"Let them know about your next sermon series. Always either begin a sermon series on Easter or the next week -- and make sure it's a series that meets the felt needs of an unchurched person. Yes, they need the Gospel and a relationship with Christ. You and I both know that's their foundational need, but most people will come to your church because they have a need for friendship, want a better marriage, want to be a better parent, want to feel they're living a life of significance or there may be some other need. When you do a series like that, let Easter visitors know in your letter. It'll give them a reason to come back to your church." -- Rick Warren 2014
I usually start devotionals with a scripture but perhaps the above quote more perfectly summarizes the damage Rick Warren has done to the cause of Jesus Christ and His gospel. It was written in 2014 to pastors advising them with strategies for how to ensure their Ester visitors come back the following week considering Easter is the most attended service of the year. This quote can be best summarized as, "don't preach the Gospel!" Instead of addressing their sin and allowing the Holy Spirit to draw them, Rick Warren advised that the unsaved masses that visit church need to hear how significant they are. That the gospel is not a good enough reason for someone to want to come back to church the following week. That is the legacy of Rick Warren and the purpose driven church he has created throughout this country. Now he is ready to retire. With the incalculable damage already wrought, we say good riddance.
No one has done more damage to the cause of the gospel in my time than Rick Warren. That is not hyperbole. The Purpose Driven Life (PDL) is only part of the problem as that mainstreamed the switch of focus from Christ to the individual. It was always ironic that the PDL opens with the words, "It is not about you" and then spends the remainder of the book assuring the reader that it is indeed all about them. It is bad enough that the only place salvation is addressed Warren offers up a nine word "Sinner's Prayer" and then gleefully declares that if you simply read the nine words that you are now part of the family of God! That unbridled arrogance will probably lead millions to one day stand before Christ while lamenting, "Lord Lord."
The PDL often hides however the real damage from Warren which occurred ten years earlier with the publication of the Purpose Driven Church (PDC), a guide for pastors that has shaped the modern mega church landscape for all definitively negative reasons. I once did a four-part series on the specific PDC pillars which have ruined modern Churchianity. The first of such is to redefine salvation itself. Those who did not know Jesus Christ as their savior were often referred to as the lost or the unsaved. Warrenology however viewed these terms as negative and the new church would begin utilizing the term "unchurched." So instead of pursuing people who need to be saved, the church began seeking people who needed to attend a church. The assumption baked in of course was that the mere attendance at church would magically resolve the salvation issue but as already pointed out, when you employ a nine-word Sinner's Prayer and a cloud of dust, no one actually gets saved. Romans and Acts make it abundantly clear that no one gets saved without the full, uncompromised Gospel.
Think about the insidious damage this wreaks in the church. Pastors raised on the PDC focus not on saving individuals but on churching them. Entire industries have grown up overnight to service this new niche as we have to attend the latest leadership conferences or read the hottest book from the most popular cult of personality pastor. For real emphasis, just consider how many people over the past few decades have been fully churched but remain completely unsaved. Warren and his acolytes will swear to them they are indeed saved but they do not know Christ at all. This is not an academic exercise but a spiritual one and it is now how church is done. Just as the enemy always wanted -a church that does not focus on salvation.
The second erosion of biblical church design is that the PDC focuses on marketing to goats while starving the sheep. The bible is very clear in Acts that the true design of the church is for the preaching of the gospel so that the sheep would grow into the fullness of Christ. I know that many will be confused because they have been taught the opposite but the church was not designed for the lost. The things of God are utter foolishness to them. Do we want them to attend a church service? Of course because that is where they might finally hear the gospel that can save them! Unless of course they instead hear about how significant they are or how to improve their marriage.
Warren however changed the focus of church to market to the unsaved. Many churches got rid of crosses because the lost found them offensive. Good! It should be offensive. Jesus did not come to sing Kumbaya but to bring a sword. What we now see however a church focused on silly sermonettes gleaning pseudo-spiritual lessons from the latest blockbuster movie or proof-texting a carnal point the preacher wants to make. The cross? Nowhere to be found. The blood, never heard from again. Too many times I have received emails from sheep across this country who are literally being starved out of their churches. When they bring up why they should study the bible and not Mark Batterson's new book, they are accused of division or asked to leave. Reading Romans 16 however reveals that division is brought into the church by false doctrine, not those brave enough to point it out.