By Rick Warren
More than any other time of year, Christmas reminds us of the need for peace
on earth. We hear it in the season's carols; we read it in the holiday cards;
we repeat it like a wishful hope.
Yet the more we look around, the less chance we see for any real peace on
earth. Instead, we see acts of terror, devastating disasters such as Hurricane
Katrina, and the decimating AIDS pandemic in Africa, along with war, famine,
poverty, ignorance and corrupt leadership.
"So what's it worth, this peace on earth?" sings Bono, of the rock band U2.
He poetically suggests that our hope for peace and history's facts won't rhyme,
adding, "I'm sick of all of this hanging around, sick of sorrow, sick of pain;
I'm sick of hearing again and again that there's gonna be peace on earth."
I've heard the same thing said by a lot of people who are in the midst of
extraordinary loss. I've heard it on the streets of New York City and in the
villages of Africa. And I heard it in the Houston Astrodome as I spoke with
survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
I have the same message for all of them: God is a God of hope, and it's a
hope that will not disappoint. We can't always see the hand of God, but we can
trust in the love of God.
The Bible teaches that we will never experience a lasting peace on earth
apart from the power and presence of God, but it also teaches that we can offer
a taste of God's peace to those who've lost all hope. We do this by following
the example of Jesus. We see in Scripture that He shared God's love, trained
leaders, helped the poor, cared for the sick and taught the children.
PEACEIn order to help members of my church and others
wrap their arms around this mission, I've developed a PEACE acronym to describe
the things that must be done: Plant faith communities, Equip servant leaders,
Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. This plan
calls for more than wishful thinking; it calls for us to be deeply committed to
the values we claim to live by, the values we want to pass on to our
It calls for people of faith to work together to help those with no hope and
to be a voice for those unable to speak for themselves. What would happen if we
could mobilize congregations to adopt villages where spiritual emptiness,
selfish leadership, poverty, disease and ignorance keep people from
experiencing the kind of life God meant for them to have? What would happen if
an entire city was rebuilt by God's people? Already thousands of volunteers are
being mobilized to help rebuild New Orleans through disaster recovery projects
like Operation NOAH Rebuild. Opportunities exist all over North America and the
world for Christians to make a difference and bring peace to those who've never
heard the name of Jesus.
You may think this is something for the ordained or other experts, but the
problems we see in the world today are so huge we need everyone doing his or
her part. In some cases, just your presence can make the difference in
someone's life. After 30 years in ministry, I know God uses ordinary people,
just like you and me, to make significant contributions toward peace on earth.
It all begins with God's family.
P is for plant faith
communitiesIf we're going to share the love of God with
billions of people, we must help start new faith communities around the world.
The Bible says in Romans 10:14, Before people can ask the Lord for help, they
must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about
him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them. In the
aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Saddleback helped establish a congregation, The
Journey Church, in Manhattan, where so many people were-and are-in need of
God's grace. On Easter Sunday 2006, we launched a new congregation in San
Clemente, California, that is now drawing more than 800 people. New churches
are needed all across North America to help spread the gospel. Your church can
easily be involved in planting or sponsoring a new church start.
E stands for equip
All around the world, there are leaders who abuse their power. Amazingly, many
of these leaders refuse to use their power for the good of their own people;
instead, they use it for themselves. This has created chaos in the world.
Zechariah 10:2 says, People wander around like lost sheep. They are in trouble
because they have no leader.
Without wise leadership a nation falls. Proverbs 16:12 says, Good leaders
abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation. We
train Christian leaders for servanthood in Purpose Driven Church conferences,
both here at Saddleback and in locations all over the world. God is constantly
giving us opportunities to meet with key government and business leaders in
many countries, and we take advantage of that privilege to share God's heart
for servant leaders.
A stands for assist the
More than half of the world's population-that's 3.8 billion people-live on less
than $2 a day. The Christian humanitarian organization World Vision suggests
that millions of people in the world could begin to get out of poverty if
someone would simply give them a small loan-not a gift, but a loan-so they
could start a small business.
For instance, I have a friend in South Africa who teaches people how to
plant gardens. From those vegetable gardens, they're able to feed their own
families, the AIDS orphans and other poor people in their church, and even have
a little bit left over to sell for income.
Another friend of mine, Michael in Guinea, helps prostitutes get off the
street by teaching them how to style hair. Or he teaches them to sew and then
gives them a sewing machine. They're usually able to pay back the cost of the
machine within 16 weeks, and none of these women have gone back to
Proverbs 28:27 says, Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing; do not
close your eyes to poverty.
Even here in the U.S. approximately 37 million people live at or below the
poverty level. In a community where 57 percent of the children live in extreme
poverty, the Christian Activity Center (CAC) in East St. Louis, Illinois,
provides after-school tutoring, computer literacy training as well as
recreational and health and wellness ministries. When missionary Chet Cantrell
arrived to direct the center, the high school drop out rate of teens in the
community was 60 percent. Today, 90 percent of the teens who attend CAC
graduate from high school.
C stands for care for the
Tragically, tens of millions of people around the world are dying from
preventable illnesses, diseases we found cures or treatments for in the 20th
and even the 19th century. Think about this: Almost 11 million young children
die every year, most from preventable illnesses. Unclean water claims millions
of them. In fact, one child 5 years old or younger dies every 20 seconds from a
preventable water-related disease. Yet we know how to clean up water.
My prayer is that we can mobilize the healthcare professionals in faith
communities across North America to use their skills on short-term mission
trips. These professionals have knowledge, expertise and experience that can
make life better for millions of people around our world.
My wife is a breast cancer survivor. When she was diagnosed with the
disease, we were able to get her the best treatment available anywhere. She had
great doctors and received the needed medications. But there are so many in our
world who have no hope as they face disease and death. It grieves me greatly to
know there are other husbands who must watch their wives suffer and die,
because they cannot get the medical help that's desperately needed.
startedFor information on how you ?or your church
can begin to bring peace on earth through evangelism, missions and church
planting visit these websites.
How can a country grow and be strong economically when its citizens can't
read or write and don't know the fundamentals of math and science, which we
take for granted? Nearly 20 percent of the adult world is still illiterate.
It's no wonder these countries aren't strong.
I thank God for missionaries like Chet Cantrell and others around the world
who are helping educate the leaders of tomorrow.
Everyone can chip away at the
These problems are gigantic, but ordinary people of faith, working together,
can chip away at the chaos and bring hope back to the hopeless. In the last two
or three years we've had more than 4,500 members of Saddleback Church go on
mission trips around the world.
When our members go on these trips, they often take with them what we call
Clinics in a Box. We fill a box with common medicine, things we take for
granted that are like gold in the many places where there's no healthcare.
Small groups deliver these boxes to areas where there may not be a local
church. They help plant faith communities, train leaders, aid the poor, care
for the sick and educate the next generation.
Today, Southern Baptists have unlimited opportunities to serve through
short-term mission trips. I would urge you to make it a priority in 2007 to
volunteer somewhere in North America or overseas.
God blesses those who work for peace for they will be called the children of
God (Matthew 5:9). Do you remember the song that begins with "Let there be
peace on earth?" Let it begin with me.
Rick Warren is author of The Purpose
Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest,
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC