At the heart of the real-life parable that played out in Atlanta last month between a murder suspect and his female hostage were moving words from a hugely influential religious book. Like millions of others, Ashley Smith has studied Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life. She helped prompt fugitive Brian Nichols to take spiritual inventory after reading aloud from the book. Over pancakes, they discussed the notion of Christian service, and Nichols released Smith and surrendered to police not long afterward.
Warren's book is a mega-best seller, having sold more than 22 million copies and been translated into 28 languages. The pastor's message is that the path to spiritual fulfillment comes through service to others and adherence to God's purpose. "What I'm saying isn't new," he says. "I just synthesize ideas and translate them into simple language." Warren, 51, who grew up the son of a Baptist minister in Northern California, started his church, Saddleback, 25 years ago with his wife and a small group that convened in their apartment. Warren says he now commits 90% of his income to Saddleback and charitable foundations he has established to build churches, clinics, schools and pastor-training programs in the U.S. and abroad. When the Atlanta drama was unfolding, he was on a 10-day journey through Africa, laying the groundwork for a planned Christian-inspired assault on such problems as poverty, disease and illiteracy, part of what he calls a "second reformation." More than merely talking about values, his movement is about living a life of value.
From the Archive
Rick Warren: America's New People's Pastor