Evangelical megachurch leader Rick Warren Thursday declared 2017 as the "Year of Hope" in America, announcing an ambitious program that would encourage churches and individuals to undertake efforts to heighten optimism and bring positive change across the country.
The effort, which begins is January, will be anchored by a 12-week campaign later in the year called "The Hope We Need."
"The world needs hope like never before," said Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. "Our hope is not in government. It will never come through a politician.
"Our hope is not in who we put in the White House, but in who we put on the cross," he added. "I'm betting on the church to change the world — and I'm betting on the church to give us all the hope we need."
Warren, 62, wrote the 2002 mega best-seller "The Purpose Driven Life." In 1996, he authored "The Purpose Driven Church."
He is among Newsmax's top 100 Christian leaders
in America. Saddleback also tops Newsmax's list of the nation's 50 biggest megachurches.
Warren's program seeks to encourage churches to focus on developing its members in three areas: "personal hope"; "relational hope," focusing on dealings with others; and "missional hope," which centers on finding one's purpose in life.
These quarterly subjects all tie into "The Hope We Need" campaign, said Johnnie Moore, a Saddleback spokesman.
"It's all in formation," he told Newsmax. "There'll be lots of resources and tools for people and churches to be involved.
"I am pretty confident that Pastor Rick intends on using a lot that he has learned, a lot of the relationships he has in this country and around the world, to literally get America thinking about hope in 2017.
"It's about a message of hope that our country desperately, desperately needs," Moore said.
Warren, who founded the church with his wife Kay in 1980, announced the effort during his three-day "New Hope for Your Church" conference for pastors at Saddleback.
"God has shifted my focus from church planting to church renewal, beginning in America," Warren said. "We must help plateaued churches and discouraged pastors — and we must train a whole new generation to embrace God's five purposes for the church: fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry and evangelism.
"We need to introduce a new generation to the paradigm altogether, and we need to introduce our old friends to what we've learned in the last 10 years."
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