Baptist mega-church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren shocked evangelical circles this week when on Thursday he traveled to North Korea to meet with Christian pastors. The visit was at the invitation of the North Korean government and was in preparation for a longer stay next spring when political leaders have granted permission for worship services to be held commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Pyongyang Revival, one of the greatest spiritual movements in the history of the Christian church. Warren will be the featured preacher at that event.
North Korea has the most repressive government on earth. It makes no secret of its animosity toward the Christian faith. And the country’s leader, President Kim Il Sung, threatens the United States so frequently that he’s become the poster child for lunatic political leaders.
I recalled how President Bush labeled North Korea part of an international “Axis of Evil” that creates instability and terror throughout the world, a judgment confirmed in the nation’s recent missile test firings.
Warren isn’t just a pastor, author and church leader. In recent years he has expanded his concern into some of the most pressing social issues of the day, including AIDS and world poverty. He has turned into something of an itinerant minister, traveling across the world like a modern day John Wesley, calling the church back to its core purposes of worship, fellowship, evangelism and ministry and service.
With Warren’s visit to North Korea, he’s fully aware that the government there is in all likelihood using his visit for its own purposes, to present to the world community a softer, less oppressive side. They can certainly use some positive publicity right now.
Warren doesn’t care, though. “I know they’re going to use me. So I’m going to use them,” he said in an interview earlier this week.
He added on his personal blog, “Regardless of politics, I will go anywhere to preach the Gospel.”
[Mike Turner, writing in Jacksonville Daily News]