Friday, May 7, 2010

Pastors Driving The Gospel Out On Purpose

"At first I imagined that no pastor would be so hard-hearted as to tell Christians who hunger for the pure milk of the Word that he would not give it. But I was wrong. When these people ask for gospel preaching and Bible teaching they are usually told that they should find another church. These pastors are so deluded by their man-made “vision” that they rebel against the vision God gave to all churches in the Bible."

Pastor Bob DeWaay examines the Purpose Driven church growth methodology in HOW THE CHURCH GROWTH MOVEMENT DRIVES THE GOSPEL OUT OF CHURCHES.

Dan Southerland wrote Transitioning, a book based on the idea that a pastor must obtain a special vision he must apply to his local church.1 With the goal of taking a Bible church and turning it into a Purpose Driven one, he lays out seven steps to implement vision in the local church:preparing for vision, defining the vision, planting the vision, sharing the vision, implementing the vision, dealing with opposition, and making course corrections.2 The vision, for Southerland, is “doing church for the unchurched.”3

Here’s the problem: If you start with a faulty premise, you will end in error. Southerland believes that the church does not exist for the saints, but rather for the “unchurched” (his euphemism for sinners) in a target community. His vision is to make the church a place where those in the grips of the surrounding pagan culture would be comfortable comfortable going—an idea he got from Rick Warren, who wrote the foreword to his book. If that is not God’s intention for the church—if indeed it is a faulty premise—then Southerland’s process is in error no matter how successful he is in filling the building.

...The problem is that those who imagine what God is doing base their subsequent actions on their own premises. For example, Southerland’s premise is that any large, growing church is what God is doing, without reference to their doctrines. I heard him speak glowingly of Paul Yonggi Cho’s church as a prime example to follow. Yet Cho is heretical.8 How does one find out what God is doing by observing heretics?

...Here’s the problem: the Purpose Driven program, devised by Rick Warren, was founded on Peter Drucker’s business model and is not revealed in the Bible. Also, the need to find a specific vision that may not apply to other churches pushes people into mysticism in order to find some “will of God” beyond Scripture. That violates the principle of sola scriptura. Equivocation with regard to vision is a slippery slope.

...For years this reality was understood by evangelical pastors. They preached the gospel faithfully, and whoever responded became part of the church. Southerland admits that his critics accused him of not preaching the gospel.12 To have a Purpose Driven church, the gospel has to be veiled or watered down in order to avoid offending the target audience.

...I do not exaggerate when I say that since I first wrote an article about this in 2004, I have heard from hundreds of people who were pushed out of their churches by the Purpose Driven program. Some of the stories reveal hardhearted pastors who care more about advancing their careers than the well being of the Lord’s flock.

...In 2010 I am still getting calls and emails from people whose churches have become Purpose Driven, and they are being marginalized or pushed out of them. Southerland’s book and his seminars label such persons as “resisters” who have placed themselves in opposition to God’s vision for the church.

...He likens them to Sanballat (an opponent of Nehemiah) who like them, was a “leader from hell.”14 Having met more of these people than I can recall, I have yet to meet one with hellish ideas. Southerland’s terminology abuses faithful saints who want the Bible to be faithfully preached from the pulpit. In his seminar he calls them “mean and ornery.” In his book he calls pastors like me (traditional pastors) who criticize Purpose Driven, the “meaner ones.”15 Could it be that we value gospel preaching and Bible teaching? Does that make us “mean”?

In the six years since I first wrote about this, I have always given the same advice to those who write, e-mail, or call. I tell them to go to their pastor and plead with him to clearly preach the gospel, and purely teach the Bible. Tell him that you long for such preaching and teaching. What is astounding is that nearly universally they are rebuffed.

See related article, Signs of A Purpose Driven Transition In Your Church


  1. Oh but Piper says Warren is theologically sound! PDL is nothing but a book of lies, made to tickle ungodly ears by one who is of them.

    Did you see this article a while back?

    Its comforting to know there IS a remnant that God has kept for Himself. We aren't in this battle alone, although at times it sure can feel like it!

  2. AnonymousMay 12, 2010

    I'm one of the resisters. Many of the "fundamental" members in our church were more or less pushed out because we wouldn't conform to the vision of the pastor. It was hurtful, but we're so thankful that the Lord allowed us to see the truth of the situation.


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