No Other Name, Not Even Rick Warren



[Please know that I don’t have a personal vendetta, you can’t donate to my “ministry”, I don’t take a salary and I don’t sell books or tapes. I’m not saying that all churches are evil or that all ministries herein named are dishonest. I am not cynical or jaded, but I am very concerned. God will judge all of us one day – for what we did and didn’t do, for what we said and didn’t say, and I must follow my conscience, no matter how angry it makes others. May God grant us real discernment.]


How To Shear The Sheep

In America, we value the rich, the famous, the successful and the beautiful.  Forget the poor and humble of spirit. Forget the meek and lowly (Jesus’ description of Himself). All that glitters must be gold, and gold is the goal! Even the church has fallen in with the world’s ways, and for many it’s all about fame and fortune.


The rise of American mega-churches is a phenomenon that has made stars out of its leaders. Just look at the works of Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Bakker, Paul & Jan Crouch, Michael Murdock, Bob Larsen, Paul Cain, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Hal Lindsay, and other famous evangelists. Look at the foundations, schools, mega-churches, television stations, political action organizations and other community “service” outreach vehicles they have built. With the money they have collected through tax-exempt donations, they have convinced people that they are right to expect to get back a percentage of their charitable donations by giving to non-profit organizations such as the Trinity Broadcasting Network, The Crystal Cathedral, the 700 Club, Heritage U.S.A., et al. If a church complex is tremendously large and ornate, and has “beautiful people” for its leaders, who promise the good life to its followers, there seems to be no end to the gullible “faithful” who will buy their books, pay for their homes and vacations, build their earthly kingdoms, and defend their fearless leaders with the scripture taken out of context and applied to these false prophets: “touch NOT the Lord’s anointed and do His prophets no harm”! (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalms 105:15)


It is easy to spot the phonies, and it even feeds our pride to compare ourselves with those who are caught with their hands in the corruption cookie jar. We comfort ourselves with the belief that we could never fall for such lies or do such dishonest things. We don’t want to believe that we are “sheeple”, being shorn by the false shepherds! We want to believe that those who line up to preach in our pulpits have our good in mind.


But deception does not always advertise its intentions, and lies are often just a tiny kernel in the midst of a whole bunch of truth. What looks good in the beginning may take a really long time to divulge its wormy interior, but its fruit will eventually be revealed for all to see.


Our American religious system is not built with checks and balances in place that keep the people of God healthy; it is built with a view to fleecing the sheep, fattening the false shepherds, and dumbing down the congregations so they won’t go to the Word of God to try all things to see if they are true!


Once in a while a man comes along who appears to be doing the right things. He builds a church, coins a phrase, develops a new method, and he becomes very popular. His name becomes a household word. He writes books that seem to fly off the shelves. His distinctive “take” on things resonates within his followers, his peculiar jargon becomes a watchword, and a movement is born. Such a man is Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and his movement, Celebrate Recovery.


But before we continue, we need a definition in terms: Church/CHURCH, (capitalized) by the biblical definition, is:

  • the universal Body of Christ – that body of believers found the world over,
  • of which only Jesus is the head, and
  • the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!

Not to be confused with: * “church” (not capitalized), which is the general description of an institution of organized religion (see footnotes for expanded definition of the American Church) Now we may proceed.


The Council on Foreign Relations

Recently, due to Mr. Warren’s flip-flop on California’s Prop. 8, there was a call for all offended believers who had bought any Rick Warren books to return them to Saddleback church in peaceful protest of Mr. Warren’s betrayal of the church. While I simply cannot imagine all the millions of copies of Purpose Driven Life (and the gigantic body of complementary media) being dumped on Saddleback’s front doorstep, it is even harder for me to envision each and every person who filled out one of those little step-booklets from Celebrate Recovery, returning something they have invested in so intimately. And the most glaring fault in this whole matter is the fact that people who bought into Rick Warren’s CR and PDL never bothered to check into Mr. Warren.


What is done in secret cover of darkness will be brought to the light. In the midst of the media kerfuffle over Mr. Warren’s “mis-speaks”, it has come out that Rick Warren is a member of the ** Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). That fact alone should be enough to sound the warning siren to all Christians. It is my belief that Mr. Warren is not the Christian man he has portrayed himself to be. The cultural phenomenon of Celebrate Recovery and the Purpose Driven Life are evidence that somewhere a very lucrative deal has been struck, and the package has been successfully marketed to unsuspecting (and perhaps non-Berean type) Christians. However, I don’t think I go too far when I say that I believe Mr. Warren’s friendship with the world has brought him enmity with God.


What’s In a Name?

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, has truly discovered the key to unlocking wealth with a vast array of spin-offs from his original book. One can purchase devotionals, calendars, group study guides, bibles, deluxe leather-bound journals, and other printed and multi-media products related to his “purpose driven” plans. Having discovered the secret of building an empire in the written word, Mr. Warren has, together with John Baker, launched Celebrate Recovery for all of those folks in life that have “hurts, hang-ups and habits”.


In fact, since that covers everyone and every problem known to man, we all need Celebrate Recovery, right? That is, as I personally discovered and witnessed, the intention and stated purpose behind Celebrate Recovery. Rick Warren has betrayed Jesus and His church for fame and filthy lucre. While this statement will shock most who read it, I intend to prove it by comparing the teachings of Rick Warren’s Celebrate Recovery (CR) with the teachings of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.


Since Alcoholics Anonymous is a group that works anonymously, they do not claim authorship or ownership over their twelve steps and twelve traditions! It was easy to rip off their material because they put principle before personality, and make it a matter of personal integrity to protect the anonymity of all their members. Even the authors of their Big Book and the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” are anonymous – a fact that Warren and Baker obviously were more than happy to capitalize upon.


It’s true that many Christians who have gone through AA, NA, Al-Anon and related 12-step programs have complained that they know their “Higher Power” to be Jesus Christ, and not some nebulous force or factor, as others in the programs wish to believe. It was really a no-brainer for Rick and John to rip off the AA program and put Jesus in His proper place as the Higher Power! It wasn’t an original thought.


But it also wouldn’t make money if they merely sponsored Christian AA chapters (advertised as such). There had to be a way to make it pay. It was a brilliant marketing scheme, and it keeps people coming back over and over again. What may have started as a genuine search for a reasonable program to help drunks, drug abusers, gluttons and the sexually immoral was expanded to include those who have “anger issues”, “co-dependence”, past hurts and unforgiveness, and a whole plethora of human ailments.


Rick’s betrayal of Jesus didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen when he famously came out in favor of California’s Proposition 8 and then waffled on what he meant. It happened way before that. But one of the manifestations of it has been his success in getting believers to buy into the idea of “recovery” from their “sin addiction”, by co-opting the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (with no thanks to Big Book authors Bill. W and Doc) and defining drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual immorality and gluttony as types of sickness, instead of calling these activities sin, as our Lord does.


Question: Is it softer and gentler to call someone an alcoholic instead of a drunk?

Answer: It is a way to help a person distance himself from his sin, by calling it an illness.


Who can be to blame for having an illness, after all? While it is true of some kinds of illness, that we are not to blame for succumbing, it is not true of drunkenness, perversions, drug abuse, compulsive gambling or spending, or any other actions that we do of our own free will! If you aren’t committing a sin, then you don’t need forgiveness. If you are sick, then you go to the doctor and he prescribes a pill, and even though it does NOTHING to heal you from alcoholism, or drug addiction, or depression, or any other condition of the soul, at least the diagnosis expiates your sin, validates your “sickness”, and you are no longer responsible for your actions!


If you are committing a sin, then 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He [Jesus] is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


Contrary to Rick Warren’s brand of “hamster wheel”, where they have to keep coming back and keep buying books, here is the amazing truth about fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, self-abusers, thieves, the covetous, drunks, revilers, and extortionists:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1Corinthians 6:9-11 – Emphasis added)

They are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus when they put their faith in HIM! Who, then, would dare to presume to add to that finished work some other rules or requirements? As it turns out, Rick Warren’s CR would.


Sincere, But Sincerely Wrong


I was at one time a leader in a new Celebrate Recovery group in Louisiana. I was not the church pastor, nor was I a recovery pastor – I was a facilitator for the women’s addictive behaviors group. I grew up in an AA family, and they needed someone to help with the group who understood the problem, so I volunteered.


I was attending a church full of loving people, and I know their hearts were in the right place when they started this ministry to try to help people on the bayou recover from their “hurts, hang-ups and habits”, as John Baker and Rick Warren have neatly categorized every problem known to man.


I was glad there was to be a meeting for people who had “sin addiction” to drugs, alcohol and pornography, and even for gluttony. However, even back then I had a few little nagging doubts. Apparently, the pastors there did, too, because about a year ago they discontinued CR. But I moved out of the country with my husband and had no further involvement in the group for nearly two years.


Until my recent involvement with the program in a different church, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong.


I had a family member who needed some kind of help. Being raised around AA and being involved in a start-up CR group in Louisiana, I thought that the local CR group in my new state of residence might be the way to help this person. So I began attending three new meetings, at two different church locations. It was a real eye-opener.


Being involved in CR requires you to identify yourself as potentially having all kinds of “disorders” and “sin-addictions”. Now I remember being a really young Christian and listening to a good old fashioned testimony time, and it was amazing to hear what everyone had been through. But there was one person who said [paraphrased], “I don’t have a great testimony like everyone else. I was born into a Christian family, and when I was old enough, I just came to Jesus, trusted in Him for salvation, and have lived that way the best I could ever since then.”


As unbelievable as it seems that someone would lament that they didn’t have an exciting story to tell, it is even more unbelievable that many people feel that way. But CR has fixed that. Now you can be that person and still participate in the meetings and confess your own “disorder”. You can be part of the crowd, as you dredge up any bad feelings you have and capitalize on them for the sake of going through your booklets to fill in the blanks. These booklets will help you uncover every nasty thought you ever had if you want to be that thorough, and eventually (and check this out, because it is ingenious) you can string your narrative all together into a testimony that you will be “allowed” to give once you have been in the program for one full year!


So instead of confessing your sins and letting the Lord throw them into the Sea of His Forgetfulness, casting them as far as the east is from the west, to remember them no more, you get to keep them immortalized in print, and confess them over and over again in small groups and “step meetings”, and even the ones who could have honestly said they don’t have an exciting testimony can now drum one up. They can get down and dirty with the drug abusers and alcoholics who truly and desperately need help. Instead of being one of the believers who is strong in faith to help a brother out of ditch, they go down into a separate ditch for people like themselves, and they rely on books and meetings to keep themselves on a path that does not in any way resemble the straight and narrow gate Jesus talked about.


In fact, the road to CR is broad, and there are many paths in it. It has groups for “same-sex attraction”, past hurts, unforgiveness, anger, co-dependence and enabling, and various other “illnesses” defined by psychologists and psychiatrists. What is truly alarming is that at exactly the time when someone really needs Godly counseling, they are reminded that in these groups, CR members are not allowed to “fix” one another, and they are not counselors.


So the angry hang out with other angry folks. The men and women who are attracted to members of the same sex hang out with other men and women in the same predicament. The grudge-holders and unforgiving hang out with other grudge-holders, and so on. While it is biblical and beneficial for us to confess our sins to one another, there are other steps we are to take in order to complete the process of healing so we can move on.


But CR encourages us to feel that although we might even make progress and become a leader, we will never be free of our hurts, hang-ups and habits. Therefore, the peer pressure that exists in the small groups is such that even though the Lord Jesus delivered me from something years ago, I am frowned at and people get squirmy if I say so, because somehow I am undermining the synergy of the group and detracting from the program.


A “recovery pastor” told me that it’s not CR if you don’t go by the book. I had to think about that for a while. I realized that there is great recognition for the individual churches that go with the CR program. There is support from the founders, inclusion in a national database, and a steady stream of (expensive) literature. There is the feeling of identification, of belonging, and the idea that someone else is running the ship so all they have to do is scrub the decks and paint.


There are some disturbing elements to CR, and one of them is the way they define certain “illnesses”. Since “you are only as sick as your secrets” (a phrase taken from other 12-step rooms), people are encouraged to share their sick secrets, though if their sharing is too graphic, other members are informed ahead of time that all they need to do is raise their hand during a person’s sharing, and the “facilitator” will caution the speaker. It is, and always has been, human nature of the fallen kind that revels in stories, and most are not willing to raise their hands for various reasons. So women uncover their husband’s nakedness, to use a Biblical term, and tear down their houses with their hands in the hearing of total strangers.


One of the terrible faults in CR is the fact that they encourage the folks who get one year of “sobriety” to share in the main gathering before the crowd breaks up into small groups. This is wrong because there are first-timers there, and so-called “sex addicts” could tell their story to people who have alcohol problems and their heads can get filled with things they never even considered.


In AA, NA, Al-Anon, and other 12-step groups, alcoholics meet together with alcoholics, drug addicts meet with drug addicts, and even in open meetings there is never a gathering of multiple addictions. One would think that since Rick Warren and John Baker consider themselves experts in this field, that they would follow their own psychological advice and recognize that people with “addictive personalities” and “addictive behavior” should not be introduced to new modes for indulging their addictions!


To my great embarrassment (on behalf of the couple), I saw a husband and wife get up to open a CR meeting (the open meeting where newcomers find out what it’s all about); the wife said she was co-dependent, and the husband said he was a sex addict. Forget the fact that natural curiosity would cause me to wonder what he meant, and I had to remind myself that even though he openly stated this, it was truly none of my business, and I really didn’t want to know. This is what I consider to be uncovering nakedness, sharing secret shame and talking openly about things the Bible commands us not to even speak of.


But what is worse, sometimes it is just plain a “misdiagnosis”. A sex addict can be someone who is addicted to porn, a pedophile, an adulterer, or a husband who wants more sex than his wife thinks is normal. Who decides? What shame befalls the family and the name of Christ when we want so badly to fit in that we will wear a label, and proudly, that simply is not true? What about the wife, who called herself co-dependent? What is co-dependence, really? Another sickness for which we need a pill? Or is it a conglomeration of human emotions – some negative, some positive – that result from living with an addict? Do we need the label in order to realize that we have sinned in our thoughts and actions? Do we need to sit in a designer pit, together with others of our own brand of “sickness” so that we are constantly reminded that we have an “ism” or an “itis”?


Why do we not see the freedom in confessing our sins to Jesus, making amends to someone we have harmed ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE, and then moving on? SO we get angry – we confess our anger to God, and talk to the person we are angry with, being careful not to let the sun go down on our wrath. SO we feel someone has done us wrong – we go to our sister or brother and become reconciled. Jesus made it so simple, and He gave His advice FREELY!


The leaders of CR are usually sincere, and they wish to help people become free of their hurts, hang-ups and habits. These are commendable goals, and they reflect the mission of Jesus. In fact, these are some of the very benefits of being part of the fellowship of believers – part of being the Church. Why do they insist that even those who are in their churches should go through CR? AA members, et al, are self-identifying. AA members don’t visit boardrooms of big corporations to try to recruit members. Courts may remand offenders to AA or NA as part of their rehabilitation, but you won’t find AA members standing up in church making a plea for membership for the rooms. Anonymity is the key to the success of AA. Once you stand up in front of a group of folks, your anonymity is blown.


So why does CR teach its “recovery pastor” – usually taken from individual church leadership and re-designated – to hawk its wares in church on Sunday? The pressure is applied during commercial spots, and you can look out over the audience/congregation to notice three main groups – the happy CR members who are beaming to show their approval, the unhappy, squirmy non-CR members who are feeling railroaded into something they don’t believe they need, and the normally apathetic who are not reacting at all. By the time the commercial is over, everyone has been bombarded with the catch-phrases of CR jargon, and curiosity, coupled with peer pressure, begins the steady stream from the main congregation to the CR ranks.


Since the hope is that all folks will go through CR, one has to wonder what the church gets out of it. The reality is that there is, to borrow the term once more, an interesting “synergy” that exists with CR, the church, and the community. The church fills the leadership roles and general ranks of CR. CR attracts members of the community to the basement, auditorium or other rooms of the church so they are exposed to the church in a “non-threatening” way. CR literature gets in its plugs for going to church (especially Saddleback church), and members are won for the church.  When lives are changed (and there is no doubt that lives are changed), this becomes a powerful attractant for new people, and so it becomes a cycle.


My issue is not that there seems to be great success for some people. My issue is with these faults that are inherent in the CR system:

  • Robbing the efficacious power of the Blood of Jesus Christ in order to keep the rooms filled
  • Denying the work of the Holy Spirit to deliver, cleanse and justify the repentant soul
  • Effectively lying in order to gain a wider audience
  • The profit margin

While CR leaders and members are usually sincere, it is my belief that they are sincerely wrong. When we go against our consciences in order to please the crowd, then aren’t we simply lying in order to get a better testimony? For this reason, I believe there is a certain brand of dishonesty that is inherent in Celebrate Recovery, and since, as the pastor told me, if you don’t go by the book, it’s not CR, then they should throw the book away because it is not bringing glory to God! It is simple new age doctrine and humanism in a new package.




I can’t help think of Moses and Pharaoh here. Pharaoh had enslaved the Hebrew people, using them for his labor force. He was cruel to them, and powerfully oppressed them because he saw how strong they were. Moses came with a message from God. “Let my people go.” Let them have their gold and silver jewelry, let them take their family and flocks, and let them go up to worship God. But Pharaoh liked his free labor, and had no respect for God. So a tug of war began between Pharaoh and God, and it wasn’t until God sent the tenth plague and killed all the firstborn in Egypt that Pharaoh said the Hebrews could leave. And even after that he changed his mind and pursued them. At the heart of what apparently drove Pharaoh was the sin of pride and the love of wealth. He had a fantastic empire, amazing feats of engineering, and an enormous appetite for the opulent.


I see Rick Warren in much the same way, and I worry about the people he has enslaved on the hamster-wheel of CR. When Rick Warren is fully exposed for what he is, what will happen to the faithful members of Celebrate Recovery? Will they have to continue to go by the book? Or will they return to the Book of Books and, retaining that which is good, throw out that which has infected them and weakened their faith like an opportunistic infection?


There is only ONE name given under heaven, by which we must be saved, and that is the name of Jesus Christ.  I call on leaders of churches who have bought into the hamster-wheel of Celebrate Recovery to remove the precious from the vile, and return to the unadulterated faith in Jesus Christ. It is time to repent of following icons and idols in the church, and to lead our congregations back to the simplicity of the message of Jesus Christ. Maybe it won’t pay, maybe it won’t increase church membership, but it will reduce the condemnation that is piling up on top of our heads as we lead our sheep to polluted waters.


Pastora Covert ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ * Expanded definition of church (lower case “c”) as it applies to American corporation business church model:

  • carries some other name (i.e. Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian, Calvinist, Wesleyan, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.) other than the name of Christ in order to distinguish itself from the “other” church, often creating a “cult of personality” around its own founder.
  • gathers on Sunday (they call it “the Lord’s Day”) or some other day they have deemed “holy” and condemns those who do not attend
  • i) church on Sunday or the day they have designated as holy, or
  • ii) their church on Sunday or the day they have designated as holy
  • convinces its followers that they are very special for attending and participating
  • hires its leaders and sets them apart from the rest of the congregation as being “more” special than everyone else
  • enters into binding agreement with the IRS, thereby compromising the word of God and the intentions of the scriptures by agreeing with the Internal Revenue Service that it shall not say or do certain things from the pulpit in exchange for tax exempt status,
  • follows the model of American corporations in the structure and government of its churches instead of the Biblical and God-ordained model for gathering of believers in Christ,
  • demands a particular code of behavior, including but not limited to:
    • tithing to the church coffers,
    • giving of time and talent to support the institution,
    • adhering to traditions and code of ethics peculiar to each institution.
    • instituting schools for the training of children and propagating of their traditions and code of ethics
  • pursues money through the selling of books, teaching tapes, seminars, and various other ways of disseminating information peculiar to their own traditions and code of ethics.
  • A church will offer programs that appeal to the soulish nature of a person, and will try to make itself very appealing and attractive so that its numbers will increase so the money will keep coming in so that:

    • the pastor can get his paycheck,
    • the church building and property mortgages can get paid,
    • the various church programs can continue to run,

    so that

    • the pastor can get his paycheck,
    • the church can hire more pastors,
    • the church can purchase more property and build more buildings,
    • the new and improved church programs can continue to run,
    • the fame of the church and pastor will spread,
    • repeat.

    ** The following links proves Rick Warren is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. There is much more out there, all you need to do is Google it.


    First Published April 23rd, 2009


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