Rick Warren: "Seriously bad news' about Saddleback's budget

Preacher Rick Warren sent out a letter to his churchgoers Wednesday which starts out:

Dear Saddleback Family,

THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER unlike any I’ve written in 30 years. Please read all of it and get back to me in the next 48 hours.

I have thrilling news to share with you below but first some seriously bad news:

With 10% of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated. Still, with wise management, we’ve stayed close to our budget all year. Then… this last weekend the bottom dropped out.

On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive – leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year, unless you help make up the difference today and tomorrow.

Other than the budget shortfall, the church is doing fantastic — lots of baptisms, salvation decisions, free counseling sessions and charitable efforts underway. (To read the entire letter, click here.)

Updated: December 31, 2009 — 12:35 pm

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  1. The sting of financial crisis spares no one. It starts from individual and their family ends up worldwide. May God bless every individual with financial solvency and healthy mind by turning around financial mechanism and greedy mind for well being of all inhabitants of this planet earth. Let us shred off all pains of the year 2009 and move forward with confident of hope depending on Almighty God. HAPPY NEW YEAR AND PROSPEROUS NEW DECADE.

  2. Well – It is about time that that “God drives an SUV and stops at Starbucks” crowd wind down. They had a good run, however, when the money was flowing. I would suspect infighting and ill temper will be the result of the diminsihed cash flow.

  3. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I noticed two things here: 1) there was no link to an audited financial statement from Saddleback. Was that in a different version? Or did I just overlook it? 2) Isn’t Rick Warren a multimillionaire? Why doesn’t he just write a check?

  4. MDSF, as to the first question, good point. I don’t know if Saddleback releases audited financial statements or not, but it should. As to your second point, according to Wikipedia, “Due to the success of his book sales, in 2005 Warren returned his 25 years of salary to the church and discontinued taking a salary. He says he and his wife became “reverse tithers”, giving away 90% of their income and living off 10%.”

    I suppose 10% of a multi-million dollar a year income is still a pretty good income, but it looks like he’s done his part (if he’s telling the truth).

  5. And, of course, the rest of the story is that, in 48 hours after Warren made his plea, his followers chipped in $2.4 million, well above the $900k or so he was asking for. I guess the Ohana Band and Hula Team are here to stay after all.

  6. As per Caleb’s information stated above, Rev. Warren received $2.4 million against his appeal for financial shortfall of $900K, which is more than double what he asked for. To me it is a typical example of old saying, “God would provide”. It is true what Christ said in the Bible that we could do miracle if we have little faith like a master seed. But to attain that little faith, it needs enormous commitments to God.

  7. The Bible says, “You have not because you ask not … Ask and you shall receive.” Way to go Saddleback and Pastor Rick. You all set the standard for generosity for the church.

  8. Julian, a mass mailing and national media attention is helpful, too. There are many worthy organizations out there who would probably put the money to better use than Warren’s organization, but they don’t get this level of funding because they haven’t spent the money to put in place a public relations and fund raising organization of the type that Warren has.

    That’s not a knock on Warren, but merely a suggestion that national PR had more to do with this level of funding than divine intervention. Don’t get me wrong, I like hula dancing as well as anyone, but if divine intervention had been the sole factor, we’d probably have seen the money go to a homeless shelter somewhere or an AIDS clinic in a ghetto rather than to a fancy suburban church with a pastor more interested in spreading his evangelical agenda than doing God’s work.

  9. Evangelism is in the eye of the beholder. Spreading an evangelical social and political agenda is hardly my view of evangelism, though I admit that Warren is certainly not the worst offender here; as evangelicals go, he’s one of the better ones, which I suppose rather illustrates how bad most of the rest are.

  10. Sure, I agree. Evangelism has been done in the worst way (Puritans). But again, it is subjective. Curious though, what is the epis. method?

  11. KC, because the Episcopal Church has been much more of a cultural church than most, in the sense that it has been the traditional church of upper class WASPs, it hasn’t focused much on traditional evangelism. Now that it has emerged as the most liberal of the mainstream denominations, I suspect that we get most of our converts from people who are dissatisfied with other denominations. As someone once said, we Episcopalians don’t ever “catch” a real sinner; we just steal converts from other churches.

    Now that no one thinks it’s a social plus to be an Episcopalian anymore, I expect that we will primarily appeal to liberal, well educated, eccentric people, who might have trouble finding a home in more conservative circles. It’s interesting that while the Episcopal Church is not exactly known for its outreach efforts, something over half of the church’s membership are adult converts, so we must be doing something right.

  12. I’m sorry, but just because someone is doing evangelism that doesn’t mean they are a good investment, nor does it mean that it’s good stewardship to send them money.

    If I church were an ordinary business, and converts were its product, it would be sensible to ask how many converts they are producing per dollar donated. Then it would be sensible to compare on church to another on that basis: who is spending money well, who is converting people in a cost-effective manner, etc.?

    If a church (or parachurch organization, or an outreach organization) isn’t being transparent regarding how they’re spending money, then there’s no good reason to send them a single dime. Ever. There are ministries that are accountable for the money they take in: they publish salary and overhead numbers, they have audited financial statements, etc. These are the people who, when they claim they’re in a financial crisis of some kind, are credible.

    Anyone who claims they’re in a financial crisis and doesn’t have a history of being transparent and accountable regarding how they spend their money may well be lying to you and you’d never know.

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