So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. -- 1Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)
Let me start with the obvious. I am not against small fellowship groups. Believers should spend time with other believers. Iron should sharpen iron. It is important to realize you are on this journey with other people who share your beliefs because the world can be a cold place that can make you feel alone as a Christian. This devotional is not about small fellowship groups. This devotional is about the father of the purpose driven church heresy that has ruined the current state of the church. Sure, there are other factors such as the NAR, seeker friendly methodologies and false gospels but the purpose driven church is the underpinning behind all of it. Pastors since 1995 have been taught on the purpose driven church model. Not the purpose driven life, which would come out ten years later. Rick Warren knew he would have to co-opt the leadership first in order to fulfill his carnal dreams of turning God's church into a money-making franchise a reality. And co-opt them he has. Up and coming pastors now believe that mega-church stardom is somehow indicative of the favor of God and the desired pastoral dream. The purpose driven church has many pillars in its foundation such as blessedly subtracting any dissidents, turning the shepherd into a vision casting CEO and marketing the church to unsaved goats who we now call "unchurched."
In order to achieve the transformation of the shepherd into the CEO, the purpose driven church demands the church have small groups. You see, the shepherd no longer leads the sheep -- he instead leads the corporation. Andy Stanley, who is a Rick Warren adherent, is on record as saying we should not even use the world shepherd anymore because it is no longer culturally relevant. Of course, what does one do with the key verses then? This is God's instruction to wannabe pastors. Shepherd the flock willingly! Not for gain but eagerly! Be an example to your flock! This is not what small groups seeks to do. Small groups according to Rick Warren:
"They form small groups on purpose. The Purpose Driven Church DNA is implanted in every cell of the Body of Christ. Each small group helps the members fulfill each of the five purposes in their lives. The goal is to help every believer live a Purpose Driven life." -- Rick Warren
Everything within the purpose driven church is designed to reinforce and build up the purpose driven church. The reality is that when purpose driven groups are achieved, the pastor has far less shepherding to worry about because the sheep are tending to themselves. And what could go wrong there? Well, simply put it is not God's design because sheep cannot take care of themselves. I have been in a purpose driven church with 50 small groups and can tell you that the first thing out the window is sound theology. You simply cannot have 50 people, who are unskilled and untrained to preach suddenly be responsible for the spiritual growth of the very sheep entrusted to the pastor! Yes, they try to use spiritless pablum as curricula, where the group members fill in the blanks but even that will ultimately lead to questions. Most purpose driven group leaders do not understand group dynamics let alone the Gospel. Therein lies the rub. When you do not really preach the Gospel in church, why would you care if it is preached in your small groups? Remember the goal is to get the purpose driven theology into your DNA, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So let us reason once more through the twisted mind of Rick Warren:
'Do you know where you can see the greatest model of unlimited, spontaneous expansion of a local congregation? Just read the book of Acts! The church of Jerusalem gives us the greatest model ever on the explosive growth of the church. In fact, the church's growth described in Acts is nothing short of a miracle. At the beginning of Acts 1, there are 120 believers. By the time we get to Acts 4, the number of believers grew to 5,000 men. Most scholars believe that if you add women and children, the church was at least 15,000 strong by this point. By the time we get to Acts 21:20, we learn that there are tens of thousands of believers in the early church. Most scholars believe there are between 50,000 and 100,000 people in the church at this time. So, in just 25 years, the church grew from 120 to at least 50,000 people. My first question when I realized this was, "Where in the world did they hold all of these people?"'
Yes Rick, and what grew the church so astronomically? Was it small groups? No. Was it blessed subtraction? No. It was God, through the preaching of His Gospel. A few years back, Warren wrote an article for pastors giving them tips about how to ensure their Easter visitors returned the following week and his advice was to NOT preach the Gospel so that they would have a reason to come back. That is what happens when your focus is on "churching" people instead of saving them. Rick Warren is purposely driving people straight to hell.