BEAUMONT, Texas — The losses that are going to hurt the longest after Hurricane Harvey are the invisible ones, pastor Rick Warren told a group of Southeast Texas pastors at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont as he counseled them on how to help people recover in what could be “the church’s finest hour.”
“If unbelievers like what they see in the mud-outs and all the stuff we’re doing, then they will listen to what we say,” Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said Sept. 18. “Many times outreach to people starts with a hand and then moves to the heart and the head.”
Southeast Texas holds a special place in his heart, Warren said, because First Baptist Church in Lufkin was the first sponsor of Saddleback when it began. Warren also spoke to the pastors from his experience ministering in the aftermath of more than 30 different natural and man-caused disasters throughout the world and over the years.
Life is filled with loss, and the Book of James says not to be surprised when it happens, Warren reminded the pastors. “This is not heaven. This is earth, and everything on this planet is broken because of sin. The weather’s broken, the economy’s broken, our bodies are broken, our minds are broken, our relationships are broken.”
People want to look at a natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey and pronounce God’s judgment, but Warren said, “Never use a disaster to make political or theological points. Just help people!”
The hardest part, he said, “is going to be what happens in the minds and the hearts of people after we’re already cleaning up the property and the possessions.”
“We can see the devastation of property and we can see the devastation of possessions, but what is not seen is, for instance, the loss of the glue that was holding a marriage together that was very fragile and about ready to come apart,” Warren said. “A crisis often doesn’t cause a problem in a relationship, but it reveals a problem.”
Some people will not get over Hurricane Harvey; they will only get through it, he said. “Right now all you can think about is surviving, but at one point you will be thriving. You’re not going to stay in survival mode. The surviving will become thriving over time.”
The problem with grief, Warren said, is people get in a hurry with it.
“We don’t like grief, so we often try to resume without reflecting. That’s a mistake,” he said, adding that there is no expiration date on grief and life may never be the same for many people.
“Recovery takes time,” Warren said. “It’s different for every disaster and it’s different for every person in that disaster.”
Warren has been asked thousands of times how to find the strength to go on, he said, and he points to Romans 8:28.
“Anybody can bring good out of good. God specializes in bringing good out of bad,” Warren said. “He loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections. That’s the kind of God we serve.”
The apostle Paul said in Romans, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” Warren noted.
Nathan Cothen, pastor of Calvary Baptist in Beaumont, thanked Warren for being there to “stand with us in our hour of need.”
Warren reported that Saddleback has already given about $1 million in disaster relief funds for Texas, and he wanted pastors at the gathering to fill out forms letting him know what their churches needed. He also is making available to them six months’ worth of crisis-related sermons because “when you’re doing mud-out you don’t have time to do sermon prep.”
Jeremy Bradshaw, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City, told the TEXAN he watched Warren walk around the room giving hugs and handshakes to pastors who have been laboring in disaster relief. Bradshaw said what Warren shared with them was good for his soul and helped him think through how to help his congregation.
“For a lot of us pastors that know each other, it was the first time we were able to sit down and catch up,” Bradshaw said. “It was a good break.”