Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven?
by Berit Kjos, November 2003
Skip down to "Widening the gate to the Kingdom"
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"There are some really good things and points that Rick Warren brings out. 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." David, a visitor to our website.
"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things...." 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Our website began to receive requests for information about The Purpose Driven Life last year. So we bought the book, read it quickly and were troubled by some of its claims, promises and paraphrased "Bible" references. But we also found many true and encouraging pages. Since we didn't want to criticize Rick Warren or confuse those who apparently were helped by his book, we left it on the shelf.
By this fall, Rick Warren's manual on the Christian life had become the topic of discussion in churches around the world. The letters from concerned visitors multiplied. When we read the book again, we could no longer ignore its subtle distortions, its half-truths, its conflicting messages or its pragmatic permissiveness: if it works (i.e. brings people into the church), it's okay! "God loves variety!"
Nor could we accept Pastor Warren's "rules for growth" which tells us to "never criticize what God is blessing." Implying that church growth and changed lives prove God's delight in our human methods, it cancels His call to "be on guard" and to discern deception. Some may say, "don't touch God's anointed," but we don't believe any leader is so "anointed" that his teaching is beyond Biblical accountability -- especially when his influence reaches around the world. While only God can judge the heart of a person, we are called to help each other follow His guidelines, not be driven by today's new management systems. [see Driven or Led?] Praying that God would guide us, we began our response with the following background information.
As most of you know, 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 pastors.com, "a global Internet community that serves and mentors those in ministry worldwide." This website tells us that "over 60,000 pastors subscribe to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free weekly email newsletter." Then it summarizes his ministry: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."
"Rick Warren is well known as the pioneer of
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 in countless nations 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... The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." 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 Christian ministries such as "Saddleback Valley Community Church," "Purpose Driven Ministries," "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 presumptuous 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,
God loves variety!"
"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....
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.
Widening the gate to the Kingdom
Among today's favorite topics in the small group dialogues are the forty chapters in Pastor Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. Seekers and believers alike share insights and discuss the latest interpretations of God's Word. They sign written contracts and hold each other accountable to the social and spiritual guidelines of the 21st Century Church community. And -- says Pastor Warren -- their lives are being transformed.
I am sure many are. Pastor Warren has written some encouraging pages about God, our walk with Him and our fellowship with one another. I especially appreciate the sections that show the delight of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But I was a little concerned whenhe invited all his readers to "quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: 'Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.'"[1, page 58]
You might ask, what could possibly be wrong with that short prayer? Why criticize a book that God uses to bring people to Himself? Don't we want to bring as many as possible into God's eternity?
Yes, we do! And God could surely use those few words to draw His chosen ones to Himself. But it could also produce serious problems in the church. For many will pray the prayer with little or no awareness of the nature of God, of the seriousness of sin, or of the value or cost of God's forgiveness. In our times of easy beliefism, anyone can personalize and claim God's promises without any prompting by the Spirit or lasting inner change. When people learn to tolerate evil and flow with the crowd, true repentance is rare or nonexistent and faith becomes presumption. Still unregenerate, many happily accept the group's consensus: You prayed the prayer, therefore you must be a Christian.
Pastor Warren agrees. "If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulation!" he tells the reader. "Welcome to the family of God! You are now ready to discover and start living God's purpose for your life! [1, page 59]
We hear this argument from hundreds of "Christians" who tell us they have prayed "the prayer." But sincerity isn't enough! Justifying their love for the world's corrupt entertainment, many ignore God's guidelines and are desensitized to spiritual deceptions. One young man wrote us the following words: "I am a Christian, and I love my religion, but I also love other religions." He believed he had "received Christ" but, like ancient Israel, he saw nothing wrong with "other spiritual paths to god."
"I am a strong Christian and love the Lord with all my heart," a youth pastor told us. "The problem is I really enjoy reading the [Harry Potter] books and nothing about them conflicts with my spirit." Chances are, the youth pastor's flock will blindly walk through the wide gate, then follow the popular"way that leads to destruction." Some may never even notice the narrow gate and the "difficult... way that leads to life." As Jesus warned, "there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14
Softening God's Word
Unregenerate "believers" who love the ways of the world will want a church that fits that world. To make them feel at home -- and to satisfy curious seekers -- the church must now re-invent itself. Since no one can really understand God's truth unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to their hearts[see 1 Cor 2:9-16], God's Word must be simplified so that everyone -- Christian or not -- can relate to it.
It's not surprising that Pastor Warren
quotes passages from
Please compare Mr. Peterson's interpretations of Isaiah 26:3 with the corresponding passages in three generally accepted Bible translations: the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New International Version (NIV). While I don't personally use the NIV, the three translations help show the gap between standard translations and modern paraphrases. In many cases, the latter seems more like a human commentary than a Biblical translation. But The Message fits the need -- perhaps because it uses the word "purpose:"
KJV: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." Is 26:3
NKJV: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." Is 26:3
NIV: "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Is 26:3
Message: "You, LORD, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you." Is 26:3 (page 32)
"Knowing your purpose focuses your life," he assures us. "It concentrates your effort and energy on what's important. You become effective by being selective."[1, page 32]
But the early Hebrew documents promised peace to those "whose minds were stayed on" God, not to those who "kept their purpose firm." Think about it: Wouldn't God's actual Word be a more reliable focus for our lives? Won't He lead us when, by His Word and Spirit, we keep ourminds stayed on Him? Doesn't His Word suggest we be led, not driven, by our wonderful Shepherd?
Pastor Warren might agree, since he encourages us to memorize and meditate on God's Word. But he suggests that we select Bible verses out of his book which begins and ends with quotes from The MessageOn page 325, he explains why:
"...we often miss the full impact of familiar Bible verses, not because of poor translating, but simply because they have become so familiar! We think we know what a verse says because we have read it or heard it so many times. Then when we find it quoted in a book, we skim over it and miss the full meaning. Therefore I have deliberately used paraphrases in order to help you see God's truth in new, fresh ways.... [emphasis in the original]
"Also, since the verse divisions and number were not included in the Bible until 1560 A.D., I haven't always quoted the entire verse, but rather focused on the phrase that was appropriate. My model for this is Jesus and how he and the apostles quoted the Old Testament. They often just quoted a phrase to make a point." [1, page 325]
His first argument doesn't match reality. Those who are truly "born again" treasure God's Word as it is written. The more familiar it becomes, the more precious it is! He brings the words we have "hidden in our heart" to our awareness day and night as we need it for comfort, strength and joy in Him."Your words were found, and I ate them," said Jeremiah, "and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord..." Jeremiah 15:16
Second, are we free to attribute the authority of the actual Scriptures to short sound bytes of paraphrased passages in order to validate our own points? Yes, Jesus, who was Himself the Living Word, had the absolute authority to speak His own message as He willed. But we are not God! That's why He warns us repeatedly not to alter or add to His holy Word in any way."If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book," He tells us in the Book of Revelation ( 22:18-19), "and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life...."
Those are strong words. That's why many postmodern leaders consider them intolerant and exclude them from their teaching. But God considers the accuracy of His Word so vital to our walk with Him that He repeated this warning several times throughout the Bible.
"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it," He told us through Moses in Deuteronomy 4:1-2. And in Proverbs 30:5-6, He warned: "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar."
Yet, man's incessant quest for "new, fresh ways" has always made us vulnerable to temptation. From the beginning, Satan has offered both pleasure and wisdom to those who would rephrase or revise God's timeless Word -- blending lies with truth that hide the deception. Back in the garden, it led to Eve's disobedience and the alienation of humanity. Through the Middle Ages, it led to horrendous heresies and cruel persecution of those who took their stand on God's unchanging Word. In our times, the rise of pragmatism and postmodernity has led to another round of revisions. And with the postmodern rejection of unchanging absolutes, there is no end in sight.
See how The Message has altered the meaning of God's Word in the following passages.
Though the first two references are not mentioned in the Purpose Driven Life, their precious familiarity helps us discern the contrast and realize how human additions and deletions distort His truths. The third reference is the last "Bible" verse Pastor Warren quotes in his book. Notice its new tone and attitude:
KJV: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." Matt. 6:9
NKJV: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name." Matt. 6:9
NIV: ”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." Matt. 6:9
Message: "Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are." Matt. 6:9
KJV: "my Father is greater than I." John 14:28
NKJV: "My Father is greater than I." John 14:28
NIV: “... the Father is greater than I." John 14:28
Message: "The Father is the goal and purpose of my life." John 14:28
KJV: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power...." Rev 4:11
NKJV: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power....” Rev 4:11
NIV: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power...." Rev 4:11
Message: "Worthy, Oh Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power!..." [1, page 319]
KJV: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:6
NKJV: "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:6
NIV: "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." Romans 8:6
Message: "Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life." [1, page 18]
Ponder the last section. To be "carnally minded" means far more than "obsession with self." It involves the spiritual blindness and death of a person who lives and thinks according to his own capricious human nature -- separated from God's grace and Spirit. He may claim to be a Christian, but his finite mind cannot grasp God's truths, heart or will. A simpler, modified Bible, stripped of its deeper and harder truths, doesn't help. God never intended that the Bible should be understood apart from His supernatural work in the hearts of His chosen people.[Matt 13:13; Luke 8:10; Jer 5:21; Acts 26:18]
The other parallel follows. To be "spiritually minded" means that, through the Holy Spirit, the believer's mind has been opened to understand Scriptures. God's life-changing Truth has renewed his heart and enabled him to know and love God. It has given him the joy and endurance needed to follow the Shepherd -- not along that spacious highway that draws the crowds -- but on the narrow unpopular way which draws us ever closer to Him.Matt 7:13-14
Since the Bible is the foundation of our faith, we had better follow its clear and timeless guidelines. They alone enable us to maintain the purity and accuracy of His Word even as we translate it into all the world's different languages. In its totality, the Bible reveals the nature of God, the nature of man -- both in Christ and apart from Him. Made alive by His Spirit, it reveals His guidelines for our lives, His promises of each day's challenges, His hope for eternity. It is the foundation of our faith and the standard for our lives.
But Pastor Warren sees a slightly different foundation. As in the Purpose-Driven Church, he his format shows us five purposes:
1. You were planned for God's pleasure.
2. You were formed for God's family.
3. You were created to become like Christ.
4. You were shaped for serving God.
5. You were made for a mission. [1, contents]
Those statements are all true, but they are incomplete as guidelines for all of life's challenges. Later he tells us:
"Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. It defines what you do and what you don't do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren't. You simply ask, 'Does this activity help me fulfill one of God's purposes for my life?'
"Without a clear purpose, you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources."[1, page 31]
What does Pastor Warren mean by "a clear purpose?" A blend of his five stated purposes?
Neither the five purposes, nor any other single purpose, can replace Jesus Christ, the Living Word, as the "foundation on which you base decision, allocate your time and use resources." Christ's Life in us -- speaking through His Word revealed to us -- is our supreme, unrivaled foundation and guide. The Living Word remains "a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" no matter where His chosen purposes or unseen paths might take you and me for the duration of our lives on earth.
The Spirit of Worship
I appreciate Pastor Warren's emphasis on worship and surrender. "Worship must be based on the truth of Scripture, not our opinions about God," he writes.[1, page 101]That's true. Yet, his book offers both opinions and illustrations that undermine that truth -- including his assumptions about what God loves.
"Worship must be both accurate and authentic," he writes on page 102. "God-pleasing worship is both deeply emotional and deeply doctrinal.... The best style of worship is the one that most authentically represent your love for God, based on the background and personality God gave you." He then gives the following illustration:
"My friend Gary Thomas noticed that many Christians seem stuck in a worship rut -- an unsatisfying routine -- instead of having a vibrant friendship with "God, because they force themselves to use devotional methods or worship styles that don't fit the way God uniquely shaped them.
"Gary wondered, If God intentionally made us all different, why should everyone be expected to love God in the same way?... In his book Sacred Pathways, Gary identifies nine of the ways people draw near to God: Naturalists are most inspired to love God our-of-doors, in natural settings. Sensates love God with their senses and appreciate beautiful worship services that involve their sight, taste, smell and touch, not just their ears...... Ascetics prefer to love God in solitude and simplicity. [Later in the book, Warren tells us that only those who participate in today's organized church can grow spiritually.]... Activists love God through confronting evil, battling injustice, and working to make the world a better place.... "[1, page 103]
Is he equating "activists" with the political activism pushing churches and nations toward a global welfare system through the United Nations? Liberal churches are a major force in this accelerating movement that -- under the banner of tolerance -- silences the gospel. But Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36
"There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to worship and friendship with God," continues Pastor Warren. "God wants you to be yourself." That's true. Then he validates his point with a quote from The Message: "That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.'" Notice the clash of words and meaning:
KJV: "...the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." John 4:23
NKJV: "...the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." John 4:23
NIV: "...a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." John 4:23
Message: "That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship." (page 103)
While God demands absolute honesty from His people, the word "truth" here implies far more than being "simply and honestly themselves." The central truth tells us about our wonderful Lord. Worship is our response to what the Word and Spirit have revealed to us about His glory and goodness. And Pastor Warren knows that very well. In spite of his pragmatic promotion of cultural compromise under the banner of church growth, he also includes some beautiful descriptions:
"Where is the glory of God? Just look around. Everything created by God reflects his glory in some way. We see it everywhere, from the smallest microscopic form of life to the vast Milky Way, from sunsets and stars to storms and seasons.... The Bible says. 'The heavens declare the glory of God....' [1, page 54]
"We cannot add anything to this glory, just as it would be impossible for us to make the sun shine brighter. But we are commanded to recognize his glory, honor his glory, declare his glory, praise his glory, reflect his glory and live for his glory. Why? Because God deserves it! We owe him every honor we can possibly give."[1, page 56]
So true! But while Warren reminds us that "Worship is a lifestyle," he acknowledges his affinity with today's popular culture and lifestyles, then bases his opinion on God's presumed character:"Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all -- fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new. You probably don't like it all, but God does!"[1, page 65]
He does? Including the throbbing beat of hard rock? [See Popular Music with Pagan Roots] Or the pulsating sensuality of other forms of rock and hip hop? Or the hypnotic tones of New Age music?
While all parts of the universe were created by our sovereign Lord, he lets us use His raw materials according to our own inclinations -- whether they honor or profane his name. But when we become part of His family and Kingdom, He holds us accountable to His high and holy standards -- and to what He has revealed about Himself in His Word.
Again Pastor Warren seems to agree. He says, "I must choose to value what God values. This is what friends do -- they care about what is important to the other person. The more you become God's friend, the more you will care about the things he cares about, grieve over the things he grieves over, and rejoice over the things that bring pleasure to him."
That's a great summary. Warren goes on to say that "Paul is the best example of this. God's agenda was his agenda and God's passion was his." Then he backs his statement with another quote from The Message -- one that leaves out a key point: that God is a "jealous God." His holy jealousy is expressed through Paul in his concern for the church. To show you the context, we included the next verse as well:
KJV: "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted...." 2 Cor 11:2-4
NKJV: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted..." 2 Cor 11:2-4
NIV: "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him . 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray...." 2 Cor 11:2-4
Message: "The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much--this is the passion of God burning inside me!" 2 Cor 11:2 (page 97)
"...that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain." Philippians 2:15-16
When Pastor Warren
tells us that "God loves all kinds of music"
I wonder where would he draw the line?
Would that line change with our changing culture? These are crucial questions,
for music has become a driving force in the Church Growth Movement.
"Music is an integral part of our lives. We eat with it, drive with it, shop with it, relax with it, and some non-Baptists even dance to it! The great American past time is not baseball - it is music and sharing our opinions about it!"
"The style of music you choose to use in your services will be one of the most critical (and controversial!) decisions you make in the life of your church.... You must match your music to the kind of people God wants your church to reach.....
"The music you use 'positions' your church in your community. It defines who you are.... It will determine the kind of people you attract, the kind of people you keep, and the kind of people you lose....
"Saddleback is unapologetically a contemporary music church. We’ve often been referred to in the press as 'The flock that likes to rock.' We use the style of music the majority of people in our church listen to on the radio."
In the article, "A New Song - Part 2," author and former musician Paul Proctor clarifies the meaning and purpose of Christian worship:
"As I understand it, worship is coming before the Lord as a holy and 'peculiar people', in obedience, humility, reverence, repentance and faith with an attitude of gratitude, to sing His praises, hear His Word, glorify His name and honor Him with all of our being for Who He is and what He has done.
"Contrary to popular trends, worship is NOT getting together with anybody and everybody to party in Jesus' name and feel good about ourselves with intoxicating music and psychotherapy. ...
"Loud, sustained, pulsating and repetitive noise damages, not just the eardrum, but also the entire human body – especially frequencies below 100Hz and levels above 110dB. The more intense and unidirectional the sound waves are, the more cell damage we incur and the more painkilling substances our bodies release to anesthetize the pain. This is one of the reasons loud music is so appealing to young people at concerts; because they don’t just hear it – they FEEL IT and guess what -- it makes them high, which begs the question; are those attending 'seeker' services with its loud music and revelry being nourished spiritually by their presence and participation or are they getting beaten up sonically to catch a buzz for Jesus? Would you call that a spirit-filled or endorphin-filled experience?"
The answer doesn't matter to those who embrace pragmatism. Within the Church Growth Movement, the main standard for good or bad methods -- or for what "God is blessing" -- seems to be measurable success, not obedience to His Word. The question being asked now is: "Does it work?" We should be asking "What does the Bible tell us?"
who trembles at My word." Isaiah 66:1-2
It's comforting to assume that God loves all the feel-good stimuli we love. But it isn't true.
“'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" Isaiah 55:8-9
Then He gives us a sobering glimpse of what He is pleased to see in His people: “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and
"For since the beginning of the world,
men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,
who remembers You in Your ways." Isaiah 64:4-5
The fear of GodLong before David wrote his treasured psalms or Solomon penned the Proverbs, Job knew the secret of wisdom and friendship with God. In the midst of excruciating pain and loss, he said, "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28
Long ago, God's rebellious and presumptuous people thought they could follow their own sensual inclinations, participate in the rituals of their idolatrous neighbors and sacrifice their children to gain personal favors -- without losing God's favor and protection. Even the priests thought they were following His ways. They were wrong. Our holy God, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, warned His foolish and presumptuous people,
"Therefore I will number you for the sword,
And you shall all bow down to the slaughter;
Because, when I called, you did not answer;
When I spoke, you did not hear, but did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.” Isaiah 65:12
Pastor Warren has little to say about such godly fear -- the blessed fruit of a deep awareness that God is our Judge and Avenger as well as our Father and Love. God's anger and wrath don't fit into today's affirmative, seeker friendly church environment.
Since Today's English Version, like the J. B. Phillips version, may be considered a translation rather than a paraphrase, the differences below may be less distinct. Yet, they illustrate a reluctance among many contemporary Christian leaders to use the word "fear" when referring to God. While we certainly must (by His Spirit) reverence our holy and almighty God, this more "positive" word removes any subtle (or embarrassing) reminder that our loving Father is also a "jealous" God -- a uncompromising Judge who has little tolerance for our lukewarm "obedience" and self-pleasing "worship."
KJV: "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." Ps 25:14
NKJV: "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant." Ps 25:14
NIV: "The Lord confides in those who fear Him; he makes his covenant known to them." Ps 25:14
Message: "Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him." Psalm 25:14a
KJV: "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." Ps 147:11
NKJV: "The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his mercy." Ps 147:11
NIV: "The Lord delights in those who fear Him; who put their hope in his unfailing love." Ps 147:11
Today's English Version: "He takes pleasure in those that honor Him; in those who trust in His constant love." [page 71]
In other words, the word "fear" clashes with today's attempt to market God to the postmodern masses. To a lesser degree, so do the words "righteous" and "merciful." Both remind us of our sin and inadequacy. They bring the discomforting suggestion that God indeed is "holier than thou" -- an unpleasant notion for those who prefer to believe that God is and thinks like me.
Instead, Pastor Warren introduces a more likeable God -- a smiling father who resembles today's permissive parent rather than the righteous and merciful God of the Bible. Whether you are part of God's family or not, Warren speaks confusing half-truths that assure you that --
"the moment you were born into the world, God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth... your arrival gave him great pleasure."[1, page 63]
"You are a child of God, and you bring pleasure to God like nothing else he has ever created. The Bible says, 'Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children -- this was his pleasure and purpose."[1, page 63-64]
"God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting, or eating."[1, page 74]
Do you feel good about yourself yet? Do you feel comfortable before your holy God?
Perhaps we feel too comfortable. Maybe our holy God doesn't "enjoy watching every detail" of our lives. Although His Word assures us that He delights in us when we trust and follow Him, it also shows us that He grieves over our foolish choices. And if we indeed have been "born again" of His Spirit, we would grieve with Him whenever we obey our own lusts rather than His Word! We would repent -- turn around and run back into His arms!
Yes, He waits for us. Yes, our patient and merciful Lord continues to love us deeply and eternally. Yes, in Christ, all our sins were nailed to the cross. But He doesn't minimize our natural rebellion as we do. Instead, he tells us to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13
The New Testament brings some sobering reminders of a side of God we often prefer to forget. Take the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They were part of the early church community where people shared their belongings with each other. You probably remember the story:great fear came upon all...
"Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?... Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So
"Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, 'Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?' She said, 'Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, 'How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.' Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
"And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people....Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women...." Ac 5:1-14
God didn't hesitate to judge a sin that we might easily overlook. After all, Ananias made a generous contribution to the church, didn't he?
But God's standard for holiness among His people is far higher than we are led to believe in our churches. He wants a purified Body, a holy Bride -- washed and cleansed by His shed blood. Seeker-services that bring the world into His sacred places compromise His revealed purposes. So does consensus-based fellowship between believers and unbelievers, between His purity and the world's profanity.
In the early church, God's judgment [above] spread "great fear." The surrounding community showed two typical kinds of responses. While "the people esteemed them highly," only those whom God was drawing to Himself were added to the church. "None of the rest dared join them." It doesn't sound like today's marketing strategies, does it?
The problem is not that Pastor Warren left out the "the fear of God." He can't possibly teach all God's instructions in one book. The problem is lack of balance. By emphasizing God's delight in "every detail of your life," through most of the book, he virtually denied the less comforting side of God's nature.
While God's love is unconditional, His promises are not. Most are linked -- often in the same passage they appear -- to guidelines and conditions for their fulfillment. But those conditions and warnings are generally left out. As presented in this book, many of God's promises to those who -- by His grace and Spirit -- follow Him become, instead, universal and unconditional assurances to everyone who reads the book. No need to "mourn" our sin, "tremble at His Word," or repent of our addiction to contemporary thrills, for everyone is okay in the eyes of Him who "passionately" loves all of us as we are.
But He calls us to know and follow His ways, not ours -- and to deny ourselves and let the "flesh" be put to death. In our weakness, He will enable us! Our goal must be His goal: that we would be holy as He is holy. Pastor Warren affirms that truth, but by softening God's revelation about Himself and His ways, he distorts our understanding of holiness. By trivializing the authority of God's Word, He bends our view of God's high standard for our lives in Him. Finally, when he quotes (in various forms) God's promises while ignoring His warnings, He builds presumption, not genuine obedient faith. Many readers would hardly even know what to obey!
They won't find answers when they turn to the discussion questions in the back of the book. Those questions are patterned to fit today's consensus process. This process for conforming individuals to the group's views, involves guidelines such as:
Don't offend anyone by taking an uncompromising stand on truth or facts.
Don't use words such as "I know" or "I believe." Instead use words such as "I think" or "I feel" which show your willingness to compromise and bend your views to fit the group consensus. [See Twisting Truth by Group Consensus]
Show respect and appreciation for all positions, even those that clash with the Bible.
Most of the questions fit this pattern. Subjective and open-ended, they all invite feeling-based opinions, not Scripture-based truths. And some of the questions beg answers that fit today's communitarian ideals more than truth.
True to form, the first two questions begin with "What do you think...." and "What do you feel..." None looks to the Bible as a reference point. None encourages the reader to seek answers from God's Word.
The natural outcome of this comfortable, relational dialogue is a group synthesis of the various opinions. In the end, everyone would feel good about themselves, about each other and about God -- no matter how He might be portrayed. No cost, no self-denial, no separation, no offense! Postmodern Christianity fits right into the changing world system. (This relational process will be discussed more fully in Part 2 of this series.)
Remember, His ways are not our ways! He is the sovereign King of the universe! To know and follow Him, we need to fill our minds with His true Word, not popular interpretations or feel-good group affirmations. Our wise and wonderful Lord says,
"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words...." John 14:21-21
In Part 2 we will look at8Unity and community. Pastor Warren seems to emphasize a model that reflects Peter Drucker's communitarian vision and Dr. Bernie Siegel's New Age view of the healing community. Note
8Spiritual gifts. Pastor Warren says, "Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. Take a long, honest look at what you are good at and what you're not good at. Ask other people... Spiritual gifts and natural abilities are always confirmed by others."
KJV: "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." Rom 12:3
NKJV: "I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think ; but to think soberly , according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Rom 12:3
NIV: "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Rom 12:3
Message: "Try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities." Rom 12:3 b
God often gives us spiritual gifts that have little or nothing to do with natural abilities, so that we would serve Him out of our weakness rather than our strength. That's what He taught me. Writing and speaking was totally unnatural and extremely painful for me when God first called me to communicate His gospel to children. A shy, quiet introvert, I learned to depend fully on Him. And through the years, my wonderful Shepherd proved His faithfulness again and again in amazing ways. Paul said,1 Corinthians 2:1-5
"I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."
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1. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002). See "Driven or Led?"
2. Dennis Costella, FOUNDATION Magazine, March-April 1998.
You can find a very similar message in Rick Warren's
article titled "
3. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), page 62.
5. Ken Witty, "Peter Drucker's Search for Community," Business Week Online, December 24, 2002. http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/dec2002/nf20021224_6814.htm
9. Warren on church music, http://www.sunlandneighborhoodchurch.com/articles_view.asp?articleid=1382&columnid=
11. More information at Speech and Communication Problems (West Virginian University): "...air pressures or the sounds themselves can be of sufficient force (volume) to rupture an eardrum. Sound volume or more correctly air pressure is, measured in decibels (dB). According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), sounds greater then 80 dB’s are potentially hazardous. However, they note that not only the volume of sound but the length of exposure is a factor. A brief exposure to a painfully loud sound may damage the ear.... Bodily injury apparently produces endorphin-like substances that tend to have a calming effect."
This next website shows other ways that people use music to manipulate the body: Cool Edit -- a digital sound editor for Windows: Using Alpha Synchronization (8Hz to 12Hz), expect similar increases in the neuro-chemical levels of Norepinephrin (11%), Serotonin (21%) and Beta-Endorphins (25%). http://www.cult.tpu.fi/sound/Coolman.doc
12. A New Song - Part 2
13.Pastor Warren mentions God's wrath on page 232, but without a prior explanation what might considered "sinful." Instead, the reference to "wrath" fits into to the relational context of "service" and "helping others" -- a Biblical command which is now being conformed to the global concept of community service and "service learning." This kind of organized "service" focuses on felt needs and dialogue and often rules out spiritual needs and Biblical truth. This will be explained more fully in Part 2.
Note: "Hope is as essential to your life as air and water. You need hope to cope. Dr. Bernie Siegel found he could predict which of his cancer patients would go into remission by asking, 'Do you want to live to be one hundred?' Those with a deep sense of life purpose answered yes and were the ones most likely to survive. Hope comes from having a purpose." Rick Warren [1, page 31] This illustration suggests that a secular or New Age hope serves the same purpose as the Spirit-given hope we have in Jesus Christ. There can be no true hope or unity unless we stand on the unchanging truth of God's Word!