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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Menace of Warrenism

The deacon in our church brought to my attention an interview that was conducted with Rick Warren on Nightline. Having addressed a few weeks back some of the dangers of Rick Warren's ministry philosophy he thought I might have an interest in trying to find the interview on the Internet. The interview was available on the Nightline's Website and I watched and listened with interest to him and another pastor defending their positions of compromise and worldliness. You too might find the interview interesting. (I had to take the link out because it was not going to the right video. I will try to figure out why later......maybe....but if your interested you can look it up)

To be honest, I believe the ministry philosophy of Rick Warren pastor of the Saddleback church in California will the the undoing of sound doctrine in many Baptist Churches. It was several years ago when I began to see a shift in the nature of ministry particularly worship in many churches. The mood increasingly was a laid-back, casual approach to worship. Hymns were abandoned for a more contemporary sound (pop, rock, etc. . . . ). Instead of a song leader you have a praise team. Emphasis is heavy on music and light on message. People began to dress down when attending church when people use to dress up, they thought going to church to worship the God of heaven and earth was a big deal that merited the best clothing one could obtain. In the old days it was "sunday-go-to-meetin'-clothes".

Much of this philosophy has been introduced through youth groups. In fact I attended a conference a few years back in the Dallas area and quite frankly I was appalled at the nature of the youth ministry that was taking place during that week. When one would go by the room where youth ministry was being conducted there were black lights and fluorescent posters, music that could not be differentiated from the world's music, it looked like a nightclub. In short it was an abomination. I have not been back and will not likely go back for I do not want to be even remotely associated with that. I now know that this kind of thing is from the Rick Warren philosophy.

Yes, I have read Rick Warren's book, Purpose Driven Church. I have it on my shelf. More importantly I have seen the fruit of the philosophy and it is difficult to characterize it as fruit of the Spirit. I am amazed at the number and prominence of some of the men in my circles who have shown no discernment concerning this wholesale introduction of worldliness into their churches.

I have asked myself why has this happened? Let me give you my thoughts on the subject. The first problem is the emphasis on numbers. The more people the more success. This would be a wonderful criteria if it were only Biblical. Once you get beyond the first few chapters of Acts there is no reference to numbers. How many were in the church at Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Rome, Phillippi, etc. . . . We do not know. It was not important. What was important is that those churches were standing for the truth. They were continually exhorted to contend for sound doctrine and to censor the false prophets and false doctrine. They were continually exhorted to holy living and to refrain from worldly, fleshly, carnal living. When the emphasis is on numbers then inevitably there is a greater tendency to compromise important things to achieve the goal. Of course it will first be concluded that those things are no longer important, and thus can be abandoned without so much as a twinge of conscience.

I am convinced that our focus should be proclaiming the truth and calling the culture to repentance. Our first responsibility to is to remain true to sound doctrine and minister from that context. Instead of calling the culture to save themselves from this untoward generation we are saying, "Hey, look at us, Christianity isn't that bad. You don't have to change that much. You can still have your style of music, and dress, and you don't have to get bogged down with outdated theological terms." Going to church can be 'cool'. The days of substantive hymns has given way to shallow repetitious choruses. Now music is the method of choice for reaching people instead of a sermon. Preaching has given way to praise. While the message of the Bible remains the same, "Repent, and be converted!"

Of course this dangerous philosophy has found fertile ground, so there must be a reason. I think it is in part because there has been a slow surrender of some significant truths. The doctrine of repentance has been slowly surrendered. The come as you are philosophy is actually a stay as you are philosophy! There has been a slow surrender of personal separation. No longer is it emphasised in many pulpits that God's people are to be a peculiar people because the Bible says so. Preacher with the courage to instruct their people in righteousness are now few and far between. Separation has been largely abandoned as a doctrine! The surrender of the King James Bible. I have heard with my own two ears preachers who publicly have stated their confidence in the King James Bible but in private make disparaging remarks. They are hypocrites! Their view of the Bible is sure to impact the zeal of their preaching.

Because of the surrender of these things and possibly some others as well, we have been left with powerless ministries. We often have unbelievers sitting in the pew because they have never repented, therefore they have no spiritual discernment and continue to have an appetite for the things of the world. We have carnal believers sitting in the pews. Having not been challenged to live a life of piety and holiness, separation, and godliness they keep migrating toward the world in their tastes for music, dress, entertainment. So now they are watching R rated movies on Saturday evening and coming to worship on Sunday morning. They have little appetite for spiritual things and spiritual exercises like memorizing scripture, sitting through an hour or longer sermon, going to the trouble of becoming a theologian and Biblical scholar. They simply want Sunday to be a continuation of the entertainment week. Then we have powerless people sitting in the pew. People who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. They go through the motions but there is no zeal, there is no excitement about the things of God. After all I am missing part of the football game!?

Consequently the stage has been set for a pervasive and poisonous revolution. Enter Rick Warren and Purpose Driven Church instead of returning to the old paths wherein dwelleth righteousness. Rick Warren is Southern Baptist but the word Baptist does not even appear in their material. Consequently like so many Southern Baptist Churches they are in reality non-denominational in doctrine and practice, having thoroughly embrace the ecumenical spirit of the age.

His book is a trap. He begins with some fairly reasonable assertions and there are others scattered throughout his book, for instance the importance of having clean bathrooms. But as the book goes along he introduces more and more of his radical, revolutionary philosophy. The unsuspecting and undiscerning end up buying into many if not all of his conclusions and applications. It is terribly fearful to see the appalling lack of discernment by those Baptist who embrace his revolution.

Consider the following quotes: Italics are my commentary.

"There is no correct style of worship." Then there is no wrong style of worship. Anything goes.

"God expects us to be sensitive to the fears, hang-ups and needs of unbelievers when they are present in our worship services." Actually the services of a church are not to be primarily evangelistic but for the edification of the saints. Evangelism is to be taking place primarily outside the church not inside. That said, of course there are unbelievers in our services at times. With this in mind is his statement true? I don't think he can support it with Scripture, and he does not. He simply makes the pronouncement. Of course many fall for it because it sounds "nice". But is it right? No! If you embrace this philosophy then you find yourself in a continual pursuit of what will make goats feel comfortable in what is supposed to be a sheepfold. The Bible says sinners will not stand in the congregation of the saints. He takes the principle of showing ourselves friendly and takes it to another level that will ultimately spell disaster for the truth.

"A worship service does not have to be shallow to be seeker sensitive. The message doesn’t have to be compromised, just understandable." He is already defensive about the implementation of the policy. There is legitimate concern about the service becoming shallow and the message becoming compromised. It sounds like an unintended admission of the first rank.

“Making a service comfortable for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology, it means changing the environment of the service. Changing the environment could be done through the way you greet visitors, the style of music you use, the Bible translation you preach from, and the kind of announcements you make in the service.” Maybe it does not mean changing your theology in this generation but will it in the next?? And if we have taught a whole generation to make the unbeliever comfortable in the congregation of the saints then whose to say they will not take it the next step. Of course his dangerous and truth threatening suggestions come between two rather innocuous suggestions, "the way you greet visitors" and the "kind of announcements you make in services". Both of these are things at which you can legitimately take a look. But between these two things are a couple of issues that are of much more importance. "The style of music you use, and the Bible translation you use." These are areas that are infinitely more important than how you greet visitors and the nature of the announcement you make. Yet, merely by lumping them all together he place them all on the same level.

“Being seeker sensitive does not limit what you say, but it does affect how you say it.” The difference between these two things is so narrow that to embrace the one is to move toward the others. And the fact is, if you read his book and listen to the interview he does suggest limiting what you say. Theological terms are out. Sin is out. Hell is out.

“A few churches still advertise a Sunday evening evangelistic service, although it’s doubtful that many unbelievers show up. Even believers don’t like to attend Sunday evenings! They’ve been voting with their feet on that issue for decades.” The implication is that if they don't attend then you have justification to do away with the service. It is never an option to instruct people concerning the importance of not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is but so much the more as you see the day approaching. Many churches have done away with Sunday evening services. There was a time when Baptist churches had two services in the evening. A Bible training service and a worship service. Most have abandoned that. I believe all the Southern Baptist churches in my town have discontinued their Sunday evening services.

“When an unbeliever attends a seeker service with a friend who has been witnessing to him, he sees the crowd and thinks, Hey, there are a lot of other people who believe this. There must be something to it.” This is not a proper motive for believing the truth. Truth is not determined in the context of a democracy. Well, if a lot of people believe it there must be something to it. The fact is if no one believed it there would be something to it.

"It takes unselfish, mature believers to offer a seeker sensitive service." This is the attempt to marginalize anyone who disagrees or seeks to discredit the revolution. According to Mr. Warren's definition I am selfish and an immature believer. Why, because I disagree with his unscriptural philosophy! The tables are easily turned in this kind of exchange. Those who embrace Mr. Warren's ideas are compromising with the world and have little or no discernment. It is a subtle attempt to silence the opposition.

“Offering a seeker service means intentionally tipping the scales in the opposite direction, toward unbelievers. It requires members who are willing to create a safe environment for unbelievers at the expense of their own preferences, traditions, and comfort.” In other words abandon the old paths and take up with the new. What he is proposing could not be any more foreign to the Bible. Let us move toward the world in our preferences, traditions and producing a comfortable environment. No, no a thousand times no! Let us lift up our voices and call the culture to repentance. To turn from their evil ways and live. To save themselves from this untoward generation. To be converted. To forsake the world and embrace Christ.

"Offer children’s Sunday school simultaneously with the service." So that families are never worshipping together. So that the adults do not have to trouble themselves with the little fruits of the womb that is his reward.

"Improve the pace and flow of the service. Look for ways to save time in your services.” We don't want to expect people to stay too long. We don't want to require a length of time that will cramp their style. We want to condition people to come to church with the anticipation of getting out of church.

“Our services usually last about seventy minutes.” I usually preach a sermon for seventy minutes. We just don't want to require anything of people. We don't want to stretch them.

Chapter 15 – Selecting your music. The whole chapter is spent encouraging and defending contemporary Christian music.

“I reject the idea that music styles can be judged as either “good” or “bad” music.” He would! Just because he rejects it does not mean it should be rejected. He is arguing for not exercising any discernment in relation to music. Unfortunately he has convinced many others of this very thing. Even men that I would have anticiapted having better discernment.

“Read scripture from a newer translation. . . . . there is no legitimate reason for complicating the Good News with four-hundred year old English. Using the King James Version creates an unnecessary cultural barrier. . . . . Clarity is more important than poetry.” If he thinks the King James Bible is simply an issue of poetry then he fails to understand the issue. I really don't think that is the case. I am inclined to believe he understand the issue and instead of addressing it on the basis of inspiration, preservation, texts, manuscript evidence, etc. he simply discounts the whole thing as a matter of poetry.

“We also like to use the passages that show the benefits of knowing Christ.” The point is that instead of warning people to flee the wrath to come, he prefers the "God has a wonderful plan for your life" approach. In other words he does not like to use the passages that show the peril of not knowing Christ.

Proverbs 24:21,22 - My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?

1 Thessalonians 5:21,22 - Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Colossians 2:8 - Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

1 John 4:1 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

1 Timoth 4"1 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Thessalonians 2:15 - Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Malachi 3:6 - For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

2 Timothy 1:13 - Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:7 - I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Jeremiah 6:16 - Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
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