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Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. -- Matthew 23: 15 (ESV)
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. -- 2Corithians 11: 4 (ESV)
Beloved much has been written about the false leadership espoused by the Rick Warren Purpose Driven Church theology. This brand of teaching is what new pastors are raised and taught on. It is how they try to lead their churches. It is who they become. The vast majority of them probably do not even know that what they do is rank heresy. That it is a deviation and a corruption of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They may truly believe they love Jesus Christ but it is a false christ they preach and thus a false christ they love. The buddy jesus. The wingman jesus. The hipster-cool jesus. Certainly not the pick up your cross and give me your life Jesus. No not that one because they cannot market that Jesus. They cannot sell Him to the unsaved masses. You can dress up your false jesus in as much club lighting, smoke machines, faux piety and skinny jeans as you like and it will still result in the salvation of no one. So this is never a matter of conscious will. As my pastor likes to say you can be sincere and sincerely wrong. At the heart of the false leadership thinking is that anything is within bounds as long as you are trying to reach the unsaved. So it does not matter if you sing "Come Together" from the Beatles or Wrecking Ball from Miley Cyrus during corporate worship. It does not matter if your sermon is about Pokemon or how the Bible is not really inerrant. These by the way are actual examples from recent purpose driven churches. The reality that escapes the carnal leader however is that it does matter. The Bible never leaves us unaware or uniformed and the first key verse today reveals that what was past is merely prologue. As Solomon once lamented; there is nothing new under the sun. Let us first turn to a commentary on this verse:
The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. -- Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
Dissembled piety will be reckoned as double iniquity. You see, the Pharisees were also very zealous to convince people to follow what they believed. One could easily argue that they were sold out; believing with all of their heart that what they had faith in was true. None of that actually matters to God beloved. Only the truth does and the truth is that there is only one way to the Father and that is through Christ. Paul constantly warns us, as he does in the other key verse, that there will be false christs and false gospels. Henry's commentary, written over 300 years ago, seems remarkably prescient for the days we are living in. Once again, nothing new under the sun. Just as the Pharisees were not zealous for the glory of God or the good of the souls reached, so is the same with the purpose driven pastor. Sure in their heart they have deceived themselves into thinking it is all for God but even the language Warren teaches them reveals the truth. The unsaved are no longer to be called unsaved but rather, "unchurched." Think about that for a minute because it is not a small matter. The focus for the purpose driven pastor is not to save the lost but to church them. This is how you grow a church from 300 to 3000. By compromising the real Gospel, presenting goats with a false christ who cannot save them, and entertaining them enough that they are willing to come back each week. It is a business model. It is a leadership paradigm. This is why modern churchianity is obsessed with leadership conferences to learn more carnal tricks to bring more people into their pews. But it is not for the glory of God because they left Him out of it when they altered the Gospel. They made religion give way to their worldly interests. I say this as a backdrop to a recent article I read from church leadership profiteer, Carey Nieuwhof.
Besides being a pastor, Nieuwhof fancies himself an expert on teaching these purpose driven church growth schemes. He has written books about how to carnally grow your church. Because of this, Carey Nieuwhof cannot see anyone in his line of business as being a false teacher. It simply cannot register to him because they are only doing what he teaches. So recently when two huge purpose driven pastors left the business, Nieuwhof had to take pen to paper to defend his brand. What is fascinating is by doing so, he revealed more and more of the flawed an unbiblical beliefs he holds and teaches. That is because he is held captive to them as the Bible warns us not to be:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. -- Colossians 2: 8 (ESV)
The article centers around the resignation of Pastor Pete Wilson of Cross Point Church and the recent fall from grace for Perry Noble of New Spring Church due to alcohol abuse. Wilson left because he said he was feeling tired, broken and empty. Beloved this is not an exercise in pastoral criticism. We should pray for both Wilson and Noble. Not that they ever come back to false teaching but that they have a Saul of Tarsus revelation and hear the real Gospel. While I know only a little about Wilson, his sermons over the years reveal the same purpose driven heresies we see so frequently. Noble however I know more about and the gushing statements from Nieuwhof set the stage early for why he is so blatantly clueless about biblical standards and the Gospel:
"Some writers and social media commentators have taken cheap shots. Man, that breaks my heart. I hope this post is the opposite of taking shots at anyone. The mission of the church and its leaders is too important to do that. I know Perry and Pete personally and I have only detected sincerity in both of them. They started churches because they love Jesus. They led out of a love for Jesus. They sincerely wanted to reach people and did reach people who will actually be in heaven because of what happened. I think I'm on firm ground to say they still love Jesus, very much. Pete and Perry are the real deal. They're not the plastic hair/shiny suit type of preacher. They got in this and stayed in this for the right reasons." -- Carey Nieuwhof
The cheap shots Nieuwhof is referring to is anyone who wants to take an honest assessment of the teachings of these men. At the end of the day that is all the matters. I will stick to Noble in fairness to Wilson. Nieuwhof's foundational premise is flawed because he viewed Noble as part of the body of Christ when he is not. Perry Noble was a wolf devouring the sheep of the Lord. He once played Highway to Hell during worship. He is also the one that did the Miley Cyrus song mentioned earlier. He referred to those in his congregation who wanted to go deeper in the word as "jackasses" -- during a sermon. He has dropped the racially charged "N" word during a sermon. Last year he actually rewrote the Ten Commandments to make them more palatable for goats. He does not love Jesus Carey. The actual problem is it is quite plain he does not know Jesus. I believe Nieuwhof when he says that Perry Noble wanted to reach people with his beliefs but so did the Pharisees. It does no good to only then make them twice the son of hell that you are. I am sorry Carey but they did not get in this for the right reasons. They may have thought they did, but they were taught so poorly by people like you that they simply did not know better.
Nieuwhof then offers up three thoughts about these two recent exits from ministry. Keep in mind that he goes out of his way to not address that while Wilson resigned of his own accord, Noble was essentially forced out for refusing to deal with an alcohol abuse issue. Each of these three thoughts reveals the flaws inherent in the teachings the pastors of today adhere to through the Purpose Driven Church model and leadership experts like Carey Nieuwhof.
1. Pastors aren't fake; the struggle is real. When a megachurch pastor resigns because he's burned out, or because he's experiencing personal problems, critics often rush in to claim that pastors are fake. -- Carey NieuwhofIn debating circles this is what is known as a strawman argument. I do not recall ever hearing this type of criticism because someone leaves the pulpit. In the vast majority of instances, there is a reason why the pastor has left and that is usually what is called into question. At least Pete Wilson was honest enough to walk away but most do not until they have fallen from grace. Perry Noble, Tullian Tchividjian, Bob Coy. The names litter the news feed and nearly every time there is a moral failing associated with the exit. Perhaps that is why people level the accusations of "fake." When you preach about morality and then fall morally, the damage done is twice as bad. But what is revealed here about the purpose driven paradigm is that it protects the wolf at all costs. The sheep are never considered. The damage done to sheep is never discussed. It is always about how hard a job the pastor had and any fair discussion of doctrine, leadership or the failing is summarily dismissed as "taking cheap shots." 2. It's hard to lead anything. Leaders face pressures non-leaders don't always understand. And leaders of large organizations face even more complex problems. When you lead a large ministry or organization, it comes with problems and challenges 99% of the population never wakes up to most days. Add to that the pressures of life, marriage, family, relationships and the task of leading yourself, and you have a recipe that requires tremendous personal stamina, humility, growth and development. -- Carey Nieuwhof What is revealed here in the purpose driven paradigm is the lofting up of the leader over the people. Yes it is true that not everyone is called to divide the word of truth and that pastors and teachers will be judged on a stricter standard. That does not mean however that they get a pass because they chose a difficult job. But what is being baked into the cake here is a built in excuse when the person falls. Well, they are under a lot of stress and you just simply cannot understand. How much of that stress however is actually caused by the carnal demands of leadership they impose upon themselves? The yoke of Christ is actually easy and light. If one stays true to the Gospel, God does the heavy lifting. Herein is a fundamental underpinning of their poor understanding of the Bible. God is responsible for the horizontal growth of His church. The pastor being a shepherd, is responsible for the vertical growth of the sheep God entrusts to him. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. -- Acts 2: 46-47 (ESV) Who adds to the number being saved? God does. But in the purpose driven leadership schema, this becomes the responsibility for the vision casting CEO pastor-dude. Well, no wonder there are so many burning out across the Christian landscape! When we trying to take on the responsibilities of God I can guarantee that it will not end well for us.
3. God loves and uses broken people. Are Perry and Pete broken? Yep. And so am I. So are you. We don't have a direct line to God any more than you do. Our marriages aren't 'easier' just because we're in ministry (actually, you could argue that they're harder). Our souls aren't inherently more virtuous. Sometimes I wish people would actually read their bibles. We think we have to be perfect for God to use us. But then there's scripture"Noah got drunk and partied naked after God delivered him and his family from death. Moses came into ministry after he murdered someone. Jacob raised perhaps the most dysfunctional family imaginable. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law only because he mistook her for a prostitute. David was a fantastic king. And then he saw Bathsheba. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived in Old Testament times but really struggled with sex. And God. And cynicism. Elijah saw one of the most powerful displays of God's power in history, and then promptly fell into a self-pitying depression. Jonah ran away from God again, and again, and again. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted even when he saw Jesus with his own eyes. Paul was a little insecure (just read 2 Corinthians). The early church as described in Corinthians is a study of dysfunction. Early Christians stopped believing in the resurrection (Read 1 Corinthians 15). The amazing part is this: God used it all. Christ is perfect. We get to partner with him. If you're thinking well, I'm just more righteous than all this, you need to know that puts you in great company. That's exactly what the Pharisees thought. -- Carey NieuwhofThe final revelation is that the Bible is mangled within the purpose driven teaching to defend the purpose driven teaching. No scripture is safe, as we see from this nonsense. The other revelation is that they try to play both sides of the argument. Notice in the second point that pastors are just so far above us in what they have to deal with that we couldn't possibly understand. Yet here they are just like us again. Just in time to explain away their brokenness by transferring their guilt onto anyone who might disagree. Except I did not struggle with alcohol in ministry. I did not sleep with my secretary (just an example). Let us also push back on the Biblical ignorance being displayed here. The marriages of pastors are harder? That is strange because God has outlined the importance of a solid marriage and family if someone even thinks about becoming a pastor. It is one of the requirements Carey. God even asks, how can he be expected to take care of the body of Christ if he cannot take care of his own family? Next Nieuwhof offers up a cornucopia of sins committed by people in the Bible as if this excuses the sins of leaders who fall. What he fails to realize is all of his examples paid a price for the sins listed. Some of them paid a heavy price indeed. David lost three children and his kingdom. Jacob had to live with the belief his son was dead for over a decade. Jonah almost died in a storm and spent three days in the belly of a great fish. The only two on this list who are vaguely comparable to pastors of today would be the Prophet Elijah and Peter. Elijah's situation effectually ended his ministry. Elisha was called shortly after. Yes, Peter was restored but only by promising to feed the sheep. Not entertain them. Not put on light shows with smoke machines. Feed them. While we are here, it would be derelict of my responsibilities as a minister of the Gospel to not point out the blatant abuses of Scripture Nieuwhof engages in here. How ironic that he admonishes people to read their Bibles and then proceeds to eviscerate it. Noah did not "party naked." That is an absurd interpretation of what happened. Moses never "came into ministry." Is the fact that Judah "only" slept with his daughter in law because he thought she was a prostitute really the point? To say that Solomon had a problem with sex is to simply not understand the Bible. At best it is a gross oversimplification. Early Christians did not stop believing in the resurrection. Yes some were succumbing to false teachers, as they do today. Then to overly simplify further by gleefully stating that God used it all! Yes He did. Noah's sin led to the sin of his son Ham and the cursing of Canaan. Solomon's "struggles" led to the permanent division of the nation of Israel. David lost everything. You get the point beloved. It may be more accurate to say that these sins were punished by God. But Carey Nieuwhof cannot package the chastisement of the Lord so he repackages in hip terms to try and be relevant. Noah partied naked. Moses served in a ministry. Solomon struggled with sex. But it is not hip. It is not cool. It is simply false. Perhaps the greatest revelation of all he saved for last: Christ is perfect. We get to partner with him. -- Carey Nieuwhof Therein lies the rub. In the purpose driven theology, God is our partner. A partner is defined as someone who enters into an endeavor with us sharing the risks and the profits. This is the aforementioned wingman jesus. The buddy jesus who just wants you to sing Friend of God, pay your tithes and never ask the tough questions when leaders fail. The great thing about a partner is you are equals. You can always dissolve the partnership if it is no longer working for you. That is not who God is supposed to be beloved. We do not get to partner with Him. We get to serve Him. We get to revere Him. We get to bow down and worship Him. In the purpose driven churchianity of today however we get to compromise Him. We get to change His Gospel. All for our own carnal glory to produce twice the sons of hell as we are. Then we can watch in confusion when people who undertook the responsibilities of God fold under the pressure of not being able to stand under them. Beloved these are not games. The eternal destinations of the souls of man lie in the balance. The Carey Nieuwhof's of the world teach a false system of leading apostate churches. When he tries to defend them however, we can get a glimpse into the abyss and hopefully turn away. Reverend Anthony Wade -- September 16, 2016