Leadership Is Stewardship — Rick Warren
The second session of the day was Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Southern California, and author of the immensely popular and record-setting book, The Purpose Driven Life.
It is no secret that The Purpose Driven Life is now the single greatest bestseller of any book written in America. It’s success as a book has been immense, partly as a result of the popularity of the 40 Days of Purpose church program, but also on its own merits as well.
Well, Rick Warren spoke to us about the fact that when God gives influence to someone, it is an incredible burden to bear and must be stewarded well.
God is looking for people to use.
To open his talk, Rick took us to 2 Chronicles 16:9 (Incidentally, a lot of people criticize Rick for how he uses the Scriptures. He has a tendency to illustrate his points with one verse or phrase taken out of context, but I just want to say here that in his entire message, whenever he mentioned a passage of Scripture, he briefly explained the context and then quoted the verse from memory—every single one! I was thoroughly impressed that for a man who never preaches without notes, his message to us was mostly contemporaneous and his Scripture was quoted from memory.)
Anyway, Rick cited 2 Chronicles 16:9 (I don’t know which translation he was quoting):
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
By way of encouragement, Rick mentioned that leadership is not something that God reserves for the best and the brightest of his kingdom and withholds from the majority. Instead, he said that God is eagerly seeking to strengthen people. God is looking for people that he can use, and all it takes is someone to have a heart fully committed to him.
Principles from Moses’s Life
Ironically, Rick had planned to address some issues from Moses’s life and only heard that morning that Bill Hybel’s main passage was from Moses’s calling. Rick highlighted two truths.
- See the World as God sees it.
- See yourself as God sees you.
Moses saw the oppression of the Israelites under the Egyptians, and God knew that too, but Moses saw himself as a weakling when God saw him as a mighty leader. These are such simple, profound reminders of what is really a lifetime discipline!
More practically, he said that God really has two questions to ask of people that he empowers for leadership.
- What is in your heart? — This is the question of passion, vision, and the holy discontent Bill mentioned in the first message.
- What is in your hand?
What is in your hand?
The question God asked Moses was, “What is in your hand?” Of course, Moses was a shepherd, so he had a staff in his hand. God told him to throw it down, and it came alive as a snake. Then, when Moses picked it up, it became a dead staff again.
Rick reminded us that the staff represented Moses’s identity, his income, and his influence. He was a shepherd. He made his living as a shepherd. And the staff was what he used to move (influence) the sheep.
Getting a little allegorical, Rick said that the thing that was the symbol of Moses’s identity, income, and influence was the very thing he needed to throw down. Out of Moses’s hands, God would make it come alive. In Moses’s hands, it would just be what it had always been.
For the rest of the story of the Exodus, the staff is no longer called Moses’s staff but it is the Rod of God.
This is the point: Our identity, our income, and our influence are not ours. They are on loan, and we are stewards.
Attempting to live this out, Rick and his wife have made some dramatic decisions.
Rick shared with us that the runaway success of the book has taken him completely off guard. He never imagined it would become what it has become. To him, it’s a God thing completely.
However, the book has given Rick immense income and influence, and it has come out of his identity as a pastor. Nevertheless, he and his wife have attempted to lay it all down and treat it as a stewardship.
He shared with us four key commitments he has made to steward the income:
- Rick and his wife have determined to not change their living arrangements or lifestyle in any respect. They have not purchased a boat or done anything that would change their standard of living.
- Rick has stopped taking a salary from his church.
- Rick has totalled up every dollar that the church has paid him for the past 25 years, and he has paid it all back. Now, if anyone asks, he can say that he served his church for 25 years for free.
- Rick and his wife have established a number of charitable foundations to address causes important to them.
Then, Rick noted that his influence as a result of the book has also increased dramatically. In light of that, he has made a personal commitment to pursue the eradication of the “Five Global Giants,” the worst problems in our world and the source of many others:
- Spiritual Emptiness
- Egocentric Leaders
- Illiteracy / Lack of Education.
Rick’s message was a challenging one in the sense that too often I run the risk of assuming that whatever leadership gifts, etc. I possess are somehow mine. Somehow, I want to take credit for my leadership—or at the very least, I want other people to give me credit.
However, when I hang on to my gifts and treat them as my own, I will be holding onto a dead staff. My gifts and talents (whatever they may be) will only become alive if I throw them all down at the feet of Jesus and truly understand that I am only a steward.
Whatever income, identity, or influence I may have, I have on loan.