THE VICTIM OF THE ILLUSORY MODERN CHURCH GROWTH MOVEMENT: THE WORD OF GOD
(This article was originally printed in November, 2004)
In one of our recent articles, a brief history was disclosed of several people whom Rick Warren quotes in his books, “The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life.” For Warren to use quotations from individuals who do not know the Lord and who, in fact, repudiate the Word of God, in order to support his false doctrine, borders on blasphemy. One could well say that to misuse the Word of Almighty God, thereby to corrupt God’s intended use of His Word, in order to validate some man-inspired program or paradigm can be constituted as nothing other than an “abomination.” Many Christians have been seduced into reading “The Purpose Driven Life” or participating in “Forty Days of Purpose” through their Church. Christians have been marketing the idea of how this process can help them grow spiritually and how they can make an effective contribution to their Church. Pastors blindly accept the invitation to become a “Purpose Driven Church,” because of the seducing appeal to develop a bigger, healthier Church.
First of all, isn’t Christ enough Purpose? Does a person have to have something along with Christ to actually have purpose in life? I think the answer to that should be obvious.
If a person fully knows Christ, fully serves Christ, which can only be done through faith in Christ and what He has done for us at the Cross, then it is guaranteed according to the Word of God that the Holy Spirit will most definitely develop purpose within our lives. This is, in fact, the only way that purpose can be developed (Rom. 6:3-14; 8:1-2, 11; Eph. 2:13-18).
The idea of merely adding more members to the Church and thereby more money, which is supposed to translate into more influence in the local community, presents a wrong foundation and a wrong motive. To be sure, the results will not be that which is proclaimed.
Although subtle, this appeals to pride and greed; however, even the good intentions of many Pastors are used by Warren to draw them into his false way to grow their Church. The method is actually not of God. Let it ever be understood: anything that does not have the Cross of Christ one hundred percent as its foundation, pure and simple, is not of God. This new Church Growth Movement, to be sure, does not, by any stretch of the imagination, proclaim the Cross of Christ.
I would like to exam how the Word of God is held captive and then victimized by Warren throughout his books. Warren consistently uses Scripture out of context, thereby placing the Word of God in an abeyant (inactive, ineffective) state, which will not benefit Believers. Warren’s foundation statement for his new “Biblical paradigm” is found in Chapter 3 of “The Purpose Driven Church,” page 80. He says, “What is needed today are Churches that are driven by purpose instead of by other forces. This book is written to offer a new paradigm, the ‘Purpose-Driven Church,’ as a Biblical and healthy alternative to traditional ways which have characterized the manner in which most Churches have always operated.” Warren stresses two essential elements which are made possible by his new paradigm. They are: “a new perspective” and “a process,” which, according to this man, “must be embraced.”
Warren’s Scriptural Text is I Corinthians 3:13-14:
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
“If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”
Using this Scripture, Warren impresses upon Pastors that “God will judge whatever we build on the basis of whether it will last.”
He then says, “According to the Grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:10-11).
However, the emphasis is not on Christ, but rather the process which he is promoting, which makes it very subtle, because he is using Scripture to buttress his false direction. He makes an emphatic statement that “strong Churches are built on purpose”; and we might quickly add, his distorted five purposes, not Jesus Christ and Him Crucified!
As a result, this man deceives many Pastors who read “The Purpose Driven Church,” because, as stated, he uses Scripture. But what Warren is doing is trying to convince the Reader that his purposes are God’s Purposes and Ways! “Nothing precedes purpose,” he says. Warren often has Pastors to ask themselves, “Why do we exist as a Church?”
The truth is: The Holy Spirit and the Call of God are not included in Warren’s reasoning. In fact, the “Warren Way” has absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the Book of Acts, as it regards “Church.”
Let it ever be understood: It is the Holy Spirit Who laid down the pattern in the Book of Acts as to what and how a Church should be. To deviate from that pattern is to deviate from the Ways of the Lord, and to take upon oneself the ways of man, which will always bring about spiritual wreckage.
Let me say it in another way: If “Church,” and of whatever stripe, doesn’t carry the earmarks of the Book of Acts, irrespective as to what it may be labeled, and irrespective as to how much it might be lauded by the world, in the Eyes of God, it is not Church, but something else entirely.
It is our responsibility to build the Church upon the Foundation of Jesus Christ, and upon that Foundation alone, which includes the Finished Work of the Cross. In fact, according to the Word of God, the Cross of Christ was formulated in the Mind of God even before the foundation of the world:
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not Redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
“But with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot:
“Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Pet. 1:18-20).
This means that every single doctrine which we derive from the Word of God must be built upon the Foundation of the Cross or else, in some way, it will be spurious. Again, to be sure, this modern marketing process has absolutely no resemblance to the Word of God in any capacity. In fact, Warren uses worldly marketing principles and psychology to build this new paradigm process of “The Purpose Driven Church.” In truth, it is “wood, hay, and stubble.”
The Apostle Paul’s inspiration could be summed up this way: Doctrine, Motivation, and Faithfulness, all which will be judged by God. We can have the correct motivation, but if the wrong doctrine is promoted, it will not be approved by God. Paul said:
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8).
In the beginning of “The Purpose Driven Life” book, Warren makes the claim that “whenever God wanted to prepare someone for His purposes, He took forty days.” He uses the lives of Noah, Moses, the spies, David, Elijah, and the city of Nineveh. As well, Jesus and the Disciples are examples of this principle, or so he says!
When one understands the lives and circumstances of each one of these individuals, they can quickly realize how incorrect Warren’s statements are.
For instance, Noah found Grace in the eyes of God and was obedient to God in the midst of an unholy people. The forty days of rain upon the Earth was God’s judgment against unbelieving evil people. There is no Scriptural ground to claim Noah was changed in these forty days. Noah was kept and saved in the Ark of God. He already understood, by Faith, the Lord’s Plan of destruction and Salvation.
Likewise, we can say the same, in one way or the other, for all the other examples of individuals used by Warren.
Warren’s next ambiguous statement to his readers is: “The next forty days will transform your life.” No, they will not!
God is not going to work in us because we set aside time to use Warren’s book. In fact, the only means by which God works in our lives is through our Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us through the Finished Work of the Cross.
The Apostle Paul said, “It is not of works, lest any man should boast.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:9-10).
Actually, Warren’s scheme (and it is a scheme) is just another effort by man to try to accomplish what the Holy Spirit Alone can accomplish within our hearts and lives.
Let me say that again: Whatever it is that comes from the Lord, be it Righteousness, Holiness, Christlikeness, or the Fruit of the Spirit, all, and without exception, can only be produced by the Holy Spirit:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
“For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of sin and death.
“But if the Spirit of Him Who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He Who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit Who dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:1-2, 11).
And the Holy Spirit works in our lives exclusively on the basis of the Finished Work of Christ and our Faith in that Finished Work – and through no other method:
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery,
fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
“Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
“Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.
“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, Faith,
“Meekness, temperance: against such there is no Law” (Gal. 5:17-23).
From the very beginning, man’s problem has been man’s efforts to do what only the Holy Spirit can do!
TO WHOM IS WARREN SPEAKING?
It is difficult to determine who it is to whom Warren is writing. Is he writing to the lost, or to the saved? In fact, he doesn’t really distinguish between the two. Throughout the book “The Purpose Driven Life,” Warren hardly clarifies his target audience.
The Believer will interpret this as a discipline to perform a good work, and the unbeliever will use it as a time of assessment to improve himself, which, of course, is impossible. There is no such thing as moral evolution.
Many thanks to John Rosenstern for this article.