Purpose Driven Life

My Dad always quips that this book is rather pointless since he learned his purpose in life in his first grade Catholic catechism–to know, serve, and love God.  After I learned that Rick Warren would be giving the invocation for Obama’s inauguration, I thought I would read the book for myself to see what Warren concludes is the purpose of life.

The book is set up to be a 40-day meditation with one chapter being read a day.  Each chapter ends with a Point to Ponder, Verse to Remember, and Question to Consider.  Warren suggests reading and discussing the book with one or more people.  Since I was reading the book for more academic and less spiritual reasons, I just plowed on through at my own pace.

He caught my attention early on when he wrote:  “When you understand that life is a test, you realize that nothing is insignificant in your life.  Even the smallest incident has significance for your character development (p. 43).”  This made me think about all of the mindless and mundane tasks that make being a housewife so unpleasant.   This thought came back to me when Warren later wrote:   “Actually, God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting, or eating….You can wash dishes, repair a machine, sell a product, write a computer program, grow a crop, and raise a family for the glory of God (p 74).”

On page 72, Warren caught my attention again when he wrote:  “Understanding can wait, but obedience can’t.  Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions.  In fact, you will never understand some commands until you obey them first.  Obedience unlocks understanding.”  This made me think about those teachings of the Church that I haven’t always obeyed but how much more sense they have made once I did.  Now I often ponder if I don’t like what the Church teaches about certain things because I think they are wrong or because I don’t like that the Church is right.

I really enjoyed the discussion of worship in Chapter 8 and how most people misunderstand the concept and focus to much on the peripherals.  He does note that God does not like “half-hearted” and “hypocritical” worship comprised of “stale prayers, insincere praise, empty words, and man-made rituals without even thinking about the meaning” and that “God’s heart is not touched by tradition in worship, but by passion and commitment” (p. 66).  Some could see this as a critique of the Catholic Mass.  Although, Catholics would contend that there is nothing wrong with ritual or tradition as long as it is not performed half-heartedly and without meaning.  I think both Catholics and non-Catholic Christians need to read his discussion about sacred music.

I must admit that I was initially skeptical going into the book.  Within the first few chapters, I felt like Warren was really making some good points and most of it was compatible with my understanding as a Catholic Christian.  At times, though, it felt incomplete because it was not Catholic.  Sometimes I would think about how different Catholic dogmas, like the Sacraments, would flesh out certain points that he was making.

I would definitely recommend this book as a devotional for most Protestant Christians.  And I would even recommend it for Catholic Christians, if they feel grounded enough in their understanding of Catholic/Protestant differences to see where the book is lacking.  I really wish a Catholic could take this book as a base and then fill it in, because I feel like it gave me a lot of spiritual food for thought.

I am curious to read Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church for comparison to the structure of the Catholic Church.  I am intrigued by Rick Warren and his church in general.  I don’t have any interest in converting, but let’s just say that the book was not quite what I expected.   After reading the book and watching Warren at the inaugaration, I have greater respect for this man who was fairly unknown to me until recently.  I think Obama was very wise to choose this man who urges Christians to look more at what they have in common rather than the differences.

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One Comment on “Purpose Driven Life”

  1. Laura Witten Says:

    I have read the Purpose driven church, back when i was in charge of the website development, b/c my church was patterning itself after Warren’s. Currently, our life groups are progressing through the Purpose Driven Life – the video messages and little workbooks to guide discussions. Since I’m in school I can’t attend, but DH is and is enjoying it. He does make good points, and is solidly grounded in scripture.


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