My Sobering Time with Rick Warren about His Son Matthew

Rick and Ron Edmonson

Over the last few days, my Internet world has been inundated with news about the death of Rick Warren’s son Matthew. When I got the word Saturday, my heart surely skipped a beat. I have grown to love Rick. I don’t know him well, but I have had the privilege of being with him numerous times and found him to be genuine and deeply concerned for the well being of anyone who he meets. He’s definitely a pastor’s pastor.

I debated sharing this story. I don’t want to appear to sensationalize the issue. It’s getting enough attention. After reading numerous negative stories about Rick, his family, and Matthew (I honestly don’t know why anyone would choose a time like this to personally attack someone), I asked permission from one of the leaders at Saddleback to share my experience with Rick concerning his son Matthew.

A couple years ago, I had the awesome experience of visiting the inner workings of Saddleback Church. I was asked, along with a couple other pastors, to help them think through some of their online presence ministering to pastors. (One way Rick wants to end his ministry is by using his influence to bless other pastors. They have made Pastors.com a tremendous free resource.) It was an incredible trip. I had been to Saddleback, but on this trip, I got the complete behind the scenes tour. I was in the green room before Rick spoke. I got to hang out many from their staff. I left even more impressed with the depth of their ministry. Any rumor or thought someone has that they are a “watered-down” Bible teaching church is clearly wrong. I can vouch for that.

Rick Warren, the infamous, bigger-than-life, founding pastor was there. He was very engaging to all of us and made us feel extremely welcome. Most of our time was spent with other staff members, but Rick was intentional about spending time with us. If you are a pastor, I promise, you will never get close to him without receiving a bear hug.

The last afternoon we were there, Rick called a couple other pastors and me into his office. I could tell he was dealing with something. He wasn’t as jovial as he normally is. He closed the door and told us he needed our prayers. He told us that few knew what he was about to tell us and asked that we be willing to keep it confidential. (I haven’t shared it with anyone until now.)

He then told us that his son Matthew had struggled with a deep depression all of his life. They had done everything they could for him. They had sought advice from experts. He had seen doctors and counselors. Obviously, they had prayed constantly. Nothing worked. To protect Matthew, Rick had shared with very few people about Matthew’s mental illness. I can understand that as a parent.

Matthew was a great young man, with a huge heart and a deep love for people. It’s obvious from my experience he inherited at least part of that quality from Rick. Matthew loved Christ. He loved his family. For whatever reason though, Matthew couldn’t shake the depression. He, therefore, never found or realized his ultimate purpose in life. Imagine the irony of that. The son of the author of Purpose Driven Life couldn’t find his purpose. It reminds me that there will always be things in life we cannot understand.

Rick wanted us to pray, because Matthew had made some recent threats against his life. It wasn’t the first time he had done so. He had been doing so well lately, but it was obvious Rick was taking this current threat very serious. (As any parent would and you always should with any suicide threat.) Rick was deeply troubled and concerned and asked us to pray for his son.

Rick doesn’t know this, but I have prayed for Matthew almost every time I thought of Rick since that day. If I saw Rick’s tweets, I said a prayer for Matthew.

You see, what Rick also doesn’t know is that I’ll never forget that moment. It made a lasting impression on me. It was surreal. It was heart breaking. Rick was a “bigger than life” pastor in my mind. He was wildly successful in his career. He was humble, genuine, and took a personal interest in me. I probably mistakenly believed that Rick never dealt with the personal issues and struggles most of us outside the limelight live with everyday. I know that’s not true, but we tend to forget everyone has a story they are living…some of it will be good…some of it not so good. Even people of faith have days of despair. All of us have questions without answers. More than anything, however, that moment was a demonstration to me that no matter how powerful a figure you are, no matter how influential you become, you’re always vulnerable when it comes to your children.

Rick Warren wasn’t the pastor of a mega-church that day. He wasn’t the best-selling author of “Purpose Driven Life”. He wasn’t the internationally known church leader who knows presidents and kings of nations. Rick was a dad. Simply a dad. A great, big, loving, and tenderhearted dad with puppy dog tears and a situation he could do nothing to change. In that moment, I also witnessed first hand that Rick was fully surrendered. Fully dependent on God.

I don’t understand the term “mental illness”. I don’t understand depression. I know it is real, because in my ministry I have dealt with it many times. I don’t understand many of the physical ailments of our day. I don’t understand why Matthew struggled so long. I don’t understand why Rick and Kay had to carry…and will carry for a lifetime…the pain in their hearts over their beloved son. I don’t understand.

But, I know this. Rick had fully and completely surrendered his son to Christ…then and obviously now. And, even today, Christ is in control…of Rick…of Matthew…of you and me.

I’m praying for you Rick. Thanks for showing me the true love of a dad. Just imagine how much God must love us!

Picking Political Battles … Winning the War

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I continually have well-meaning believers who want me to get more involved in the political debates of religion and culture. And, sometimes I do. There are certainly battles to fight. Big battles. Human slavery. For one example. Ridiculous. Let’s end it now.

For the fights I choose I vote. I speak to representatives in government when I can. I’ve written letters…even letters to the editor in years past. I’m actually friends with a few people in government. Numerous people. And, I’m not afraid to use my influence where I feel it is most effective.

Plus, I realize some people have a specific calling to fight the battle on “capital hill”. I admire and support them in their calling. I actually know of few of those “called” elected servants personally. In fact, I once served in an elected office. I firmly believe followers of Christ need to take active roles in civil affairs…in the world.

Most of the time, however, I feel like I have a higher calling these days. Higher for me. And, I’ve got to live out my calling, as you do yours.

Sometimes as believers though, I think we need to learn the battles to fight and the ones to let go. It seems to me that many believers (people) are always looking for a fight. Some, it seems to me…if I’m completely honest…are especially looking for the fight about the issue they care about most.

I wonder, however, if we should choose our battles more carefully, knowing that ultimately the outcome of the war has already been decided. Our mission now is the Great Commission. We are to make disciples. That begins with telling our story. It seems to me it is harder to get people to listen if we are always fighting with them. Sometimes it seems our argument is louder than our message…our ultimate message.

Getting people to hear about Jesus seems more important than making sure everyone complies with our view of morality. Yes, our Biblical view of morality. If they knew Jesus…He does a pretty good (really good) job of making people more holy. (I realize that’s the simplistic view. But, I’m a pretty simple guy.)

It’s a consistent battle for me…an internal battle…whether to get involved publicly or sit this one out and pray.

Recently the words of Paul from 2 Timothy encouraged me in this realm.

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead…according to my gospel. 2 Timothy 2:8

But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23

“instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 2:25

I realize I won’t please everyone when I don’t fight the battle of their preference. I even realize some who read this will assume I’m refusing to speak on “their” issue. That’s okay. Being misunderstood sometimes isn’t that bad.

Because, I’m picking battles carefully…

And, celebrating the winning of the war!

What do you think?

10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Drama

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I love the local church. I really do. I believe it is God’s design and His plan to reach the world with the Gospel…with life and hope.

But, I hate church drama.

I really do. I hate destructive drama in any setting, but especially in the church. It shouldn’t exist. It especially shouldn’t exist in the church. We have to violate a lot of principles of God’s plan for the church and for believers for it to exist at all, but, even still, it does.

Drama. Gossip. Back-stabbing. Politics. Jockeying for power. Rumors. It’s destructive and has no part in the local church. I’ve seen lots of it. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about church drama:

Not all rumors are true. Most aren’t.

People like to expand on what they know. Or think they know.

There are consequences to sin. Even though there is grace. Some confuse that.

Some people enjoy telling others “the good stuff”. With practice, some have even learned to make things bigger and “better” than they really are.

Gossip destroys.

There is usually more to the story than what you know. But it may or may not be what your mind stretches it to be.

Many people never consider the ramifications of what they are saying.

Some of the juiciest gossip is disguised as a prayer request.

Thumper’s mom was right.

The only reliable source is the direct source.

For those who have given up on church because of the drama…Please reconsider. I still believe in the local church. I think we need people who like me…hate the drama of church and just want to live out the Gospel. Don’t let the drama keep you away. Come be a part of ending it.

You may want to read my post 7 Ways to Stop Gossip and 5 Suggestions When Your Life is a Drama. Or, even better, read the Book of James…New Testament. Or maybe Ephesians. (Specifically note 4:29).

What have you learned about church drama?

When You Allow Others to Help You…

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When you allow someone to help you…

When you are in pain…

When you are in the midst of a trial…

Don’t forget…

It may be therapy for the person who helps you.

We often resist help.

We are too proud. We don’t want to be an inconvenience. We want to appear strong.

But, we ignore the help the helper gains from the helped.

When an injured pastor helps another injured pastor…

It helps him heal.

When a cancer survivor ministers to a cancer patient…

Their heart heals a little.

A parent who lost a child….

Is best equipped to minister to someone who has lost a child.

And, it often gives a slight sense of meaning to their loss.

It doesn’t remove the pain, but it often helps one deal with pain better when they help others in pain.

Those are just a few examples.

You can add many others.

Many times we gain perspective on our pain when we help others deal with their pain.

Don’t be afraid of help.

Opening your life to others…helps.

Sometimes more than you know.

10 Signs You May Not Understand Worship

The volume or tempo of the music determines whether you think it’s a worship song.

A slight change in the order of the service makes you think they’ve harmed “worship”.

You think raising hands or not raising hands determines the depth of a person’s worship.

You believe the “proper” length of a “worship” service is dictated by your lunch schedule.

You think worship has to be in a service or part of a programmed event.

Certain instruments keep you from thinking worship is possible.

You think worship is confined to a certain place or a certain time.

The clothes you wear determines the quality of worship…for you AND others.

You think worship always involves music.

Your attempt to worship has more to do with a personal preference than the subject of worship.

Any additions?

7 Ways I Hope to be a Kingdom Builder

I have often said in conversations, “I want to be a Kingdom-minded person”. Recently some one asked me, “What do you mean by that?”

Great question.

What do I mean by that?

I thought it might be more helpful if I described how I hope to do that.

Here are 7 ways I hope to be Kingdom minded:

Care more about a person’s relationship to Jesus than their denominational loyalties.

Care more about a person growing to be like Christ than their membership in my church.

Care more about disciples being made than who gets credit for doing it.

Care more about the Gospel being shared than the methodology of sharing it.

Care more about church growth than church structure.

Care more about obedience to Christ than the approval of others.

Care more about God’s glory than man’s recognition.

Care more about whether a person can worship than the style of music they choose to do so.

Okay, that’s 8, but I care less about the number than you getting the point of this post.

By the way, in my opinion, we tend to work hardest for what we care about most.

What do you think it means to be a Kingdom-builder?

10 Random Post Election Thoughts

I couldn’t get on with my day until I processed a few random thoughts. So many. Many undeveloped. Very random. More to come.

I see so many comments through social media. Some of hurt. Some of frustration. Some of anger. Some of rejoicing. (I am glad I have friends on both sides of the political spectrum.)

10 random post election thoughts:

God isn’t perplexed today about the state of our country.

Fear is an emotion and not necessarily a reality, but perfect love casts out fear. If I’m afraid I should trust in You…in God whose word I praise.

I am supposed to pray for even my enemies…and those with whom I may not agree. Have I done that?

I wonder if our unifying answer is beyond our current two dominant party choices.

Christians have a unique responsibility. We are to respect authority, pray for our nation, and care more about its soul than its economy. I wonder how well we are doing that?

Just because God allows a king doesn’t mean He has chosen to bless a nation with one. That could be true of either party candidate who was elected. Remember the story of Saul and David?

Our country needs the Gospel even more than it needs new jobs. Revival often starts with a few people.

When the country is less unified, the church should be even more unified.

What if President Obama chose Mitt Romney as his new Business Czar? (Supposedly a position he’s proposing.)

I am looking forward to Sunday. My favorite day of the week.

Listen, as an encourager and teacher of God’s people, speaking to the church, let us not become weary in doing good. In due season, we will reap what we sow. Let us be be an example for our nation today. At work. At home. In our hearts. Let us show and be the love of Jesus. He is still our hope.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8)

(By the way, I have another theory about the state of the church as it relates to the state of our nation, but I’ll save that for another day.)

Back to work.