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SPIRIT-LED OR PURPOSE DRIVEN?
By Berit Kjos
October 9, 2003
"There are some really good things that Rick Warren brings out," wrote Dave, who visited our website while his church was immersed in the 40-day course based on the Purpose Driven Life. "But they always seems to be mixed with so many confusing and theologically weak points that you go crazy trying to keep it all straight. You will read a great point and then he'll throw in a quote from Mother Theresa or Aldous Huxley and your mind reels. There's a push to paint God as a smiley face in the sky - but you have to ignore His justice and anger! Plus, when you are the only 'naysayers' in a group it gets old - especially when no one else seems to have anything but praise for the book."
Dave speaks for a multitude of troubled people. While Pastor Warren's manual on Christian living has captivated churches around the world, a rising number of discerning readers question its subtle distortions, its half-truths, its conflicting messages and its pragmatic permissiveness: if it works (i.e. brings people into the church), it's okay! "God loves variety!"
Like Dave, many find it hard to resist the popular consensus, especially when Pastor Warren's "rules for growth" tells us to "never criticize what God is blessing." Implying that church growth and changed lives prove God's delight in our human strategies, it cancels His call to "be on guard" and discern deception. While only God can judge the heart of a person, He tells us to help each other follow His guidelines, not be driven by today's new management systems. [see Driven or Led?]
Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, has been leading the way and breaking new ground in today's Church Growth Movement. With over 50,000 names on his church roll, he models the success of the church management process he outlined in his earlier book, The Purpose-Driven Church.
He also founded the website, www.pastors.com, "a global Internet community that serves and mentors those in ministry worldwide." It tells us that "over 60,000 pastors subscribe to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free weekly email newsletter." Then it summarizes his ministry:
"Rick Warren is well known as the pioneer of The Purpose-Driven Church paradigm for church health. More than 250,000 pastors and church leaders from over 125 countries have attended Purpose-Driven Church seminars in 18 languages. Peter Drucker calls him 'the inventor of perpetual revival.' Rick's previous book, The Purpose-Driven Church, has sold over a million copies in 20 languages. Winner of the Gold Medallion Ministry Book of the Year, it is used as a textbook in most seminaries, and was selected as one of the 100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century."
Notice the reference to Peter Drucker. What this legendary management guru began teaching large corporations decades ago has now been applied to God's churches as well as to communities and governments around the world. Since the new methods seemed to "work" equally well for churches as for corporations -- and since the measured results offer statistical "proof" of "success" -- pastors around the world have embraced and implemented Drucker's marketing approach to "doing church."
In a 2002 article in Business Week titled "Peter Drucker's Search for Community," Ken Witty describes the world view that drives Drucker's plans and purpose:
"He brings a communitarian philosophy to his consulting.... He said that what he's all about is this search for community, the search for where people and organizations find community for noneconomic satisfaction....
"A lot of his ideas have become so accepted that it's hard for anyone to understand how original they were at the time he introduced them. It's sort of like Freud and psychoanalysis. Peter was the first, for example, to help managers understand that they had to define their businesses from a customer's perspective."
Focusing on the "customer's perspective" brings success. People feel satisfied. They come and they buy. When this process is applied to churches, it works! With polls and surveys, a church can easily uncover the "felt needs" of the people -- then target their services to their current and future consumers.
Pastor Warren's current tutor in this management process is CMS, a secular "full-service custom marketing and communications agency head-quartered in Covina, California." It's website shows its mission:
"At CMS, we view it as our mission to help our clients grow their businesses. We do this by working with each client identifying opportunities and developing innovative, creative and profitable services which assist them in the execution of effective marketing, sales and communications program.... We are best able to serve clients when they allow us to act as partners.... CMS is made up of a team of talented individuals whose dedication and expertise have earned them a solid reputation for creating results."
Shouldn't we credit God, not clever marketing, with "creating results?" After all, the Bible tells us that the "wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." Man's "wise" ways may fit our human purpose, but they clash with God's purpose. [See 1 Cor 3:19-20; Prov. 3:5-7]
While CMS' partners include the City of West Covina and secular giants such as Quaker and Isuzu Motors America, it also serves clients such as the "Purpose Driven Ministries," "Saddleback Valley Community Church," "Smalley Relationship Center" and "Walk Thru the Bible." The latter was founded and led by Bruce Wilkinson, author of the well marketed bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez.
Part of CMS' success lies in the surveys, polls and tracking that characterize the 21st Century management systems:
"...collecting, organizing and managing data is essential to understanding, evaluating and planning of any successful promotion. That is why we developed our CMS Intelligent Redemption System. It is sophisticated proprietary software that allows us to program and initialize data.... Our purchasing standards and fulfillment procedures build-in tracking and accountability.... CMS Fulfillment Center specializes in direct mail projects, new product introductions, and promotion launches."
No wonder curious visitors are flocking to Purpose-Driven churches. Small wonder pastors around the world are watching, listening, ready to follow.
This fall, "over 13,000 ministers and students" heard Pastor Warren explain the ways of a purpose-driven church at SuperConference 2003, held at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Speaking on 'Attracting a Crowd to Worship,' Warren shared some basic principles behind church growth. He aimed his words at those who were "stuck in the past:"
"I believe that one of the major church issues [of the future] will be how we’re going to reach the next generation with our music,' he said, admitting, 'You can make more people mad with music than anything else in church....
"To insist that all good music came from Europe 200 years ago; there’s a name for that - racism.... Encourage members to re-arrange and rewrite. New songs say God is doing something awesome.” Emphasis added
Do they? It's all too easy to justify our attempts to please the crowds by meeting "felt needs." We simply reinvent God's character and will, claiming that our purpose is His purpose. Assuming that He loves the same things we love, we assign Him an image more like our own. But in Psalm 50:21, God warns us against such presumptuous views of God's nature. "You thought that I was altogether like you," He told His people, "but I will rebuke you...."
Pastor Warren again claimed divine approval during a "Building a Purpose-Driven Church" seminar held at Saddleback Community Church in January, 1998. Basing church growth strategies on personal wants, not on the guidelines of God's Word, he said,
"Now, at Saddleback Church, we are unapologetically contemporary... I passed out a three-by-five card to everybody in the church, and I said, 'You write down the call letters of the radio station you listen to.' I wasn't even asking unbelievers. I was asking the people in the church, 'What kind of music do you listen to?' When I got it back, I didn't have one person who said, 'I listen to organ music.' Not one.... So, we made a strategic decision that we are unapologetically a contemporary music church. And right after we made that decision and stopped trying to please everybody, Saddleback exploded with growth....
"I'll be honest with you, we are loud. We are really, really loud on a weekend service.... I say, 'We're not gonna turn it down.' Now the reason why is baby boomers want to feel the music, not just hear it.... God loves variety!"
Does God really love today's cultural "variety?" I doubt that God is pleased when we feed our natural cravings for emotional stimuli. When ancient Israel became bored with God's Word and embraced a wide variety of cultural and spiritual thrills, God disciplined them severely. He even compared his wayward people with a "wild donkey... that sniffs at the wind in her desire." Jeremiah 2:24
Our human nature (the "flesh") is no different than theirs. We, too, are tempted to trade God's very best for the world's gratifications. That's why He tells us to "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lust against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary one to another..." Galatians 5:17
When church leaders use energizing music, emotional stimuli and short, light messages to satisfy the flesh with its "felt needs," they tend to obscure our deeper spiritual needs. Fed a diet of simplified sermons designed to please everyone, both seekers and believers may lose their appetite for the solid Biblical teaching that -- by His Spirit -- produces conviction of sin, genuine repentance, actual regeneration, true spiritual renewal and the continual joy of walking with Jesus.
1. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002). See "Driven or Led?"
2. Dennis Costella, FOUNDATION Magazine, March-April 1998. www.fundamentalbiblechurch.o rg/Foundation/fbcsdlbk.htm. You can find a very similar message in Rick Warren's article titled " Selecting Worship Music" (July 29, 2002 ) at www.pastorport.com/ministrytoday.asp ?mode=viewarchive&index=18.
The Bible warns against a musical "variety" or usage that serves paganism: "when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up." Daniel 3:7
5. Ken Witty, "Peter Drucker's Search for Community," Business Week Online, December 24, 2002. www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnfla sh/dec2002/nf20021224_6814.htm
9. Warren on church music, www.sunlandneighborhoodchurch.com/a rticles_view.asp?articleid=1382&columnid=
© 2003 Berit Kjos - All Rights Reserved
Berit Kjos is a widely respected researcher, writer and conference speaker. A frequent guest on national radio and television programs, Kjos has been interviewed on Point of View (Marlin Maddoux), The 700 Club, Bible Answer Man, Beverly LaHaye Live, Crosstalk and Family Radio Network. She has also been a guest on "Talk Back Live" (CNN) and other secular radio and TV networks. Her last two books are A Twist of Faith and Brave New Schools. Kjos Ministries Web Site: http://www.crossroad.to/index.html
"This fall, "over 13,000 ministers and students" heard Pastor Warren explain the ways of a purpose-driven church at SuperConference 2003, held at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University..."