I like Rick Warren. I think he has much to offer those of us working in Church leadership. I know some of my more Orthodox readers believe that we cannot learn anything from people like Rick Warren but I disagree. Show me an Orthodox church in the US that has 10,000 souls on Sunday and I will pay attention. I am not speaking of his theology just his methods of church growth.

Yesterday I posted a quote from Pastor Warren “The greatest churches in history are yet to be built. Are you prepared to be used by God? Willing to pay the price? To be hated?” This is what I will focus on today.

The greatest churches in history are yet to be built. Now I might be reading things into this quote but what he is getting at here is not buildings. If you have read anything he has written you know when he speaks of church he means people. That what we need to do as leaders is build up people. We need to build them up and send them out. We need to equip people to face the junk that is out there in the world. We need to speak the truth of the Gospel no matter how unpopular that might be. The other day I posted on facebook a little quote from the Catholic Bishops in US. “Abortion is not health care because killing is not healing” Well as you can imagine that sparked quite a little response from people. I followed that up with a post here on the blog on the Orthodox position on abortion. Again more response. But it is the teaching of the church. The truth hurts, and the truth will set you free. We as preachers at some point in time, decided we need to be liked and popular. Well I would rather preach the truth then be popular!

Are we prepared to be used by God? Another interesting question. God will use us for the kingdom if we are willing to be used. But we have to listen to his call. He is speaking, yes speaking even in these crazy days. If we turn off the TV, radio, computer, ipod, etc… we will be able to hear him. If we equip the saints then he will be able to be heard by them.

The last part of the quote, are we willing to pay the price, to be hated? This is the hardest part of all of this. Visionaries are often hated by those with no vision. Jesus was hated by those in power and he lost his life for it. Jesus was a reformer and a visionary and he died for it, and for us by the way. If you are a leader, or one who is in training to be a leader be prepared to be hated. Yes even in the church people will hate you. In fact I think it is worse in the church. But keep this in mind. If they are kicking your butt it means you are still out in front!

Leadership is not easy. Vision is not easy. But we are required to be visionaries if we are going to be leaders other wise we stand still. And if we have no one following us then we are just out for a walk.

What is your vision? How to you impart your vision to those you lead?


  1. I think when you have the vision that is right for you then you don't care if people disagree with you or even hate you.You can see the bigger picture and the noise around you becomes nonsense.
    religion is like this. you see the center while others see the understand what is important to you and are able to steer in those directions.
    The good thing with a church that holds your vision is that you do not strenght not fear.

  2. We need to speak the truth of the Gospel, no matter how unpopular our vision may be. A person — especially a priest — can be popular by saying what his audience wants to hear, even if it is contrary to Christian doctrine.

    Our priests need to support what is morally and spiritually correct — because this is the Christian thing to do — even if taking this stand results in fewer friends.

  3. Fr Peter-Michael,

    While I think I understand your admiration for the *results* of Rick Warren, et al, I believe it's quite clear that there will not be such results from a non-ethnic Orthodox church in this country, at least in our life time. (Incidentally, there are a few Orthodox Churches in this country that have such numbers, but they are completely ethnic enclaves).

    The reason why I believe that it's not possilbe for there to be such an Orthodox expereince in the US is 1) the typical American is attracted to the style of such a church, and that style is used as a hook to listen to the message. The message itself is also tailored to a certain laid-back, non-threatening style. I say this not with any amount of criticism (thought I could!) but just as a fact. It's self-admitted that Saddleback (et al) is engineered to produce a certain result.

    Reason 2) is that if and when Americans do "church shop" (for instance, someone has come to the realization that they need God or "religion" in their life) one of the last places they will look is Orthodoxy, if they would ever consider it at all. It's simply too foreign, whether from our sign that says "Russian, Greek, Serbian" or when they walk into the church and it appears to be so different from the typical Protesant, or even today's Catholic, Church.

    The irony of course is that Orthodoxy has attracted a significant amount of converts (almost the entire Holy Synod of the OCA, and half the priests are converts, and some 70% of the Antiochian clergy are converts). However, many, if not most, of those converts share certain traits: They are usually extremely well read, well educated, and they've exhausted whatever they tried to experience in their former Christian confession. They felt that Orthodoxy was the "next step" (and hopefully last) in their spiritual journey.

    I do not know what the answer is, to be honest. I do not know how we acheive "Rick Warren" results but maintain our integrity as Orthodox Christians, surrounded by a religiously iconoclastic culture. I do not know if its possilbe to "engineer" an Orthodox church or approach that would capture the minds and hearts of the typical American seeker. I do not know how a traditional Church embraces a soft-sell, non-threatneing, iconoclastic approach to bring people into the Faith.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Fr Tom Soroka
    Pittsburgh, PA

  4. Being Christian means knowing how to love others. Love is a verb. It matters little how they respond initially. Feelings just are, so they are of little importance. You have to be tough skinned, like a dew-drop of water falling off a leaf. Take a stand in love, do not judge, and it's never about how you feel or if your popular. Be the salt,(Christian presence) and example, then let go to let Jesus handle the rest. Meanwhile, a few prayers never hurt any situation. What they remember is the love, and they'll know where to find you.

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