Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. -- Acts 20: 26-31 (ESV)
There was a dramatic shift in the landscape of the church in 1995. It had been coming for several years as more and more pastors began relying upon human wisdom and carnal metrics and applying them to church management. It was actually back in 1975 that Bill Hybels opened up Willow Creek Church in Illinois by asking the unsaved community what they wanted in his yet to be opened church. When he discovered that people were generally offended by images of the cross for example, Hybels removed all crosses from his church. This despite the fact that the cross was meant to offend. Not so however, in the changing terrain of the modern evangelical church. Now the goats were starting to get their say. The sheep? Any who objects are marginalized as being selfish or being troublemakers. This was just the beginning however and in 1995 along came Rick Warren to put the entire Seeker Friendly and Emergent models of Church Growth on steroids with the publication of the Purpose Driven Church. So today we begin a series on the damage wrought by this book, the ensuing work of Rick Warren and the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex. While there will be some overlap, these issues are worthy of individual exploration so that we can come out from among the apostate church during these end times. Please keep in mind beloved that I make no judgments regarding intent. Perhaps Pastor Warren had the best in intentions. Perhaps Hybels did as well. That is completely irrelevant to God. These are people who chose the mantle of leadership with God's church and the Bible says they will be judged on a higher standard because of it. The only thing that matters is the eternal destination of the souls of men. The Gospel. The first major shift in following Warren Theology is how we view the lost.
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. - 1Timothy 2: 3-4 (ESV)
What does God desire for all people? For them to attend a church? For them to discover their purpose? For them to realize their dream-destiny thingy? No beloved. To be saved. Let's break down the realities of what our faith is. We need to be saved. All of us. We need to be saved from ourselves. We need to be saved from this world. We need to be saved from the wiles of the devil. Add it all up though and we need to be saved from our sins. Why? Because sins separates us from a holy God. If we die unsaved then we stand before God for judgment and our eternity will be one of suffering. I know that is not a seeker friendly message according to the church growth gurus. I know it offends as much as the cross but without these things it is simply not possible to be saved. It is not possible to avoid the fires of hell.
Given these realities; what do we need then? Do we need a cosmic friend in Jesus? Do we need a heavenly busboy to clean up after ourselves? Are we just missing that ministry work to fill our empty places? No beloved. If we need to be saved then we need a Savior. The only way to get around this truth is if we think we can save ourselves and we cannot. The devil has convinced the world that if we just pass some measure of "goodness" that an all loving God will never let us spend eternity in hell. The only way that lie works however is if we compare ourselves to other humans. As long as we do so, there will always be the Jeffery Dahmer's of the world we can point to and say, well I am not THAT bad. The standard however is not other sinful human beings but rather the Holy God who created us. When we make that comparison we see the truth about ourselves more clearly:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.""Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.""Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery,and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." -- Romans 3: 9-18 (ESV)
We are all under sin! None are righteous. There is no fear of God. This is the cold hard truth about how God sees us without the shed blood of His only Son. For millennia the church has correctly recognized this. The focus for the lost is that they were unsaved and needed the Savior Jesus Christ. Until recently however. The Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex and the Purpose Driven Church model flip all of this on its ear. No longer do we focus on the unsaved status of the lost. They become customers. Thus if they do not wish to see any crosses, we simply remove the crosses. If they do not want to hear about sin and repentance then we preach on things they find useful or relevant. Sure we slap a Jesus Christ name tag on it but it no longer is the Gospel. It no longer can save anyone. Because they are not viewed in those terms anymore.
The unsaved are now called the unchurched. A purposeful shift away from focusing on the salvation of the lost resulted in a generation that believes going to church is akin to being saved. The general premise here is that you use whatever carnal means you can to draw the lost to your church and whatever carnal schemes to convince them to come back. Salvation? There's always time for that later. Smoke machines and disco lighting will give the impression they are at a club or a concert instead of a church. Giving is always couched in terms of blessing because the saved can understand a transactional level of giving to get something. The preacher has to be a humorous fellow who is trying desperately to relate to the goats. The message is reduced down to 20-30 minute sermonettes that are either motivational or self-help in nature. This is followed by a no pressure, no repentance altar call to invite this "buddy-Jesus" that they heard about for the past hour "into their hearts." Using emotional manipulation and peer pressure techniques, many raise their hands and are declared saved. The disconnect of course is they should be declared "churched" because they are not saved. They are quickly assimilated into their "purpose" which is usually some service in a ministry that allows the church to have a free labor force and now the newly churched individual proceeds to confuse their Mary with their Martha. They believe their ministry is their relationship with God. What else would we expect from people who still do not actually have the indwelt Holy Spirit? The average time of attendance in a mega church is under three years. This is because when they were customers that pitch was all about them but after awhile; it is no longer about them. It is about the next altar call. It is about the next group of goats.
Before you think this is hyperbole, consider what happened just a couple years ago before Easter. Rick Warren had published an article for pastors with five tips to increase the likelihood that their Easter visitors would return the following week. It is interesting to see that this is where the focus is under the purpose driven paradigm. How many bodies did you have in service? How many came back? How do you increase attendance? Never mind that Easter might be the only chance these people will ever have to actually hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They need to hear about Calvary. They need to hear about the blood. They need to hear how they need to repent before the coming wrath. Not in the purpose driven mindset. Not when your concern has shifted from their salvation to their attendance. Not when the unsaved have become the unchurched. Here is an excerpt from that article by Rick Warren:
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
Always begin a sermon series. Meet the needs of the unchurched person. That relationship with Jesus thing? Yeah yeah, we will get around to it but you need to give them a reason to come back to your church. Say what? I can think of no greater scheme of Satan than to convince pastors that the Gospel is not a good enough reason for someone to come back to church. That making people feel more significant is of greater importance. What absolute heresy. Yet this is exactly how most pastors are trained today. That people are unchurched instead of unsaved. The focus is no longer on their salvation but whether or not they come back to your church. The result is devastating as salvation has now been reduced to two generic sentences and a cloud of dust. In the Purpose Driven Life the topic of salvation is mentioned one time and the prayer Warren invites the unsaved to pray is this:
"Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you." -- Rick Warren
Warren then tells his readers that these nine words have now resulted in their salvation! Welcome to family of God, he proclaims. Jesus I believe in you? What in the world is that? What do you believe? Do you believe He is your co-pilot, wingman, and best bud? Or do you believe that you were such a wretched sinner that He died to give you eternal life. There is a stark difference beloved. One means you are saved and the other means you are churched. This is not a joke. This is not some quick and dirty thing we can get out of the way like some formality. How serious? Imagine you are standing before Jesus Christ on the last day. He has warned us about those who thought they were saved but were merely churched:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' -- Matthew 7: 21-23 (ESV)
Clearly the people Jesus is speaking about here are churched people. They thought they were serving Him. They were led to believe they were serving Him. They even saw supernatural events. They knew all of the correct piety and Christianese. They were not however saved. How sad to be led to believe such lies only to hear -- I never knew you! There is a price to pay for those that lead so many astray as well. The Bible says that preachers and teachers are held to higher standard. That is because the very salvation of their listeners is on the line: