Editor's Note: Rick Warren is the founder and pastor at Saddleback Church and the author of The Purpose Driven Life.
By Rick Warren, Special to CNN
On June 5, 1981, my wife Kay was late into her second pregnancy, just weeks away from giving birth. Absorbed in caring for our 2-year-old and preparing for a newborn, the farthest thing on our minds was news that day of a cluster of men in Los Angeles with a mysterious, devastating disease.
But what began in Africa and was first observed in this small California group became an epidemic, then swelled to a pandemic - touching lives in every country on every continent
Though late to the fight, in 2003 Kay and I heard God calling us to care for those infected and affected, to raise our voices on their behalf, and to figure out practical ways for local churches to serve them.
Timeline: 30 years of AIDS moments
We traveled to Africa, ground zero for this pandemic, and were brokenhearted by the pain and thrilled by the compassion we observed.
Out of the bubble that is American life, we sat with dying men and women, held newly orphaned babies in our arms, and cried with shattered family members.
In America, we’d heard public leaders, including pastors, make pronouncements about AIDS that implied that those infected were enemies, or at least deserved their illness.
But at the grassroots level we witnessed Christ-followers by the thousands opening their hearts, their homes, their wallets and their churches to fellow human beings in their suffering. Clearly, local churches were at the forefront of this battle in Africa.
Kay Warren folding bandages in Rwanda in 2007.
We returned home determined to model our church’s response to HIV and AIDS after the African church’s response. We began by inviting a member of our church – Saddleback, in Southern California - who was HIV positive to tell his story publicly for the first time.
Our members responded with overwhelming love. And once people realized our church was a safe place, other HIV positive people began attending and opening up about their status. To help remove the stigma, I was publicly tested for HIV with network TV cameras rolling.
We began support groups for anyone infected or affected; trained church members to be part of personalized teams for an infected individual; brought in experts in the field to educate our congregation; and hosted three “Global Summits on AIDS and the Church” to showcase the latest scientific, behavioral and psycho-social aspects of the disease.
We reached out to local, regional, national and international organizations, offering our manpower and networks in the fight against AIDS.
One of the great lessons of this fight is that the single fastest way to mobilize at the grassroots level around the world is through local congregations. Nothing comes close to the size and scope of this pool of compassionate volunteers.
The church has the largest distribution network on the planet. There are more churches in the world than all the Wal-Marts, McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. The church was global 200 years before anyone else thought of globalization. We could take you to thousands of villages around the world where the only institution to speak of is a church.
Plus, the Christian church is the only organization growing faster than the new infection rate: while 7,000 people are newly infected globally every day, and church growth experts estimate that the church is adding 35,000 converts daily in China alone.
These church members have a non-profit motivation to serve. We are commanded by Jesus Christ to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our church sent 14,869 of our members to all 195 nations in the world to beta-test a local church humanitarian program based on the model of Jesus.
Called the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, volunteers Plant churches that promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.
We’ve learned that any church can provide six essential services in the fight against HIV/AIDS, easily remembered by the acronym CHURCH:
–Care for and support the sick. Caring requires no money, just a willingness to offer compassion and kindness.
–Handle HIV testing. At the least, churches can encourage members to get tested, with the pastor leading the way. Everyone should know their HIV status.
–Unleash volunteers. There will never be enough professionals to fix all that is wrong in our world. The Christian church claims 2.3 billion followers worldwide. If only half could be mobilized to care for those with HIV and AIDS, the fight would look very different
–Remove the stigma. It is not a sin to be sick. Jesus never asked a sick person, “How did you get sick?” He asked, “How can I help you?”
–Champion healthy behavior. HIV is almost completely preventable. While new reports suggest that accessing HIV treatment at an earlier stage of the illness is a vital way to prevent transmission, the cost may be an impediment. Behavior change will continue to be the most effective way to cut down on new infections.
–Help with antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients. The simplest way to cut down on new infections, to help infected individuals live longer, and to prevent children from becoming orphans, is to create accountability with medication compliance. Church volunteers can make daily visits or phone calls, reminding individuals to take their medication.
This strategy has been enormously successful in the Karongi District of the Western Province of Rwanda, where Saddleback Church, the government of Rwanda and local churches established a pilot program to train community health workers.
Started in 2008, more than 2,800 community volunteers have been trained through the churches to take on a caseload of 26,000 homes in the rural district where there is one hospital for 300,000 residents.
These volunteers provide access to basic healthcare information and are addressing preventable and opportunistic diseases – the big killers of those living with the virus. The lives of 120,000 children and 50,000 adults are being positively impacted.
Thirty years have passed since HIV was first recognized. In that time, millions have lost their lives and millions of children have been orphaned. Millions more are living with the virus today.
But if the church and other faith communities will step up to the table, and as governments and other health organizations welcome their assistance, the future can be brighter.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rick Warren.
The quality of conscience(CQ) determines the course of man's life. The Christian Church is outstanding far above all others, with God's Spirit working in her. Only villains hate the Church.
not every church is the Church,many will be rejected.read Revelation.not every pastor is a servant of God,many do not know him.rick warren has played fast and loose with the word of God in his writings,using multiple translations and paraphrases to make God say what rick wants him to say.not all opposition to warren comes from an atheist or agnostic.you should read and understand the Bible before you champion the faith,assuming that you do know God.check out Job ...have your ears heard of Him or have your eyes seen Him?
You would be dangerous if you weren't so pathetically comical!
Imagine if the church used its size and influence to do some actual good. Like hand out condoms. Last time I checked they were a lot more effective than preaching.
Man must change from within. There are always new types of diseases coming up for immoral lifestyles.
Odessa, ignorance helps to solve nothing.
Good luck with that.
Christianity thrives on ignorance, fear, death, and hate. The AIDS epidemic must seem like Xmas every day to the people preaching about sin, repentance, and submission to their imaginary, malevolent god.
Odessa – still hoping for the disease that affects the self righteous.
Rick, please educate the Tea Party Nation activist Richard Swier on compassion. He thinks that bullying gays and lesbians in schools is "healthy peer pressure" and uses AIDS statistics and quotes from the hate group Mass Resistance to bolster his claims:
Gays and lesbians need to be educated by Christians that their lifestyle is sinful and destructive and it should be given up by repentance, until the Kingdom comes. Telling the Truth is the best form of love. Gay supporters are toxic and harmful to gays.
Odessa, OK here's the truth. You're mentally insane. The best way to reduce risk of AIDS through the distribution of condoms, it is a proven fact. Religious conformity does nothing to stave the risk of STDs, and it brings with it all manner of hate and bigotry as you are displaying here.
SB, people should have physical intimacy only for love with either with a husband or a wife. All other forms are sins and spritually and morally wrong and must be educated so.
Lesbians have the lowest AIDS rates of any of the "big four" demographics, is gay males, straight males, straight females and lesbians. Obviously, god is telling women to be lesbians. No other way to interpret it!
Church is pure evil...world will be a far better place without any religion..
what a completely ridiculous and unfounded statement.
Just leave Africa to stew in it's own filth. Any financial aid sent is immediately stolen by corrupt officials. The people see none of it. Any race that thinks having eight or nine children in abject poverty is a perfectly reasonable way of life...they deserve what they're going to get. Haiti is exactly the same. Some cultures go extinct for good reason, by their own hands.
God bless Rick Warren. Those who accuse him and hate him, really hate the God he serves. Many are afraid he may teach abstinence as part of the solution (which it clearly is).
Despite your hated and cynicism,...the good he does speaks for itself. The blessings of God cannot be affected by these folks as all. The world and people of Africa..see the truth.
Yes the other people of the world see him for the fraud he is, as well.
And the people of Africa have seen frauds like him come and go for decades, leaving behind the destruction religion brings.
Christianity is spreading fast in Africa because those Africans know only Jesus can save them.
Dear, the people of Africa were born without knowledge just as you were born without knowledge.
What you have is false knowledge. It is by far the worst thing humanity has to suffer as regards our living together in peace.
False knowledge means bad decision-making. Understanding one another helps us to understand how we can all live together and love each other. Understanding requires accurate information and honest analysis.
Jesus did not write what was said about him long after he died.
Don't you hate it when people say untrue things about you?
Shouldn't the true words of Jesus be more important than listening to other "depraved" humans and what they think Jesus said?
Why don't you seek the true words of Jesus himself? Seek the truth and I will support you. Accept lies and I will not.
Yea, right. Who really knows his understanding and his interpretation of the God he serves. Given the advances in science, the ever expanding universe, rather than the destruction of the universe and earth He created, His God is the creation of everything, both good and evil, as passages in Proverbs and the Psalms of David reads. What's written of God is nothing more that what and how people, individually, experience and come to know Him. Therefore, Rich Warren has no monopoly upon what God thinks and does. If God is no respecter of man, then why does God give his plan to Rich Warren and not me? Rick Warren is held up by the ignorance of those who are unable to think outside of the box and look for someone to follow. Lets face it. Christ has already come and gave the world the knowledge needed to please his Father, and it was not the crap Rick Warren preaches and hides behind what Rick Warren calls love. If you need convincing, please, refer back to the Sermon on the Mount and not Rick Warren. The peace and answers are found in the Sermon on the Mount, not Rick Warren or any other.
I am a Christian and will admit that it is not my place to say weather or not Rick Warren is a Christian but I will say that he doesn't act like it. When a so called Christian Minister says that we need to remove symboles of the cross from churches or tells me that I need to pray along side those of another faith then I don't put much in that Minster (Rick Warren).
Church opposition to condom use is a real problem with AIDS in Africa. It's amazing how ministers can twist things.
So, it only took 2 decades for the church to become sympathetic to people who have HIV...
? The Church has been helping the sick, any types, for the last 2,000 years.
Warren is a fraud. He is insane to think he can get away with it when it only takes half a brain to see through his tricks.
Mabel, why do you American atheists always slander the honorable people in your land who do good? He is highly respected among many Christians all around the world though we know secular Americans are usually morally bankrupt.
Dear Odessa, let us talk of fraud instead of one particular criminal.
Do you know of any Christian pastor or priest who is definitely a fake? Or do you accept all pastors and priests without caring what they do as priests?
Don't you want them to all be good? Yet many are bad. Can you see that or are you blind to the evil done in the name of religion?
Truth is intolerant. Only criminals hate the truth.
You said "Only criminals hate the truth."
You shouldn't call all believers criminals. Some are just ignorant.
Or should I have said:
@True Friend, Justina, Frederica, Friend, Adeline, Christian Adeline, Adelina, FairGarden, Odessa, ....
LinCA, I was also Zelda and WonderSpring, don't forget. I was reacting to the comment below mine. Criminals are the humans who deny the reality of humanity's total depravity. Christians are not naive like atheists. By the way, Canada exists to spread Christianity. Enjoy my array of user names and phrases.
Dear Odessa, humanity is just people trying to live together. If we were all depraved we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
@Auntie-, trying to live together? That's why you are being enslaved by the super-rich in America. Or maybe you are one of them. Humanity always destroys or oppresses itself without external influences or infusion. Christianity educated the world to be civil and compassionate. Mankind needs Christianity more than ever. America is going down because you allow stupid blasphemies to keep going in your land.
I agree we need more compassion for each other. And being civil and polite is always nice to see, too.
But Christianity did not bring these things to the world, Odessa. They are part of being a nice human being.
If all Christians were always nice and polite and compassionate and all such nice things, then we would not be able to point to the bad things Christians do, now would we?
Why not be a nice human being and stop telling everyone they are depraved. That is not a nice thing to say.
How very, very revealing and unfortunate many of these comments are. Those who virtually worship the mantra of "TOLERANCE"-no one more so today than secularists and gay activists-are themselves flush with intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and poisonous vitriol for those who are truly the New Minorities of our age; that is Evangelical Christians. I don't agree with a lot of your theology Pastor Rick Warren, but kudos to you and your church for raising this challenge to “love thy neighbor” to other churches!
Happy Independence Day, Americans. Repent in order to be preserved. Don't do foolish things or get drunk on this day of honor. Go to church on Sunday and get rid of your trashy addiction.
Dear, Independence Day is on Monday, not Sunday.
Mabel, I meant every Sunday. Independence Day has just started. Those who go to church for special occasions alone are either non-Christian or sick lazy.
Dear Odessa, did you not know that Independence Day is a celebration of our country's birth?
It is not a religious holiday. Our country was born as a place where people of all religions could live together without having any church as the king over us, and as a place where each of us would be represented in the halls of our own government.
We are free to speak honestly, free to worship however we like, and we are free to change our country for the better.
If you lived here, you would know these things already.
Independence Day is not a religious holiday.
Christian Church is also the most powerful and only weapon against hell and evil. God bless the Church forever.
The church has been the main AGENT of hell and evil for most of its existence. And to Warren Jeffs: if the church had GOT OUT OF THE WAY long ago, maybe Africa wouldn't be quite such a basket case. Popes for decades telling people not to use condoms. The church has been historically part of the problem. That's not gonna change cause some self righteous pastor at a superficial megachurch thinks he can save the world.
excuse me, Rick Warren not Warren Jeffs. Getting my windbags confused.
The Church always rescued everyone everywhere. Who is Warren Jeffs? Can't recall. Must be America's domestic problem.
Give c redit where its due. The US has done more for helping people in need than any religion ever has. In fact religions use our tax dollars, grants, to wave their banner.
How about we end grants to religious organizations.
USA has nothing outside of Christianity. The West is nothing outside of Christianity.
Christianity educated and nourished barbaric Europeans and thus Americans for good. The Bible says evil never departs from those who pay good with evil. The West will be punished by God again for its blasphemies.
Yeah, educated them that the world was flat, and that flaying yourself was the best way to beat the Black Death.
Organized religion has caused nothing but suffering, and is for delusional fools.
Dan, you are ignorant. The whole world wouldn't have any hospitals, schools, orphanages, charity, literature, science, art, or music in any decent ways without the Christian Church.
please click on 'report abuse' on the videos. Please whenever you see one, click the abuse.. Thanks
I can hardly believe the moronic statements flying across this forum from folks who claim they know that Warren is in it for the money. Seems like as Christians, we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. In contrast to the many judgmental, hate filled so called Christians out there, there are many who really do want to show compassion to a hurting world. But that's not good enough for you guys, is it? Nope, you HATE us because we happen to have faith in a compassionate and loving God. I pray you will find him someday.
I do not hate Christians and I don't even know or hate Mr. Warren, but I will claim to know his type. It is his type that I do not care for. For his followers, I wish them only peace. They are the ones who make him what he is today. Best of luck and God bless.
Lots of cash in religion. Check out the popes gold lined wardrobe, his billion dollar yacht, his castle..
Warren made lots of cash, a manipulator. He'll spend the cash on good deeds – pretend he's doing good. Already made his cash before..
Good comes from good whatever
Please give us the link to the yacht.
Mr. Warren is a "Celebrity" preacher, looking for publicity at every level. Note his comment, "To help remove the stigma, I was publicly tested for HIV with network TV cameras rolling." Publicly tested with network TV cameras rolling. Wow. I guess the media has ignored him for a bit, so he decided to write this article.
He has also had, as "guest" at his "church," such notables as Sen. McCain, Obama, President Bush, Tony Blair, one of the Chilean miners, Dr. Oz (with his weight loss program, The Daniel Plan), Rwandan President Paul Kagame and who can forget the wonderful Easter service featuring the Jonas Brothers. Why anyone would listen to him is beyond me, but his fans swear by him. Go figure.
Yes, but 9% of 10 million is $900,000. Pretty good take
Are you donating 91% of your income to charity?
It sounds to me like he has more than earned 9% of what ever amount he brings in. He has also earned some respect from a lot of people.
But, who am I to judge him, or to judge you for that matter?
when you "give"your 91% to the church you own and founded where does the money go?
Ignore Warren and believe what Jesus says,Warren has his own agenda,God is God,do put your trust in people,read the Bible for yourself and pray,please dont judge God and the Bible unless you have read it,
I and a lot of other people, have read the bible...
Notice how many denominations of Christianity there are (~ 34,000). Each denomination can show you scripture, that "proves" they understand the wants of Jesus/god.
All of the denominations could not be correctly interpreting the bible. Many are contradictory.
Many of these denominations believe only their members will be saved.
If the Christian god exists, and He is all knowing and all powerful and all good, why didn't He provide a bible that could not be misinterpreted? That everyone's comprehension of His wants would be the same?
Christians believe god's purpose in creating the Bible is to guide human beings towards a knowledge of God, and to help them lead moral lives, Christians must be certain of the meaning of the Bible.
ambiguity – a word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways : an ambiguous word or expression.
"There are in excess of 1,000 Christian faith groups in North America. They teach diverse beliefs about the nature of Jesus, God, the second coming, Heaven, Hell, the rapture, criteria for salvation, speaking in tongues, the atonement, what happens to persons after death, and dozens of other topics.
On social controversies, faith groups teach a variety of conflicting beliefs about abortion access, equal rights for ho_mo$exuals and bi$exuals, who should be eligible for marriage, the death penalty, physician assisted suicide, human $exuality topics, origins of the universe, and dozens of other topics.
The groups all base their theological teachings on the Bible. Generally speaking, the theologians in each of these faith groups are sincere, intelligent, devout, thoughtful and careful in their interpretation of the Bible. But, they come to mutually exclusive conclusions about what it teaches. Further, most are absolutely certain that their particular interpretations are correct, and that the many hundreds of faith groups which teach opposing beliefs are in error." Source: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
If the bible is ambiguous, then it cannot be said to be inerrant.
The Christian god is very unlikely to exist.
>>> “If the Christian god exists, and He is all knowing and all powerful and all good, why didn't He provide a bible that could not be misinterpreted? That everyone's comprehension of His wants would be the same?”
“"There are in excess of 1,000 Christian faith groups in North America. They teach diverse beliefs about the nature of Jesus, God, the second coming, Heaven, Hell, the rapture, criteria for salvation, speaking in tongues, the atonement, what happens to persons after death, and dozens of other topics.”
I have always held that the reason why there are are so many denominations on two beliefs. First, is that it is the same reason that there are varieties of people on this planet. That we are all different looking, sounding and feeling it makes for a more interesting creation. I would hold that maybe God loves variety. The belief was told that the Angels were created first but did not have diversity and pretty much were created to not have the choice to deny God. Maybe this got boring so he or she created man knowing that this creation would offer so many different views and thoughts that it would make us so loved in his eyes.
Which would not surprise me if we are talking about the same God throughout human history. :)
Dear Mark, you have not addressed why there are so many interpretations of the Bible, you have only talked about how there are many different people in the world. You say there is only one god, but where is the unambiguous guidance?
Where is any guidance?
In guessing at what you think your god wants, you show there is no god who is guiding you.
Your god must not exist if there is no one there to make sure you know the right way.
Guessing proves there is no god. If there was a god with rules, there would be no question by anyone what those rules were and what they meant. All you have is make-believe, dear, and it shows.
@David Johnson Your words are as pearls before christian swine. I'm a little surprised a man of your obvious intellect even bothered to read the bible, its first book is so ridiculous you must have realized that no truth was to be found there.
I rather give contraception pills and condoms to Africa through a non-religious organization than through a Christian organization. Can anyone recommend one?
Doctors Without Borders is an excellent one. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=3512&cat=field-news
Yes, Doctors Without Borders is by far the best. And don't forget Amnesty International, either!
A pure con artist. Period.
Christians are giving up on raising money for anti-gay marriage (in part because the courts are granting that right NOT Americans)... now they see the 'light', need a 'new' cause to raise money. Nothing more needs to be said.
Where were they in the 80's 90's 00's ?
Again. why did the Romans burn christians to death? Again, I can't remember.......
The Romans burned the Christians alive for the simplest of reasons - it amused them.
Where do you get of calling Rick Warren a con artist? So many of you Christian-haters unfairly paint us all with the same brush and then accuse us of being the judgmental one. This has nothing to do with gay marriage.
Johnboy.... Why are you mixing gay rhetoric with the AIDS epidemic in Africa?..... they are galaxies apart.
And after Constantine the Roman Empire was taken over by Christians, and then it was their turn to torture for amusement. Jews, Muslims, Pagans, fellow Christians, both the varieties they chose to label 'heretic' and rival sects, all fell to the sword in numbers grossly surpas.sing whatever losses they suffered under the Romans. Few Christians ever remember those bloody chapters in Church history, however.
Free, every civilization's religion has been state-sanctioned. USA is the only exception because it consciously started out with Biblical Christianity. Christianity alone was the only liberating, intelligent religion with the Bible. The reason Christian Europe prevailed everything and made the world a civil place. Atheists have no knowledge in the world history.
For most, Romans and Europeans willingly became Christian realizing its superior quality comparing to their own stupid, barbaric pagan religions. The Catholic Church leadership didn't become abusive until about 200 years prior to the Reformation. The Church's con-tri-bu-tion for the world far, far overweighs any abuse that was done by its name. This panet is not worth without the Church. It's atheism that started out as evil and has massacred most number of innocent humans everywhere and was taken down by Christians.
Odessa, how old are you?
She's 85, but she's "special". Very special.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.