my legacy will not be about the talks I’ve given or the publications that have been written. My legacy will be the lives I’ve touched—especially those who are impacting others.
  • Busyness is a great enemy of relationships. Thoreau wrote that people have lives of quiet desperation but today we more often live with aimless distraction, ”like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace, never going anywhere” (page 36). Sound familiar?
  • Two powerful traps especially prevent us from being fulfilled, content, or able to know our life purpose. First is the envy trap that comes from making comparisons that leave us feeling cheated, angry, jealous, discontented and doubting that God knows what’s best for us. Second trap is the people-pleasing addiction. Whatever the reasons, when we constantly try to please others, they set our agendas and we miss God’s ultimate purpose for our lives.

 There’s a lot here. Please comment—even if you don’t feel you have anything useful to share.


  1. I have begun to see that relationships can also (unhealthily) become the gold standard by which everything is measured. “As long as I’m meeting with people and getting to know them, I’m doing what I’m supposed to for God.” We can make friends all our life but never tell them the truth about Jesus, or never confront their sinful ways that grieve God, all for the sake of saving or preserving the relationship. This also is a wasted life without connecting with God’s ultimate purpose: his glory displayed in the world through our lives.


    1. I agree that some relationships can be a waste of time, but if we want to have an impact in any way I think we need to build a genuine friendship first and trust God to open a door for discussing more spiritual (or other) issues. Friendships with an agenda are not very lasting or sincere. Do you agree?


  2. I have realized that the key to relationship is caring about others. Trying to get as close as possible to Jesus and what He preached is caring about the people who are around you. The more we get involved in seminars, leadership programs and other things planned by the church we realize that we only instruction we need to follow is what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Churches in most countries of the world are getting empty and some are dying because they are losing this focus. God will make great things in other people through you, not when all you do is to attend church on Sunday morning.


    1. Rick Warren makes a similar point: The key to genuine friendship is caring and love. Remember Francis Schaeffer? One of his best books was The Mark of a Christian. That is love, even when we don’t feel like it.


  3. Hi Gary,

    Back in 2004 we went through the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign as a church. It was everyone’s bandwagon. I remember sitting in the living room of a couple that was on the fringe (not active attenders) of our church, plugging in the video tapes on their giant-screen TV, and getting excited when a non-Christian co-worker from my work downtown decided to attend one or two times. We had several small groups happening in our church and it seemed exciting times. And then the groups were over, the books were closed, and life went on.

    Last Spring a 65+ gentleman in our new church wanted to go through Purpose Driven Life in a small group setting – primarily to minister to his family – and, as Pastor, I let him lead and agreed to attend. And this meant that I had to read the book again. I had the same reaction that you did the first time, but on this second go, I was profoundly amazed at the wisdom, the “nuggets,” that God gave Rick when he wrote the book. Sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph were packed with nuggets of applicable truth and information. It may be hard for some to place it as a classic on the same level that others might place other books as classics – My Utmost for His Highest, for example. My observations in taking a second glance were, “this is a pretty good book,” and I had a deeper appreciation for it the second time more than the first time.

    Thanks for sharing, and your legacy will be based on relationships. Recently, at an area-wide Pastor’s gathering, we were asked to tell about our top mentors and the impact they made on our lives. You were at the top of my list. Thank you for the inspiration!



    1. Tim,

      It was so good to hear from you and to get an update. I Googled you and was surprised that you no longer look like the young guy that I remember from many years ago. Would you believe that I don’t look any older than I once did? OK – It is not true.
      I was glad to read your experience with Warren’s book. I hesitated to highlight it in a newsletter that is supposed to be update. But I think you are right. This is a book with a wealth of useful and significant information. In many ways it is timeless.
      And thank you so much for your affirmation of me as a mentor. I was moved by your words, both in your post and in what you presumably said to that pastors’ group. It supports what I was trying to say. My real legacy is guys like Tim Behrens (and maybe Jim Seely in some ways – although he and I had one of these mutual mentoring relationships).
      Shoot me an email sometime at


  4. I think it’s not an incidental thing when I receive your post during my initial dissertation writing that related with life purpose. Your post reminds me about Christian life purpose among several definitions from previous findings. Thanks Gary. As a Christian psychology student, I hope that life purpose concept is not merely ended in scientific area, but also can be introduced to youth who struggle to seek their life purpose.


    1. Livia, I spend a lot of time with people like those you mentioned – and they are not always young. Some are older and stalled. In your dissertation try to find the current issue of Fast Company magazine. Probably it is still on the newsstands. This is a business magazine that has a huge cover story on mission for individuals and businesses. At the risk of beating an issue to death in my newsletter, I think I will focus on the FC article in my weekly post for next week.


  5. In the movie “City Slickers” there was one basic theme for me which was “Find that One Thing”.
    I am thankful to God that he found me, and through Him I have found that “One Thing”.
    That has set the focus of how I live and face whatever comes my way.

    In these past few years of supposed retirement and some health problems, He has opened up a way for me to be involved with some of my former military mates through visitation and phonecalls. For many of these blokes Jesus has been popular as a swear word. But I am there to honour his precious name. not only as a person but also as their honorary chaplain.
    Jesus breaks us out of our “comfortable lifestyle” when we are out to honour Him.

    There are times when we need to read modern authors and preachers like “Rick Warren”, John Stott, and older authors like G F Dempster and G Campbell Morgan, Alexander Mclaren. Not to mention Gary Collins.

    We need the prayers of our church to accompany our private prayers. The reading of God’s Word and faithful preaching. All these stimulates our soul so that we can fulfil our Purpose for Living.

    Thanks for being back on air (email)

    Your friend in Christ

    Brian Hogan


    1. I really appreciate your message Brian. As I enter the Grande Finale years I too have encountered some unexpected circumstances that have derailed my future plans. But I trust God’s wisdom, timing and guidance, so like you I move forward surprised in some ways but confident. And I still keep running into people who want my mentoring and friendship – especially non-Christians and others who might be very different from me. I do not want to be stuck in a Christian ghetto with people my own age and ethnic group.


  6. In my earlier years, I, too, struggled with what it meant to live a life that was abundant. One member of my immediate family was very successful in business and thought that he was living an abundant life. But that type of thinking just doesn’t jell with the reality of life that most of the biblical figures experienced.

    Then one day, I heard someone mention that perhaps living an “abundant life” meant experiencing life with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. I’m not talking about a manic-depressive state here, but rather the kind of life that’s engulfed in relationships and empathy that can truly feel what others (and ourselves) are experiencing as we go through life events.

    Consider Mary, the mother of Jesus. Realizing that she was to give birth to the Savior of the world must have been the highest of highs! And then, seeing her Son crucified on the cross had to have been the lowest of lows.

    Yes, God’s purposes are not our purposes. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NASB)

    His purpose. The joy in all of this, is that we get to experience everything that life has to offer – the highest highs, the lowest lows, and everything in between – as we live a life to fulfill His purpose. That, my friends, is an abundant life!



    1. Thanks Wendell. Abundant iife is living life to the fullest. I like Warren’s emphasis that this does not mean a life of ease and success that comes when we try to use God as a genie, asking him to do things that he never promised. It seems that almost none of the biblical heroes had lives that were all easy – but they were fulfilling.


  7. Gary, like a parent’s greatest joy often is seeing their kids do well, my greatest joy is seeing “my kids” (my former disciples) doing well and having an impact on others. Multiplying discipleship (mentoring, or whatever title we want to use) is definitely God’s plan for us to have biblical success and a lasting impact. They really are “my kids” and I love them.


    1. 3 John 4: “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children live in the truth.” Good words, Duane.

      I certainly agree with you although I might use different terminology. I don’t much use the word “kids” although this is a great word. I have one young colleague who knows I think of him as “the son I never had.” I came into his life when his biological dad died unexpectantly and prematurely. Two other men (both overseas) call me dad. Maybe others might think of me in that way or as a surrogate father , but usually I think of these people as younger friends who have honored me by letting me come into their lives at some time and make an impact, often minuscule but at other times greater. They all call me by my first name and for quite a few I see them as mentors to me although they may never realize this. I am sure you will agree, it goes two ways.

      You probably remember that In his classic writing about the stages of life, Erik Erikson wrote that pouring into the next generation is the culmination of a life well lived. This need not start at the end of life. For me it started when I was in High School teaching a group of squirmy kids in a Sunday School class. I wonder what happened to those kids? But I know about one of them and admire him.


  8. Hi Gary, welcome back. I think there’s a third trap: The Significance Trap. Being driven by the need to “make a mark”, “do something big” or “be significant” is no better than the other traps. I feel this inside me often…perhaps it is a combination of personality and Spirit prompting. We are called to abide and follow. There is honor in living a simple, quiet life of following Jesus. If he invites us into work that the world or church labels “significant” or “important”, then great. But it can’t be about that either.


    1. You are absolutely right. I think this is even more significant than the other two. I am with you on this. Right now I am in a situation where I feel unable to be in control but I keep getting the message to cut the pace. I hate this. I still want to have an impact and I am aware that time is getting short. I still want to create things and make a difference. What’s been done in the past does not count for me. I still have projects. In some ways this is motivating and healthy but it also can be self-destructive and unhealthy. God wants to transform us (Rom 12:1-2) but that takes time when I am in a hurry most of the time. Thanks so much for your post. I suspect others are in the same boat.


  9. Thank you Gary for this article. I believe as well that “Life is not about you”.. My Pastor Dr. Charles Price sums it up this way, “Don’t ask what is God’s will for your life; instead, ask ‘What is God doing that is bigger than me of which I may be a part of’?” It’s not about us… An important consideration especially on this day of Remembrance in Canada, and honoring the Veterans in the US.

    Also, a favorite definition of “Busy” that I love is: Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke… that helps me ‘cut the pace’ at times quite cheerfully!



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