Rick Warren to Tackle Biblical Illiteracy With '40 Days in the Word'

Well-known for starting Bible study campaigns that often become staples for churches around the world, Pastor Rick Warren announced that Saddleback Church in Orange County will begin a "40 Days in the Word" study next month to tackle biblical illiteracy.

Pastor Rick Warren announced that Saddleback Church in Orange County will begin a “40 Days in the Word” study next month to kick off the new year, Dec. 8, 2011.
Pastor Rick Warren announced that Saddleback Church in Orange County will begin a “40 Days in the Word” study next month to kick off the new year, Dec. 8, 2011. | (Photo: Saddleback PICS Ministry / Don Haynes)


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Warren, whose bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life was a accompanied by a “40 Days of Purpose” study for small groups, said in a video introducing the new campaign that he has three goals for “our entire church family.”

“First, I want you to learn to love the Word more than anything else in your life, that you love it like you’ve never loved it before. Then, learn the Word in a way that you’ve never learned it before. And I want you to live the word like you’ve never lived it before,” said Warren in the short video on the church’s website.

“The Bible says that God’s word was given to transform our lives, not simply to inform our lives,” he tells viewers. “It wasn’t given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.”

Warren said that when asked about which translation of the Bible is best, he once told a man, “The best translation is when you translate it into your life.” When he was told by the man that he had a Living Bible translation, Warren replied, “You ought to be a living Bible.”

He went on to say, “We are either testimonies for God or we are testimonies for the evil one.”

“God says he want His word to dwell in our hearts. It’s a journey that you are going to be glad that you came with me on,” he concludes in the video.

Explaining the motivation behind the project, Warren lamented on Wednesday during a year-end webcast that one of the convictions he got this past year “is that Americans are biblically illiterate.”

“They just don't know the Word of God ... Our parents' generation knew the Word of God pretty well. My generation knew a little bit. The next generation knows none of it.”

Warren is not without controversy for his purpose-driven preaching methods, even within the Christian community. His “life application” style of teaching has some pastors saying Warren’s method is not biblically correct.

However, Warren recently explained his teaching methods in an interview with Preaching Magazine. In the interview discussing the 40 Days in the Word campaign, he was asked about his approach to preaching, which most times includes having every point of his sermon outline being a statement of application.

Warren told the interviewer that “the deepest kind of preaching is really life application preaching. I know people say, ‘Well that's shallow preaching.’ Actually it's much deeper. It's quite easy simply to do an exposition of a book. I've done it. I once preached through the Book of Romans; it took me two and a half years.

“I preached through many of the books of the Bible verse by verse. That's actually the easiest kind of preaching there is. I pull some commentaries off the shelf. I look at the text; I explain the text; I apply the text; and that's it...”

Warren continued in the interview: “Life application preaching is not shallow; otherwise the Sermon on the Mount is the shallowest sermon ever done, because it's 100 percent life application preaching.

 Rick Warren Combating Biblical Literacy

“Jesus started out by saying: Let Me tell you eight ways to be happy. Blessed are you if you do this; blessed are you if you do this. He says: Let Me give you six reasons to not worry; and He goes into the six reasons to not worry. Then He says: Let Me tell you about divorce: Don't do it. Let Me tell you about anger: Don't do it. One life application after another. Then He gets to the end and says: If you do this, you're smart and you're wise. If you don't, you're dumb.”

While some pastors say verse-by-verse teaching is the only way to give sermons, Warren explained in the interview that the opposite is true.

“Ecclesiastes 12:9-11 is, in my understanding, the clearest explanation of a preaching style found in Scripture. You certainly don't find anybody telling you how to do verse-by-verse or book-by-book preaching in Scripture. It's not there. None of the apostles were verse-by-verse preachers. Jesus wasn't, Peter, Paul – nobody was,” he said.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-11 (NIV)
Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-given by one shepherd.

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