Slipped intoxicating beverages by an uncle when he was only five years old, Rick Warren “developed a taste for alcohol” and wanted to stay up all night partying as a young man. So he kept a packet of NoDoz with him at all times.
“I would go to the club, then I would go to the after-hours club, then I would go straight to work from there,” says Rick “the barber” (not “the purpose driven”) Warren. “I was the type of guy who wanted to just keep going and going and going.”
Somebody introduced him to crank, and the snortable meth kept him up for two days straight. “This is it!” he exclaimed at the time, as re-told on the Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast Testimony Tuesday.
Rick lived in the fast lane because he admired the uncle who delighted in getting him drunk as a kid growing up in Indiana.
”My uncle enjoyed seeing me drunk at a young age,” Rick says. “My uncle was the guy. He partied. He had the girls. He traveled. He lived life on the fast edge. He became the one who I wanted to model my life after.”
When he was 17, he got busted for breaking into cars in a hospital parking lot. When his dad got him a job at the place he had worked for over two decades, Rick stole from there and got his first felony.
“There’s nothing worse than your dad working at the same place for 20-something years, and everybody knows you since you’re a kid, and they watch you getting hauled off in a police car,” Rick says. “Any time I ever got arrested, it was for stealing. I had a problem. I couldn’t keep things that didn’t belong to me out of my pocket.”
When his brother moved to California with the military in 1992, Rick went with him and got on the basketball team at Barstow College. But he quit about three-fourths of the way through the season – during half time! – because “I wanted to party more than play basketball,” he says.
“It was actually half time of a game,” he remembers. “I told the coach, ‘You know, I think I’m done.’ I turned in my uniform and walked away.”
At one point when he was 19, three young women were pregnant with his kids. “I was out there,” he says. He had a daughter and two sons.
He moved back to Indiana and then he moved out of town with a friend. He was the party deejay until they got evicted. Then he moved in with his latest girlfriend.
One night as he watched the NBA all star game in 1993, a boy came to avenge a grudge he had with his girlfriend’s brother.
“He pulls out a gun and points it at me and says, ’Hey come over here and lay on the ground,’” Rick recounts. “He made everybody lay on the ground. I was just at the wrong place at the w
rong time. He shot her in the head. He shot me in the face. He started shooting everybody. He shot me two more times in the back.”
Rick lay motionless, pretending to be dead. When Rick heard the man leave, he got up to run. The perpetrator saw him and shot at him again. One bullet hit him in the butt and he fell to the ground.
Rick eventually made it to a restaurant, where they called an ambulance. Remarkably, his life was saved. His girlfriend, the sister, and one of the four-year-olds died. The other two kids survived multiple bullet wounds.
“You would think that would be enough to cause me to slow down,” he says. “But it didn’t. I continued to live a reckless life.”
After surgeries to reconstruct his face and six months of recovery, Rick simply returned to the fast life.
He got a barber’s license and opened a shop in Indianapolis. It was a good career for him because barbers never had to submit to drug testing, and he could continue smoking marijuana continuously. He cut people’s hair while he was high.
“I had a good thing going making a boatload of money, but still I was under demonic influence and that money was just not enough, so I needed more money and started doing stuff I shouldn’t have been doing,” he acknowledges.
The police were investigating, so he quickly sold his shop and moved to Philadelphia. He sought a place where nobody knew him. He left behind yet another daughter. “I never was a good dad,” he admits.” At that time in my life, it was all about me. The only thing that mattered to me was me – satisfying the flesh with no regard for anything.”
He vowed to never open a barber shop, never get married, and not have any more kids.
From there, Rick moved to Las Vegas and the opportunity to buy another barber shop “fell into my lap,” he says. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
He met the woman who became his wife and had more children, breaking every one of his vows.
It was at this time that a regular customer, Larry Shomo,
invited him to church.
Being the type of barber “invested” in his customers’ lives, he attended funerals, weddings, and school programs with his customers.
Why not church?
He had never been taught anything spiritual in his life. His family only did sports. From everything he knew about church, he concluded it was a “clown show.” He thought of hypocrites hitting on young women and high-flying pastors with lavish lifestyles.
“The only repentance I’d ever had was when I was too drunk at night and I would lay down and say, ‘Oh God, please don’t let me die,’” he says. “I had no reference points, no reverence for God in any way.”
After a breakfast of beer and a blunt, Rick and his wife-to-be Brittany went to church. “It was a different environment,” he says. “I was looking around for the Bentleys and the three-piece fluorescent green suits with gators and, and I didn’t see that. There was no big nasty cross on the wall. There was no picture of a blond hair, blue eyed Jesus.”
After such a dramatic life of sin, his conversion was prosaic. He listened to the sermon and responded to the altar call to receive Jesus. He was 39.
“There was no thunder and lightning, there was no God shaking me around and weeping at the altar – none of that,” he remembers. “I said a sinner’s prayer and that was it. But God did a work in my life, and I didn’t even know it.”
He dropped the smoking, the drugs and the liquor “just like that,” he says. “That’s how I know God is real. He just touched me right there. He did a miracle in my life instantly.”
Little by little, he took down the pictures of the naked girls. He attended church constantly.
“My co-worker at the shop knew me and knew my tendency to be all over the place,” he says. “When I got saved, he knew how I was; he said, ‘I’ll give it six months.’”
He watched Larry’s marriage and took cues from him to learn how to have a successful lasting marriage. The barber shop slowly transitioned from a center for weedheads to a place for evangelism and hangout for church members. His pastor called the shop “backup church.”
Today, Rick is a barber and a pastor in San Pedro, CA.
“When I got saved, I had 30+ plus years of alcohol in my system. I had 20 years of weed in my system,” he says. “Instantly it was gone. It was weird. I didn’t even have a desire for that any more.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
About the writer of this article: Pastor Michael Ashcraft is also a financial professional in California.
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