LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Pastor Rick Warren kicked off the 2011 Radicalis Conference on Tuesday by asking church leaders, pastors, and pastors' wives to start representing Jesus by saying "yes" to God in every aspect of their lives first – before asking others to do the same.
"There are two reasons that nonbelievers don't know Jesus Christ. One is, they've never met a Christian. The other is, they have," said Warren to a crowd of more than 2,000 people at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
"What we're going to be doing this week is … [looking] at different areas in your life where you need to say 'yes' to God and where your church needs to say 'yes' to God in a radical way," Warren emphasized.
But in order for believers to be able to say "yes," they first need to experience God's radical love; they need to know that they are his beloved.
To elaborate on this idea, Kay Warren, the wife of Rick Warren, was invited to speak about the lavish love of God and how it moves individuals into radical action.
"I don't know about you, but I rarely do anything out of fear, guilt, duty or obligation," she stated. "I may do it, but I don't like it."
She explained how unbelievers sense fear, guilt, and a sense of duty from those who try to evangelize them, immediately feeling the need to say "no" to them because they do not want to adopt that type of religion.
Realizing this weakness, Warren began asking herself a question.
"What would it look like if we approached the life changing task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace not out of fear or duty or obligation, but out of that profound moment in which we experience for ourselves the extravagant love of God?"
"What if we began to move in a broken world that we inhabit with a sense of being God's beloved? And out of that sense of being God's beloved, we might engage the broken men and women that come on our path every day."
Believers in Jesus Christ aren't just tolerated, they're beloved, she highlighted. Referring to Deuteronomy 30:12, when God called Benjamin his beloved, she affirmed to the audience, "You are God's beloved. You are God's permanent residence. You are encircled by God all day long. And within you God is at home."
Knowing you are God's beloved, that that's your name, she asked, would that change the way you look at yourself and the way that you live?
"You don't sit here as somebody he tolerates, as somebody he will pay attention to every once in a while if you do the right things. You sit here today by virtue of being a created being he made, by being a part of his church, and because you are in Christ Jesus, his beloved son – you are his beloved."
When believers truly understand and accept this – that they are God's beloved and not his bother – there would be freedom to say "yes" and risk everything for God, she said.
They would be able to live radically for God because he loved them radically.
And what better way to translate this love than time spent with him, not just on the Sabbath four times a month, but on a daily basis – in radical commitment.
Radicalis, a Latin word denoting from the root, signifies going back to the root of what it means to follow Jesus Christ: radical love being the first root, and radical connection with God, the next.
"You need to be radical in your connection to God so that you are rooted – no root, no fruit," Pastor Warren warned.
Declaring that the number one problem in America today is spiritual rootlessness, Warren urged the leaders to spend daily time with God through quiet time in order to build spiritual health.
He outlined four key elements of quiet time: reading God's word, being still before God, talking with God, and reviewing the day and goals with God.
And the format for this daily time with God would be exemplified in the Lord's Prayer, a template for daily renewal. Saying "yes" to God in this case meant putting God's word first each day for personal renewal and a well-rooted faith.
Warren shared about Saddleback's current 10-year program called "decade of destiny." In the first three years, personal renewal would be the focus in order to live radically different lives than the people around them.
"The problem when people come to Christ is that they don't see any difference in their lives. We've got the same stress, the same debt, the same problems as everybody else does and we react the same way," said Warren.
He concluded by saying, "We decided we want to be distinctly different. We want to be radical. We want to go back to the roots."
Radical living, only accomplished by first starting from within, was the focus of the first sessions of the conference Tuesday.
Pastor Matt Carter of Austin Stone Community Church also spoke on Tuesday about another way to say "yes" to God – by radically surrendering oneself.
Sergio De La Mora, Steven Furtick, Dave Gibbons, Shawn Lovejoy, and Pete Wilson are also scheduled to speak during the four-day conference, which ends Friday.