Watching CNN (or it may have been NBC – he was on both) tonight I saw a story on Rick Warren. He, much to the delight of his publisher I’m sure, has been getting some pub in light of the fact that Ashley Smith, the captive of Atlanta courthouse shooter Brian Nichols, reportedly shared with him from Warren’s bestselling Purpose Driven Life. (By the way, if you haven’t read the story, click here – it’s worth the read. Thanks to David for the link).
Now I’ve not read the book so I can’t comment on it. I’m sure it’s nice. The problem is that in the process of showing clips of Warren’s megachurch (Saddleback), the report then showed all of these tents and tables set up outside the church where they were selling copies of the book, the companion journal, and all kinds of other stuff including, I’m not making this up, hats and shirt that said “Got Purpose,” modeled after the “Got Milk” adds. My concern in all of this is that it makes it look like Warren is peddling the Gospel for a profit. While I have plenty of disagreements with him in matters of church and worship, I’m inclined to think that Warren is a good guy and a sincere and believing pastor… but there is arguably a hint of impropriety about the whole marketing machine.
I’m not saying that he shouldn’t make his books available (though the world could live without the hats and t-shirts). I just think there is a more discreet and appropriate way to make helpful resources available to people than to set up a market for folks on their way in and out of worship.
By the way, Dr. Frank Page, pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Greenville, was on Larry King Live tonight talking about the story of Ashley Smith. He was apparently her pastor in Augusta before moving to Greenville. Small world.