If you are one of the 40 million people who purchased Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, and you are craving more, then get in line folks, because your dreams have come true! Rick Warren has created a glossy, oversized quarterly magazine that is chock full of all things Purpose-Driven. I mean, this thing is loaded! And it delivers Rick Warren o’ plenty: Rick on Life’s Mission. Rick on Obama. Rick on getting spiritually connected. Rick on answering your questions. Rick on Bible study. Rick, Rick, Rick. And Kay is in there, too (Kay is Rick’s wife), rolling just like Dr. Phil and Robin. Well, actually it seems like all of Rick's congregation over at Saddleback Church were invited to participate in one way or another, too. Open the cover of The Purpose Driven Connection, and it’s like you enter a Rick-Warren-Wonderland.
Aside from the Rick-centric articles, there are many other inspirational stories of hope by every-day normal folk, right alongside professional journalistic coverage of some pretty dramatic life-changing tales. Beautiful, stylish photography and graphics are tastefully interspersed throughout. Then, all of this is topped off with several editorial columns written by the Who’s Who of the most notable and recognizable names in Christian publishing: Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, and Anne Graham-Lotz. The heft of this publication will keep you busy for hours.
But wait! There’s more! The magazine also comes with a DVD bible study guide, and tools to get you plugged into an online community. Practically everywhere in this magazine are invitations for the reader to visit the Purpose Driven Connection website and “Tell us your story!” There is a huge effort being made here to create something that is much more than just a magazine, but to build an interactive community of believers, who can encourage and support one another to live out their faith in new and exciting ways.
I was one of the 40 gazillion who read the Purpose Driven Life book several years ago, long after the book had launched into the trajectory of it mega-sales arc. I mostly bought it because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My own humble opinion of the book was that it is a fine inspirational read, but, well, it’s not like it changed my life or anything. The material is certainly spiritually helpful, but it is also very… simple, I guess would be the word. It is written at about a seventh-grade level. But that is probably also the great secret to why it sold 40 million copies. (Note to self: dumbing down material = more Christian book sales). That, along with the title (killer title, Rick!). It intuitively appeals to practically every human being on earth.
But this is exactly where the genius of Rick Warren lies. He takes these very complex, complicated, theological concepts about the bible and God and Jesus and the meaning of life, and breaks them down into bite-size pieces that just about melt in your mouth. He uses common words, phrasing and language that actually mean something to most people. And now, here comes a magazine with the same message, using the same formula of simplicity and spiritual straight talk, to leverage the phenomenon to the next level.
The content of The Purpose Driven Connection is pretty consistent with the mainstream Evangelical flavor served up in Rick’s church and in his books, but it happily skates around some edgier subjects like an urban hip-hop church, and a motorcycle-gang small group. Well, to certain Christian readers that may seem edgy. The magazine is making a big effort to be culturally relevant and inclusive to all shapes and varieties of church-building that is going on out there today, without offending or alienating any one specific sub-strata or demographic. Can anyone say “mainstream?”
There were a few items in this quarterly that stood out to me personally. I was deeply moved by the story of Kay and Rick’s work in Rwanda (“Bringing Hope to a Ravaged Nation”). I also liked very much an article called “Chasing the Holy Spirit,” which apparently was a segment from a forthcoming book by Mark Batterson called "Wild Goose Chase." I’ll have to pick that one up. And the two-page feature, “Bible Verses for Tough Economic Times” was a very accessible and encouraging resource, dropped smack dab in the middle of the magazine. It was like a wall of promises, reminding you that there are some important things that will transcend a bear market. I hadn’t read some of those verses in a while.
Of course, there were also a couple things that I didn’t like so much. The Purpose Driven Connection can be somewhat of an uneven reading experience because of the mix and variety of writers: some are professional journalists; some are amateurs; some are authors; some are Rick Warren himself; etc. The effect is more like a hodgepodge of inspiration and hope thrown together for mass appeal, rather than a unified magazine with a unique editorial voice. Other than Rick’s voice, of course. Who also happens to be the Editorial Director.
I’d like to see them bring it up a notch or two.
But overall, I admire the direction this thing is taking. And I admire the leadership and transparency of Rick and Kay, who have found themselves in the unbelievable position of wielding a global level of influence, power and visibility. I am impressed with how they are channeling it through this vehicle with a degree of grace and humility. They are certainly likeable people.
The overall message is one of inspiration, hope and a call to action. It says, “Get right with God, get out into the world and make a difference.” How can that possibly lead to anything but good? The magazine claims that this is one of the most life-changing publications ever created. The jury is out as to whether it will grow along the same wave of success as the book, but I would not be surprised if it did. I hope it does even better. Right now our nation can use all the faith, hope, and inspiration it can get.
For information visit the Purpose Driven Connection website.