When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. -- John 16: 13 (ESV)
We spend a great deal of time in discernment ministries correctly chronicling the demise of orthodox Christianity at the hands of the Purpose Driven Church movement and the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex. This is for two primary reasons. First and most importantly, we want those who currently sit under false teaching to come out from among them before it is too late. The vast majority of people who are in these churches, which comprise most of modern American Christendom, are either falsely converted or being drawn away from Jesus Christ. The second reason however is for the historical record. One day in the not so distant future we will stand in awe at what is left of our faith and wonder how we got here. At that moment it may not seem like Andy Stanley preaching against the inerrancy of the Bible or Rick Warren suggesting that you should never preach the Gospel on Easter were stones in the pavement on the way to hell but with an official record the dots may be more easily corrected. He who does not learn from history may more easily succumb to the same mistakes.
For the uninitiated these are not random terms we use. The Purpose Driven Church movement refers to an actual book published in the mid 1990's called the Purpose Driven Church. Written by Rick Warren, this book is the blueprint for all up and coming pastors for how to grow a church. Under the guise of "doing it all for Jesus" the PDC flipped the church on its ear and teaches utter heresy to pastors. The church became a business. Instead of a shepherd, the pastor became a vision casting CEO. There was little need for a shepherd role anyway since the church now became focused on the "unchurched" instead of the sheep. The church was geared for them. The worship was geared for them. The sermons were geared for them. If the sheep dared to disagree they were labeled as selfish and "blessedly subtracted" by forcing them out of the sheep pen. Spiritual success started to be measured with carnal metrics. So if you blessedly subtracted one sheep but added two goats -- that was a net win. The result is what you see today across America. Churches that are cults of personality with a magnetic public speaker who preaches carnally relevant pablum to the masses about how their lives can be more fulfilling with a little "Jesus-ese" sprinkled in to give it the necessary piety so people still think they are actually going to church. Salvation is dumbed down to nine words and cloud of dust. There is no talk about sin, repentance, or carrying one's cross. That's all for suckers and legalists now. The purpose driven church model is based upon the premise of free labor, which Warren called "ministry." So he put out the "Purpose Driven Life" around 2005 as the congregant companion to his earlier tome. The PDL convinced people that God had some mystical and magical purpose for all of their lives to serve in the usher ministry or be a greeter in the lobby. The end result is unsaved goats, fully churched into thinking they are saved, who confuse their Mary with their Martha. Their service becomes their salvation and the truly sad thing is after they leave, which happens in less than three years on average, they still think they are saved. This is how we get to the sad scene in Matthew 7 where so many will say "Lord Lord."
The Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex is the entire network of Christian business. It is an international brand. It has assets that rival the largest secular corporations because it essentially is one. It has incredibly valuable properties and personalities. How much do you think someone like Joel Osteen is worth? Not to himself beloved but to the network? How many people make their living off of him? What about Creflo Dollar? Kenneth Copeland is worth over 700 million dollars alone. Heck even Paula White, such an obvious hustler and con artist, is worth over five million dollars. The Complex has entire satellite television networks. They have entire radio stations. They have record labels and publishing houses. The conglomeration stretches across the entire globe as the American made model of Christo-heresy spreads like a cancer throughout the world. Five of the richest pastors in the world are now from Africa, one of the poorest continents. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. Do not think for a moment that this is not real beloved. The network exists for the sole purpose of protecting the brand. I do not mean there is a secret office somewhere. I am saying when you stand back and look at the entire network, the complex becomes clearer. That is why you rarely ever hear any significant criticism of anyone else in the network from someone in the network. Mark Driscoll stole $250,000 dollars of tithe monies, cheated the NY Times Best Seller List, berated multiple churchgoers, plagiarized nine different books, and destroyed a church of 15,000 and what was the consequence? He took about six months off. During that time, Robert Morris of Gateway Church had him come and speak at his annual conference. Brian Houston of Hillsong interviewed him during his annual conference. What was the demanded penance from Houston? Driscoll had to publicly apologize for once criticizing Joel Osteen. Now Driscoll is starting a new church in Arizona. Morris and Houston protected their own. Forget the sheep Driscoll destroyed. Forget the Gospel. Protect the brand at all costs.
I say this as the backdrop for introducing North Raleigh Community Church. Yes I know. I had never heard of them either. That was until someone pointed me to their "What We Believe" page on their website. From what I can tell they are an emergent church with possible Universalist leanings. Emergent means they believe in a hyper sense of spirituality, new age teachings, and abandon true Christianity and the Bible, while claiming to be "Christian." A Universalist is someone who believes everyone goes to heaven, such as Oprah Winfrey. While I do not think they are part of the body of Christ their beliefs may as well be a neon sign for the path the Purpose Driven Church is currently on. That may sound hyperbolic but there is a reason why God warns us that a little leaven will eventually leaven the entire lump. There is a reason why we strive to keep doctrine pure. Compromise will only lead to future compromise. Small compromises will only lead to greater compromises. Let us reason together and examine these five belief statements as they relate to the current state of the church. Here is the link:
Belief Number One -- We Believe in Paradox and Humility.
Anytime I hear something this vague, yet pompous I get worried. NRCC tries to present God as the paradox and humility as their heretical approach to Christianity. The problem is their examples of paradox are not paradoxical and their humility is arrogant. For example, they claim it to be a paradox that God is all powerful but we have free will. Yet this is the opposite of a paradox. It is only because God is all powerful, that He could give us free will. Despite our free will does any real Christian think for a second that God could still not intervene and override our will? Of course not. In their explanation however NRCC reveals what this belief is really about:
"When our spiritual truths are so vast they can't be contained in fixed doctrines, humility is a really good idea. It serves us well to not be too rigid in our beliefs." - NRCC
So belief number one has nothing to do with paradox and everything to do with rebellion. NRCC simply does not like doctrine and if you do -- you are too rigid. They do not like God telling them what to do. So they dress themselves up in false humility and pretend they are somehow above the fray when their blinding arrogance towards God is simply staggering. Before you think this is somehow just a crazy outlier realize how many mainstream evangelical churches are slipping towards this mindset today. This is the foundational belief for the false signs and lying wonders network of churches such as Bethel, IHOP and the NAR. They all teach that experiential Christianity is superior to doctrinal Christianity. The Bible becomes a dirty word used by legalists who just want to put God in a box. Perry Noble of New Spring Church taught the same thing before he fell from grace by declaring the people in his congregation who wanted to go deeper in the Bible were the jackasses in his church. This is the same direction heretic Andy Stanley has been heading in since introducing his "temple model" preaching and referred to the Bible as "just a collection of ancient documents." This is not some weird doctrinal outlier beloved. This is the clear direction the modern Christian church in America is heading.
Belief Number Two -- We Believe in Jesus.
To which I respond -- so what? Even the devil believes in Jesus. The apt question is what do you believe about Jesus? Those in the Muslim faith believe He was a prophet for example. NRCC provides some examples of what they believe about Jesus:
"We believe that in the life, death and the power of resurrection, Jesus alerted us to a new way to live." - NRCC
Ugh. God sends us His only Son to die a criminal's death on our behalf and all you can glean from it is a new way to live? This is what happens when you remove sin and hell from doctrine. All you are left with is this pitiful life. Everything must become a referendum on this life. Never mind that Jesus told us He had overcome this world. Never mind that He promises us eternal life. Imagine how minimal the cross becomes under this humanistic view. Jesus defeating the grave and the devil? Just an alert for us about how have our best life now! How pitifully sad and powerless. If your god exists so that his greatest moment is merely to alert you how to have a better life than I have news for you. You are your own god. How does this relate to the teachings we see within the purpose driven churches? It is exactly the same! Sure Joel Osteen will never have the guts to admit it but this is his theology! God is there to serve us. To tell us seven steps to a better you and how this is your best life. Jesus has been rebranded and repackaged as our friend, buddy and wingman. Last month there was actually a sermon entitled Jesus Our Wingman! Purpose driven theology is entirely man centered. How can the Bible help us to have a better experience in this life. The stories are leveraged for that reason. We become David slaying Goliath when the truth is Jesus is David. Here is another example that NRCC shared for this belief.
"We hear in Jesus, the singular command to love -- to love God with all our hearts, and to love all people." - NRCC
Jesus had a singular command? Only one? Yes this might the most important commandment upon which everything else hinges but the irony is that NRCC misses the reason why! If you love God you will do what He says! But NRCC and the purpose driven churches today share this bifurcated theology. They claim to be simply adhering to the greatest commandment but they are not. No one can claim to love God and disobey Him. That is the point they are missing. The code-speak of loving others gets stretched to not offend others, which is contrary to the Gospel entirely! We saw this play out recently when Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC told Oprah that you did not need to be a Christian to have a relationship with God. This sloppy agape theology is rampant throughout purpose driven churches today.