Recently on facebook a couple friends and I somehow got on the subject of Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven materials/agenda. I have strong feelings on the issue, as I do most things about Church life. Anyway, I started a follow up comment that wound up being way too long, so I put it in a word doc., not sure what to do with it. Then one of these friends asked to read it so I thought I'd put it here. Before I post it I'll mention an interesting coincidence... Yesterday while chatting with Jared on skype, he was telling me about a paper he has to write for Hermeneutics class, which includes finding current examples of bad hermeneutics... Jared researched possibilities and wound up choosing Rick Warren's use of scripture (or should I say 'mis-use') in the book 'The Purpose Driven Church'. He didn't even recall my dislike of the 'Purpose Driven Progrom', ha ha. Well... here, in italics, is my long winded aborted facebook response on the subject.
I never thought much about Warren's teachings till we went through the things we did with our previous Church 3 years ago. I'd never been a fan of the whole 'seeker sensitive' mega church movements but I had read Purpose Driven Life when it came out, because I like to keep abreast of 'Christian fads' (usually finding they have little long term merit) I thought 'meh'.. Christianity light and airy, but could see some positive potential for the book as an introduction to Christian themes. However, Warren’s use of obscure translations (usually paraphrases) with NO verse references throughout the text annoyed me and raised a little red flag. Later when studying the whole Purpose Driven methodology deeper I learned that in many (if not nearly all) cases Warren uses Bible verses out of context to support his own points, rather than using his writing to expound Scripture's message. (somewhere on the web is a pdf chart of every verse Warren uses in 'The Purpose Driven Life' which compares them with truer to the original translations (NASB or NIV) in context to show how Warren abuses scripture to validate his personal message) It's clear pretext creating in many cases. In her book 'Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 Days' Kay Arthur says... "Observing the context is an absolutely critical step to accurately interpreting Scripture. The Latin root con means 'with', so context means 'with (the)text'. Context is the critical setting that rules all interpretation. We must never take God's words out of their context. If we do, then we'll have a pretext -- something false that conceals the truth." I'm currently reading 'How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth' by G.Fee and D. Stuart, which also warns repeatedly about the importance of 'in context' interpretation, and the extreme dangers of 'out of context' teaching.
The next thing that turned me off to the Purpose Driven Church agenda was when our Church was merged (our pastor was declined a sabbatical and essentially forced to resign) with another in the same denomination which happened to have Warren's books and products everywhere in their campus store, as well as loads of Emergent and mystical authors. Our 'new' pastor was following the Purpose Driven church methodology to a large degree along with a mixture of other 'philosophies of ministry' (therapeutic, pep talk, target audience members of the lowest common denominator (unsaved), must not be offensive, etc).
We noticed several of the paid staff were biblically illiterate and exhibited immaturity as Christians, & nearly all were women, who were enamored of this pastors emotive style. I was asked to help plan the Women's retreat and in a first meeting the female Associate Pastor announced her plans to have the ladies walk a labyrinth and participate in Lectio Divina (a meditative mystical usage of scripture for prayer) I had previously done extensive research on Contemplative Spirituality/Centering prayer and it's mystical (make that 'demonic') roots in zen Buddhism, which is often the suggested next step after mystics get you to participate in Lectio (Lectio itself may be simply biblical meditation or it may be tweaked to be something entirely different, subjective and dangerous, it depends on the exercise and 'teacher'). Ron and I met with the pastor and voiced our concerns about the use of these mystical devices with the pastor and he pulled the plug somewhat on the activities. But it quickly became obvious that we were then labeled reactionary, negative, fearful, oppositional members of the churches agenda and we were marked out to be pressured by manipulation and rejection. At the same time we had just learned that Ron’s mom had terminal cancer and we didn’t have the time and energy to confront the vast amounts of error that were being dumped on this congregation from week to week. At one point the pastor made a point of treating us in an ‘ugly manner’ (not sure how else to describe it..it was shocking), shaming us for caring about biblical truth, it seemed like he was following a plan which apparently was the case; The Purpose Driven Church plan. We learned subsequently that Warren’s plan includes alienating ‘resisters’ in the hopes of forcing them to be quiet, or driving them out of the Church. Often times these are members who've loved and served in that particular Church for years and years, and never been 'trouble makers'.;
Before the whole Church merger, I had already been researching (due to some things Jared was experiencing in Portland while trying to find a Church near his College) the 'Emergent Church' also dubbed 'postmodernism' and its effects in the western Church, I was learning about leaders / authors / teachers like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren as well as mystics like Brennan Manning and many others who are bringing pagan practices into the Church by mixing them with Christian terms and fooling the immature into falling for these subjective experiences. Rick Warren popped up often and has endorsed most of those teachers and practices.
We’d begun reading Bob DeWaay’s website and shortly after leaving our Church we ordered ‘Redefining Christianity’ which is an exposure of all the unbiblical methodology within the Purpose Driven movement, which basically results in creating ‘another gospel’. So, ever since all this research I have become highly suspicious of Warren’s methods. It’s sad to see a supposed Christian minister bring so much mixture into the church, I wonder if he is the type of teacher we are warned about in 2 Timothy 3, as ‘having a form of godliness but denying it’s power.’
Lighthouse Trails, Apprising Ministries, Bob DeWaay and Gary Gilley have extensive online resources discussing Warren’s version of Christianity and Church growth and ministry. I don't agree with everything at these websites, but have found them helpful for research as they offer large quotes of Warren's articles, books and audios without having to go out and pay for them. Here is a wonderful resource tool that contrasts Warrens 40 Days verse usage with their in context meaning, for use side by side; http://cicministry.org/ber
I find no pleasure in being a critic of a popular Christian leader, however we have seen this stuff at work in our former Church (we were happy participating members for over 6 years, before these changes came with a new pastor) and know that people are being hurt, deceived and led astray sometimes through these things. It is confusing to Christians and dangerous to the 'Faith delivered once for all to the saints'. Please Christian friends check these things out in the word of God. If you are in a Church that has not taught you how to read, study and understand scripture, then you must do this for yourself, to become a mature believer, who can discern, encourage and exhort faithfully. To God be the glory, not to man, not according numbers, not worldly definitions of 'success'. Faithfulness to God and His word from the love He has poured into our hearts is what matters. Micah 6:8