Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 4
THE SPIRIT OF WORSHIP
by Berit Kjos, January 2004
Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren wisely points to the importance of worship and surrender. "Worship must be based on the truth of Scripture, not our opinions about God," he writes.[1, page 101] That's so true! Yet, his book offers both opinions and illustrations that undermine that truth -- including some misleading assumptions about God and what He 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 out-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]
Does Pastor Warren equate "activists" with the social and political activists that push churches and nations toward a global welfare system based on UN standards for social solidarity? Liberal churches and the World Council of Churches are major forces in this accelerating movement of "faith-based partnerships" that -- under the banner of love and tolerance -- serves the needy while silencing 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.'" Compare the three standard Bible translations below with Eugene Peterson's paraphrased Message. 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
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." (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 His 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 bases his description of God on his own personal presumptions, not on Biblical revelation:
"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. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted...." 2 Corinthians 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 Corinthians11:2-4
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 . But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray...." 2 Corinthians 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 Corinthians 11:2 (page 97)
Probing God's "passion," Warren asks: "What does God care about most? The redemption of his people. He wants all his lost children found! That's the whole reason Jesus came to earth. The dearest thing to the heart of God is the death of his Son. The second dearest thing is when his children share that news with others. To be a friend of God, you must care about all the people around you that God cares about."
Yes, that sounds right. But it's only a half-truth. Pastor Warren apparently quoted the above words from The Message to validate his point about passion. But the standard Bible translations based on early Greek sources actually refer to a different issue: God's zeal for purity and holiness in the Church. Paul was warning the Corinthians against corruption in His Body -- a major concern in both the Old and New Testament. The apostle highlights this purpose again in his letter to the church in Philippi:
"...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
In other words, God calls us to be different from the corrupt world around us. He has made us a holy people -- set us apart for Himself. “They are not of the world," said Jesus, "just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."John 17:15-18
Pastor Warren's emphasis on passion hides this point. The issue of purity is replaced with the more contemporary issue of personal relationships. Thus feel-good relational guidelines become more important than the spiritual need for repentance and holiness in Christ.
Please don't think I would diminish the all important command to "love one another" as Christ loves us. But when corruption and worldliness seep into the church, God's agapao love -- an expression of the Holy Spirit in us -- is quenched. We may replace it with more human love such as phileo (friendship, affection, brotherhood) love, but it no longer fulfills the above command. (In spite of Pastor Warren's frequent reference to our "friendship with God," the Bible never uses the word phileo in any of the commands that we love God. It always uses the wordagapao, God's supernatural love flowing through His faithful people.)
In the context of Peter Drucker's management and marketing philosophy, Pastor Warren's emphasis makes perfect sense. The new relational guidelines are designed to buildg roup loyalty, teach "respect" for all opinions, and block unpopular truths that expose error and corruption. The latter are simply too divisive. " Fellowship" between spiritually diverse people is all important, even if it clashes with God's Word and pressures believers to compromise. That's why many committed but heartbroken Christians are leaving the "seeker-friendly" churches they have faithfully served. They simply cannot agree to discard "offensive" Biblical guidelines in order to pursue the new vision of unity and community.
God's people must heed their Spirit-taught conscience. For
if we claim His name and promises, we had better follow His ways rather than our feelings or popular marketing schemes.If our worship is an expression of our human nature rather than His truth and Spirit, it is worthless. It's all too easy to "quench the Spirit" and become blind to His light. Trying to make Christianity more acceptable to the world, we may forget Jesus' sobering warnings to His disciples:
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you...." John 15:19-21
"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24
Next: Part 5 - Music-driven outreach
Part 6 - Forgetting the fear of the Lord
Part 7 - Small groups and the consensus process
1. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002). See "Driven or Led?"
2. See "Church Management and Global Missions." In the fall of 2003, Pastor Warren introduced the Saddleback "P.E.A.C.E. Plan --"a strategy to have every small group in our church, and then tens of thousands of small groups in other churches, become engaged in solving the five biggest problems in the world: Spiritual Lostness, Lack of Godly Leaders, Poverty, Disease, and Lack of Education."
"We believe it is part of the beginning of a Spiritual Awakening, a Global Movement, a New Reformation," wrote Pastor Warren. "The PEACE Plan will address these five 'giant' problems by Planting new churches... Equipping leaders... Assisting the poor...Caring for the sick... and Educating the next generation....
"The bottom line is that we intend to reinvent mission strategy in the 21st century. As I stated, this will be a new Reformation. The First Reformation returned us to the message of the original church. It was a reformation of doctrine - what the church BELIEVES. This Second Reformation will return us to the mission of the original church. It will be a reformation of purpose -- what the church DOES in the world."
God calls us to share His love and resources with the poor and needy. But if Pastor Warren's PEACE Plan means training church leaders to trust and follow the world's management and marketing strategies as he does (see Part 1 and 3), he will be serving man's global agenda, not worshipping God. See Reinventing the World
3. Today's emphasis on "passion" and excitement may be misleading. In the King James Bible, passion refers to the suffering of our Lord on the cross. But other standard translations equate passion with "lust" or "inordinate affections." For examples, see Acts 1:3 (NKJ) and Colossians 3:5 (KJV or NKJV): "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
4. See 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.