Today’s interview is with Rick Warren, lead pastor of one of the largest and most well-known churches in America—Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Warren is also the New York Times bestselling author of the hugely successful book, The Purpose Driven Church, and The Purpose Driven Life—which has sold more than 30 million copies, making it the best-selling hardcover book of all time. In Warren’s latest book, he partnered with some of today’s leading health experts to design The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, which offers an innovative approach to healthy living that includes five key areas: faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends.
1. In the first chapter of The Daniel Plan, you mention you were not setting a good example for caring for your own well-being. What role does a lead pastor have in the health of his or her congregation?
I grew up in a churchgoing family, went to a Christian college, and attended two seminaries; yet, I had never heard a single sermon on the importance of staying fit. So I started studying the Bible to learn what God had to say about health. One of the teachings is that God made my body—it’s a gift. I’m supposed to take good care of it. The Bible says God made your body, Jesus died for your body, and so he expects you to take care of your body.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says Jesus went into every village preaching, teaching, and healing. I say that preaching is evangelism, teaching is education, and healing is healthcare. Jesus didn’t only care about getting people into heaven. He cared about spirit, mind, and body, and we, as pastors, should too. To me, healthcare isn’t simply helping the sick get well, but helping the well not get sick. Through The Daniel Plan, we are repositioning health as a spiritual stewardship.
2. Saddleback Church lost a combined 250,000 pounds last year. What was it like to take part in and lead that kind of transformation?
The concept for The Daniel Plan all started after I was baptizing over 800 people over a four-hour period. As I lifted each person in and out of the water, I realized that so many people are overweight, including me! If I wasn’t prioritizing my health, how could I ask my congregation to do it? I decided to do something about it. I stood in front of my congregation the next Sunday and confessed that I had been a poor steward of my health and asked for forgiveness. Although I only gained two to three pounds a year, I had been their pastor for 30 years! I invited people to join me and get healthy. I thought maybe a couple hundred people would respond, but was blown away when over 12,000 people signed up that very day!
Working with Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, we created The Daniel Plan and implemented it at Saddleback Church in 2011. The initial results were amazing—throughout the first year of The Daniel Plan, over 15,000 people collectively lost over 250,000 pounds. Beyond my church congregation, people from over 190 countries participated online. I believe the response was so large because The Daniel Plan provides you with all you need to become healthier in body, mind, and spirit. Beyond food and fitness, you’re offered a gracious approach to health, along with practical resources to get well spiritually in your relationships, and in your mind—mentally and emotionally.
3. You use the term “secret sauce.” Can you give a brief description of what the recipe is?
The Daniel Plan is a healthy lifestyle program founded on biblical principles and focused on The Essentials: Faith, Food, Fitness, Focus, and Friends. The essentials of Faith and Friends are what we call the “secret sauce” that makes The Daniel Plan so effective. The program benefits are accelerated when done in a supportive community of friends because God designed us to thrive in relationships. With the support of God and your group, you have far more than willpower helping you to make positive changes so you can be consistent and sustain your new healthy lifestyle.
4. Do you see The Daniel Plan as a book only for Christians, or do you think this can be a book used for evangelical purposes?
While we may have different motivating factors, everyone wants to be healthy. There is no doubt that faith is a primary component of The Daniel Plan, but the program has factors anyone can implement.
We have seen great results at our own church but it can also be used by a variety of religious congregations. Most people don’t realize that every weekend, as many as 130 million people go to church. That’s more than a third of the nation. There are 335,000 churches in America. Imagine the potential impact if health became an issue in even a portion of them.
5. For anyone who reads The Daniel Plan, what’s the most important thing you hope they learn?
My ultimate goal is for all individuals to live the life they’re intended to live. People drift through life and let things happen to them, or go by design and say, “This is what I’m intended to do.” The Bible is very clear that God has a purpose. But even if you know that purpose, you can’t fulfill it if you’re out of shape.
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Learn to honor God with your body, and start living a healthy lifestyle: get Rick Warren’s latest book, The Daniel Plan, on Vyrso today!