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b. Commitment.

Warren proceeds beyond conversion to examine the believer’s commitment to God in Christ, and understands it as a total love response to the Sovereign Lord who has graciously and lovingly saved him from his sin. He suggests that “you are as close to God as you choose to be”.[1] 

Commitment for Warren was based in and through the value of our choices as Christians. Our commitment deepens as our relationship with God in Christ develops. Commitment is a vast subject on its own; it is introduced here as part of Warren’s spiritual journey highlighting the fact that without commitment there is no real ministry direction for the believer.

Warren[2] clearly indicates that all Christians were “born by his purpose for his purpose”.  Thomas Carlyle concedes in his writings underlining humankind’s concerns that “the man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder - a waif, a nothing, a no man”.[3] To realise that “purpose” has to be out worked in the believer’s life indicates that deep commitment is needed.It is a commitment to single mindedness in life.

Warren believed that conversion always led to personal commitment to God, but that commitment could only be realised in the believer’s life through the quality of the decisions made in response to the spirit’s challenges. Warren in “The Purpose Driven Life” suggests some of the questions that believers must grapple with and respond to, if they would make their commitment to God complete.

The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That’s because we typically begin at the wrong starting point –ourselves. We ask self-centred questions like, What do I want to be? What should I do with my life? What are my goals, my ambitions, my dreams for my future? But focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose. The Bible says “It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power”.

In stark theological terms Warren is calling for Saddleback converts to live holy and sanctified lives. His post modern expression of commitment is no different from what the Apostles were calling for in the Acts of the Apostles. The inner heart and conscience of the convert needs to be cleansed, [5]while actively living out that sanctifying experience of moral conduct.[6] 

Commitment in Warren’s ecclesiology begins with two elements of sanctification: cleansing (hagiazein with katharizein) [7]and commitment to God (hagaimos with parhistemi).[8]Paul uses technical ritual language to explain the believer’s commitment to God in Christ. It is God’s will according to Warren and it is certainly a biblical principle that after conversion for which man has been chosen, comes the call to sanctification which is in essence a work of God.[9]

While conversion is a saving act in the past in which believers are sanctified once and for all,[10] all believers are then seen in God’s sight as the “hegiasmenori” the “sanctified [11]or converted”; coupled with this is the idea of sanctification as an on going and future work of God..Warren’s ecclesiology builds on the belief that conversion must of necessity bring a level of commitment which would be pleasing to God.

Warren suggests that “God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do”.[12] He reminds his readers that “discipleship is the process of becoming like Christ and it always begins with a decision”. Up to this point Warren has introduced spiritual awareness, that recognition of the Holy Spirit as sovereign; he has introduced the idea of a spiritual process, conversion i.e. the individual being rightly related to God.

Then he introduced the concept of commitment or discipleship; all of these experiences have to do with his understanding of why the church exists and what the church was meant to be. The outworking of this is the application of the same commitment principle in serving the local community.[14] Warren suggests that “love requires community. We cannot obey Christ’s command in isolation; we must be connected to each other in order to love each other”.[15] Community ministry is a key challenge for Saddleback.


Warren moves on in his thinking from conversion and commitment, convinced that the Sovereign God always guides those who love him. Peters reminds us of the importance of guidance; he suggests that “it is impossible to over emphasize the importance of the word of God in the work of God, particularly in evangelism and church growth”. [16]

The implication is that to know the word of God, is to know guidance and to know guidance is to fulfil the purposes of God within the church.Warren suggests: “You were put on earth to make a contribution”. [17] To know what that contribution is, God needs to guide. Warren reflects: You were not created just to consume resources, to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life….. you were created to add to life on earth and not just take from it. God wants you to give something back.

That something is the result of guidance which is called ministry. “God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do”.[19]Guidance helps the believer know why the church exists, what it is meant to be and ultimately what it is to do. Christianity for Warren was totally personal, but ultimately its outworking in the life of the believer was incredibly public.

This is made very clear in his  book “40 Days of Community”,[20] where he emphasises the need to be guided to worship, witness, pray, celebrate and give of ourselves to others and do this in a clear and distinct fellowship way. Guidance is both personal and collective as far as Warren was concerned and this is very important for at the heart of Warren’s ecclesiology is the importance of collective contact with community.

As far as he was concerned the spiritual experience that he calls spiritual health automatically delivered numerical growth.In Warren’s attempt to answer his own questions, “Why does the church exist? and What is the church meant to be?” he begins at the place of spiritual awareness introducing people to the fact that to know God one must begin at the place of personal conversion in Christ, commitment to Christ and ultimately finding guidance from God’s word for life’s journey.

This is the first level in the development of Warren’s ecclesiology and these personal spiritual experiences are vital and fundamental to the development of doctrines which Warren totally commits himself to believe, preach and teach. While these three spiritual experiences are not the only ones which can be associated with Warren’s life and ministry, they are crucial to him and the development of his ecclesiology.

Other spiritual experiences are outworked in worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism, but at the core of the development of his purpose driven church are Warren’s understanding of conversion, commitment and guidance.

[1] Warren, TPDL, 92.

[2] Warren, TPDL, 17.

[3] Warren, TPDL, 27.

[4] Rick Warren, The Purpose Drive Life, 17-18.

[5] Acts 15:9.

[6] 1 Peter 1:15.

[7] Ephesians 5:26, Hebrews 9:13-14.

[8] Romans, 6:19.

[9] John 10:36.

[10] Hebrews 10:29.

[11] 1 Corinthians 1:2, Acts 20:32.

[12] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 177.
[13] Warren, TPDL, 179.
[14] Rick Warren, 40 Days of Community, Lake Forest, California, Purpose Driven, 2004,12

[15] Warren, 40 DOC, 12.

[16] George Peters, A Theology Of Church Growth, 93.

[17] Warren, TPDL, 227.

[18] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 227.

[19] Col.3:23f.

[20] Rick Warren, Better Together, Lake Forest, California, Purpose Driven, 2004, 16-17.

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©2008 Church Education Trust