Rick Warren: Pride Could Take Me Down

Though money and sex prove to be stumbling blocks for many high-profile leaders, that hasn't been the case for Pastor Rick Warren.

It's easy to give away money and he sets parameters so that he's never alone with a woman.

But pride is another thing.

"The problem has not been money, and the problem has not been sex. But the pride issue is so subtle," the Southern California pastor said in a recent interview with John Piper.

When Warren started Saddleback Church 30 years ago, he was determined not to be on the radio or television.

"I didn't want to be a celebrity. I think always being in the spotlight blinds you," he said.

But when his book, The Purpose Driven Life, unexpectedly became a monumental bestseller some 10 years ago, Warren inevitably gained the world's attention.

"I didn't ask for this notoriety," Warren said in the interview released Friday.

"And actually it scared me to death. It's quite a pain," he said plainly.

Tens of millions of dollars came in, enough to buy an island or a fleet of Bentleys, he illustrated.

"I could've bought an island and retired and have people serve me little glasses of ice tea with umbrellas," Warren said frankly.

Except there was one phrase he couldn't get out of his mind: "It's not about you."

Those are the very words he started his book with and that tens of millions of people have read.

"I had no idea how often I was going to be tested by that sentence," he told Piper honestly.

He was often tested nine to 10 times a day by it.

"I'll walk into a room and I'll go 'it's not about you;' I'll get praised and I'll go 'it's not about you;' and I'll get criticized and I'll say 'it's not about you.'"

The Saddleback pastor appealed to Piper and the rest of the public watching the interview to pray for him.

"I would rather stick a knife in my heart than dishonor the name of God," he said explicitly.

Giving away the money was easy, he stated. He added up the salary he received from the church for 25 years and gave it all back. He stopped taking a salary eight years ago and he and his wife, Kay, became reverse tithers. Today they give away 91 percent of their income and live on nine percent.

Warren and his wife still live in the house they have been living in for 19 years, Warren continues to drive his 11-year-old Ford and he wears a $17 watch from Wal-Mart.

"I don't really have big needs. I got a good pair of jeans and a t-shirt; I'm fine."

While money never proved to be a problem, Warren had one big dilemma: What do I do with this attention?

One way he's been leveraging it is by supporting the marginalized and speaking up for those who don't have influence around the world, through such initiatives as his PEACE Plan.

While going overseas for the past decade to villages where he is little known has been one way of dealing with the attention, he expressed that he continues to struggle today with the pride issue.

It's something Piper had also struggled with and even decided to take his first ever break from ministry last year. He said he saw "several species of pride" in him and felt the need to reexamine his soul. He took an eight-month leave from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, his ministry Desiring God and all speaking and writing engagements.

Well aware of the dangers of pride himself, Warren pleaded to those watching the interview, "I covet your prayers because this thing could take me down."

Piper prayed for Warren at the end of the interview, asking God to guard Warren from pride, and to not let the "celebrity thing and influence thing" have a light that blinds their eyes but that only Christ would be their light.

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