Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An Examination of the Teachings of Rick Warren

What follows is a careful examination of an interview with Rick Warren by Leadership Magazine, summer 1997, concerning his thesis in The Purpose Driven Church that the key issue for churches in the twenty-first century is church health, not church growth.

The entire article can be found online here.

Despite the rapid growth of Saddleback, Warren writes in The Purpose-Driven Church (Zondervan) that "the key issue for churches in the twenty-first century is church health, not church growth."

Amen! 100% true! The key issue is church health and not church growth.

Why do you say health should replace growth as the focal point for pastors?Rick Warren: Because size is not the issue. You can be big and healthy, or big and flabby. You can be small and healthy, or small and wimpy. Big isn't better; small isn't better. Healthy is better. There is no correlation between the size and strength of a church. I'm interested in helping churches become balanced and healthy. If they are healthy, growth will naturally happen.
Amen again!

If numerical growth is an unreliable indicator of health, how can you tell if your church is healthy?It's not unreliable, just inadequate. There are five ways to measure growth. A church needs to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry, and larger through evangelism.

Agreed! These are the natural God-given desires to those supernaturally regenerated and should mark any healthy Christian or church.

Another mark of maturity is the ability to start having babies. I want to see churches that are plateaued in numerical growth begin to reproduce through church planting.

Well, having babies can be a mark of maturity but it surely doesn’t have to. Not only that having babies or the ability to reproduce is not a reliable indicator of health. Unhealthy organisms can and do reproduce. Can a woman with AIDS reproduce? Yes! What will be the outcome? A baby with AIDS? Can cancer cells reproduce? Is malignant growth to be considered an indicator of health? Are the cults healthy because they can reproduce?

A body is not healthy because it can reproduce (that’s back to the old church growth issue just in another form), it is healthy because its immune system maintains the purity of the body. Cancer kills because the immune system to a large degree considers the cancer cells part of the body and will not remove those cells for that reason. And cancer cells are more prolific at reproduction than healthy, normal cells.

How do you cultivate health in a church?Health is the result of balance. Balance occurs when you have a strategy and a structure to fulfill every one of what I believe are the five New Testament purposes for the church—worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. If you don't have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes of the church, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose the pastor feels most passionate about.
In evangelicalism, we tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear, "The key is seeker services." You go to another: "The key is small groups." "The key is discipleship." "Expository preaching." The fact is, they're all important.

When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalance—unhealth. That causes a lot of churches to remain stunted.

Health does need balance – like a balanced diet – but that is no guarantee of health. People can eat a well balanced diet and still become unhealthy through other impure influences or activities. Health is a result of purity and is maintained by incorporating those influences or activities that promote the purity of the body. The body must incorporate the pure and good and remove the impure and bad. That’s both biblical and logical!

How do you keep things balanced?Four things must happen. You've got to move people into membership, build them up to maturity, train them for ministry, and send them out on their mission. We use a little baseball diamond to illustrate that.

We've got a scorecard to evaluate progress. Just like when you go to a doctor and he checks all kinds of vital signs, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I can measure how many more people are involved in ministry this month than last month. How you accomplish those four objectives doesn't matter.

Wait a minute! “You’ve got to move people into membership”? Maybe just semantics but what is really meant here? If by moving people into membership he means going out and proclaiming the gospel, bringing people to saving faith through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and then they become members then fine. However, if by moving people into membership he means having man-centered services and offering the unregenerate the opportunity to “serve Christ” and seeing their willingness to join the church as proof or evidence of regeneration then we have a real and undeniable problem. Men aren’t saved by offering them a Purpose Driven Church or a Purpose Driven Life but only by the power of the Gospel. Getting unregenerate men involved in religious activity only produces counterfeit Christians who have a form of godliness but have denied its power.

How you accomplish those four objectives doesn't matter.

Not so fast! That is both unbiblical and illogical! This is the old lie that “methods don’t matter” as long as they produce the desired results.

Biblically the truth that methods do matter is seen not only in the Ten Commandments but is also illustrated all through the pages of the Bible and especially in the life of the Lord Jesus during His temptations in the wilderness. If methods don’t matter then Jesus could have turned the stones into bread and it would not have mattered. If methods don’t matter then Jesus could have jumped from the pinnacle of the temple and it would not have mattered. If methods don’t matter then Jesus could have bowed down to Satan to receive the kingdoms of the world and it would not have mattered.

Logically we can deduce that just because a method gets "results" does not make it a good method. Raping a woman to satisfy sexual desires may get results but it is an unworthy method. Stealing to obtain may get results but it is an unworthy method. Using an unworthy method to accomplish what may be a worthy goal spoils the goal before you ever get to it.
In today's society, how do you stay healthy when you bring in a lot of unhealthy people?Health doesn't mean perfection. My kids are healthy, not perfect. There will never be a perfect church this side of heaven, because every church is filled with pagans, carnal Christians, and immature believers.

I agree that health doesn’t mean perfection and that there are no perfect churches this side of heaven, but I don’t agree with this ecclesiology, this definition of church as mentioned above – the church is the ecclesia the called out ones and is to be made up of regenerate people, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

To attempt to fill the church with pagans in order to “move them into membership” is unbiblical, unwise, and the philosophy of men like Robert Schuller who teach that the church should be “man-centered and not God-centered” in order to “impress the unchurched with the human needs approach” (see Robert Schuller’s Self-Esteem, The New Reformation, pgs. 12-13).

I've read books that emphasize, "You've got to reinforce the purity of the church." But Jesus said, "Let the tares and the wheat grow together, and one day I'll sort them out." We're not in the sorting business. We're in the harvesting business.

Wait a minute! I thought we were talking about health doesn’t mean perfection and now we are evidently talking about health doesn’t mean purity.

Biblically the church is to maintain purity! The Lord gave instructions on church discipline in order to maintain its purity. Not only that, we are told that Jesus died in order to purify His bride, the church (see Ephesians 5:25-27 and Titus 2:11-14).

Also, in the parable of the tares we are told that the “field” is the world – not the church – “and the field is the world” (Matthew 13:38). Furthermore, we are in the sorting business and not just the harvesting business – the quality of each man’s work is going to be tested to see “of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Logically, what farmer is in just the harvesting business without also being in the sorting business? Shall he harvest a field full of weeds and take that to the market and expect to be rewarded?

We do get a lot of unhealthy people at church, because society is getting sicker. But Jesus demonstrated that ministering to hurting people was more important than maintaining purity. When you fish with a big net, you catch all kinds of fish.

Did Jesus ever compromise His purity in ministering to hurting people? Was that ever demonstrated in His life? No! Jesus died for my purity and yours – He demonstrated that nothing is more important than purity (Titus 2:11-14)! Why? God is Holy! He is pure! And without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). That's a denial of the Master!

When you fish with a big net, you catch all kinds of fish.

And when you open a wide-gate you lead many to destruction!

Rick Warren uses the bait and switch tactic in his reasoning. He baits his listener up with something true and then systematically and secretly redefines its meaning in order to slip in his destructive heresies. In this interview he went from church health being the issue back to church growth in a subtle and almost undetectable manner by defining health as the ability to reproduce. Warren baited the definition of health as not meaning perfection and then switched to the definition of health not meaning purity. Warren not only violates the principles of sound logic – he also violates the principles of sound doctrine.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

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