The Purpose-Driven phenomenon transcends denominations, appealing to Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Lutherans and others. Yet Warren is part of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination - and one of its most conservative. All his senior staff sign on to the denomination's doctrines, which include belief in a literal and infallible Bible, exclusion of women as senior pastors and the directive that wives "submit gracefully" to their husbands.

Perhaps as a result, Warren has his critics. He uses 15 Bible versions, and some Christians accuse him of choosing among these - verse by verse - to support his various points. Others say Warren's book is too simplistic, too pat. Still others are suspicious of the "seeker-sensitive" evangelism that Warren advocates.

"I'm not going to get into a debate over the nonessentials," he told USA Today in 2003. "I won't try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?"

Yet in November he told The New York Times Book Review: "We are at the beginning of a New Reformation in the Christian church. That will inevitably affect everyone else."

Warren remains steadfast on issues such as heaven and hell. "If you learn to love and trust God's Son, Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him," he wrote in the book. "On the other hand, if you reject his love, forgiveness and salvation, you will spend eternity apart from God forever."

And ultimately, nothing of this life is about us anyway, he says. It's all about God. "You exist only because God wills that you exist," he wrote. "You were made by God and for God - and until you understand that, life will never make sense."