In an interview with Steven Strang of Relevant Magazine, Rick Warren, Lead pastor and overseer of the 25,000 members, 14 campuses Saddleback church last seen having racially segregated services so that the “black fold” can have a “safe space” to “heal,” described how his church has been thriving amidst the pandemic despite remaining shut down since March. He also explains how Churches aren’t actually being persecuted by restrictions, given that concerts and large sports events are likewise closed.
He further argues that churches that have opened up are gambling with the lives of their congregants and that it’s out of love his campuses continue to stay closed, with ostensibly no plans to open in the near future.
Q: Why do you think COVID has been such a contentious issue for the Church in the U.S?
COVID revealed a fundamental weakness in the Church. Most churches only have one purpose: worship. And if you take worship away, you’ve got nothing. They’re in a hurry to get back to worship because that’s all they’ve got.
Saddleback is built not on one purpose, but on five. You take one circle out, we’ve still got four other circles. We’ve got ministry going on. We’ve got mission going on. We’ve got fellowship going on. We’ve got discipleship going on. Those all stand on their own.
You could take away one thing, and the church didn’t shut down. We have led over 16,000 people to Christ since March. We’re in revival. We’re averaging about 80 people a day coming to Christ—80 people a day.
But a lot of churches are nervous about the religious freedom aspect. They don’t want to wear masks. They don’t want to meet outdoors. They’re worried about religious discrimination.
They might have a discrimination case if theaters weren’t closed, football games weren’t closed, concerts weren’t happening. But they are. We’re not being discriminated against. This is a safety issue. Regal Cinemas closed down 650 theaters. Disney laid off 28,000 people. We’re not being discriminated against.
Some churches are willing to gamble the health of their people. I’m not. The good shepherd prays for his sheep, cares for his sheep. One day I will be responsible. I don’t want to be a super-spreader. I’m not doing this out of fear; I’m doing this out of love. You wear a mask for love of your neighbors, yourself.