From Christianity Today:
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, is updating his ambitious PEACE Plan, a global strategy to fight poverty, disease, and corruption.
During the past four years, Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has sent 7,766 church members on 1,002 short-term mission trips to “beta-test” new methods for church-based outreach in 68 nations. Warren has spent much of the last two years on overseas “listening sessions,” where local church leaders shared their views on his methods. “We learned 100 ways that don’t work,” he said, referring to his new approach to missions, which emphasizes church-to-church partnerships.
Originally, the PEACE Plan was an acronym for: Plant churches, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. Critics derided it as a well-meaning, ambitious, and ultimately doomed attempt to impose from the outside a framework for solving chronic problems in places like Rwanda.
The next phase, which Warren calls PEACE 2.0, provides more than a tweak to the original plan. Warren has inserted “Promote reconciliation” in place of “Plant churches.”
Time Magazine comments as well:
Already established as perhaps the most important voice in contemporary American Evangelical Christianity, Rick Warren last week pressed the button that he hopes will take his “brand” to the ends of the earth. Almost offhandedly at the conclusion of a three-day meeting of 1,700 pastors that Warren later told TIME was “the most important conference of my life,” the author of the Purpose Driven Life threw open participation in his PEACE coalition to the wider Evangelical community. It was the Evangelical equivalent of a long-awaited IPO of a tech start-up whose brand the cognoscenti have predicted will become a global juggernaut: The PEACE coalition is a plan of epic ambition, to turn at least half of the world’s tens of millions of Christian churches into a giant “network of networks” dedicated to relieving the poverty and misery of the developing world.
Over the last four years, Warren has “beta-tested” his plan by sending almost 8,000 members of his own 22,000-member Saddleback Church congregation, and an undetermined number from 12 other congregations, to work in 68 nations. The flagship project has been in Rwanda, whose President, Paul Kagame, has declared his intention to make his country the world’s first “Purpose-Driven Nation.”
There was a peculiar offhandedness to the way Warren invited the conference, at the very end of the proceedings, to join his coalition — an approach that may reflect concern about getting drawn too deeply into the specifics of a plan that promises to be extremely complicated and possibly controversial. The PEACE program is an attempt to radically re-engineer Evangelicalism’s huge missionary culture, connecting individual churches in the U.S. to congregations in target countries rather than funneling aid and evangelism through agencies that send trained professionals into the field. One of the coalition’s theoretical benefits would be efficiency; another would be reach, since tiny churches exist in places that even the most dedicated missionary professionals don’t get to. Originally, Warren was aggressive in his critique of the big missionary agencies — but more recently, it has seemed likely that he will cooperate with them.
This is both encouraging on one hand – the reconciliation emphasis sounds great – and potentially concerning on the other: will resources and support ultimately be withdrawn from aid agencies who have already proven their effectiveness as millions of Christians focus their resources into Purpose Driven efforts, and; how will the potential for corruption in local churches with sudden access to much increased resource be managed?
One thing is certain – Rick Warren may as a result of this become the most influential Christian in the world today.