I'm sure many of you have had the same experience that my husband and I have shared. Early in our marriage we had decided to throw off the lethargy of our youth and seek a church that met our goal of growing in our faith. We wanted a church rooted in the Bible, and a place in which we could immerse ourselves in a Sunday School class or small group for more intimate and deeper study. We thought the answer was a church that made us "feel comfortable", and one in which we could set a taproot for life-long relationships with fellow Christians.
At about that same time, our church changed "management", so to speak, and the Search Committee assured the congregation that they had found just the right man to take over the helm of our Church. The committee was made up of people I knew to be Bible-believing and faithful Christians; men and women who took their task very seriously. When they introduced him that first Sunday, he actually stood at the front of the Church holding a Bible, reading from it and centering his sermon on the Word. We thought, "Surely, God has a calling for this man to lead us."
But within a few months of assuming his role as Shepherd of God's flock, the tell-tale signs were there. There was definitely a new agenda and plan for our spiritual future. It seemed the pastor was not as he had seemed at first. And it seems that our church has not been alone in this pattern of change.
Now The End Begins, a website that I would classify as "on the fringe", yet oftentimes uncannily correct, recently ran an article suggesting that there is a "Purpose Driven Plan to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ." Now, you might recognize that phraseology as being associated with Rick Warren, the popular pastor from California, who wrote a blockbuster book, called The Purpose Driven Life, which had profound influence on the modern church. Since that book was first published in 1997, Dr. Warren has become a controversial figure, and openly advocates for change in how we Christians approach church growth and evangelizing, saying, "When you reveal the [new] vision to the church, the old pillars are going to leave. But let them leave… they only hold things up.”
Here's what I've observed about Dr. Warren's philosophy regarding the "Purpose-Driven Church"... it seems to be based more on a business model than a faith model. It seems to promote the idea that believers must move away from their moral absolutism (and resistance to change), so that the church can welcome more unbelievers in a spirit of compromise, and therefore grow their numbers, and plant new churches. You can see that if all members of the church stand firm on the Word of God, and it’s final authority in all doctrine and tradition, then the church cannot and will not change. Dr. Warren has suggested that this is why the Church has grown stagnant, and change must occur.
I agree that the Church is in danger of becoming lukewarm in its outreach, its desire to "keep God in a box", and its inclination to contain the Gospel Message inside its own four walls. But I allege that what Dr. Warren is promoting has very little semblance to what Jesus had in mind when He gave us the Great Commission. I see more about how to attract a crowd with slick marketing and contemporary music, than how to reach a crowd with the Spirit-led Word of God. It seems to be all about taking that wide, easy path through a gate that lets everyone in, instead of requiring a response to the Gospel Message, and teaching and preaching about confession of personal sin, repentance, and our need for the Cross.
So, if you are like me and my husband, we began to see the ways in our church was changing -- the change in music to a contemporary rock style; repetitive singing of praise lyrics instead of Scriptural-based hymns; dressing down to casual and informal attire; the name “Sunday School” is dropped and classes are given new "culturally attractive" names; there is no need to bring your Bible to church because only specific verses are flashed on a screen or referenced during regular services; there was an emphasis on more fun and party sessions for the youth, rather than teaching the Word; the elimination of such words as “unsaved”, “lost”, “sin”, “Hell”, “Heaven” and other Gospel truths from the pastor’s messages; and in our case, open hostility to members, like us, who did not openly embrace the new program, or who may have left for another church.
Here is the bottom line for me... Because of this movement toward compromise, "feel good" sermons, inclusiveness of all opinions on God, and variety in the Gospel Message, it has been difficult for me to affiliate myself with any church. Please don't misunderstand. There are still small churches who have not succumbed to these marketing techniques, and who earnestly desire to stay true to The Word. But oftentimes, the Holy Spirit is absent in their buildings, or they deny the full extent of what Jesus has charged us to do in bringing in His Kingdom. Their hearts and spirits are in the right place, but they are not very effective outside their own buildings.
This is a time for God's Truth ... ALL of His Truth; and for boldness in declaring it! And I am seeing more and more of His people who are no longer satisfied to sit comfortably in the building each Sunday -- either doing the same things and bearing little fruit; or embracing what their spirits are clearly telling them is not Biblical nor pleasing to God! So, a remnant is awakening and committing themselves to discerning (and doing) His will and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in these daunting days. We recognize that His ways are not our ways, and it is time to step out, and to be courageous and strong in our faith. We are ready to present ourselves to the Lord; workers who are not ashamed of our love for Him and our passion to serve His Kingdom, rightly handling the Word of Truth. We abide in Him, and He in us ... we are His Church.
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you."