on April 9, 2004
There has been a movement among missionaries and mission boards to encourage indigenous churches rather than merely exporting our culture to the rest of the world. The argument runs that the Gospel must always be enfleshed or embodied in a people and its culture. We cannot deny that the Good News of Jesus Christ must be spoken in particular human languages. Forcing Africans to worship like Scotsmen, does a disservice to African culture and the Gospel.
As I read Rick Warren's book, the Purpose Driven Church, I thought about this current trend in mission. Whether we like it or not, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is a church indigenous to Southern California at the end of the twentieth century. Warren has attempted to translate the Gospel into the language of young, suburban professionals. As Paul quoted Stoic poets on Mars Hill, Rick Warren can comfortably quote Peter Drucker and utilize the marketing techniques of Starbucks. Anyone interested doing ministry in this culture can learn something from this book, especially if we take Rick Warren at his word--"Read this book like you'd eat fish: Pick out the meat and throw away the bones" (pg 71).
That being said, there is a danger. As the Gospel is expressed in culture, it must also critique the culture. Our sinfulness is pervasive, and the Gospel should expose the evils of our culture for what they are. Rick Warren subtitles his book, "Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission," but on several instances he compromises the Good News to the culture.
For example, we live in a self-segregated society. We routinely segregate white from black, rich from poor, and young from old. The Purpose Drive Church perpetuates these separation by slavishly focusing on target audiences. A church filled with only Saddleback Sams and Samanthas are a betrayal to Pentecost where "your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 1:17-21). Rick Warren may suggest that Saddleback is only part of the greater Church. Others may be called to evangelize other target audiences. He states, "I feel right at home with entrepreneurial businessmen, managers, and professions. In fact, I've noticed that they are attracted to my ministry. It's nothing I planned, it's just the way God wired me" (pg 176). Perhaps that is true, but it reminds me of an observation that a friend made in seminary, "Isn't amazing that God calls so many people to pastor affluent, white suburban churches?"
We also live in a competitive culture which is inherently results-oriented. On occasion Rick Warren seems to replace the grace of God with a works-righteousness preached by the culture. In the beginning of the book, the author writes, "Only God makes the church grow" (pg 14). Later however, he uses the Bible's teaching on fruitfulness as a guilt trip. He states, "God expects both faithfulness and fruitfulness" (pg 62). Although he quotes from John 15, nothing is made of Jesus' admonition: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing." Fruitfulness grows out of faithfulness. Moreover, Rick Warren exclusively defines fruitfulness as conversions: "The fruit of a believer is another believer" (pg 63). There is no mention of the fruit of the Spirit. Rick Warren seems to imply that churches which are not growing, must not be bearing any fruit.
Rick Warren does have some important things to say. I appreciate his desire to move Christians beyond membership and into ministry and mission. Three cheers for his statement: "I believe that you measure the health or strength of a church by its sending capacity rather than its seating capacity" (pg 32). Nonetheless, while reaching out to the culture, the Purpose Driven Church should beware becoming too much like the culture.
on October 27, 2003
Warren no doubt has a passion for bringing the "unchurched" into the church. That certainly is not where I would critique Warren's thinking. Nor would I offer a critique on the fine points of Warren's method. What I would ask readers to take into account is the overarching system of thought that is foundational to Warren's method. Understanding that the Church in North America exists in a consumer society, Warren suggests a marketing plan that, in his view, will most effectively spread the Gospel message. The most troublesome notion here is that the Gospel is reduced to something that the Church is out to market, instead of the Gospel being the driving force behind the life, practice and theology of the Church. Instead of the Gospel itself informing the practices of the Church, a marketing plan, inherent to Warren's five purposes, shapes the vitality of the Church. While Warren's passion to spread the message of Jesus is most admirable, a note of caution to readers should be sounded. The Church may very well be a body of believers who should see the Gospel as a way to live, letting the message of Jesus shape life among the believers and thus being a witness to those on the outside, instead of making the Gospel something to market to the outside, losing sight of the method that is found within the Gospel itself.
on October 4, 2003
If Rick Warren and other mega-church advocates had their way every church would consist of insipid contemporary christian pop jingles for music, a message totally void of any discussion of law or judgment or why Jesus had to die on the cross, congregations would all be full of yuppies with cell phones going off during the service, denominational differences would no longer exist, theology would be reduced to a condensed and lite version, etc. Warren has ripped off the marketing bums (the same ones who profile you according to your wealth as determined by your zip code and fill your mailbox with direct marketing) and taken these annoying techniques of salesmen to hypnotize the church into abandoning anything that doesn't build up numbers and tithes. It is a disgusting and typically american approach. Problems about feminism, sexuality, theology, are all brushed aside. Sermons become dumbed down feel good talks. Services become multi media side shows reminiscent of dance clubs. Tasteless and annoying. If this is the future of the church forgive me if I throw up.
on September 15, 2003
The following were quotes from above reviewers:
Sin, redemption, repentance are not mentioned. The whole Gospel is not preached.
Warren's ideal is a come-casual, dress-down, informal service that's not much different from hanging out at the local mall (no shirt, no shoes, no problem).
Warren leaves the impression that Christ is not the all in all from whom we have life, but a sidekick as we execute the plans that He has apparently given us in scripture.
Rick Warren has managed to create a craze that is based on man's own desires rather than God's will. He encourages the watering-down of the gospel to appeal to his "Saddleback Sam" model of mankind. He encourages getting rid of church members who get in the way of "progress".
Now, my take on the book and a few reviewers.
I find it extremely difficult to fathom how God fearing/loving individuals could be so narrow minded towards their approach of worship and the church. Believers in Islam and other various cults are identical in their interpretation and thought processes regarding worship. The idea that God has some how outlined and mandated a form of worship and evangelism based on hairstyles, clothing, and musical instruments is flat out false. Rich Warren's approach in his Church and faith building principles do not violate or contradict the standards laid down by God. Those whom disagree with Rich make verbal attacks and speak negatively (all against God's commandments) utilizing sleek cliches and anecdotes thereby justifying their beliefs. Contrary to the above reviewers the Holy Spirit is alive and well within a "live" church regardless of style provided God and Jesus are the main focus. If God was against a particular style it would be quoted or stated as such, plus the Holy Spirit would NOT be alive and well within these churches. Instead of a fire and brimstone approach to theology (all which drives the nonbelievers and some believers away from God) Rich's approach has foundation in love and acceptance but with sound discipline. It's saddening and disheartening to realize that individuals whom call themselves Christians and followers of Christ and God's word wish to live sheltered.
on May 25, 2003
This is a great book for anyone looking to be involved in God's instrument for reaching a lost world- the church. The author points out that as individualistic Westerners, we have neglected the importance of the local church. We should have God's purposes in planting and establishing local churches. The book is centered on what the author believes are the five purposes of the local church; worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism.
The book is written in a clear, easy-to-read, and relevant style. As a missionary in training who hopes to plant churches cross-culturally in the future, I appreciated the principles given in the first few chapters of the book. The rest of the book is focused more on how to apply these principles to church planting in a Western context. I am going to take some of these principles and apply them to how I do church planting in Asia, but I will not be able to follow most of the models and examples given in the book. Again, this is a great book for anyone wanting to be involved with the local church (especially in America). I would recommend it to anyone.
on April 24, 2003
In his book, The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren offers a comprehensive model of evangelizing a community through a principle-guided approach to planting and growing a church. His writing is well organized and easy to understand. The tone of the book is both instructive and inspirational as Warren speaks in a friendly, engaged tone.
The strength of the book is its clear vision and step-by-step process to aid a minister to think biblically and to strategize his approach. His approach begins with a simple concept to develop a vision and a purpose for the Church. In various ways, Warren demonstrates how a minister also acts as a guide for the church by first communicating a vision and purpose for the church, gaining the members' enthusiasm for this vision, and then calling for their commitment to serve the purpose of the church.
Warren provides a biblical basis for the importance of strategizing with Paul as his role model. He believes Paul's example of ministry was strategic because he "allowed his target to determine his approach" (Warren, 197). The Purpose-Driven Church expresses that having a strategy for evangelism is vital for successful ministry. Identifying one's target audience provides greater accuracy for ministry. A research of the geography and demographics of a community helps describe the residents. Although Warren recognizes the need for researching the intended target audience, he warns against spending too much time on research alone (Warren, 163).
Once a community is researched and the target audience is identified, Warren then explicates on the organization of the services offered within the church for members as well as visitors. He offers the model of the "5 Circles of Commitment" to describe the purpose of the church to draw in new Christians, and the model of "the Life Development Process" to communicate the purpose of transforming visitors into committed members (Warren, 130). He suggests the implementation of "Seeker Services" provide a better opportunity to evangelize the community with specific times set aside for visitors. The Seeker service centers its message on the needs of visitors (Warren, 142).
The model of Saddleback provides a realistic and plausible account of one church's growth from only a few members to a growth to more than 10,000 members. Rick Warren provides the Saddleback model for other ministers to learn from. The drawback for using Saddleback as a model is the danger of applying this model to an already established church. Churches that have had a faithful handful of members may not share the same excitement for Warren's approach. The Saddleback Model begins with new Christians who are open to change. Many churches today are loyal to their established tradition of worship. Perhaps a minister eager to implement some of Warren's suggestions might overlook the need to be sensitive to the needs of faithful members, thus applying these suggestions to a church with some destructive results. Although Warren includes some cautionary words, it would be more helpful if he expanded upon the need for caution, and focused a whole chapter on the subject.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to serve ministry by encouraging ministers to seek the vision of God, and to consider the application of strategies for church growth.
on April 23, 2003
Many people live their lives so caught up in obtaining the things that serve to satisfy themselves, that they never take the time to fully analyze Rick's question. I recently discovered my purpose(s) and this book confirmed that I truly heard from God. One of those purposes was the book I recently completed, "Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something". We are all here to serve one another and to help each other through this journey we call life. It's not about "us" and the things that make "us" happy. Sure, that's part of it. But God has a much bigger plan in mind.
How sad it is to spend our entire lives going after things. How shallow it is to think we need certain relationships to feel whole and complete. What happens after we've acquired the "things" and we're still miserable? What do we do when we've gotten that special someone and after time, realize the relationship is not what we thought we wanted?
Rick's book will cause you to re-evaluate not only "who" you are, but "why" you are.
This is a must read!
on April 18, 2003
If you want to make a change in your congregation for the good of the Body of Christ, read this book.
There are other reviews here that criticize Rick's book. That's fine, that is their perogative. But I ask you, if you want to make a difference in your community and share Christ's love with a hurting and dying world in a way that they will listen and hear what God's word says, the Purpose-Driven Model, as explained in this book, is fantastic.
This is not a "get rich quick" book on church growth. Our church has successfully transitioned to being Purpose-Driven. It is not easy, it is often quite hard and painful, but how does our discomfort in being moved from our comfort zone compare to what Jesus went through on the cross for the people in our community who don't know him. The principles that are spelled out in this book allow you to tear down the walls that keep the unchurched out of your building.
The Purpose-Driven Model works because it is Biblically based. If you think it is not, have your Bible beside you while you read this book and see if the point Rick is making is not only backed up by the Bible, but the translation he uses was picked to fit exactly with the point he is making. Rick, and any Purpose-Driven pastor, goes to great lengths to use just the right word, or phrase to illustrate a point. Why do they do this? Read the book and see wha Rick has to say about it.
Maybe this is just rambling, but I can tell you this. Purpose Driven has worked in huge churches with gifted individuals as leaders(ie. Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Max Lucado), but more importantly it has worked in small churches with leaders who are less well known and with congregations who have a heart to bring Christ to their community. And it will work for you and your church.
on March 26, 2003
This is just another spin on Church Growth Movement which says find your spiritual niche and then organize completely around it. Thus, Warren fulfilled this in Orange County, CA.
All telling is his use of some of the least reliable English translations of the Bible when he needs the largest amount of support for his program suggestions on how to grow the church. Suffice this major example for even learning new principles. Warren quotes from Living Bible (one of the most unreliable) on Prov. 18:15 "The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them." Sounds good to modern mind that wants to sweep away all traces of ties with historic, catholic church. But a reliable English translation, e.g. NASB has for this verse: The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge." Something totally quite different than Warren trumpets. One will find such careless use of poor Bible translation to make his case. Not all of quotes from poor translations, such as Living Bible, Today's English Version, and NCV are this far off, but many are in this book.
Also, he hedges much of what he touts as the Lord's will, by saying that copying what he does will not guarantee growth, but following principles will. Statistics of those who have implemented such will not back this up. See Barna et al who now constantly say such as Warren have mislead the church. It is not increasing kingdom of Christ numerically at all, in fact it is hurting the church by moving sheep around.
Serious misconception that evangelism is worship and thus need to divide worship services into different congregations, those on Sunday and those on Wed. Fractionalizing the church is not the Lord's idea. Certainly we are to fish for the lost, but not cater to them as we assemble together in the Divine Service. To do this he presents undocumented opinions which are mythical, e.g. Luther's "Mighty Fortress" came from popular song which cannot be documented, etc. Preaching which does not confront the unbeliever with the scandalon of the particulariity of Christ crucified has no power in it to save anyone.
This kind of bait and switch, Hot-Tub Christianity is unbiblical. His Scripture does not support his opinions and pragmatism, no matter how he rails to the contrare. This is threatening to the flock, for it says that we have to cater to pagans and the apostate who will not permit the real transcendant God to be present among them to do what He desires, to forgive them their sins and cleanse them with the pure Gospel.
This is revivalism gone amuck in progressive, consumer-driven, individualistic Orange County. Will Christ find true faith when He returns?
on January 27, 2003
These days, the average reader is innundated with books that promise to grow their church overnight. Every day a new author publishes a book with a program that all but guarantees you immediate growth from a small country church to a mega-church.
This book isn't like that. Instead of composing a book full of programs to increase the number of people in your church, Rick Warren addresses the real reason many of today's churches aren't growing: Too many churches today are wallowing in a lack of direction and purpose. In this book, Rick Warren explains why direction is important, the process of setting a vision for your church, and how to sell that vision to your church members.
Through this book, Rick Warren will teach you how to increase your church's impact without compromising what you stand for.
This isn't a book for pastors only, but for anyone interested in seeing their church improve their impact, and make a difference in the world. Make this the next book you read.