“What in the world could possibly be wrong with the Purpose-Driven movement’s approach to the Gospel?”
On the surface, Rick Warren’s approach seems so nice and palatable. I mean isn’t it a good thing that so many people are going to these really large churches by the thousands? So what could possibly be wrong with the Seeker-Sensitive approach and ministry philosophy of this movement? Well from a biblical standpoint, there is no true seeker of God and who He is.
This movement has been labeled “Seeker-Sensitive,” and yet there are no true seekers of God until we are regenerated to seek Him. No one wants to approach God on God’s terms, it’s always on their terms, unless God opens their hearts and minds to see Christ and His sufficiency. Otherwise, left to themselves, all men would continue in a state of rebellion straight to the eternal wrath of God.
What does Scripture say about man and his moral state? In Romans 3:10-18 it says of all men, both Jew and Gentile, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
What a radical indictment against man. Sounds harsh, but this is the reality of how bad we are, even if we don’t want to hear it. 1 Corinthians 1:18 states in no uncertain terms, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” In Ephesians 2:3, Paul clearly shows that our nature before regeneration and conversion was that we “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
All men are by nature objects of wrath. God isn’t just hateful (in a wrathful way) toward the sin of the sinner, but outside of Christ, He hates those very people who do iniquity (Psalm 5:5). Yes He desires all men to repent. But He wants nothing to do with those who reject Him (which is exactly what Christ will say to many on the last day: “Away from Me, I never knew you”).
Warren and others like him will not use the type of language the Scriptures use because it is offensive to the world (i.e. it might make them hate us or offend them), which is why so many droves of people are going to seeker churches and others like his. I am always very leery of large movements within the church where thousands upon thousands, and millions upon millions go after a few people bringing up “new” language and ideas. The whole Purpose-Driven/Seeker-Sensitive movement seems to be a people-pleasing movement within the church that doesn’t want to “offend” and turn people away with such “harsh” words and phrases as wrath, sin, judgment, hell, lake of fire, and outer darkness because that would turn people away.
Where is the confidence in the message of the pure Gospel though? The courageness of speaking the truth in love without fear? Who is it that actually converts people? Who is it that convicts the sinner of their plight? Is it not God alone? And this is where we get down to what drives the Purpose-Driven movement theologically: synergism. At a fundamental level, they essentially believe that there is within man an island of righteousness left after the fall, left untouched by sin, where man still has the ability to turn to God without any prior regeneration by God’s Spirit. But this semi-pelagianism is error and was officially condemned by the church back in 529 AD at the Council of Orange.
We must recover monergistic, Biblical preaching and teaching of the Gospel (that it is God alone who first regenerates the sinner that gives rise to the sinners’ faith in Christ), with all its hard edges and difficult Biblical language, or else sacrifice the very thing that will actually save people from the wrath of God: the Gospel itself spoken through the Word of God.
If our preaching of the Gospel doesn’t make the world (i.e. unbelievers) uncomfortable and hate us even (as Jesus Himself said would happen to believers who preach His Gospel) then could there be something wrong with our preaching and teaching? If we’re not using Biblical language to describe the nature of God, man, sin, justice, wrath, the cross, atonement, resurrection, repentance, grace, mercy, salvation, then what other language can be used? Worldly language, language that is not of God, but is from man.
What is left of the Gospel if we strip these difficult truths down to where the unregenerate, unbelieving world can accept them without ever being converted? (The statistics nowadays concerning the evangelical church, her beliefs, and her morality, back all of this up too.) They are then not receiving the Biblical truth of man’s plight but a man-generated philosophy that exalts man’s condition to not be nearly as bad as the Bible speaks of it.
Is this movement not stripping the essential message of the Gospel of its power and content by making people feel good about themselves in their natural state of sin and wickedness toward God? Could it be they have fallen victim to the liberal’s worldview notion of political correctness to where it has now infiltrated the most essential, most important message in the history of man; the Gospel?
The Gospel is an offensive message to man, it is folly to the world, because it means we must admit our fallenness, our sinfulness, that the deserved punishment of that sin is eternal hell, but then believing ( and that itself by the power of God through the message of the Gospel) that Christ came, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the grave, that anyone who believes in Him will have the wrath of God turned away, and that the righteousness Christ earned would be credited to their account. The Gospel is an offensive message to those who are perishing (and yet we still preach it to all), but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation. And so we preach the Gospel, using Scripture itself as the thrust of our message.
Bob DeWaay, in this series of messages on the Purpose-Driven movement, does an excellent job of laying out how they are redefining Christianity from its historical, Biblical context to fit the needs of the modern cultural “seeker”.