Thursday, January 26, 2006

Church Growth: Is Bigger Always Better?

By: Angela Lee Price

I have been researching Rick Warren's approach to church growth since 2002 when a veteran acquaintance in online discernment, Jewel Grewe of discernment-ministries.com insisted I became aware of the dangers of the Purpose Driven Movement. I would have been comfortable continuing to download enough articles on the Word of Faith theology and other aberrant and heretical teachings to fill another three-inch binder, but no. I had to see what the fuss was all about since many people in Louisville were reading The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, and many African American churches were promoting the "40 Days of Purpose" campaign.

This list of Church Growth Articles is one of the best I've seen on the internet. It contains more than 300 links to reviews, radio interviews and sample chapters from books by various opponents of the Purpose Driven Movement and similar movements.

After reading more material than I dare confess, here are my three primary concerns with the Purpose Driven Movement:

  • Rick Warren's use of The Message translation in The Purpose Driven Life. Many of the articles you are about to read will help those with eyes to see and ears to hear understand that The Message is not The Message from the Lord. What Rick Warren has done in using The Message can be equated to what the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons have done in using their Bibles to explain the gospel. I can't stress how serious this is. I like the King James Bible, and I like some of the modern translations. However, using a particular translation for the sake of being contemporary without regard for the intregity of scripture is wrong. Rick Warren has fueled sales of The Message, and he and Eugene Peterson are going to have to someday account for lying on the Lord and opening the door for so many people to be cursed. A small group studying a particular Bible verse using King James, New International Version, Good News and The New Living Translation , for example, could walk away with one understanding of the verse, and another small group studying that same verse using The Message Translation could walk away with a totally different understanding. If this isn't confusion, I don't know what is. I do know that Jesus Christ is not the author of confusion.
  • Rick Warren misrepresents the gospel message in The Purpose Driven Life. He twists scripture to fit his agenda. He does not speak in certain terms about human depravity, God's wrath and judgment. He, in effect, presents a Crossless Christ and a watered-down gospel. Jesus suffered a bloody death on a horrible cross so that we might have eternal life. Unbelievers need to know this in no uncertain terms. Unbelievers are sinners doomed to eternal separation for God accept they confess their sins, repent and trust in Jesus Christ. There is no formula that can sufficiently help unregenerate man deal with sin save faith in Jesus Christ. We are here for one purpose and that is to worship and glorify God according to His will. Many people, myself included, thought they knew God's will for their lives, only to discover, years later, that the partner they married, the business they started, the type of college they attended, the type of church they attended, the associations they formed, were never God's will for their lives.
  • Rick Warren's endorsement of non-Christians in The Purpose Driven Life. There was no need for Rick Warren to go to those outside of Christianity in order to tell Christians and non-believers how to find their purpose in God. There are enough cutting-edge Christian theologians and pastors who would have been more than happy to have supported him in his endeavors. His endorsements of atheists, new agers, mystics, and non-Christians are extremely problematic, and could have resulted in sending unsuspecting readers into Satan's territory.

Where it not for these concerns, I too, might be on the Purpose Driven bandwagon. Warren's books have considerable appeal. There is no doubt about it. However, knowingly endangering a person's walk with the Lord by recommending his approach to church growth is something I want no part of. Besides, unchurched Harry and Mary don’t live in the ‘hood. Unchurched “Kee Kee” and “Ree Ree” do! Surely, African Americans scholars can offer church growth perspectives tailored to fit the particular needs of the Black Church, or is it that Warren’s sugar is sweeter?

Remember, it is not Buddha, Confuscious, Muhammad, nor New Age that saves. Jesus saves!

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