Monday, March 23, 2009

My Purpose Driven Life

I admit that when the pastor started talking about doing a church wide book club series on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, I was hesitate. I’m loyal to Oprah’s book club and only Oprah.

The thought of having to read an Oprah book and a Warren book made me feel a bit overwhelmed. Then the pastor announced the week before the study that everyone involved would get a free key chain with the books logo. That settled it. The book had to be good if it came with a key chain—a free one on top of that.

And an amazing thing happened during the study—I discovered that I didn't need Christ, I needed purpose. Before I read this book I was a pretty good Christian. I went to church; I read the Bible; I went on mission trips; I even did a little bit of evangelism. I was happy, but all I had was Christ.

Pastor Warren helped me see that you need more than what Christ could have ever died for to be truly happy—you need to have purpose. Christ can give me eternal salvation, but that doesn’t do me any good on Earth. At the best, commitment to Christ on Earth will get me a stale donut hole at the end of the church service. Purpose, I now knew, can get me so much more.

The more I read the book, the more I realized that being a Christian was tough, required discipline, and didn’t even guarantee happiness.

I started reading the Bible a little more carefully and found this little verse, hidden shamefully between some happy versus, that said ‘endure hardship like discipline.’ Hardship! Discipline! I never knew the Bible said that! I was now compelled to finish this Warren book to figure what to do about this scary little verse.

What Pastor Warren showed me was, yeah, your life is crappy, and the reason it’s crappy is because you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Happiness, he helped me discover, comes from purpose, not from Christ.

The more I considered what he was saying, the more it became crystal clear—if I simply find purpose, then I wouldn’t need Christ until my deathbed. Christ, it became clear, is just a scapegoat for those who cannot face the challenge of finding meaning. I knew it might be hard, but I was determined more than ever to find a purpose.

About the time I was questioning my purpose, my church had a ministry fair that was inspired by Warren’s book. It was like they knew I was questioning my purpose. Tents with fancy signs advertised how I could find purpose by helping others. But helping someone else, hardly seemed to be helping myself, and if I was ever going to have purpose, I needed something self-gratifying. I wasn’t certain helping others is what Pastor Warren would really want me to do.

Late that night, I was watching a Spanish infomercial and I felt I had found my purpose. I knew by the tone in the man’s voice that this was a pyramid scheme, but I also knew that this was it—this illegal pyramid scheme was my purpose. And so I devised a pyramid scheme of my own.

It was a standard pyramid scheme—but there was a catch that I knew people would absolutely love and be anxious to be involved in. My pyramid scheme, you see, had purpose.

According to my scheme, a person would get what I called the ‘Purpose List.’ The ‘Purpose List’ had names on it. Eight names to be exact. The person sent each person on the ‘Purpose List’ five dollars. When this was done, their name would be put on a new ‘Purpose List’ All a person needed to do was send my customize ‘Purpose Form Letter’ and the ‘Purpose List,’ which now included their name, to 100 people. It was that simple. And purposeful!

The next Sunday, I visited Pastor Warren's Saddleback church in Southern California. While people were in church, I set up a table outside. I made a pretty little glittery sign that said, “MY PURPOSE DRIVEN PYRAMID,” and waited for church to finish so I could sign everyone up.

As it happened, I didn’t have to wait long. Before the service even let out, two very nice looking biker dudes told me I could not solicit on church property. I told them that I had to—it was my purpose. They seemed to sympathize with me—I think they were looking for purpose too—but they still made me leave, and said they’d pray for me.

I was disappointed in Pastor Warren. He seemed so sincere when he said he wanted me to have purpose, but he wouldn’t help me once I found it. It was like he’d given me a cookie without the milk. What kind of sick person does this?

As I thought about everything, a revelation came: Pastor Warren had already beaten me to the Purpose Pyramid Scheme. He sat on the top of the scheme and convinced other church pastors if they would have their church members pay 20 bucks for his purposeful book, then their members would find purpose, and they in turn would convince their friends to buy it, and so on and so forth. Warren’s purpose driven pyramid scheme is perhaps one of the most brilliant of them all—but that still left me with no purpose of my own.


  1. A 'Christian' book that says you can live with a
    'purpose' and without Christ? I can't think of anything more detrimental.

  2. I served as an associate in Laguna Beach. The church's female pastor lived next door to Warren. He wouldn't speak to her because, allegedly, he thought it was sinful that she was an ordained female. Now I understand it's 'cuz she only bought one of his books and had all the rest of us share. Where's the profit in that?