We are awash in
information about how to have healthy and successful
churches. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven church movement
claims to have trained many thousands of pastors around the
world. The website for this movement states the vision: “Our
vision is to see healthy, balanced congregations producing
Purpose Driven lives of all ages everywhere.”1
This movement is being called a new reformation: “Saddleback
Church is now but one among thousands of Purpose Driven
churches – the vanguard of a new reformation.”2
The churches who most successfully copy Rick Warren’s
pattern are honored with a “Church Health Award.”3
As contemporary evangelicals
attempt to get on board with the new reformation and become
“healthy,” one important fact is being overlooked:
already spoken about what He approves and disapproves in churches.
Shall modern technocrats like Rick Warren set the standards
for what is pleasing to God in a local church or should Jesus
Christ Himself set these standards?
We need to listen to Jesus.
The material in Revelation 2 and
3 provides a precious opportunity to find out what Jesus,
the true owner of His churches, uses as criteria for
evaluation. What modern marketing experts deem “healthy” is
of no significance in the eyes of Christ. The seven
churches reveal the virtues and vices of all churches
throughout the church age. We can learn from these churches
and thereby “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”6
The Church in
Jesus begins His address to the church in Ephesus with a
“‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that
you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who
call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them
to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for
My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2, 3).
Contrary to what some people think, this is a commendation.
They had obeyed Paul’s former words precisely: “Be on guard
for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit
has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which
He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure
savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock”
(Acts 20:28, 29). Jesus commended them for obeying the words
of Paul and guarding the flock against false “sent ones” (apostles).
Given this backdrop, Jesus’ rebuke is stunning: “But I
have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent
and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to
you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place— unless
you repent” (Revelation 2:4, 5).
Some have used this passage to warn about those who correct
error. They suggest that somehow the process of withstanding
evil and error makes a person unloving. There is nothing in
the text that says this. The word “but” in the Greek is a strong
adversative. That means that the rebuke is in stark contrast
to the commendation....
The idea is that the church should
reject false teachers practicers of evil and have a strong,
heartfelt love for God and neighbor ....
Jesus has a further
commendation for the church at Ephesus: “Yet this you do have,
that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans [a heretical
sect], which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). ...
The Church in
the church in Sardis “dead”: “I know your deeds, that you have
a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1b).
This alarming diagnosis from the Lord shows that what others
think of a church has no bearing on what God thinks of it. This
was a church that had a reputation (“name”) of being an “alive”
church. However they were spiritually asleep: “Wake up, and
strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die;
for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My
God” (Revelation 3:2). ...
outwardly popular but inwardly dead church at Sardis
was unlikely to have been bold enough to preach the gospel
to the Jews and pagans and thus bring persecution.
content to have the name of being alive
and relative peace with the society around. ...
Revelation 3:4,5 shows that
there was still a faithful remnant in Sardis. ... Such individuals often know that something is wrong
but are not sure what to do. Jesus comforted them with the
promise of white garments and their names in the book of
The Church in
The Lord had no words of rebuke for the church in
Philadelphia. This church was under Jewish persecution....
The Lord gives them this commendation: “I know your
deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no
one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept
My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8).
... Apparently this church was small, poor, and uninfluential.”23
... Jesus did not see poverty or lack of size as a sign
The commendation is that they have “kept My word” and “not
denied My name.” They not only had the keys, they were using
They actively confessed [declared, identified
with, or confessed allegiance to]
Christ and His gospel
even in the face of persecution.
The pattern emerging... is that nothing is more important
than confessing. ...
A church like Sardis could avoid conflict
with the pagan society by keeping quiet and not actively confessing
the gospel before the pagans.
Confessors were often martyred as we saw in Smyrna and
Pergamum. Confession offended the Jews and the Pagans
because it meant telling them that unless they repented and
believed on Christ, they would perish under God’s judgment.
The Church in
...this church possessed... a positive self image:
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and
have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are
wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation
3:17). The Laodicean church boasted of being healthy and
The Laodicean church was self-deluded. Perhaps the
most dangerous time for the church (as is born out by church
history) is when the church is wealthy and successful.
... thinking that because we are successful, therefore we
must be pleasing to God. ... This shows how badly we
need objective criteria from God Himself to determine if
what we are doing is pleasing to Him.
Here is what Jesus said to this seemingly “successful” but
self-deluded church: “I know your deeds, that you are
neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So
because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will
spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15, 16). The
common interpretation of this is that cold signifies the
lost or spiritually dead, the hot signifies fervent
Christians, and the lukewarm are complacent Christians.27
However, the passage is more likely a reference to local
water supplies.... Jesus was saying that the deeds of the
Laodicean church were as nauseating to Him as their own
local water was to them....
We live in a time were “tolerance” is
considered the ultimate virtue.
Jesus denounced such “tolerance”
as spiritual wickedness. In too many churches today,
is tolerated except sound doctrine!
We need to listen to what
Jesus has already said about this matter before it is too late.
Rick Warren claims that doctrine is so unimportant that God
will not even ask about it:
“God won’t ask about your religious background or doctrinal
Jesus made doctrine very important and rebuked
those who tolerated false doctrine: “Whoever transgresses
and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have
God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the
Father and the Son.” (2John 1:9 NKJV)
Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven
Life never explains the blood atonement in the context
of the gospel or salvation. Jesus commended overcomers –
people are overcomers because of the blood of the Lamb.
Since Warren’s readers and followers do not hear anything
from him about the blood atonement or the wrath of God
against sin, they have no way to become overcomers.
The church leaders who follow
Rick Warren are told that if they follow his campaign and
are typical of other churches that do, they will grow 20
percent in attendance and 20 percent in money. Jesus doesn’t
care about attendance or money....
We are getting a lot of bad advice from the contemporary,
evangelical culture. This bad advice virtually ignores
everything Jesus said was important to Him in His churches.
What He cares about is deemed irrelevant for popular,
“healthy” churches today.
In closing, let us consider
the words of our Lord as spoken to the Laodicean church:
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous
therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Copyright © 1992-2005 Twin City
read the rest the of this much-needed message at
Other articles by Bob DeWaay:
The Gospel: A Method or a
True and False
Redefining the Church
of the Church Growth Movement
Award” from Rick Warren or Jesus Christ?
Bob DeWaay is
the Pastor of
Twin City Fellowship, a
non-denominational evangelical Church in Minneapolis, MN,
which tells us:
"We are a
body of believers who attempt to live our Christian
faith according to Acts 2:42 by devoting ourselves to
prayer, fellowship, searching the Scriptures, and the
"Our mission is to equip the saints for the work of
ministry and to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. We do this through expository preaching, study
of the Scriptures, publications, our website and
6. This phrase is found at the conclusion of the message to
each of the seven churches. It is a call to listen to God
who is speaking authoritatively to His people.
23. George Eldon Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 56.
27. See Ryan Habbena’s article
published in CIC issue 59: http://www.twincityfellowship.com/cic/articles/issue59.pdf;
Ryan corrects this misinterpretation.
39. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Zondervan: Grand
Rapids, 2002) 34.