Schuller–The Real Leader

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by Warren B. Smith From chapter 6 of A “Wonderful” Deception

You know it’s only if you are a visionary do you know the price tag it takes to be the real leader, I mean way out front on the edge.1–Bruce Wilkinson, Praising Robert Schuller, Hour of Power, April 24, 2005

On April 24, 2005, five days after the Lighthouse Trails press release regarding Ken Blanchard, Bruce Wilkinson was Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power guest speaker at the Crystal Cathedral. Wilkinson–the man Rick Warren described as “one of my best friends in the whole world”2–led the Crystal Cathedral congregation in a standing ovation for Schuller. He did this after favorably referencing George Mair’s newly published book, A Life with Purpose, which described Schuller’s key role in the formation of today’s Church Growth movement. Sidestepping, yet building upon Mair’s comments about Norman Vincent Peale, Bruce Wilkinson hailed Robert Schuller as “the grandfather of it all”–“a visionary” and “the real leader.” Enthusiastically praising Schuller and his Crystal Cathedral, Wilkinson told the congregation:

I love this church. I love being here. I love walking on this property. I just felt like I was one step away from heaven when I came on this property this morning. I read a book this [Mair’s] past week. Somebody gave it to me, and it traced the past fifty years of Christianity in America and it began to talk about how the transition occurred in our country that eventually led to seeker service, it led to Rick Warren, it led to Bill Hybels and Willow [Creek]. And do you know this book–you probably haven’t even seen it yet–this book brought all that back to a person who said this was the grandfather of it all who influenced this person, this person, and this person and from that it became the massive movement it is today. And the person that they named in the book was none other than the pastor of this church. That’s amazing ladies and gentlemen! Truly amazing! It is truly amazing! Yes! [The congregation gives Schuller a standing ovation] You know it’s only if you are a visionary do you know the price tag it takes to be the real leader, I mean way out front on the edge. People like to shoot people on the edge.3

But Bruce Wilkinson’s strong supportive words stood in stark contrast to the posturing and distancing Rick Warren was attempting to construct between Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, George Mair’s new book, and himself. Wilkinson certainly seemed to have no objections to Schuller or with George Mair’s description of a Church Growth movement that was founded by Peale and Schuller. The ironic twist here was that while Warren had supposedly distanced himself from Schuller, one of his “best friends in the whole world,” Bruce Wilkinson, was preaching from Schuller’s pulpit and calling Schuller “a visionary,” and the real leader.

The double irony pointed out in Deceived on Purpose was that two years earlier, Bruce Wilkinson had come directly from speaking at the Crystal Cathedral one week to speak at Saddleback Church the next week.4 The theme at both churches was preparing the church for “God’s Dream.” As already mentioned, “God’s Dream” was a term that Robert Schuller had been popularizing for decades.5 Wilkinson had come to Saddleback at the request of Rick Warren to help prepare Saddleback Church for the unveiling of Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan–the Schulleresque P.E.A.C.E. Plan that Warren just happened to be calling “God’s Dream For You–and the World.” Yet Warren’s Saddleback apologists were now trying to convince everyone that Warren had distanced himself from Schuller.

In July 2005, a hastily written book authored by Richard Abanes, who by that time had moved into the role of Rick Warren’s chief apologist, would suddenly seem to answer everyone’s questions about Rick Warren. This book, titled Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him, was published by Harvest House. Contrary to all publishing standards, this obvious damage-control book was offered free to any pastor in the world requesting a copy. I spoke with a pastor’s wife who had called for a free copy of the book. She said a Harvest House representative told her the publishing house had not provided the funding for the free books. The representative stated that the funding came from outside sources associated with the author.6 (from chapter 6, A “Wonderful” Deception)

1. Hour of Power, April 24, 2005. Bruce Wilkinson speaking at the Crystal Cathedral. Transcribed by author. No longer available online on Hour of Power website. (Note: Some of the actual comments made by Wilkinson in the telecast were changed or omitted from the edited Hour of Power online transcript.)
2. Saddleback Church, October 26, 2003. Internet broadcast from Saddleback Church, transcribed by author.
3. Ibid.
4. Warren Smith, Deceived on Purpose, pp. 121-124.
5. Ibid., pp. 124-126.
6. Source wishes to remain anonymous. On file.

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