In a recent post criticizing Rick Warren, I included amongst the preconditions that lead to Christian leaders going to what I described as “the bad place” a massive influx of money. Scott defended Rick Warren in this regard pointing out that Rick gives away most of what he makes through his publications. I clarified in my comment to his post why I brought up money:
“When I bring up money, I am not accusing Rick, Bruce, or Pat of greed. The simple fact of having a large stream of revenue coming in as a minister has an impact on your focus. It can be a huge blessing in that it frees your organization up to proactively pursue your mission. It can also expand your mission focus. The problem, as I personally see it, is that combination of financial freedom and power combined with an unusually large sphere of influence can confuse even the best people as to what their mission is.”
I want to clear that up. In the case of Bruce Wilkinson, if you wanted to live like a king you do not go to impoverished parts of Africa to do so. If Rick wanted only money, he certainly would not reverse tithe. He gives 90% of his income away to ministry work, takes no compensation from Saddleback, and paid back all of the money they ever gave him in salary. This is not avarice. My concern is not that he wants to live life in the fast lane and never was. As a professional fundraiser, I know that when revenue is not pouring in too fast to spend, then you have to be very intentional about your mission and how you are spending your finances to serve that mission. More money means more flexibility. With that, anyone can get off mission.
Also I said again:
“My point is this. People who have great success often lose focus on what they can practically accomplish. You were a huge success as a pastor, author, and church builder. Why shouldn’t you be able to tackle this AIDS thing now? But when the enormity of that undertaking becomes apparent, your zeal for results can betray your good sense. Pitch in and help, but keep your wits about you. I can not end abortion. It simply is not in my power. But I think I am a fair writer and speaker who is willing to use those talents to aid in the cause. If there were great success in ministry as a result of those abilities, I have to be careful that I do not forget that I am just a fair speaker and writer trying to do my part. Otherwise, I will be lumping my critics in with the Pharisees and dropping “do you know who I am” bombs all over the place.”
Dr. James Dobson once articulated the bad place that I describe like this; when you start out as a visionary you can begin to believe that no one truly understands what you are doing accept you and your wife. After enough time passes you will eventually start to think that even she doesn’t get it anymore.
I do not retract my astonishment at what Rick is currently doing in pursuit of his broadened mission to address the AIDS pandemic. I think it would be irresponsible not to address, what is in my opinion, his recent profoundly poor judgement and seeming insensitivity to criticism.