Thursday, December 18, 2008

To Invocate or Not Invocate?

Lighthouse Community Church has been deeply affected and influenced by the ministry of Pastor Rick Warren. Warren is the Founding and Senior Pastor at Saddleback Community
Church in CA ( His book, The Purpose Driven Church inspired a number of our founding members to create "a church to reach the unchurched." His "40 Days of Purpose" campaign played a significant role in our church, leading to over a dozen baptisms at the closing celebration. Warren is one of the most prominent pastors in the United States - if not the world - and a consistent NY Times bestseller. Some consider him to be the heir-apparent to Billy Graham as the most influencial leader among evangelicals. In 2005 Time magazine said: "Many believe that Warren ... is the successor to the [Rev. Billy Graham] for the role of America's minister." In that regard, it was not a surprise that Warren has been asked to deliver the invocation at President-Elect Obama's inauguration. (see

Of course, not everyone is happy with the choice...or with Warren's apparent acceptance.

For political liberals, they are outraged that an outspoken pro-life advocate and a leading critic of same-sex marriage efforts would be chosen. In truth, the liberal blogs are steaming today over this announcement.

But, what should we (Christians) think about the selection of Warren and his acceptance?

In terms of the choice of Warren, on the one hand, we could cynically dismiss it as "typical politics." We could say that Pres Elect Obama is merely attempting to court evangelicals by selecting a key evangelical figure for this task. Others may see the choice more positively, arguing that this is simply Pres Elect Obama being true to his word to find common ground with people, even when there is disagreement on certain issues.

But what of Warren's acceptance? Again, some will see this positively, arguing that Warren is seeking to provide positive biblical influence where the opporutnity arises. In a sense, this may be his first major step in filling the role left by Billy Graham in being the "pastor to Presidents." Others, will see Warren's participation as tantamount to an endorsement of the Obama presidency. As such, it seems inconsistent and confusing, considering his strong opposition to several Obama policies.

My opinion is not worth much more than anyone else's I suppose. However, as the pastor of a church that has been significantly influenced by Warren - and currently in a series inspired by The Purpose of Christmas - I will provide my perspective...for what it's worth.

Warren always has been a risk-taker, and his participation in the inauguration is certainly a risk. In one sense, delivering an opening prayer is nothing more or less than talking to God. Unless, that is, we start thinking about all of the possible places we might encounter an invocation. For example, should a pastor provide an invocation for a dog fight? How about the opening of a bar? A strip club? As you see, the further we push the examples we inherently know that there is MORE to an invocation than simply talking to God - there is an implicit endorsement (and a request of God's favor) for the thing, person, or event in question. So, even in light of the positive potential that Warren's participation may engender, I do think that his participation is an implicit endorsement of Pres Elect Obama, which will undermine the good that he seeks to do. As such, I disagree with him for accepting the invitation to deliver the invocation.

Though I respectfully disagree with Warren's decision, I believe that he is a guy desperately wanting to extend the kingdom of God and to serve God faithfully with his life. I pray that I am wrong and that this will do more good than harm. And, I pray that this will give Warren the opportunity to be a significant, positive, and grounding influence in Obama's life.

I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

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