Time was, not so long ago, that no one ever said a bad word about Pastor Rick Warren. He was the genius grower of churches, the California whiz who found a magic formula for marketing Christianity to the masses, who hit the jackpot with his book "The Purpose Driven Life," by some accounts the best-selling nonfiction book ever. The newsweeklies noticed him, The New Yorker profiled him, members of Billy Graham's family lauded him and Bill Gates himself hobnobbed with him.
Has Warren simply gotten so huge—with 400,000 pastors trained in the art of being purpose-driven and more than 20,000 people coming to hear him preach on Sundays—that he's an easy target? Or are American Protestants really beginning to tire of megachurches? The numbers wouldn't support this latter hypothesis: there are twice as many megachurches in America today as there were five years ago, and Warren himself handles the criticism like a giant shooing a pesky fly. "It's about time someone started to be negative," he says with a smile in his voice. "The media love to build people up, and they immediately love to tear them down." He has important things to do, he says, pointing to his new initiatives to stop poverty, AIDS and illiteracy in Africa. The negative press is nothing—"like a water spider on the pond of life." Then he quotes John 10:37: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." A verse that critics and fans alike can take to heart.
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