Trying the Spirits of the Church Growth (Purpose
Driven Church) Religion*
“But God forbid that I
should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is
crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God. . . .
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ
is come in the flesh is of God; And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus
Christ is come in the flesh is not of God . . .” (1 John
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times,
some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines
of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot
iron” (1 Tim. 4:1–2).
Every Christian, and especially every pastor,
has a responsibility to test the spirits of every religious fad or change that
attempts to invade the church. This is not an option; it is a commandment. While
I do not pastor a church because of other responsibilities, I do belong to a
local church and contribute in any way I can. A year ago I left my church, a
church that had grown from a mission in the 1970s to the number two Baptist
church in Oklahoma. The reason I left was because I could no longer stew in my
pew over the Purpose Driven Church change that was taking place. Rather than be
a negative influence, I left and moved my letter to another church where I felt
I could worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth with a good conscience. The
growth of my former church was certainly not due to the Purpose Driven Church
program; it was due to good pastors who believed and taught God’s Word and
preached the Gospel. This past month it was announced in my former church that
250 of the best tithers had left with their families, probably over 1,000
members. Others have left also.
While Dr. Warren has been appearing on
national television and Rupert Murdoch has been selling more millions of his
books, millions have been leaving their churches because of his teachings. Yet,
we hear nothing about this in the national media. We do hear about it here at
our ministry by letters, faxes, e-mails, and phone calls.
What Dr. Warren Believes
To test the spirits of the
PDC church growth phenomenon, I obtained a copy of the Saddleback Church’s
statement of faith, except it is called “What We Believe.” By “we,” I suppose
this is what Dr. Warren believes, as he is aided by staff members whom he hired
and can fire at will. The PDC “Believe” statement reads:
1. God is bigger and greater and closer than we can
I never thought of God getting bigger and better, like a
Burger King Whopper. I always think of God as Alpha and Omega, and everything in
2. Jesus is God showing Himself to
This is an interesting and simple explanation of just who
Jesus is; however, to me, Dr. Warren has an annoying habit of leaving “Christ”
off after the name of Jesus. Jesus, as we read in Young’s Concordance, was His
common name; and there have been many men with this name. But Jesus Christ is
the only God “anointed Saviour” who was sacrificed in our place for our
3. Through the Holy Spirit, God lives in and
through us now.
While the expanded explanation in another section
explains the Trinity, the statement that the Holy Spirit lives within a person
“the moment they decide to follow Him” is not only ambiguous, it is not
biblical. The unbeliever, or the unsaved, is born again of the Holy Spirit when
he or she puts their faith in Jesus Christ who died for their sins on the cross.
It seems to me that Dr. Warren here places doubt on the new birth.
4. The Bible is God’s perfect workbook for
This weak affirmation of the Bible as God’s inspired and
infallible Word is amended and strengthened in the expanded explanation.
However, in his book, Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Warren quotes from 14 different
and mostly newer versions of the Bible, based on the Westcott and Hort New
Testament of 1881, a total of 628 scriptures.2 Included in this list are
paraphrase versions like The Message where the author himself, Dr. Peterson,
said it should not be considered God’s Word.3 It has been noted by others that
Dr. Warren uses the many translations in order to find a scripture that says
what he wants it to say. In other words, God is agreeing with him rather than he
is agreeing with God. I seem to remember another instance in the Bible where
this occurred. If Dr. Warren thinks the Bible is the perfect guide, then he
must think his books are even more perfect, because he states that church
members study their Bibles too much and that they should study his book.
Listeners living near Saddleback have reported to us they never see members
taking a Bible to church, and one pastor visiting the church reported he saw
only three Bibles in the entire congregation.
Nothing in creation “ just happened.” God made it all.
days? In six thousand years? In six million years? In six billion years? The
expanded explanation does not say, either.
is the only way to have a relationship with God.
unmerited or unearned favor. All are sinners and undeserving of God’s
forgiveness. We are all cut off from God, but a sinner can receive forgiveness
by accepting Jesus Christ by faith who paid the penalty for sin by His own blood
on the cross. Without Jesus Christ, a sinner has no relationship with God.
This ambiguous explanation about the way of salvation is one of the most serious
errors of the Church Growth movement.
7. Faith is the
only way to grow in our relationship with God.
As explained in
Ephesians 2:8–9, and many other New Testament scriptures, a sinner is saved by
faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and created a new person unto good
works. In this affirmation of belief, the harvest offering is before the blood
offering, or in the vernacular, the cart before the horse.
8. God has allowed evil to provide us with a choice. God can bring
good even out of evil events and God promises victory over evil to those who
explanation of evil by Dr. Warren gives us a choice to be evil or good, but we
do not have a choice. Paul explains in Romans 3, all men and women are born
sinners and there is none good, not even one.
Our only choice is to
either accept Jesus Christ who died for our sins and put on His righteousness,
or continue in sin and be forever separated from God in Hell. To choose Jesus
Christ, not because we had to, but because we freely decided to do so, is the
only glory that God does not already have.
and hell are real places. Death is a beginning, not an end.
find no fault with this statement, except to point out that if both Heaven and
Hell are real places, then the first letter in both letters should be
capitalized. We would also point out that the majority of new Bibles versions
that Dr. Warren references in the Purpose Driven Life omit Hell all 31 times it
is found in the Authorized Version in the Old Testament, and 50 percent of the
times in the New Testament.
10. Jesus is coming
In the Purpose Driven Church explanation, nothing is
presented about the signs of the times in which Jesus will return; nothing about
the Rapture or translation of the church; nothing is said about the Millennial
reign or the Kingdom age. Dr. Warren evidently accepts the replacement theology,
preterist, A-millennial position. The only reason for Jesus coming again
according to PDC eschatology is to bring an end to the world, which is a
doctrinal position that most evangelical, fundamental churches would reject if
they would really inform themselves about PDC theology.
In the roster of
“beliefs” of Dr. Warren, there is nothing about the cross; nothing about the
blood; and nothing about the new birth. This would indicate that the Purpose
Driven Church religion is a works-based religion rather than a faith-based way
The Love of
Zondervan Publishing Co. publishes Dr. Warren’s books, The
Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life. The sales reported a year ago
was over 20 million copies. This number now probably exceeds 30 million.
Zondervan is one of many
companies owned by Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch loves
money and he has a lot of it. He also owns Harper/Collins, which publishes
numerous magazines, one which advertised on its website, March 9, 2005,
“Sensational Single Women: Get the love and sex you deserve! Send your friends
the link. . . .” Mr. Murdoch also owns The Sun in England. You who have the
Internet can click on The Sun, pull up page three, and see what kind of sleazy,
sex-oriented newspaper it is. Some of Mr. Murdoch’s publications and media
outreaches have been rated between XX and XXX pornographic. It would seem
evident that Mr. Murdoch does not publish Dr. Warren’s books out of evangelistic
concerns. With his many worldwide media advantages, it would seem evident the
bigger he makes Dr. Warren, the more books he sells, and the richer he
Mr. Murdoch also owns Fox, a balanced, conservative TV news
outlet to CNN. However, this does not make Mr. Murdoch a conservative, just as
publishing The Purpose Driven Life does not make him a Christian. The February
21, 2005, edition of the London Daily Telegraph was headlined, “Murdoch
Poised for Chinese Television Joint Venture.” The Telegraph Group Limited, on
December 21, 2004, reported that Mr. Murdoch became a member of the China Netcom
Board, and that he is building for his third wife, Chinese citizen Wendi Deng,
who presently runs his Hong Kong “Star” pay-TV operation (which is morally
questionable), a 22,000-foot underground home at the Forbidden City in Beijing.
I was arrested in the Forbidden City and taken to jail for telling the Chinese
that God loved them, and now Mr. Murdoch builds an underground palace there for
his wife, a mover in Chinese economics and politics. I would have a problem
of conscience with Mr. Murdoch publishing my books. Maybe Dr. Warren
Dividing the Wheat from the
In Matthew 13, Jesus related a parable about separating the
weeds (tares) from the wheat. The Purpose Driven Church program separates the
wheat from the wheat. Church Transitions is an organization that helps the
Purpose Driven Church format and initiates its system within churches.5 The
transition entails eight steps in which the church is changed from a traditional
model to a contemporary PDC model. The transition will usually take from one to
three years depending upon the congregation. In many changes, dress, music,
Bible versions, decor, and even food and entertainment are items of
consideration. Church Transitions’ change chronology advises not to tell the
membership until the fourth step. I quoted Dr. Warren in my article, “Piggyback
Saddleback,” March 2004, as saying:
But when you define the vision,
you’re choosing who leaves. You say, “But Rick, they’re pillars of the church.”
Now you know what pillars are. Pillars are people who hold things
Church pillars also pay the pastor’s salary, the utilities,
insurance, church mortgage, the staff’s salaries, and general overhead. The
pastor of the church I left, because it went PDC, this month announced that 250
of the highest tithing families left the church (probably over a thousand
Complaints from among the hundreds of unhappy and confused
Christians who are leaving Purpose Driven infused churches range from: (1) 45
minutes of loud and raucous music at each service, (2) being taken off the
church rolls for not taking the “40 Days of Purpose” oath, or not wanting to
sign the Purpose Driven covenant, (3) changing Sunday school classes to
celebration events, taking pews out for games and skating parties, church
services changed, and (4) emphasis on social activities rather than worship.
Most Christians go to church as a refuge from the world. If the church becomes
like the world, why go? Many churches are no longer churches, but campuses.
Jesus did not say in reference to Peter’s declaration that He was the Christ,
“Upon this rock will I build my campus.” The church by definition is a separated
body of born-again believers from the world.
The many who have given and
served in their church for years are purposely being driven out of their
churches. In the February 7, 2005, edition of Time, Dr. Rick Warren was lauded
as America’s pastor, a warm, loving preacher who only wants to help people to a
better relationship with God. If this media reputation contains even a hint of
credibility, then why does not Dr. Warren at least apologize to the thousands
who are leaving their home churches, and especially to the seniors (old pillars)
because of his transition programs. I personally blame Dr. Warren for the
situation that is causing so much dissension and bitterness between
PDC Peace Plan
“peace plan” entails sending out tens of thousands of mission groups involving
millions of church members throughout the world to solve humanity’s five main
problems: Spiritual Lostness; Lack of Godly Leaders; Poverty; Disease; Lack of
Education. 6 Not only have great men fallen, but entire empires have fallen,
when ambitions exceeded reality. If 2,000 years of church history has proven
anything, it is that the physical circumstances of human beings cannot be
changed without first changing their spiritual condition.
God already has
a peace plan for this world, and I do not read anywhere in the Bible that it
involves Dr. Warren. Man has been trying to bring peace on earth since Cain
killed Abel. Only when Jesus Christ comes to destroy those who are destroying
the world (Rev. 11), disarm the nations, and rule them with a rod of iron, will
there be peace. If Dr. Warren’s peace plan can bring peace, then we can shorten
the Bible by several hundred pages.
An article that appeared in the February 2, 2005,
edition of the Baptist Messenger by Pastor Alan Day of Edmond, Oklahoma,
questioned mine, or anyone’s, right to criticize Dr. Warren or the Purpose
Driven Church movement when men like Dr. W. A Criswell, Dr. Jerry Falwell, and
others (I might add Dr. Billy Graham), are commending and endorsing him. Dr.
Criswell did indeed write a glowing commendation of Dr. Warren in the
introduction to Dr. Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church. In The Purpose
Driven Church Dr. Warren warns, however, that his program could meet with
disaster when tried in other areas. This qualification was changed subsequently
on his Web and promotional materials to warn churches that if they did not
change to a PDC in five years, they probably would not be around. We would also
wonder what Dr. Criswell would say today if he were alive, as the Criswell
church building is being torn down to build a $55 million PDC social
Dr. Falwell has had Dr. Warren speak at his last two
super-conferences in Lynchburg, because this helped add another few thousand
registrants at $400 each. However, Dr. Falwell has not changed his church to a
Purpose Driven Church format, because he knows if he did that half his
congregation would walk. Dr. Billy Graham in his old age has become so
ecumenized that he thinks the Mormon Church is a great Christian organization,
and the late pope was the foremost ecclesiastical leader in the world. The
Church Growth phenomenon seems to have congealed in the cultic adoration of one
leader, Dr. Rick Warren. As in the internationally televised adoration of the
late pope, John Paul II, worldwide communications make possible mass propaganda
of intensified devotional attention to a single individual. The world today is
being made ready for its own messiah in much the same way churches are being
changed to places that the world accepts rather than the institution that God
“For there must be also heresies among you, that they
which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). Even so,
come Lord Jesus!
Prologue -- Who Gets the
For the past 25 years I have annually written and produced
a prophecy calendar on a mission basis for untold millions of prison cells
around the world. In each calendar is the plan of salvation specially worded for
inmates. We also send thousands of copies of our book, Christian Guide to Prison
Survival, and other books and videos to chaplains for prison dissemination. On
April 4, 2005, I received a letter from Yusuf in Kanater Men’s Prison in Cairo,
who wrote that he stayed up all night just to listen to our program. In the late
‘70s I communicated with David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam killer) while he was on
trial. The District Attorney of Queens subpoenaed the letters, but David was
saved and is now serving out his life term as a chaplain’s assistant at the
prison in Fallsburg, New York. David’s last letter to me, dated June 16, 2004,
closed: “It will not be until you get to heaven that you will know all those who
were helped by your ministry. Keep the faith.”
There are hundreds of
prison mission efforts, many sponsored by local churches, doing a tremendous
work for the Lord. Although the general public will never hear of these mission
groups, God still gets the glory.
This past month a distraught prison
inmate on trial suddenly ran amuck and killed a judge and several others in the
courtroom. Afterward, the prisoner escaped and subsequently broke into an
apartment occupied by a single woman in her mid-20s. During the next 24 hours,
the apartment occupant, Ms. Ashley Smith, at some point read to the escaped
prisoner from Dr. Warren’s Purpose Driven Life book, and also from the Bible,
according to her pastor as reported to Fox and CNN. However, according to
thousands of TV reports, newspaper and magazine articles, Dr. Warren and his
book were given 100 percent credit for the criminal suddenly surrendering to
authorities. This resulted in additional millions of books being
Now whether Brian Nichols, the man accused of this horrible crime,
suddenly came to his senses, and to save himself realized that he must surrender
to law enforcement officials, or whether he really was led to saving faith in
Jesus Christ and gave himself up as a matter of conscience, only God knows. But,
in this international news story that was disseminated to billions, did God get
the glory, or did Dr. Warren? Without question, both Dr. Warren and Mr. Murdoch,
moneywise, profited greatly.