ARLINGTON, Virginia — Pastor Rick Warren believes that the church remains the greatest force for good on earth yet Christians don't love it.
"One of the greatest crimes I see in our society today is a lot of Christians use the church but don't love it," he said on May 17 during Wilberforce Weekend at the Crystal Gateway Marriott.
"If you want to be like Jesus Christ, you must learn to love the Bride of Christ. If I were to say to you 'I like you I just don't like your body,' you'd be offended. So is Jesus."
The longtime pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California outlined several reasons why he thinks that God's main instrument of blessing in the world His church.
Nothing is more important to God than His church, he elaborated.
"God wanted a family," he said. "If God hadn't wanted a church the universe would not exist ... and it's the only thing that is going to last on this planet."
Revival has never come to the government realm, he said, receiving chuckles from the audience.
"And our hope lies not in the man we put in the White House; our hope lies in the man we put on the cross. He's our savior."
He went on to list the advantages church has over every other social institution, including that the church has the largest participation, which currently numbers 2.3 billion worldwide.
"We have no reason to put our heads down in shame. The media would think that the church is a kitty but it's a lion."
"On one Sunday in America more people go and sit in a church service than go and sit in a professional sporting event of all kinds together in an entire year."
The church also has the widest distribution, the pastor explained, and is therefore capable of doing more good than any other entity. The church was global before globalization was a phenomenon, he added. Warren has been to 164 nations around the world, and in many villages, the only social institution present is a church.
The church has been doing good longer than anyone else, he said.
"Our government is, what, 250 years old? The church is 2,000 years old," he said.
"If you were to take the Catholics, Christians and hospitals out of Africa it would collapse overnight."
Noting the propensity of dictators to oppress the church over the centuries, he added, "We have outlasted every other 'ism' for 2,000 years."
Yet another reason why the church has the capacity to do the most good in the world, is that it is expanding quickly, but one would not realize that in the United States because the church is not growing fast, Warren said. The opposite is the case elsewhere in the world, the pastor elaborated, citing a survey which said it is growing by 66 million per year, approximately 180,000 every day.
"The church is the greatest force for good because it has the highest motivation," Warren said.
Christians don't do good for applause or worldly accolades, but for love, he went on to say.
President George W. Bush once told him, when asked why he supported faith-based initiatives, that he did so because governments and businesses can't love.
"Love never gives up," Warren said.
"If you're doing good for any other motivation than love, you're not sustaining consistency at it because it's just too hard. You're going to get off. The why always determines how long. When you figure out why you do what you do, God will show you how. When you figure out why you do what you do, then you will have the motivation to keep on keeping on."
In January, Warren began his 40th year as pastor of Saddleback Church. He is the author of the wildly popular New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life.