Thursday, April 19, 2012

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Rick Warren And The “Purpose Driven” Lifestyle

         Before writing this I read “The purpose Driven Life[1]”, “The Purpose Driven Church[2]” and “The Dark Side of the Purpose Driven Church[3]”.  I also searched the internet and received information from Christian TV. 

          Before reading the books, through information I was hearing, I was under the impression that Pastor Rick Warren was the worst thing since sliced bread.  What I actually found was very interesting.  The books, generally, were based in scripture and Pastor Warren seems to have done a spectacular job in getting people to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.  The figures I found showed that Saddleback Church is responsible for the conversion and baptism of many thousands of souls.  Pastor Warren does seem to see himself as knowing better than the majority of traditional churches, fundamentalists and evangelicals.  The premiere problem with the “Purpose Driven” approach is not in Pastor Warren’s books but rather his haughtiness and the application of his precepts in other churches. 

          In my opinion, the way Pastor Warren recommends a church be set up is good and effective for a new congregation.  The problems seem to be when these same tactics are tried in established churches.  The Saddleback Church is apparently affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, although there seems to be some friction in this relationship.  It is my studied opinion that Pastor Warren does not accept criticism, or correction, well. 

          I have seen testimony after testimony of how a small group in a church is encouraged to take control of the church without consulting the congregation.  In some cases it is recommended that the congregation not be told of the planned changes until step four is reached, thereby making it too late for the congregation to object.  The “pillars” of the established church are seen as “holding things up”, as in wanting to keep things the way they like them and impeding progress.  These are most often the members who contributed to the building of the church but are no longer wanted there.  This, in some cases can encompass the majority of the congregation.  This subterfuge is, in my opinion, one of the most serious fallacies or faults in expanding Pastor Warren’s tactics and influence. 

          Jesus said He would build His church upon the rock of His Lordship, and salvation; not that we the people will build His church through modern marketing and sales techniques.

          Some things I found in the Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church seemed to be slightly off, scriptural.

1. Pastor Warren seems to think that there will be one judgment, conducted by God the Father[4].  In reality, Jesus said: “all judgment is given to me[5]”.  There will in fact be two separate judgments: one for the believers, and another for nonbelievers.

2. “Jesus stood at a fork in the road. Would he fulfill his purpose and bring glory to God, or would he shrink back and live a comfortable, self centered life?”[6]  In fact Jesus made His decision before He came to earth.

3. Pastor Warren’s salvation prayer is simplistic and fails to include repentance.[7]

4. “When we worship, our goal is to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves.”[8]  It is my opinion, the purpose of Worship is to build a closer relationship with God; this would be a two way street.

5. Pastor Warren indicates that you should follow what you believe to be from God, immediately and without exception[9].  The Bible says that every Spirit should be tested[10].

6. “But fear of God, not friendship, was more common in the Old Testament.”[11]  In reality, the Old Testament ‘fear’ of God meant respect and reverence for God.

7. “You have heard people say, ‘I can’t make it to the meeting tonight, but I’ll be with you in spirit.’ Do you know what that means? Nothing, it’s worthless! As long as you are on earth, your spirit can only be where your body is.”[12]  Pastor Warren obviously doesn’t know that it is an expression of solidarity and unity. Jesus is not physically here with us now, but is here in Spirit.  Paul said that although he could not be with the Colossians in body, he would be with them in spirit.[13]

8. “In utter desperation, you cry out, what’s the matter with me? The truth is, there is nothing wrong with you!”[14] In fact, this is an excellent question to ask God.[15]

9. “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil.4:19 NIV[16]Emphasis is wrong here: should be, by Christ.

10. “Jesus said our love for each other - not our doctrinal beliefs”[17]  Love for each other is a doctrine of Jesus.

11. “For over 2,000 years Christians have been regularly gathering in small groups for fellowship.”[18] This book was copyrighted in 2002.  There were no Christians when Jesus was a baby.

12. Pastor Warren says that Jesus said: “The details of my return are none of your business.”[19] Really! Why did Jesus give lots of details, lots of times? Before His crucifixion, he told the disciples, at least nine times, what was to happen to Him. He would not have us to be ignorant. He related the times and seasons so that we would be aware and waiting[20].

13. Pastor Warren says you should be able to bring the unsaved into your church “without embarrassment[21]”.  I have never been embarrassed to bring anyone into churches I have attended, whether they were Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God or any other.

14. Members of his church are required to sign a membership covenant[22].  Apparently being a member of the body of Christ is not sufficient.  I do realize that, generally speaking, denominations are simply clubs set up by man for the purpose of fellowship.  Clubs can set up whatever rules they like, as long as the rules are legal.

15. Jesus said He would build His church: not He will depend on the skills[23] of men.

16. “Are you being faithful to God’s word if you if you insist on communicating in an outdated style?”[24] What is outdated, the style of the Apostles, the early church or the different ‘styles’ developed over the years?  As Pastor Warren likes to say; different people respond to different things.

17. The Apostles were really not pastors, but rather evangelists.  They started churches and visited them, but left the locals in charge.  Small groups are not the same thing.  In the early church days, the groups were small and met in peoples homes: they were not mega churches.

18. Disagreement with church authorities is ridiculed[25].  The ‘whiners’[26] are anyone in the congregation who challenges the leadership, and therefore not respected members?

19. “After you define your church purposes, you must communicate those purposes to everyone in your church – on a regular basis.”[27] This sounds good but in reality it will only be done after step four of the church takeover.  There are eight steps in all.  “If your church is in the initial stages of change (music or the first 40–day program), your church could be saved by talking to other church members, and with activist intervention by 10–20 percent of the membership. If nothing is done at this early stage, then by the time the program advances to step four, there is little that can be done except look for another church. Your church has become a Purpose Driven entity in association with Saddleback Church of Orange County or Willow Creek of Chicago”[28].  

20. “Today, very few Christians would recognize George Whitefield’s name.”[29]  That is true, for those who have not studied the foundation and history of our country.

21. Speaking of traditional type churches, Pastor Warren says: “Most churches of this type have less than 200 members, since that’s about all one pastor can personally care for.”[30] He goes on to criticize most of the existing churches that ‘specialize’.  I agree that a pastor can’t properly fulfill his duties in churches with more than 200 families.  I don’t really care for the MEGA church with its delegation of pastoral duties.  Jesus instructed us to feed His sheep, both physically and spiritually.

22. It is hard to tell if he was having 10,000 in attendance total, or if it was 10,000 in the “crowd” category; or even if these figures were for one service or over their four services.

23. Pastor Warren’s resume differs in the “The Purpose Driven Life” book and the “Purpose Driven Church” book.

24. Much of what Pastor Warren describes as methods of establishing a Purpose Driven Church are tried and true sales techniques, along with types of mind control. 

25. The Pillars of a church; the elderly – grounded members, those over 50, the mature in Christ, those who are set in their ways, tend to interfere with and hold up progress in the new church undertakings.  "Be willing to let people leave the church. And I told you earlier the fact that people are gonna leave the church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you're choosing who leaves. You say, "But Rick, yes, they're the pillars of the church." Now, you know what pillars are. Pillars are people who hold things up ... And in your church, you may have to have some blessed subtractions before you have any real additions."[31] Respect for elders has always been a biblical principal.[32]  In Acts 8:12 Peter, James and John were referred to as pillars of the church.

26. “Focus on progress not perfection.”[33] Aren’t we to be perfected in Christ?  How about a balanced approach?  

27. “The traditional approach to beginning a new church is to build a committed core of mature believers first, and then start reaching out to the community.  The problem I have found with an ‘inside out’ approach is that by the time the church planter has ‘discipled’ his core, they have often lost contact with the community and are actually afraid of interacting with the unchurched.”[34]  Really?  I guess we should just jump in the lake and get swimming lessons later. What about being grounded in the word?

28. “No member may proceed to the next base until he has committed to the requirements of each covenant.”[35]  Just like a cult.

29. In chapter 9 of “The Purpose Driven Church” he says several times that the message must not be compromised, but in practice he does it a lot.

30. Pastor Warren writes that he wonders why there had to be four gospels to tell about the one life of Christ[36].  Has he ever heard that by two or more a thing is established?

31. Chapter 9’s discussion of ‘targeting’ sounds more like a marketing decision than the leading of the Lord.

32. On page 176, he apparently lauds himself as an intellectual.  He had great difficulty in relating to truck drivers and mechanics.  I have sold in the medical field as well as the auto repair industry.  I never had any difficulty in relating to anyone; from the highest praised medical researcher to the lowest oil change tech.

33. Pastor Warren says that Jesus was being strategic in targeting the audience most likely to respond when he sent out the twelve.  No, Jesus was being prejudiced and exclusive.  He told the twelve to avoid the Samaritans and other gentiles because the message was to be given to the Jew first.

34. Pastor Warren’s lack of understanding of biblical text (or the distorting of it) is exemplified by the following. “Jesus told us not to worry about the unresponsive. Shake the dust from your feet and move on.”[37]  In reality Jesus was saying to curse the inhabitants of a town that failed to receive the Gospel.  Also, what about ‘I stand at the door and knock’?

35. Pastor Warren either boarders on or believes in ‘replacement theology’ where the belief is that the ‘church’ has replaced the Jews with God.[38]  We are not the vine.  We are grafted into the vine.

36. Your neighborhood church is not the body of Christ; it is a member of the body.  The body of Christ is made up of all of the Christians.  Where two or more are gathered, Christ is.  The body of Christ can be in your living room as well as the largest cathedral.  Pastor Warren says that if you are not committed to a specific congregation, you will shrivel and die.[39]  Paul was not a member of a specific congregation, and sure enough, he shriveled and died when he was executed. John was not a member of a specific congregation, and sure enough, he shriveled and died in Ephesus in his 90’s.

37. “Meaningless membership[40]” is defined as not being willing to be totally committed to a church club.  A club church may have Christians in it but it is not the body of Christ.  A club can be Masonic, Ladies Aid, Women’s Aglow, Full Gospel Businessmen, Knights of Columbus and the Moose Lodge.  All the clubs have their own rules and covenants.  A life committed to Christ does not seem to be enough for membership in the Saddleback church.

38. “If we adopt a membership covenant, there will be some who leave our church over it.” “People even walked away from Jesus.”[41] I don’t think I need to tie in the inference here.

          Some observations by Rev. Noah W. Hutchings, founder of Southwest Radio Ministries, and Author of “The Dark Side of The Purpose Driven Church”. 

1. “Initially, a small clique of church staff, possibly including the pastor or a new pastor plans the change without telling the rest of the church membership. Church Transitions, an associate of Saddleback Church in California, trains the clique initiating the change in eight published steps. The church membership is not to be informed of the transition until the fourth step. After the sixth step in the process of change, if there are some in the church who voice concerns, the following is suggested:

  1. Identify those who are resisting the changes;

  2. Assess the effectiveness of their opposition;

  3. Befriend those who are undecided about the changes;

  4. Marginalize more persistent resisters;

  5. Vilify those who stay and fight;

  6. Establish new rules that will silence all resistance.  This means the church membership is not told until it is too late to make a difference.  In other words the members either accept the changes, or leave the church, which they may have served and given to build.”[42]

 2.  “While some PDC initiators may not implement the full PDC format, generally these are the signs indicating that your church may be targeted for a Purpose Driven Church format:

  1. Change in music to a contemporary rock style.

  2. Removal of hymn books; eliminating the choir.

  3. Replacement of organ and piano with heavy metal instruments.

  4. Repetitive singing of praise lyrics.

  5. Dressing down to casual attire.

  6. Eliminating of business meetings, church committees, council of elders, board of deacons, etc.

  7. The pastor, or a new leader with a few assistants, usually four, takes charge of all church business.

  8. A repetitive 40–day Purpose Driven Church study program stressing psychological relationships with each other, the community, or the world, begins.

9. Funded budgeted programs are abandoned, or ignored, with ambiguous financial reports made.

10. Sunday morning, evening, and/or Wednesday prayer meetings are changed to other times; some may even be eliminated.

11. Sunday School teachers are moved to different classes, or replaced by new teachers more sympathetic with the changes being implemented.

12. The name “Sunday school” is dropped and classes are given new names.

13. Crosses and other traditional Christian symbols may be moved from both the inside and outside of the church building. The pulpit may also be removed.

14. In accordance with Dr. Warren’s instructions, new version Bibles are used; or only verses flashed on a screen are referenced during regular services.

15. Purpose Driven Church films, purchased from Saddleback, precede or are used during regular services.

16. The décor, including the carpets, may be changed to eliminate any resemblance to the former church.

17. The word “church” is often taken from the name of the church, and the church may be called a “campus.” Denominational names may also be removed.

18. An emphasis on more fun and party sessions for the youth.

19. Elimination of altar calls or salvation invitations at the close of the services.

20. The elimination of such words as “unsaved,” “lost,” “sin,” “Hell,” “Heaven,” and other gospel verities from the pastor’s messages.

21. The reclassification of the saved and lost to the “churched” and “unchurched.”

22. The marginalizing, or ostracizing, of all who are not avid promoters of the new Purpose Driven program.

23. Closed meetings between the pastor or chosen staff members without any reports made to the general membership.

24. Open hostility to members who do not openly embrace the new program, or who may have left for another church.”[43]

          Over the years there have been successes and failures when the Purpose Driven methods have been employed.  There has been a problem with the alienation of many of our fellow Christians, by apparently well intentioned people.  We do have to keep in mind that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

          In closing I would like to say that Pastor Warren’s heart seems to be in the right place, and he has been very successful with his own congregation.  He, himself says that trying to make clones of his church is not advisable.  He, however, publishes materials and holds teaching seminars for that very purpose.

[1] By Rick Warren, copyright 2002, Zondervan
[2] By Rick Warren, copyright 1995, Zondervan
[3] By Noah W. Hutchings, copyright 2005,2007,2008,2011, Hutchings
[4] Page 34, The Purpose Driven Life
[5] John 5:22
[6] Page 57, The Purpose Driven Life
[7] Page 58, The Purpose Driven Life
[8] Page 66, The Purpose Driven Life
[9] Page 72, The Purpose Driven Life
[10] 1 John, 4:1
[11] Page 86, The Purpose Driven Life
[12] Page 105, The Purpose Driven Life
[13] Colossians 2:5
[14] Page 108-109, The Purpose Driven Life
[15] Psalm 34: 23-24
[16] Page 119, The Purpose Driven Life
[17] Page 124, The Purpose Driven Life
[18] Page 143, The Purpose Driven Life
[19] Page 285, The Purpose Driven Life
[20] Luke 12: 42-48
[21] Page 48, The Purpose Driven Church
[22] Page 54, The Purpose Driven Church
[23] Page 56-59, The Purpose Driven Church
[24] Page 65, The Purpose Driven Church
[25] Page 92, The Purpose Driven Church
[26] Page 92, The Purpose Driven Church
[27] Page 94, The Purpose Driven Church
[29] Page 121, The Purpose Driven Church
[30] Page 123, The Purpose Driven Church
[31] "Building a Purpose-Driven Church" seminar at Saddleback Church, January, 1998.
[32] Leviticus 19:32, Deuteronomy 32:7, Psalms 4:1-2, 1 Peter 5:5, Job 32:7
[33] Page 137, The Purpose Driven Church
[34] Page 138, The Purpose Driven Church
[35] Page 145, The Purpose Driven Church
[36] Page 158, The Purpose Driven Church
[37] Page 188, The Purpose Driven Church
[38] Page 196, The Purpose Driven Church
[39] Page 310, The Purpose Driven Church
[40] Page 317, The Purpose Driven Church
[41] Page 320, The Purpose Driven Church


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