Rick Warren is not your typical American evangelist. He’s not an especially charismatic speaker, keeping his rhetoric deliberately folksy and low key. He’s unassuming, a little bit pudgy and has a fondness for Hawaiian shirts, even when he’s delivering his weekend sermons.
A long time ago, he decided he never wanted to be on television. He doesn’t think a lot of televangelists or the powerful, media-anointed leaders of the Christian right, whom he accuses of “self-centred consumerism” and self-aggrandisement at the expense of their spiritual mission. Until relatively recently, he worked almost entirely under the radar and, despite building a movement of extraordinary power and reach in churches around the world, was barely known in the broader culture.
And yet he has achieved extraordinary things, and intends to keep achieving many more. His church, which he founded from scratch 26 years ago in the freshly planted suburbs of Orange County, south of Los Angeles, attracts more than 20,000 worshippers each week, making it one of the three largest congregations in the country. His sermons, which he posts on the internet, are downloaded and used by thousands of churches around the world.