Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. - Matthew 12:30 ESV)
Pastor Rick Warren revealed last year that he has been diagnosed with spinal myoclonus, which causes tremors and blurred vision. He also revealed this condition has been worsening. I pray for Rick Warren. I pray that he might be healed and have a genuine Saul of Tarsus moment so that he might repent before his life is required. I am not sure that will happen although nothing is beyond God. Jesus taught us that when we convince ourselves that our darkness is light, how deep is that darkness? Rick Warren has always struck me as the type of false teacher that believes in the deception he peddles. I do not view him as I do Benny Hinn, who you know knows full well that he is a charlatan. Thus, it is more likely for Hinn to have a thief on the cross conversion than Rick Warren because he knows who he is. Rick Warren does not. He believes his own press clippings. He also has had 40 + years of everyone telling him how great he is. His flock adores him. His contemporaries envy him. Those up and coming pastors dream of Warrenesque success. Who can blame them? They have been raised on Warrenology. The perceived success of "America's Pastor" is something to aspire to for adherents of his legacy. It is that legacy that requires some review as he steps out of the national spotlight because it is within his legacy that we might learn how far gone he has led the church and whether it is even recoverable. So, let us reason once more together.
We often write about the NAR dominionist theology that forever chases a revival that has not been promised and is not coming. They do so because of an idolization of this country. Warren may be a pillar of the NAR but his dominionist bent has always been subtle at best. I bring this up only because the opposite to revival has occurred over the past few decades. As the bible promised, we have seen the start of the great apostasy. This represents a great falling away from the real church and solid theology and has resulted in the apostate church that is growing more and more influential in this world every day. It is this great falling away that has been orchestrated by Rick Warren in his zealous pursuit of developing the purpose driven church globally. Most will tie Warren to his 2006 book, The Purpose Driven Life (PDL) and certainly that has done its fair share of damage.
The first rung of damage comes from Warren's constant mangling of scripture. Rick Warren is the father of using multiple versions of the bible, often heretical paraphrases such as The Message, always out of context. In many ways, he has been the most prominent proof texter of the past 50 years. Reading from one review of the PDL, he uses Job 22:21 to teach personal surrender to God. This verse says "Stop quarreling with God. If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you." This "sounds" good until you view the context and realize these were the words of fair-weathered friend Eliphaz, represented poor advice, and God would even later condemn! Besides these poor hermeneutics Warren taught, he also convinced generations of church-going folks that God had these huge and important plans for their lives only to later discover that those plans usually involved serving in the Parking Lot ministry. Still, there are uncounted numbers of people who never returned to organized church because these grandiose plans they were promised never came to fruition. Perhaps the greatest sin of the PDL however was the dumbing down of God and theology. There have always been "sloppy agape" preachers but Warren put this theology on steroids. Suddenly God was only love. Salvation? It is mentioned one time in the entire PDL and there is a literal eight word "prayer" that Warren encourages the reader to repeat and then arrogantly declares "welcome to the family of God!" If you ever wondered where the microwaved altar call theology came from look no further than Rick Warren.
No some of you may be thinking, "c'mon, this was only a book! How many even read it!" You may not be aware that when the PDL came out, Warren co-opted thousands of churches across America to literally turn their church over to the PDL campaign hat included creating "life groups" where the book could be broken down in a small group setting. The entire Assemblies of God joined the campaign, which meant my church at the time. Everyone bought the PDL. Everyone joined small groups so it could be broken down further. We had a good pastor who preached the uncompromised gospel and we fell into the pit with everyone else. I had friends who left the church over the PDL. I was still learning to discern, so I stayed around for a few more years. Fast forward ten years and I know of local churches that re-did the "40-Days of Purpose" campaign with their congregations. So, to say it was insidious is a vast understatement and the damage is still being felt today as Warrenology infects nearly every aspect of the apostate church. The notion of "purpose" has become embedded in nearly all false teachings. As damaging as the PDL has been to the cause of Christ the real damage wrought by Rick Warren was published ten years prior in the mid-1990s. That was when Warren published the Purpose Driven Church (PDC), which has become the bible for up and coming pastors. Until then we had some strains of seeker-friendly thought but no organizing principles. Warren would provide the framework for pastors to build the mega-church movement that has plagued this world for the past 25 years.
You see Rick Warren had built a mega church fiefdom out in California and now he was going to teach these strategies to anyone willing to listen. While the teachings were broad, I distilled down the four most dangerous changes to the church as a result of the PDC in a four-part devotional series back in 2016. I will summarize them here, so we never lose sight of the damage still being felt today through the legacy of Rick Warren. The first area of change is in how we viewed the lost. Prior to the PDC, we viewed the lost as well, lost. They were blind, walking in darkness and sinners in need of a Savior. They were the unsaved because they were not saved! In Rick Warren's theology they became the "unchurched." That may seem small, but it is not beloved. It is a cosmic shift in focus for the church. Instead of viewing people in terms of the salvation and need for the gospel, we now have pastors being trained to view them only through the prism of church attendance. If success is measured in relation to joining your church, the gospel is meaningless. If you think I am making too much of this, take a trip with me 20 years after the PDC was written. Rick Warren provided ongoing resources for pastors and one year he wrote an article for them giving tips on how to convince their Easter visitors to come back the following week. Resurrection Sunday is by far the most attended week of the year throughout all churches but notoriously, the visitors rarely return the following week. Warren's advice? Do not preach the gospel! Sure they need Jesus but he advised that you needed to give them a reason to come back so he suggested starting a series on some felt life need, such as how to improve their marriage of finding significance in their community. I kid you not. You have the lost for one week and you don't preach the gospel to them? Ahh because you are not focused on their status of being lost but rather of being "unchurched." This evil has become a bedrock foundational principle for churches today and makes the preaching of false gospels all the more easy.
The second major shift in the church due to the PDC is moving from feeding the sheep to marketing to the lost, or unchurched. Many may not even realize that the church was not meant to target the lost. It was meant to feed the sheep and grow them into maturity in Christ. Go read the New Testament! Acts 2 spells out that the church was focused on the teachings of God and fellowship while God added to their number each day as He saw fit. That's right. Pastors are supposed to be responsible for the vertical growth of their sheep not the horizontal growth of their church. Like Lucifer before however, Warren teaches pastors to usurp God's role. Churches are now marketed to the lost. There are schemes and gimmicks to draw them. That is how you end up with secular music during worship. ACDC Highway To Hell, I like to Move It, Move It, and an entire worship set based on Led Zeppelin songs to name a few. This is why sermons dwindled from an hour to just 20 minutes. This is why altar calls were dumbed down to eight words. This is why many churches removed their crosses, so as to not offend the lost. This is why there is rarely a discussion of sin, repentance or the blood. Instead we have a smorgasbord of self-help and motivation speeches given by hirelings who mistake their secular growth to a move of God. Do you think Joel Osteen draws millions of people because he preaches the gospel? Please. Meanwhile, the true sheep are starving within the walls of churches across this land. They are often viewed unfavorably even by leadership because the PDC teaches them that disagreement is not allowed. The PDC actually teaches to actively remove people who might want to go deeper in God than the shallow goat-seeking pablum offers through a process Warren dubbed, "blessed subtraction", which is the third area to examine from the PDC.
When Pastor Mark Driscoll infamously gave his sermon about how he had run over many congregants of his church with the "Mars Hill Bus", he started by saying he was all about blessed subtraction. Driscoll openly bragged about being a Rick Warren acolyte. In a disgusting part of the PDC, Warren jokes about people who have been in your church "too long" and are considered "pillars of your church." Like pillars however, Warren teaches that these people actually hold up progress within your church and need to go. That not everyone who leaves is necessarily a bad thing. That pastors needed to get rid of anyone who might disagree with the direction the church is taking. I have seen blessed subtraction in action and been a victim to it, although the choice to leave was God's. Consider also how these things interact. First you change the goals from the eternal pursuit of salvation to the carnal pursuit of being churched. You market your church towards these unchurched and systematically starve out those that may still read the bible. If they are not on board, you blessedly subtract them leaving you only with pliant goats who you swear are now heaven bound without changing one thing in their lives. Without a need for the gospel, you are free to preach worldly topics that tickle the ears and play to the flesh. These three changes altered so much but so did the fourth piece - the pastor.
According to the bible, the pastor is a shepherd with Jesus as the Great Shepherd. God chose this analogy for a reason. Shepherds have to tend to their flocks. They have to take care of them. They carry a crook and a rod. The crook is to direct the sheep and the rod is to ward off the predators. Rick Warren was having none of this however in the PDC. He created a generation of cult of personality preachers who become the primary focus of their church, instead of Christ. They do this by replacing the biblical sense of shepherd with a vision caster. Andy Stanley, renowned mega-heretic, once stated that we should do away with even using the term shepherd because it was culturally outdated. I kid you not again. That is what the PDC does to pastors. God has given us a vision. It is called the bible. That is not good enough for the PDC, which demands that a pastor always be preparing for continual growth within his fiefdom. I remember each year at our New Years' service we would hear about the vision for the upcoming year. As if just saying that the gospel would be preached would somehow not be enough. You see, the shtick was that God gave the pastor the carnal vision he shared and thus if anyone came against it, they were coming against God and could be blessedly subtracted.
Maybe you actively see these things in your church. Perhaps they happen so far behind the scenes you are shielded. Make no mistake beloved. If your church is more concerned with churching people than saving them that is because of Rick Warren. If your pastor fancies himself a vision caster and seems to not care about tending to the flock God has entrusted to him, that is because of Rick Warren. If you see people in your church who you know are solid in the Lord are leaving or losing ministries, it is probably because of the teachings of Rick Warren. If you church is becoming more about your pastor than about Christ, that is because of Rick Warren. If all you hear are sloppy agape, God is nothing but love, and you have a grandiose purpose from the foundations of the world, you are probably in a Purpose Driven church. The damage has been done over the past several decades. This is not like dominionism, which is a specific teaching. Warrenism infects the very underpinnings of how church is meant to be organized and carried out. The Purpose Driven Church was the organizing principle that allows all of the modern heresies to operate unchallenged. The modern church is in a critical state that will lead to the second coming of Christ. That did not happen overnight but at least the architect is retiring soon. I pray he finds relief or even full healing from his conditions. More importantly, I pray he reflects back on the damage he has caused to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray he repents of it before he stands before Christ and answers for everything he did because no one has done more to damage the cause of Christ than Rick Warren. The key verse today cannot be clearer. There are only two choice. Are you gathering people unto Christ or scattering them away? In the case of Rick Warren, the answer should be obvious.
Reverend Anthony Wade - June 6, 2022