What suggestions would you offer to other preachers, based on your own experience?
Warren: One is never stop learning. All leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning you stop leading. Growing churches require growing pastors. The moment you stop growing, your church stops growing. I don't worry about the growth of the church. I never have. In fact, it probably will surprise most people that in 21 years we have only set two growth goals, and they were both the first year of the church! What I focus on is keeping myself growing and motivated, and if I am on fire other people will catch it. So you keep growing.
And I would encourage people to listen to pastors. Find a style that is similar to what you think you are and learn from it. It is OK to have models. I remember in my early days listening to pastors, particularly in my revival days. I preached more than 120 revivals before I was 20. I was in the typical full-time evangelist, youth evangelist mode. I would listen to guys. You’ll develop your own style eventually. You can't help but be you.
I also really am a firm believer in “Let's share our material.” I know some guys say you have got to be original or nothing – Vane Havner said he was both! Plagiarism is borrowing from one person; research is borrowing from five; and borrowing from 10 or more is shear creativity! Creativity is the art of concealing your source! It is forgetting where you forgot it. I would say we are all on the same team. Nobody can be brilliant every week, so we need to share. If you get a good idea, man, send it to me! I’m not proud; I’ll use it! I learned a long time ago I didn’t have to think everything up for it to change a life. In fact a person who thinks he has to think it all up himself really has a pride problem. The Bible says God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. Why? Because the proud are unteachable. “I didn't invent it, then I can't use it”? That’s silly.
So I want to use outlines, illustrations, quotes, ideas from different people. We are all on the same team when we get to heaven. When we get to heaven we’ll rejoice for the souls who have been saved. That is why I decided a long time ago to start a tape ministry rather than do radio or TV – first, because I don't want to be a celebrity; second, because I don't want to raise money. It takes enormous sums of money; it turns you into a fundraiser.
More than that, it doesn't help the local church, and I am a firm believer in helping the local church. God blesses the local church. If I were to put my messages on radio, I don't help that church, I compete with it. A member listens in the car and he goes, “How come my pastor doesn't preach like Warren does?” Well, that doesn't help his church at all. So instead of going on the radio or TV, I tape the messages. I don't copyright anything I do, nothing. I tell pastors, “If God has given me a way to outline, and you want to take that outline and put your meat on it, your bones, go right ahead.”
I got a call the other day from a guy in Canada who said, “Pastor Rick, I need to apologize. I preached through one of your series.” I said, “Buddy, that’s the point!”
You know what? If some guys are "C" preachers and by using my material or somebody else we could make a "B," that’s a good thing. They may be an "A" at counseling or an "A" at administrating, but they’re just not good at outlining. So let's help each other. I read books on administration that help me because I am weak in that. So with pastors.com I took every message that I have preached in 21 years and put it on that. We get about 400,000 hits a day, literally. What I do on that is I charge Americans, and I take that money and translate it into other languages, and we give it away free to the rest of the world. So, basically American pastors are funding the ministry around the world. We give it away free in every other language. That is what we have done for years.
(Adapted from a Preaching Magazine interview with Rick Warren.)