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 Mega-church pastor tailors message to MTV generation

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LAKE FOREST — The Rev. Rick Warren wrote his best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life" to save souls, but even he was surprised when the man suspected of shooting his way out of an Atlanta courthouse heard God in his words and surrendered.

Warren's role in the Georgia hostage drama earlier this month illustrates just how effectively the charismatic preacher has helped bring Christian evangelism to mainstream America.

After 22 years spent building one of the nation's largest megachurches in suburban Orange County, Warren rocketed to fame in 2002 with his no-frills primer on what it takes to be a Christian in the 21st century.

The book has sold 21 million copies and made Warren an instant celebrity, a standard-bearer for a new generation of evangelists who have caught the attention of President Bush and other national policy-makers.

With his well-trimmed goatee and spiked hair, Warren seems more like a polished CEO than a cheerleader for Jesus. He speaks emphatically, peppering his conversation with precise statistics and one-liners.

Yet Warren, who wears Hawaiian shirts and sandals when he preaches, also tries to keep things simple for his audience. He says he's just telling timeless stories in a contemporary voice.

"When David said, 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,' why did he say that? Well, because David was a shepherd," Warren says in an interview at Saddleback Church.


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