(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Based on a biblical model of taking forty days to develop new patterns for ministry, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life is divided into forty chapters, one for each day of a spiritual pilgrimage toward better understanding God’s purpose in the reader’s life. The first seven days are devoted to examining the purpose and meaning of life. To signal how this volume contrasts with many works that are focused on making people feel good and be successful, Warren begins with a clear statement that the purpose of life is much larger than personal fulfillment, peace of mind, or happiness. The meaning and purpose of life come not from focusing on the self but from knowing and working with the author of life, namely God. This seven-day segment of the book emphasizes the providence of God in creating people to enjoy God’s fellowship forever through faith in Jesus Christ. Life on earth is intended by God as a preparation for eternity, and this process is part of God’s purpose for each human being.

The second seven-day segment of the book treats the first purpose of life that Warren has identified: People are planned for God’s pleasure. People please God first of all through worship—through singing, praising, praying, giving, and honoring God with trust and adoration. Such worship involves surrendering to God as one learns to walk in friendship with God. God also takes pleasure in helping people discover their gifts or abilities and use them for God’s glory.

The third segment treats the second purpose: People are formed for God’s family, or the church. Warren argues that because God is love, God values relationships. Even the nature of the Trinity reveals this relational quality in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who accept the Son, Jesus Christ, become adopted members of the family of God. Learning to be a loving member of this community on earth is central to life and a vital preparation for eternity with God in the community of heaven.

The fourth segment presents the third purpose:...

(The entire section is 838 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Abanes, Richard. Rick Warren and the Purpose That Drives Him: An Insider Looks at the Phenomenal Bestseller. Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House, 2005. An informed review of the life and work of Warren. Abanes offers answers to criticisms of Warren’s books and ministry.

Byasse, Jason. “Re-Purposed: What Is a Church For?” Christian Century (March 9, 2004): 28-29, 31-32. A thoughtful evaluation of The Purpose Driven Life. Byasse finds it a biblically and theologically responsible rethinking of church practice but questions its use for liturgical context.

Gunther, Marc, and Christopher Tkaczyk. “Will Success Spoil Rick Warren?” Fortune 15, no. 9 (October 31, 2005): 108-110, 112, 114, 116, 118, 120. This secular management article evaluates the nature and legacy of Warren’s leadership in writing and ministry. Concludes that Warren is the major religious entrepreneur of his generation.

Stafford, Tim. Review of The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? Christianity Today (March, 2004): 29. Evaluates Warren’s book as redefining the nature of a balanced Christian life in an ordinary church, whether Pentecostal, Episcopal, or Baptist.

Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995. Warren describes how to develop healthy Christians and biblical church leadership, the measure for obedience to the purpose of God for a given church.