Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 3, 2008


Good leaders never stop learning and growing


          Rick Warren is the widely known pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He preaches to thousands every Sunday. Two of his books have been best sellers.

          Warren’s first best seller was The Purpose Driven Church. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pastors and churches have been energized by studying the book. I studied it with a group of Methodists and found it a blessing.

          His present best seller is titled The Purpose Driven Life. More than eleven million copies have been sold. The book’s popularity is still growing.

          Like many pastors I have been impressed by Warren’s work. He comes across in seminars with pastors as very a very genuine and humble man. He is sure of himself but not arrogant. I have appreciated especially his teaching about leadership traps that pastors of growing churches need to avoid.

          One of those traps is the temptation to stop growing. Success may sometimes lead to arrogance. When a pastor stops learning, he stops growing. When he stops growing, he stops leading. Good leaders are learners. And they never stop learning and growing – or they stop leading.

          Warren cites Moses as a leader who stopped growing and became inflexible. God taught Moses that he could find water for the Israelites by striking a rock. Moses obeyed God, struck the rock, and water gushed forth.

          When the people needed more water, God told Moses to “speak” to the rock to obtain water. However Moses ignored God’s command and did what he had done the last time to obtain water; he struck the rock. God did allow the water to come forth from the rock. But he told Moses that his disobedience would keep him from entering the Promised Land.

          A profound truth emerges from this biblical story. It is absolutely necessary to listen to God and obey God if we are to obtain all the blessings he wants to give us. Moses’ refusal to obey God was a costly mistake.

          The lesson for us is clear. If we continue to do things the way we have always done them, we will soon be out of step with God for God is always doing “a new thing.” Whatever worked last year may not work today. What we learn from Moses’ mistake is that obeying God is more important than trusting the ruts you have always walked in.

          The Saddleback Church grew so quickly that by the time Warren was in his thirties, he began attending meetings with the pastors of the largest Baptist Churches. There he found himself in the company of preachers like Adrian Rogers and W. A. Criswell. Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis grew to 29,000 members under Rogers’ ministry. The church had a 50-acre parking lot!

          Criswell served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas for 50 years. At one time it was the largest church in the United States. Criswell was a brilliant preacher, reading and translating the Bible from the original Greek as he preached.

          Rick shared how unworthy he felt one day when Adrian Rogers asked him to tell the other pastors about his church. As he began sharing he was stunned to notice the great W. A. Criswell taking notes! No wonder he was such an effective leader; after preaching for over 50 years, Criswell was still learning!

          I take notes when I hear Warren speaking. I heard him say that the way to avoid becoming arrogant as a pastor is to love the people you are preaching to. Rick says that every time he walks out to preach on Sunday he says, “God I love you and I love these people.” Perhaps so many people want to hear Warren preach because they know he loves them – and they know he is still growing.  

          Good leaders never stop learning and growing. Good pastors, even old pastors, never stop learning and growing – or taking notes when a younger leader is speaking. No matter our age, there is still so much to learn. + + +