Rick Warren and Saddleback Church
DATE OF PUBLICATION: JULY 2004
Several years ago, we wrote about the training program for ministers at Bill Hybels Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois (Going to Willow Creek [WM1003-1004]. It is a large Sunday-keeping church near Chicago. At the time, a statement was made in the Review that a very large number of Adventist ministers were taking that training course (see box at bottom of this page).
In 1999 alone, 76,000 pastors and leaders from other denominations attended meetings on the campus of Willow Creek. Any church can join the Willow Creek Association for $249 a year. Over 3,300 local churches in America are members, including many of our own. They go there to learn how to talk more people into becoming church members.
The latest training course our pastors are attending to improve "church growth" are the seminars at an immense Sunday-keeping church in southern California. It is the Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, California. The remainder of this report will be about Saddleback.
40 DAYS OF PURPOSE
We recently wrote about Rick Warrens "40 Days of Purpose" which was presented over a period of six weeks in Adventist churches throughout the nation.
During those consecutive Sabbaths, our people read through, and heard, sermons about Rick Warrens latest book, The Purpose Driven Life. (His earlier 1995 book was The Purpose Driven Church.)
From another Saddleback brochure, we learn that 40 Days of Purpose was publicly endorsed and used in a large number of denominations, including the following: Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of God, Evangelical Free, International Pentecostal Holiness, Seventh-day Adventist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Nazarene, Vineyard, along with many others.
Church growth seminars teach visiting pastors how to bring more people in off the streets and get them to join the church in droves. Church growth seminars teach that doctrine and standards should not be emphasized. Music, sociability, and excitement are key factors in bringing in and holding the multitudes, but not religious beliefs.
THE SADDLEBACK CHURCH
What is the Saddleback Church like? This is from one of Saddlebacks brochures:
Here is more on Warren and his Sunday-keeping church:
If strange, new things are happening at your local church, it maybe because your pastor has studied at the feet of Sunday-keepers at Willow Creek or Saddleback. Or maybe it is because he learned new techniques at a local conference ministerial retreat, under the direction of men carefully trained under the direction of non-Adventists who have no respect for obedience to the law of God, at one or both of those churches.
This Willow Creek / Saddleback type of revival is actually religious marketing! Bill Hybels and Rick Warren rely on marketing strategies, psychology, polls, opinions, compromise, business and psychological consultants, and business research findings.
Their places of business are "worship centers." Their mode of operation is Biblical words and phrases, and lots of modern musical styles in order "to get people connected" and touch their "felt needs."
The real problem of people is sin in the life. They need to return to God in heartfelt repentance and, in Christ's enabling strength, put away those sins and keep Gods commandments. But such things do not matter to these men.
Instead, modern entertainment methods are used to attract and hold the people, self-help books are provided to keep them contented, and leadership conferences are given to lure other pastors elsewhere to copy their methods.
Astoundingly, books produced by those new-style churches are widely advertised, sold in our own bookstores, and used in our churches.
Rick Warrens marketing consultant is CMS, "a full-service custom marketing and communications agency headquartered in Covina, California," which is skilled in aiding the Church Growth Movement.
CMS clients include Quaker, Isuzu Motors America, the City of West Covina, Saddleback Valley Community Church, Purpose Driven Ministries (a Saddleback subsidiary), Smalley Relationship Center, and Walk through the Bible (Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez organization).
Do not expect Moses presentation of the Ten Commandments or John the Baptists call to repentance to be included among those management skills. Instead, you will find polls, tracking surveys, and management skills aimed at producing satisfied customers who keep returning for more of the product offered by the business. In other words, give the customer what pleases them.
Warren has an internet site for pastors throughout the world, called pastors.com. It is "a global internet community that serves and mentors those in ministry worldwide."
In addition, Warren has a weekly online newsletter, with an immense following. "Over 60,000 pastors subscribe to Rick Warrens Ministry Toolbox, a free weekly email newsletter" (pastors.com).
Ministerial students in seminaries everywhere (probably including our own) are required to read Warrens books and learn his principles.
"Ricks previous book, The Purpose Driven Church, has sold over a million copies in 20 languages. Winner of the Gold Medallion Ministry Book of the Year, it is used as a textbook in most seminaries, and was selected as one of the 100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century." pastors.com.
Warren is deeply admired by Peter Drucker, because he is also a marketing strategist. The commercial methods of selling products seem to work as well for selling religion as anything else.
In a 2002 article in Business Week, Druckers plans and purposes are described:
"He brings a communitarian philosophy to his consulting . . He said that what hes all about is this search for community, the search for where people and organizations find community for noneconomic satisfaction . .
Rick Warren follows the same plan: Design the worship and the music and everything else—to appeal to the comfort of the people who live in the community.
Rick Warren believes that what he is doing is infallibly guided and has the fullest approval of God; for as he says, "Never criticize what God is blessing" (Purpose Driven Church, p. 62). Whatever the methods may be that bring large crowds in the your church, they are right; that is, if the large crowds come. Focusing on the "customers prospective" brings success and the approval of God.
The key, according to these men, is to make the people living in the town happy. For Warren, this means focusing on the felt needs of unbelievers rather than the true needs of Gods family. The marketing experts call this the "dialectic process." Here is how one person describes it:
Many different organizations are reinventing themselves in order to follow the established tracks of corporate America. They may call their particular version of this system "Total Quality Management," "Outcome Based Education," or "Purpose Driven Churches"; but all follow the same pragmatic blueprint: "Aim for "measurable results." Use Teams, dialogue, facilitators, "lifelong learning," contracts, and continual assessments of "progress" toward the planned outcome. All involved must conform or leave the system.
No repentance. No sins to put away. Nothing in the Bible to obey. Just celebrate, come to church and sing and celebrate.
Instead of repent, confess your sins, believe, and obey; as Warren describes it in his writings, this new-modeled faith teaches: Accept Christ, focus your life, increase motivation, and begin an eternal celebration. Here are Rick Warrens five purposes for your life:
According to Warren, all you need to know are your five purposes and you can forget the rest.
Notice that you do the purposes. You do them all by yourself. And none of it requires obedience to Bible truth.
Surely, somewhere Rick Warren says something about sin. Yes, he does. Here it is:
Warren here confuses cause with effect. We fall short of giving God the glory by sinning. A failure to bring Him glory is the effect, disobeying His commandments is the cause.
What is the best kind of worship? Warren explains it is essentially the kind you like the best.
Warren then proves his point by quoting the Bible; but his proof text comes from a radical modern translation. Instead of quoting "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (John 4:23, KJV), Warren quotes the verse in The Message, a paraphrased Bible translation by Eugene Peterson: "That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship" (ibid., p. 103).
Rick Warren is careful to quote the most way-out translations of the Bible, because they nicely water down obedience and generally omit it entirely.
In one of his sermons, instead of quoting the KJV of John 3:36 ("He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."), Warren quotes The Message: "Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!"
Warren urges his hearers to only use new translations:
In the same source quoted above, instead of "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name" (Matt 6:9, KJV), Warren quotes a modern version: "Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are" (Message).
Instead of "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28, KJV), Warren quotes "The Father is the goal and purpose of my life" (Message).
Instead of "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6, KJV), Warren quotes "Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life" (Message).
In order to better understand the seriousness of this situation, you should be made aware of the fact that Rick Warren calls his church, "the flock that likes to rock." He is referring to the music at Saddleback. According to Warren, every possible type of music is good, as long as it has Christian words!
So that is how our pastors, who have attended Rick Warrens seminars, determine what kind of music to use: the kind which will reach the most people in the community!
Now you can better understand why your local church is changing on Sabbath morning.
Warren emphatically teaches this to Adventist ministers and thousands of other pastors who attend his seminars. Music is a driving force in the Church Growth Movement. It brings the world into the church very fast; and that is a much-valued objective to "church growth" pastors.
At Super Conference 2003, "over 13,000 ministers and students" heard Rick Warren speak at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Virginia. His message was "Attracting a Crowd to Worship." He introduced the talk by saying that it was aimed at those who were "stuck in the past."
Jesus said, "Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19). But Warren has a different view of the matter: Find out what the world loves, and give it to them in your church. By so doing, you will achieve the great goal of your ministry: jamming your church with wall-to-wall people from off the streets. Forget those old-fashioned ideas about standards, beliefs, and doctrines.
"[We use] drums, clashing cymbals, loud trumpets, tambourines and stringed instruments . . Saddleback is unapologetically a contemporary music church. We've often been referred to in the press as the flock that likes to rock. We use the style of music the majority of people in our church listen to on the radio." Rick Warren, Selecting Worship Music.
It is not standards or doctrines that count. Instead, use relationships to bring everyone in the church into conformity with what is believed and done in the local church:
Every member must sign a covenant to make unity above everything else (ibid., pp. 166-167). Saddleback is basically a very friendly, entertainment church. vf
THE DECEMBER 18, 1997
ADVENTIST REVIEW ARTICLE
"Fact: Americas most attended church, a non-charismatic nondenominational church in suburban Chicago, continues to shape not only its immediate community but, more notably, the 2,200 member churches from 70 denominations participating in the Willow Creek Association. WCA endeavors to "help the church turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.
"Fact: Adventists, both pastors and laypeople, consistently make up one of the largest groups at Willow Creeks half-dozen annual seminars—including church leadership conferences in May and October and a leadership summit in August.
"Fact: The three latest Adventist churches to divide or depart [separate from the denomination]—Oregon's Sunnyside, Maryland's Damascus, and Colorado's Christ Advent Fellowship—were clearly influenced by Willow Creeks ministry hallmarks (small groups, spiritual gifts discovery, friendship evangelism, contemporary worship), if not its congregational status.
"Fact: Many Adventists who haven't been to Willow Creek are sick of hearing about it from Adventists who have been to Willow Creek. In some cases local members have divided over how "seeker-sensitive" their church services should be.
"What to do with Willow Creek? . . I'm grateful for Willow Creek. It was there that my former academy church, Forest Lake, got intentional about worship; that Adventist friends and relatives recognized their natural abilities—from drama to maintenance—as natural ministries . .
I've never exited the $34.3 million [Willow Creek] complex without positive thoughts.
"From this perspective I offer these sentiments:
"Adventists should give Willow Creek a fair shake. As a people often prejudged, we should avoid prejudging others . . Adventists should continue gleaning from Willow Creek . . Willow Creek has its place in prophecy too. Granted, its a different place. But we can learn from each other . .
"I think of Mountain View church in Las Vegas; of the freshly planted New Community in Atlanta; of my home church, New Hope, in Laurel, Maryland; and of other churches mature enough to incorporate Willow Creek principles . .
"We can learn from each other." "On Willow Creek," Adventist Review, December 18, 1997 [bold print ours].