During a live Google+ Hangout event designed to help promote the upcoming Resurgence Conference, Pastor Rick Warren told interviewer Mark Driscoll that the hardest criticism to take is from those who say all megachurches are the same.
"All megachurches, large churches, get lumped together. They are not alike ... It's like comparing submarines and tangerines – they sound alike but they're not the same," said Warren.
Both Warren's church, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and Driscoll's, Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., see tens of thousands of people attend worship services every weekend. Warren says journalists who come to services to report on happenings in his church, though, only see "one percent" of what the church actually does.
In the week prior to his conversation with Driscoll, for example, Saddleback services were attended by 21,000 people, while 32,000 people attended the church's Bible studies in that same week. Saddleback currently has approximately 6,000 small groups spread out over 196 cities in Southern California.
Over the last 10 years, Saddleback has also seen 22,000 new believers baptized, 20,000 people join lay ministries and 16,000 church members serve overseas. But the large size of the congregation, Warren says, isn't necessarily attractive to outsiders.
"You know the biggest myth about large churches is that size attracts? It doesn't. It doesn't. In fact, the only people who like big churches are pastors," he said.
Many people believe large churches are "shallow" while smaller churches are "deep," Driscoll explained, but Warren says that isn't necessarily true.
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"If small meant deep, then the deepest church would be a church of one person ... The fact is, quality creates quantity," said Warren. "If nobody wants to come, well, why is it they don't want to come? Are they not being fed? Are their lives not being changed?"
Driscoll and Warren also spent a considerable amount of time discussing identity and influence, two topics Warren plans to address when he speaks at the Resurgence Conference in October.
"You don't have to have authority to influence," said Warren. "I don't have to be in charge, I don't have to be in control, I don't even have to be elected to have influence. But when I know who I am in Christ, then that gives me enormous influence, because everybody else in the room doesn't know who they are."
But having influence comes at a price. The more influential a person is, both pastors stated, the more critics they will attract.
"Criticism is the cost of influence. As long as you don't influence anybody, nobody's going to say a peep about you. But the greater your influence ... the more critics you're going to have," said Warren.
Warren's influence reaches far and wide. Beyond his church, he is also the author of The Purpose-Driven Life, which has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and the founder of The Purpose Driven Network, an alliance of pastors from hundreds of different denominations and 162 different countries.
The 2012 Resurgence Conference will take place at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif., Oct. 9-10. It will feature a number of notable church leaders, including Warren, Driscoll, Greg Laurie, James MacDonald, Craig Groeschel and more.