WS: I want to drill down on the notion of succession planning. Which is where you are going when you talk about working yourself out of a job.
You mentioned that you started in 1980. I read somewhere that you had originally talked about maybe giving it up after 40 years. I did. You'd made a promise to the original members that you would give Saddleback 40 years of your life.
RW: I did. Announced it hundreds of times. That’s a part of what it means to begin with the end in mind. I wrote down a dozen or so principles. We don't have time to get in all of them, but I would like to cover some.
WS: Yeah, please.
RW: I spent the last three years, Warren, talking guys out of quitting because of COVID. And the question you’re asking, about succession, is the number three question I got from them.
The number one question is: I worked so hard to grow our church, and now we're 25 to 30 percent off. I want to give up. How do I stay encouraged?
The second question that they're asking is: How do I shepherd a church that's divided over politics? I have to be the shepherd of everybody. But some people are giving greater allegiance to their political identity than to their identity in Christ.
But the third one is what you’re asking about.
WS: Wait a minute before you answer the succession question. I can’t resist asking: What do you tell those guys were are struggling with political divisions in their congregation?
RW: That's a whole other podcast. It really is.
WS: All right. Fair enough. So let’s stick to the third question.
RW: This third question, the changing of the guard in succession, is key, and the first thing I say is that there is no success without a successor.
We're just cogs in a giant wheel called Christian history. There are people who served before me. There will be people who serve after me. Acts 13:36 says, “David served God's purpose in his generation, then he died.” That’s all I can do. I can't serve the previous generation. Someone else will have to serve the next generation. Somebody handed a baton to me. And now I've got to hand it to others. To go into ministry not knowing you're going to hand the baton off is dumb. Only a fool would go through life unprepared for something that is inevitable. So I began with the end in mind.
And that's why, as you pointed out, at the very first service in 1980 I announced I would give 40 years to this church. Why that number? It honestly was just the biggest number I could think of. It wasn't a number from God. God didn't say give 40 years.
I personally did a study of the 100 largest churches in the US and I wrote to them, just on my own, while I was in school, and asked them a series of questions. I asked the pastor question. I asked them to send me a packet of their bulletins and their programs and their constitution. I'm a learner. I absorb and I'm a synthesizer.
I discovered out of that study that it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. There’s more than one way to grow a great church. Show me a great church that is growing and I can show you a church doing the exact opposite thing, and it’s growing too. So anybody who tells you, this is the only way to grow a healthy church, they're wrong. They're just wrong. God uses all kinds of styles and systems and personalities, things like that
But there were two common denominators that I saw in every growing church. One of them was what I call the faith factor. Leadership that isn't afraid to believe God. That's always found in every growing church. And the other one is integrity. When you have integrity, it gets better every year. Now, if you don't have integrity, it gets worse every year.
If you have integrity, people trust in you more and more and more because you have a proven track record of laying down your life for the sheep. They know you're not doing this for yourself. They know you're doing it for their benefit. I've been at thousands of bedsides, hundreds of grave sites, funerals, weddings. One of the reasons I was late talking to you today is I was doing pastoral care.
One of the greatest things that I can do to help our new pastor is relieve his pastoral care and allow him to lead. It's a bottomless pit. You're never going to have people who don't have needs. And so it’s something I can do.
WS: Let me ask a quick follow up. No success without a successor, you said. In this case, you have chosen a successor, Andy Wood. What were you looking for? What did you see in him that made you say: “This is the guy.”
RW: Principle number six - Look for candidates who share the culture and personality of the church. We're a Southern Baptist church. They don't have to be a Southern Baptist, but churches typically don't split over theology. They split over personality. They split over strategy. They split over culture.
At Saddleback, we have a very defined culture. I'm the only pastor our people have ever known. 70 something percent of the church I baptized. Uh, in the 43 years that I was pastor, I baptized 57,000 believers. I don't know any church that's ever done that. In the 43 years I've pastor, we've baptized five people every day for 43 years. That's unheard of.
So it's very important that he matched culture and style.
We're what we call a purpose driven church. Now, that was a big advantage to me because I've been training pastors in this forever. Over a million pastors around the world have gone through purpose driven church. So I’ve got a big pool of people who already know how we build on the five verbs of the great commandment and the great commission -- worship, fellowship, discipleship ministry and evangelism, and how we balance these five purposes for health.
In 1995, I wrote a book called Purpose Driven Church. Zondervan told me it's the only book on the church to sell over a million copies. It's still selling. So number one, we're gonna look for somebody in a pool of a million pastors. That's an advantage I had. But then I narrowed it down with some other things. Number two, we're looking for somebody who's been a church planter – that’s kind of a pioneer. There are entrepreneurs and there are maintainers. There's a difference between startup guys and builder guys. And I thought we need somebody who has that pioneer spirit continue. That's what our people used to. They're going, what's the next mountain? What are we gonna take? Somebody who's not going to say, well it’s all built.
A third thing is…West Coast. There are a lot of great pastors that are friends. Guys that I've mentored. Most of the pastors of the big church in America I trained. There are guys I trained in the eighties or the nineties or 2000s, but if they're in the south, southern culture's not California culture.
Another thing was on a church this big, it's a city. Okay? Uh, there are I think 180,000 names on the role of attenders. I could be a mayor. It's a city. Imagine how many people in a city of 180,000 are in the hospital each week. A lot. You would expect that many members of Saddleback to be in the hospital each week a lot. So you have to build counseling programs and pastoral visitation programs. I can't have a newbie come in. I need somebody who has at least a decade under his belt. A proven track record that you grew something.
So that narrowed it down. Another question was whether he was young enough to give 25 years. Now, there were guys who actually fit those other qualifications here on the West Coast, but they're only like 10 years younger than me. Our church is used to a long pastor.
I know more about Orange County than any politician ever will, because I've spent decades listening to their problems, counseling them through crisis, walking through the dark days. I know far more about Orange County than anybody else would because I've been here 43 years.
So, when we did that, it kind of narrowed it down to where we ended up with Andy.
WS: You are very articulate about saying these right now. But did you go into the search process with these criteria in mind? Or did you discover them as you went through the search process?
RW: I did it with these things in mind.
One of the things that we did right up front is I start talking about transition with one of my mentors. I've had nine different mentors in my life. One of them was Billy Graham, who took me on at age 18.
But another one was Peter Drucker. Twenty-five years ago, I called up Peter and said, “Can I come talk to you about succession?” I took Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel, with me, and Chuck Fromm, the founder of Maranatha Music.
I asked Drucker, “Where do you get your best successors?”
He said the best successors are people who grew up in your system, in your church or whatever, and then go out and make it on their own and then come back. Not guys who spent their entire life in your church. They only know your system. People who know your system and then go out and make a name for themselves.
He said not to do a “prince in waiting.” Some churches have done that.
WS: Peter Drucker apparently didn't really say this, but he is often attributed with saying that
“culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And it sounds like that’s what you’re saying, too.
RW: Absolutely. It is. What we say here is “the culture in the hall beats the vision on the wall.”
By the way, people don't realize Peter Drucker was a devout Christian. Quite deep in his faith. In fact, one time I said, “Peter, when did you step across the line? When were you born again?”
He said, “Rick, it was when I finally understood grace. I realized I was never going to get a better deal. [Laughter.]
So on his hundredth birthday, after he died, many leaders came together to celebrate him. I was the opening speaker for that event.
WS: I’ve always admired his leadership and management books. So that's fascinating to me.
RW: One of the things that I learned from Drucker about transition and succession is to build a system that will succeed you. The system is actually the successor rather than a person.
A personality driven church is different than a purpose driven church. We've all seen personality driven churches. The moment the personality stumbles, the church dies. For instance, who was Wesley's successor? Nobody. He left the system called the Methodist Church. Who was Luther's successor? Nobody. He left the system called the Lutheran Church. Who was Calvin's successor? Nobody. He left the system called the Presbyterianism.
WS: Rick, if you will, with humility, let me gently push back on that. You’ve got a pretty big personality. I think a lot of people listening to this are probably saying right about now: “Is Rick Warren really saying that this is not a personality driven church?
RW: I'm glad you're asking that because I will deny it. And I’ll tell you why.
What you wanna do is you wanna build a church that when you're gone, you're mourned, but not missed. Let me explain the difference. Oh, Rick's not here. He loved us. We loved him. It's not the same with Rick not here. So you're mourned, but you're not really missed because you so built an organization that it can run without you. And I have proven this multiple times over the years that the church does not need me to maintain. It only needs me to take it to the next step. And it doesn't need Andy to maintain, it needs him to take it to the next step. When I wrote Purpose Driven Life, I was gone for seven months. I took a seven month sabbatical, and I, um, I would get up in the morning at about 4:30 in the morning, go to a place to write, and I would write till about five in the evening, come home, watch, uh, uh, eat dinner, play with kids, and go to bed by about eight.
In that seven months, I didn't preach a single sermon except Easter. And I, I did not, uh, hold a single staff meeting. The church literally was, well, they added 800 new members while I was gone. Wow. I'm thinking, man, we should, because what, we had set up a system of classes, 1 0 1, 2 0 1, 3, 1 4, 1, membership class, maturity class, ministry class, mission class. These classes go every month whether I'm here or not. And so how did we baptize 57,000 believers? Baptize after every service have a system that, that is working. It's not based on me being there. In any year that I've been pastor, I have never preached more than 28 weekends - for 43 years - because I didn't want it to be on me. And I wanted them to hear God's word from other people. And I didn't want 'em to think, well, if Rick's not here, the mice will play cuz the cat's away kind of thing.
Like, so I really do say that. I can give you examples over 43 years where I was sick for a year, the year that Kay got cancer, I was gone most of the year holding the bed pan while she's throwing up and her hair is falling out and she's facing cancer. The church grew consistently every single year because if you build a system that is still going at nighttime when you're sleeping and is going month to month, week to week, it's, it is a br it is a bring them into membership, build them up to maturity, train them for their ministry and send them out on mission. Bring them in, build them up, train them for send them out, bring them in, build them up, train 'em for, we've been doing that 43 years, whether I'm here or not. But, but what you do need leadership for is not maintenance. Honestly, Saddleback could go a couple years without a pastor and it would maintain, it wouldn't grow. You need a leader to help it grow.
WS: Well, Rick, we are 20 minutes into this conversation and we've covered only two of the 11,
two of the 11 principles. So, so, and I've got, I've got stuff that I want to ask about other than this. So hit me with one or two more that you just think are really on your heart that you want to share. And then, um, I'd like to point it…
RW: The biggest, the biggest trap to transition and and succession is the former pastor holding on. It's in his heart. You have to have your identity not in your church. Because if your identity is your church, the moment you let go of your church, who are you? You have to know whose you are, not who owns you. So my identity has never been in the church. I've always had my identity in Christ. And principle number five in my list of 11 is offer your resignation every week. Now, let me just say that this, I'm not making this up. I have a prayer that I have prayed every Saturday night and every Sunday morning for 43 years. And as I was driving to church on the freeway, uh, it's quite a long prayer. It's about 15 minutes long, I've got it memorized.
You know, Warren, uh, pro athletes have their game day ritual. They do the same thing to kind of get in the mood for the, for the game. And I would have my game day ritual prayer, which put me in the mind to be a servant. Okay? Not to be a superstar, not to be a show off, but to be a servant. And I need to remind myself I am a servant and prepare, not simply for preaching, but being on that patio and dealing one on one with the needs and hurts and interests of people. And so in that prayer, it's quite a long prayer. I have a number of things that I pray every week, but there's one part where I says that. I say this, God, I just wanna remind myself that this is your church. It's not my church. It's your church.
It belongs to you. Doesn't belong to me. You used me to start this church, but it's not my church. It belongs to you and I belong to you, which means you have the right to move me at any point. Now, I said, I'd give 40 years to this place, but I'm willing to step aside at any point. If you have somebody who you want to do the job, uh, could do the job better, I willingly surrender. And I literally warrant take my hands off the steering wheel for a fraction of a second. I've done this every Saturday and Sunday, 40 years, which is a symbol that says, “I'm not in control. You're, you're calling the shots. I belong to you and you have the right to move me.” But then the most difficult part of the prayer is this sentence: And I'm willing to do something harder.
But the point here is ask God what he wants you to do before you step down. Yeah. Yeah.
WS: So finishing the task is a big part of what you're going to do from now on? Is that what you're saying?
RW: Oh, yeah. Yeah. In fact, I'm committed to the next 10 years. Follow me in this.
I spent the last two years reading everything it could possibly read on every previous attempt to complete the Great Commission, pretty much since the Reformation - over 500 years. And there have been a lot of attempts to complete the great commission. I'm sure I have over 200 books just on the great commission in my library, and I've read 'em all.
And what I discovered is that they never involved the whole church. It tended to be agency led, never church wide. You didn't ever mobilize the people in the pew. And it tended to be a small group of white Western men.
Well, that doesn't represent the church. First, half the church are women and, and white men are a minority in the church around the world. We need the whole church using all the gifts. We need everybody.
Now let me, let me put this in perspective. There are 600 million Buddhists in the world. There are about 900 million Hindus in the world – most of them in India. There are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. There are only 14 million Jews. There should be 10 times that number. There should be 140 million. But five generations were killed in the Holocaust. So there's only 14 million Jews in the world.
But there are 2.6 billion Christians in the world. Now, they're not all our brand, they're not all my tribe. They're not all your tribe. But if you were to say to these 2.6 billion Christians: do you believe in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Yes. Do you believe Jesus is the son of God? Yes. You believe hHedied on the cross for your sins? Yes. You believe He rose again on Easter. Yes. You believe he’s back to heaven? Yes. Do you believe he gave us a great commission? Yes. Do you believe he's coming back one day? Yes. Do you believe he sent the Holy Spirit to start the church? Yes. Then we're on the same team. Okay.
You, we may disagree over baptism, Lord’s supper, Mary, and a dozen other things, but you're not a Muslim. So we're not starting from scratch with these people.
Now, if that’s true, 2.6 billion, that means one out of every three people on this planet is already saying, I believe Jesus is the son of God and died on the cross for my sins and rose again. That means the church is bigger than China. The church is bigger than China and the US and Europe put together. We're the biggest thing on the planet.
Nothing is bigger than the Church of God. So we need to figure out a way to mobilize the whole church. If every supposed Christian were actually trained to share their faith, if everybody only talked to two other people, everybody could hear it.
If this really is 2022 A.D., that means 2022 years from the birth of Christ. So that means Christ was born in year zero. Luke tells us that Jesus started his ministry right at about 30 years of age. And he had a three to three and a half year ministry. That means Christ died on the cross in AD 33. Christ resurrected in AD 33. Christ gave us the Great Commission in AD 33 and sent his Holy Spirit to start the church in AD 33. That means in 10 years, 2033, it's the 2000th birthday of Christianity. It's the 2000th anniversary of the Great Commission. It's the 2000th anniversary of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I said, why don't we just use that as a date?
There's no eschatological connection to it. It's just a date. So I have been recruiting and I have recruited 1600, so far, denominations, mission agencies and churches. And that's just a fraction of where we're going to commit to four goals by AD 2033. We call them ‘The Four B’s’. We want to have the Bible in the heart translation of every individual by AD 2033.
We also want to train every believer to share their faith with another person in the next decade. That would be enormous. Now that means we're going to have to involve the whole church, which means tribes we aren't used to working with.
Let me put this in perspective again. Of those 2.6 billion “people who believe in the resurrection and the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit,” a billion of those 2.6 billion are Catholics. 300 million of them are Eastern Orthodox. 500 million are Pentecostal, and 800 million are either evangelical or versions of Protestantism. So how do you get the whole church to work together? We're never gonna have structural unity. I don't think we even need it.
I'm not talking about even doctrinal unity. I'm talking about missional unity.
Jesus, His unanswered prayer in John 17 is: “I pray that they may be one.” Why? “So that the world may know.” The purpose of unity is not for structure. The purpose of unity is not for doctrine. The purpose of unity is that the world may know the world will be one. And so that the world will be won – w-o-n.
When we are one in one thing, getting the gospel out, that's what FTT is all about. We want every existing church to either plant a church or sponsor a church in the next decade. We want a church within access of every believer in the world in 10 years. So that means we're gonna have to multiply.
How do you know when a church is mature? A little girl becomes a woman when she has the ability to reproduce. A little boy becomes a man when he has the ability to reproduce. I don't care how doctrinal a church is, if they haven't reproduced, they're not mature. The mark of a mature church is reproduction. It's the mark of a healthy church. The sign of a healthy apple tree is more apples. So we're going to focus on that.
The other thing is, is a breakthrough prayer. And that is we're only gonna be able to do this if the Lord builds a house. I have been meeting with the prayer generals of networks around the world for the last two years. I love Zoom. It allows me to do... I did a Zoom, uh, actually I did a, um, video conferencing technology that I met with a million prayer warriors a couple months ago.
WS: Let me, if, if I've got a couple of questions. Can we, can we pivot off of this, a couple of questions that I want to ask you kind of in closing? Sure. Um, uh, some of them, because I, I actually put the word out on social media that I was gonna be interviewing you and I got a couple of questions that I wanted to ask you and a couple that I just think I want to ask you because I'd be kind of committing journalistic malpractice if I didn't ask them, um, so, the succession is more or less in place. Andy is, you know, the pastor, you're, um, you moved onto the next assignment of finishing the task. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, one of the things that came up in my social media request for questions was, um, about what you're gonna do. do you sit in the front pew of the church on Sunday morning and listen to Andy preach?
RW: Okay, that's principle number 11. Yeah. Principle number 11 is, once you got it, get out of the way. Okay. I told Andy I wouldn't be at church for at least three months. First place, I want him to, to get settled. Get staffed, and you gotta do a handoff where you make the guy the hero. And, and, and part of it was, is when you bring somebody in, you do it slowly. So realizing that a, a church, when you have transition, the members are gonna have two feelings. First, they're gonna have grief that the person that they have loved is leaving. Second, they're gonna have apprehension. Is this guy gonna be okay? Are we gonna be loved by him like we were loved by this guy? You must address those correctly and directly in your transition period. Andy and Stacy, after going through literally 11 levels of vetting, we had 11 levels of vetting, then some accusations came up that, you know. Yeah. You, and, and when those came up, we actually, we treat accusations seriously. My, this wasn't a sexual accusation. Yeah. My wife was…
WS: More leadership issues.
RW: My wife was molested in her father's church as a little girl. So I take accusations seriously.
It’s a big deal. So we went back and did three more levels. Uh, we weren't surprised by the accusation. We had already said, wait a minute, conflict is not abuse. Uh, disappointment, disagreement is not abuse. Uh, and so we weren't surprised by it. But anyway, when Andy came, I, he came July one. I said, for the first month, I want you to settle your family. Don't even do anything. Okay? I don't care if you come to church or not. Just settle your family. So for the month of July, I said, take a one month vacation in your new house, get your kids settled. If they're not settled, it isn't gonna work. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So take a full month just to work on that. Then in August, I said, I don't want you to assume any responsibility.
I'm still the pastor, but I want you to build relationships. You can come to any meeting, you can come to any staff. I want you to meet as many people as you can. Just work on relationships without having to work on the job. In September, mid-September, I physically handed him a baton in, in a service. And, and, and we had a great service where there was commissioning. It's almost like a wedding. You have, like there's vows and there's covenants. And he spoke and I spoke and I laid hands on him. And, and, and so that was the commission. And then he took over and I said, now Andy, you're not gonna see me for at least three months now. I will always be the founding pastor of the church. I don't wanna be at any meetings. I don't wanna make any decisions. I'm simply gonna love people and I'll help relieve some of the pastoral care for the older people who are gonna be dying off.
I need you to be working on next generation. So I said, at some point we'll come back in and we'll be sitting in the crowd and one day we'll be the old couple with a cane waving, going, that's our pastor. And here's the thing I always addressed Andy as my pastor and I, I hug him and I, this is my pastor. This is my pastor and I, and I said I, it kind of touches me. I've never had a pastor. Now I've got a pastor. I got somebody to pastor me. And so I said, Andy, I'll be available. You can call me from behind the scenes, but I'm never gonna be at a meeting and I'm never gonna make a decision. Yeah. And what you do with what I say is always between you and me.
WS: Yeah. One of the other questions, Rick, that I wanted to ask you about, um, again, came in from social media, was about women's ordination. You, you guys are Southern Baptist. Yep. Southern Baptists are pretty clear on where they stand on women's ordination. In fact, they may even become,
RW: I'm glad you ask about this
WS: More clear in the future. Um, you stood up at the most recent Southern Baptist Convention and, uh, expressed an alternative view, shall we say? Say more about that.
RW: I will first place all my life raised in a conservative Southern Baptist background. I have always thought, what's women's role? Men are pastors, women are not pastors. And I, while I traveled around the world and I could see women in China, uh, uh, pastoring far bigger churches in Saddleback, they go, it wasn't enough. I had to have a verse. I'm enough of a biblical person. I can't, I can't do something unless there's a verse that tells me this is okay. Now, what we have problem is that people on either side of this tend to choose the verses they like and ignore the other ones when they're actually verses for both. For instance, the Bible says that an elder is to be the husband of one wife. I believe that all of our elders are men, married men. Okay? And, and so our senior pastor, we believe should be a male.
And because he's an elder with the other elders, all our elders are male. Our senior pa, we believe the senior pastor should be male. Nobody even cared to ask that before they even brought it up. On the other hand, what, uh, was brought up at the convention when Al Mohler said the office of the pastor? Well, the problem is there's no office of the pastor in scripture. There's an office of elder, there's an office of Deacon. And you could say that the bishop is, is, is an office which is similar to elder. But if, if pastor is an office, where are the qualifications, they're never listed, there are, that's what happened is Baptist, were afraid to use the word elder cuz Presbyterians, and Baptists were afraid to use the word bishop because Catholics, so they chose the word pastor. There is no office of pastor.
It's pretty easy to make the case that there are women apostles in scripture that were set out okay. That were sent out. Uh, there's certainly women, deacons think Phoebe and others mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But so we say a pastor is a gift. And we recognize that women get gifts just like men do. And so we're not saying a woman should be an elder. When I find two scriptures that say the opposite. I believe them both. I don't explain away one. And here's the verse that changed my mind. Acts 2:17 and 18. We call Acts 2, which is Pentecost sermon, the charter of the church. The church at its birth was the church at its best, that if, if we wanna have the results of Acts, we gotta go back to, that the antidote to the 21st century is the first century.
Right now, a lot of people wanna go backwards, ‘make America great again’ means, let's go back to some era. There's some Christians wanna go back to the 1950s. There's some Christians that wanna go back to the Reformation. They think that's the golden age. I say, no, no, I I wanna go back. You just don't go back far enough. I wanna go back to the first century. And in Acts chapter two, where we get the charter of the church, where Peter says the Old Testament is over. What was the Old Testament? Male ordained priesthood. Only the only the Levites got to go into the temple. And only one of them got to go into the Holy of Holies - only one time a year. It was done in a very limited... There was not a idea every member's a minister. There was no idea of the priesthood of the believer. Okay? It was male ordained priests called Levites. But Joel predicts in Joel 2, and Peter quotes him in Acts 2, he says this is that that Joel mentioned: “In the last days,” now here, when Peter's saying this, he's saying the last days started at Pentecost - that we are not in the last of the last days, but the last days actually changed with the coming of the Holy Spirit. “In the last days, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.” And then he says, “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” A mark of the New Testament is that daughters will prophesy, not simply sons. Sons and daughters will preach, will prophesy. “Your young men will have, dream visions, and your old men will have dream dreams. On all flesh I will pour out my spirit. Both men and women will prophesy.” That's preach.
So do I believe that a woman, when Paul says a woman has to keep silent in the church, he was talking that as a rule for everybody? I don't. I think the, the general principle of, of, of Acts two, when the charter, the church is being given, that in the church, everybody gets to play. Now when you say this, sons and daughters, young and old, men and women, who gets left out? Nobody. No. This is a whole, everything shifted in the New Testament. Now here's the problem. For the first 300 years, we followed the charter of Acts, and Christianity had its greatest period of growth in the first 300 years. It went from 120 in the upper room to the official religion under the Roman Empire. They grew because it was sons and daughters, young and old, men and women. Everybody was authorized to preach.
WS: Well, Rick, I appreciate you sharing all of that. And let's just stipulate for the record that, uh, I didn't wanna get into an argument with you…
RW: Thank you.
WS: …but it does seem to me, and you correct me if I'm wrong on this that your position does put you at odds with the Southern Baptist Convention right now, is that fair or not?
RW: It doesn't, because here's the thing - that rule was only put into the Southern Baptist faith message in the year 2000. It had already been a convention for 200 years. Okay. It wasn't put in there. I asked Herschel Hobbs, who wrote the original Baptist Faith and message, why isn't ordination covered? It's not even mentioned in the Baptist faith and message. Even in the current one, it's not even mentioned. So you can't kick somebody out on ordination. Cause he said, because Baptist has never agreed on it. Then three of the original speaker, uh, uh, authors of the 2000 Baptist faith and message, I personally asked Adrian Rogers, “Does this include staff members that said a woman can't be a pastor?” He said, “No, we’re just talking about senior pastor.” Paige Patterson is on record as saying the same thing. And even Al Mohler was asked that question by the Louisville newspaper, and he said it didn't. So he changed his mind.
WS: So you think that the ultimate resolution of this will be that, um, women can have every position except senior pastor?
RW: I think so. In the Southern Baptists convention, I think people will realize first place. It's not biblical to say the pastor is an office, elder is the office and you ought call it what if you're, if you really believe inerrancy, call it what the Bible calls it. And second pastoring is a gift. And if it's not a gift, then you better have the office of elder, of of apostle, prophet make those all offices, too.
WS: Right. Rick, we've gotta bring this to a close, but, uh, I hope you'll forgive me for asking a couple of personal questions in closing here. I spoke with Kay about three years ago at the, um, at the conference in Dallas, Texas on sexual abuse that she was one of the keynote speakers for, we, we, you know, we, I interviewed her for the podcast mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And she, you know, spent a lot of time talking there. And then I spoke with you, uh, maybe a year or two before that. I'm trying to remember the exact timing, but it was a, it was a year after your son passed away. And, and Kay mentioned that, you know, sort of referenced that episode in y'all’s life, um, in my subsequent interview with her. So I guess my, my long context for just asking How you doing? How are you and Kay doing?
RW: Well, thank you for asking. First place, there is no expiration date on grief. You don't get over it. You get through it. The death of my son after 27 years of struggling with mental health, death by suicide, took his own life, was clearly the most traumatic experience in my life. I, I'll never get over it, but you do get through it. And Kay and I decided that we weren't gonna waste a hurt. We weren't gonna waste a hurt. And so while we always knew that we would become spokesman for mental health, as long as Matthew was alive, we felt it was his story to tell mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And we wanted him to be able to share. And I remember him coming to me one time at 17 years of age in tears, and he'd struggled with mental health and depression all his life. And he said, “Dad, why can't I just die and go to heaven? I know I'm saved.” He would lead many people to Christ. He had a tender heart and a tortured mind. He could lead people to Christ who were depressed and considering suicide. He said, it just doesn't work with me. It doesn't take the claw out of my brain. Why can't I die?” Well, that'll rip the heart out of a dad. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to hear that. And I was, I'm standing there sobbing and he's sobbing. I said, son, I, I don't think you really wanna die. I just think you want the pain to end. And I've always prayed two prayers for you since you were a little baby. One, that either God would miraculously heal you. We believe God heals today, but it doesn't happen all the time, which is why it's called a miracle. I don't know why some people get healed and some don't. It does happen, but it doesn't happen to everybody. And that's in the sovereignty of God.
But the other thing is, what do you do when you have a problem that you're gonna live with the rest of your life? Some problems are never gonna be solved. Everybody who's listening knows what I'm talking about right now. And if you have a problem that can't be solved, you have to manage it. And my prayer is either through medication, counseling, spiritual growth, formation of your soul, through a discipler, whatever, all these things will help you manage the pain. Because we live on a broken planet. Everything's broken. Our bodies are broken, the weather's broken, the economy's broken. Politics are broken. Uh, our minds are broken. We're all mentally ill. We all have hidden fears. We all have compulsions. All of our brains don't work right.
Now, if I take a pill for my liver, there's no shame in that. If my heart doesn't work, I take a pill for that. There's no shame in. But why, if my brain doesn't work, and I take a pill, I'm supposed to be ashamed of that? It's just another organ and it's not working. It's not a sin to be sick. Your chemistry is not your character. Okay. Your chemistry is not your character. And so he had a, as I said, a tender heart and a tortured bind. When Matthew died, of course, because of our notoriety, it was on everywhere. CNN News ticker. I'm walking through an airport and I see my son's name and the word suicide. It's, it's brutal. It's brutal. And then, of course, because you're, uh, uh, I'm, I'm a well-known person, people who don't like me used to attack and said all kinds of stuff. Armchair psychology. Well, maybe Matthew was gay and his son, his dad was, you know, pushing that all kinds of nonsense.
I received probably 35,000 letters of condolences from all around the world because I've been all around the world. And honestly, Warren, the ones that meant the most to me were not the ones from kings and queens and rock stars, presidents. I got those, and they were nice. But the ones that meant the most to me were from people who had been in depression that Matthew had led to Christ. And people would write to me and say, your son came on a suicide site and talked me out of suicide, and I'm gonna be in heaven because of your son. I know he was struggling himself. I know he struggled, but I'm gonna be in heaven because of him. And I remember writing in my journal that day, “In God's garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit.” And we're all broken trees. Warren, I'm a broken tree. If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done.
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