The Self-centered Ministry of Rick Warren
Author: Ken Silva
Source: Apprising Ministries – 09.01.2005
As one surveys the current landscape of confusion within the contemporary Christian Church in America from the proper biblical approach of the classic Evangelical Protestant position, it quickly becomes apparent that something is terribly amiss. With all the confusion and self-centeredness amidst the modern church growth movement, with the emerging church searching for it seeker friendly purpose driven life, it becomes critical for each of us to return and take a closer look at what the Bible actually says about the Author and Finisher of the Christian faith – Christ Jesus Himself.
Today we can see that the Church in this country has not only lost its way, it has also clearly lost its effectiveness by choosing to rely on its own human resources, and consumer oriented secular business ideas, instead of patiently waiting on the true Source of power for a Christian church – God the Holy Spirit. How is it that the Master built His Church? And so we ask: Was Jesus Seeker Friendly?
As we look at this question, a lesson can be drawn about what to expect in the life of the true Christian today from the last week in the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, beginning with our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey colt. In the Bible the donkey is an animal that has come to symbolize the Davidic royalty of the coming Messiah. Listen to this prophesy from Zechariah – written around 500 years before Jesus was born, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” As the Lord rode into Jerusalem, people spread out leafy plants and palm branches – a custom with its root in Leviticus 23:40 – in which they were used in celebrating festive occasions. As you may recall upon Jesus’ arrival in the holy city, there was much rejoicing and celebration – with people shouting “Hosanna!” – a Hebrew expression that actually means “save,” – but by this time had become an exclamation of praise.
As the events of this historic Holy Week would unfold: by Thursday, Jesus would have the Last Supper with His disciples in the Upper Room, and the very next day He would hung on a tree and crucified. But how could things change so quickly? How could this triumphant ministry go so horribly off course in just a single week? On Sunday morning Jesus of Nazareth enters Jerusalem amid a celebration and shouts of “Hosanna” – and hailed as their long-awaited Messiah – but by Friday of that very week, most of these same people are shouting once again. Only this time their dry was “crucify!”
Undoubtedly this was a time of great expectations, a sense that these people were actually living in the time when Messiah – the Deliverer promised by God – would finally come. And everyone just knew that when the Son of Man came He would overthrow the evil government – break the yoke of Roman oppression – and set the captives free. And now they thought – just maybe He had arrived. This Jesus of Nazareth, perhaps He is the Messiah, and the time had finally arrived for Him to do what they’d always been taught by their religious leaders that the promised Son of Man was supposed to do. But wait, Jesus spoke of a suffering Messiah Who must first die for the sins of the world – and the crowd began to think: This isn’t at all what we expected – what went wrong – we had it all figured out? We knew what God’s plan was.
Well the truth is that nothing went wrong. It was simply a case of what I like to call ‘unexpected expectations’. You know, like when you’re a kid, and you just know that someday you’re going to play centerfield for the local professional baseball team. But then, one day you see a curveball for the first time. Or, you finally meet that man of your dreams, but once you kiss your prince, he suddenly turns into a frog. Unexpected expectations.
Signs of the Time
And so it is with the times in which we live. Things are not exactly as they might seem. Look up at the sky. Although I don’t find myself agreeing with everything Chuck Missler teaches, he does make an interesting point here as he talks about something that made a lasting impression on him while he was in the Naval Academy. One day his instructor quoted what he called “an old proverb of the sea:”
Red sky at night;
Red sky in the morning;
Sailor take warning.
And Missler said – “I just know I’ve heard that somewhere before. And then it struck me; it was Jesus.” The Scripture says: The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested Him by asking Him to show them a sign from Heaven. [Jesus] replied, “When evening comes, you say, ’It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ’Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the signs of the time” (Matthew 16:1-3).
Perhaps you’ve had an expectation that you would live in an age where you could just accept Christ as your Savior, and then just keep coasting right along all nice and smooth. Ah, the “normal” Christian life, as it’s always been. However, the pathetic shape of our Lord’s Church in these perilous times we are living in brings to mind these insightful words by the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said: I believe the majority of churchgoers are merely unthinking, slumbering worshippers of an unknown God.
Or maybe you’ve had the expectation that you can just sit on the fence like too many so-called Christians have done in our generation, and then just make Christ Lord of your life as it becomes convenient for you. Well, as Maxwell Smart would say: Sorry about that Chief. This is an unexpected expectation. There is no fence to sit on; and the truth is, there never has been. Do you remember, Jesus says: He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters (Matthew 12:30). And for years now, people have been saying – “everything the Bible prophesies that needs to happen before the Second Coming of Christ has happened.” Has it? Then let us read the signs of the time. Did you see the red sky this morning?
The Peace of Christ
We turn to Matthew 10:32 for some perspective. Near the end of His discourse to the Twelve disciples, as Jesus gets them ready for their mission in Matthew 10, the Master has some essential instructions. However, at the same time, He also gives them some very sobering warnings – which really should arrest the attention of those in the self-absorbed emerging church growth movement and their fruitless search for the mythical purpose driven life of fulfilling their own felt needs. Today, even as the sky turns a deeper shade of red, Rick Warren and a growing host of other Evangelical Christian leaders teach much about unity, acceptance, and tolerance. As a matter of fact, not long ago Warren himself was quoted as saying: “I see absolutely zero reason in separating my fellowship from anybody.”
But unlike Rick Warren, Christ Jesus instead warns His disciples about the persecution, and betrayal, they will certainly face. And then the Master Teacher clears up an unexpected expectation regarding His own ministry. Incredibly, and unfortunately, it’s an unexpected expectation that stubbornly persists even to this very day in that self-centered seeker-sensitive church growth movement as it continues emerging from the shadows.
“Whoever acknowledges Me before men. I will also acknowledge him before My Father in Heaven. 33But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in Heaven. 34Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn [now Jesus will quote Micah 7:6] For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, 36and a man’s enemies will be members of his own household.” 37Anyone who loves his father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; 38and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
It must not be forgotten here, amidst all the rhetoric surrounding the wishful speculations of Warren’s PDL global P.E.A.C.E. plan, that the cross was an instrument of death, which everyone Jesus was talking with would have known full well. Dr. Louis Barberi, of Dallas Theological Seminary, adds this comment:
“A true disciple must take his cross and follow Jesus… He must be willing to face not only family hatred, but also death, like a criminal carrying his cross to his own execution. In addition, in those days a criminal carrying his cross was [on display] admitting that the Roman Empire was correct in executing its death sentence on him. Similarly Jesus’ followers were admitting His right over their lives. In doing so one would find his life in return for having given it up to Jesus Christ” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT Vol., p.43, bold in original).
But we must never forget that this is still true for those of us today who would wish to follow Jesus. And no, this “taking up your cross-thing” is not a popular stance – never has been – it does run counter to what most of us have been taught, particularly in this lukewarm generation. However, failure to preach the whole council of God is the deadliest flaw of aberrant seeker sensitive purpose driven church growth movement. Through their very careful use of modern paraphrase translations, and select quotations from parts of verses, leaders such as Rick Warren are able to accentuate only the positive. And eliminate – how does the old song go – “E-lim-in-ate the negative.”
However, if you stop and give it a little further thought, a paraphrase is actually a rewording of an original statement. So, when we use a paraphrase translation of God’s Word – the Bible – we are using a work where the author(s) have restated in some way or other what the original text of Holy Scripture says. So, regardless of the motives of the translators, in a paraphrase translation of the Bible, what you actually have in your hands is some human being’s idea of how the God Holy Spirit could have better stated what the LORD God Almighty wants us to know. I don’t think someone has to be blessed with the intellect of a Rhodes scholar to see this is probably not really a smart idea. It’s as if to say: “That’s all right Lord, You needn’t worry, I’ve got it all under control. Yes, I know You’re the Creator and all that, but why don’t You just leave it to me, and I’ll show You how to best speak to people today?”
Are We Talking About The Same Jesus?
Our generation is, not only facing a critical time in the history of the Church of our Lord, but of the United States itself. “If ever I need you; my Jesus ’tis now.” While I stop well short of saying that Christ will definitely come in our lifetime – though He certainly can come this nanosecond, it does seem in the Spirit though, that you and I do find ourselves at the ending of an age. And the spirit of this age is not one of peace for those who decide to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” – and who then truly will follow Him. For no matter how many half Scriptures, and bent Bible verses, Rick Warren and his pied pipers of cookie-cutter sinner-sensitive social clubs attempt to parrot to the unsuspecting, the actual Words of the Lord Whom they have begun to deny will even ring true right through all of the man-centered worshiptainment in those consumer friendly churches: “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
There are those who will still try and say: This is judgmental; as a Christian, you should work to bring peace. I refer you to the Master here in verse 34 of our text, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And then Jesus goes on to say that anyone who does not love Him more than family – or even their own life – is not worthy of Him. Think for a moment. So many today see Jesus of Nazareth as simply a man who was a great moral teacher. But I must ask you; what kind of man would make such statements? If Jesus truly was only human – such as you and I – we could say He was full of Himself. As a matter of fact, as researcher Mike Oppenheimer points out, Robert Schuller did say exactly that:
on the Phil Donahue Show 8/12/80, [when he] said, “Jesus had an ego. He said, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.’ Wow, what an ego trip He was on!”
Can you imagine such lunacy from Robert Schuller, who is supposed to be an Evangelical minister of God! And did you know that it was Schuller’s good friend Billy Graham who originally suggested that he take this kind of blasphemy onto TV. A fateful decision which would then introduce Schuller to the mainstream of the Evangelical church? It’s amazing what the Light reveals. How far we have fallen.
What you need to understand at this point is that to most people today in this foreign mission field of America, Christ Jesus of Nazareth is “the Son of the living God.” You say: Well, what’s wrong with that? This is another unexpected expectation. What is wrong with this is; that for most of these people, “the Son” does not mean – as the Bible teaches – “he who possesses the attributes of.” No, for them, it means “son” as in an “offspring” of. The true Christian must come and help these people to embrace the actual meaning of this revelation which came through the Apostle Peter – namely; that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God (see Matthew 16:16). Which is to say in that culture: Jesus the Christ – the Son of the living God – He Who has the very attributes and nature of God. Christ Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal God Himself clothed in human flesh.
[This absolute truth of Biblical doctrine is the one of the very reasons why Islam and genuine Biblical Christianity can never be in unity. The Muslims hate and destroy Christians who believe this, as Islam denies the Biblical doctrine of a Trinity – the Koran states that Allah did NOT have a Son and that Allah is one god alone. In fact, Islam demands that Muslims slaughter any who embrace Christ as God. SJ – Sources: ChristianDefense.org, Equip.org]
A Voice in this Wilderness
If you listen to God the Holy Spirit, you will know that the message of the Christian Church in our age needs to be refined and clarified. The time of simply telling people to “come to Jesus, because He loves you” is rapidly coming to a close. For those with ears to hear – there’s a voice [like] one calling in the desert – listen; can you hear it? “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And [we should] not begin to say to [ourselves], “We have [Jesus] as our [Savior].” For…out of…stones [Jesus] can raise up children for [God]. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:4a, 7b-9).
The true preacher sent by God today will be telling you that time has come when we who are “called out to worship” our Lord Jesus must “submit ourselves to God,” “wash our hands,” and “purify our hearts” (see James 4:7-8). “As it is written: Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Does that passage sound familiar? It’s 2 Corinthians 6:17-18. But, did you realize that in verse 17 Paul adapts Isaiah 52:11, and then in verse 18 he uses 2 Samuel 7:7, 14? And that means it is both Old and New Testament! For the slow of heart, the Bible teaches that there’s no getting around it.
God wants a pure and holy people called out from this world to show His glory. Does this begin to make sense now? As unless Jesus has a people in this world, yes – but truly not of this world – how else could people see Him? You see it’s not a bad thing at all! No, it’s an honor and a privilege to bring glory to God the Father, by living in this lost world as God the Son did, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. And the more holy and sanctified to the Lord that we are, the more of His power God can trust us with – and the more we will see our loved ones come to Christ and escape the very flames of Hell – flickers of the fire which has already been kindled here in America.
The Emerging Purpose Driven Church Growth Movement
Men and women, we don’t need the “turn inward” emergent church movement or the selfish purpose driven church growth movement. Since we are the children of the living God then, let’s do what Christ told us to do. Let us be willing to die to ourselves further that He may live more through us. Do you remember what He said in John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Can you see from this; that what Jesus is talking about here – the death to self – for the Spirit-empowered life of other-centered love, God’s agape selfless love, is diametrically opposed to all this nonsense in the self-centered purpose driven emerging church growth movement(s)? Now, there has been some criticism of my running these so-called “diverse” groups together. Rubbish! Recognize the work of Satan, for the bottom line is this clear when Jesus says: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) And even the pied piper of purpose driven himself agrees that there’s no real difference, as Roger Oakland points out:
“Rick Warren is not only supportive of the “emerging church,” he believes that it is exactly what is required at this time. He believes this is what “the purpose-driven” church that he founded will become in the “postmodern world.” He notes:
“In the past twenty years, spiritual seekers have changed a lot. In the first place, there are a whole lot more of them. There are seekers everywhere. I’ve never seen more people so hungry to discover and develop the spiritual dimension of their lives. That is why there is such a big interest in Eastern thought, New Age practices, mysticism and the transcendent.” (Revival or Return to Darkness, by Roger Oakland, UnderstandTheTimes.org)
If that is so, then let’s consider the following testimony of one of these “seekers” from the emerging church movement on a website sympathetic to this new type of “Christianity.” Here you’ll be able to clearly see the sinner-sensitive “customer is always right” mentality of someone focused on their own so-called felt needs – just the same line of way of thinking we find in the purpose driven selfishness of the other church growth movement(s). Under the heading, “Paul [Fromont] reflects on leaving church, being unsettled, enlivened and on finding resonance with Alan Jamieson’s A Churchless Faith” we read:
“I came to recognise (sic) that my personality type, temperament, faith-development needs, and personal insecurities etc. had set me up within that particular congregational context [of the church I left] to carry what I increasingly discovered was an unhealthy level of frustration, disappointment, discouragement, and responsibility… I realized (sic) that I desperately needed space and silence for listening, for surprise and mystery;… I discovered that I needed a belonging-place that would help me open (and keep open) my eyes and heart to God, God discovered in the midst of silence, beauty, wonder, darkness, mystery, sacrament, liturgy, friendship, and every-day living.
Most painfully of all I learned (sic) that I needed to care for myself and to be a whole lot more healthily self-focussed (sic). I’d grown up thinking self-care was selfish. What I discovered in the last few months before leaving was that I had long been running on “empty” when it came to church; the ripples of that emptiness, tiredness, disappointment and marginalisation etc. had an incredibly negative impact on me, one that was far wider than church. I suffered, my marriage suffered, and my family suffered.
Now, all to this point may sound really selfish and I may well turn out to be a child of my narcissistic times, but the truth is that I wanted to survive. I wanted to flourish. I had, and have, a richer sense of church and what church might be… For apparently increasing numbers, a churchless faith becomes a necessary precursor to an empty “canvas” upon which a new or emerging vision of church can be painted. It will be interesting to see what emerges (pun intended) for me, but somewhere and sometime I will find my Turangawaewae (the Maori word for “home ground”; my place to stand!). This will be my church.) [http://www.emergingchurch.info/stories/paulfromont/index.htm].
The Submerging Church and the Enemy of Men’s Souls
Hopefully, you have a strong enough stomach to have gotten through all that this self-centered “seeker” had to say as he submerged further into himself. Now, why don’t we take a moment and contrast this new type of “Christianity” with a real man of God. Here is A.W. Tozer from a message entitled At Ease While The World Burns:
“The fall of man has created a perpetual crisis. It will last until sin has been put down and Christ reigns over a redeemed and restored world. Until that time the earth remains a disaster area and it’s inhabitants live in a state of extraordinary emergency…
To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of the world as well. They are at ease while the world burns…” [- Source]
I’d say Tozer’s focus was other-centered, in particular, Christ-centered. So let’s stop here, and make this very simple. God the Holy Spirit instructs us in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Now, the LORD God Almighty emphatically tells us here to be in fellowship with other believers in a local church – and especially – all the more as you see the Day coming. And our Lord – Christ Jesus of Nazareth – God Himself in human form has told us: He who is not with me is against me. So then, who is it that has to be behind these kinds of teachings found in the church growth movement, which are about submerging within to find your man-centered purpose driven life, and are so grossly perverting the purity of God’s Church? The answer has to be Satan himself.
Think about it carefully for a moment. The Bible tells the Christian in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Now think about the so-called “churchless faith,” mentioned above, and the self-centered “faith” of the followers of the seeker friendly churches in the purpose driven church growth movement. These hollow and deceptive [philosophies] which [depend] on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (see Colossians 2:8) are simply not in accord with what God has said in the Bible, which would then set them against Christ. The sad result is that those who follow these antichrist doctrines end up getting cut off from the flock of the Great Shepherd. So, if the enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, are you willing to take a stab at just who would have originated these teachings to isolate the lambs? A little hint; the answer is as old as Genesis 3.
Was Jesus Seeker Sensitive?
And this brings us nicely around to where we started, and our original question: Was Jesus Seeker Friendly? The answer is an emphatic NO! While there is no doubt of our Lord and Savior’s great love, He did not come to die to fulfill people’s faith-development needs, or so they could wander off by themselves and silently contemplate other more self-satisfying ways to worship “God where you find Him.” The Creator Himself came into His own creation and walked upon His own planet. The Lord of Glory clearly stated the only way He was going to save lost men, and the only to a relationship with the only God there is. Are you getting the idea that the road is narrow and exclusive of all other religions? Jesus said, “I am the Way and I am the Truth and I am the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) And contrary to Robert Schuller, this is not an ego trip when You are the Creator of all life!
And although the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ was full of grace and mercy, this solid truth from the Rock remains. Jesus clearly tells us in our text that the peace, love and “home ground” of the speculative spirituality of the ECM and its odious sinner sensitive counterpart PDL/CGM is nothing more than an empty fantasy built upon the sand of wishful thinking.
Hear the Voice of the Lord:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be members of his own household.” Anyone who loves his father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
There is no way to harmonize these Words with the man-centered psycho-self-esteem teachings within far too much of the modern conservative Evangelical church today. The high call of denial of self – of death to self – are the opposite of what so many people are hearing in the seeker-friendly churches in America. Here’s one final case in point using Rick Warren, arguably the most noted of all the PDL/CGM/ECM prophets. Gary Gilley, pastor-teacher of Southern View Chapel informs us:
“In the video that accompanies the “40 Days of Purpose,” [Rick] Warren leads his listeners in prayer at the end of the first session. The prayer goes like this:
“Dear God, I want to know your purpose for my life. I don’t want to base the rest of my life on wrong things. I want to take the first step in preparing for eternity by getting to know you. Jesus Christ, I don’t understand how but as much as I know how I want to open up my life to you. Make yourself real to me. And use this series in my life to help me know what you made me for.” Warren goes on to say: “Now if you’ve just prayed that prayer for the very first time I want to congratulate you. You’ve just become a part of the family of God.” [http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/Articles/read_articles.asp?ID=112]
At a surface glance one can recognize language that appears compatible with the true Christian witness, but Gilley is right when he says:
“Warren would be hard-pressed to find biblical backing for this presentation of the gospel. We find nothing here about sin, grace, repentance, the person of Christ, Calvary, faith, judgment, or the resurrection. This is the ultimate in a mutilated, seeker-sensitive gospel: the seeker comes to Christ in order to find his purpose in life, not to receive forgiveness from sin and the righteousness of God. Then, to pronounce someone a full-fledged member of the family of God because he has prayed such a prayer (based on minimal, if any, understanding of the person and work of Christ), is beyond tragic.” (ibid.)
And then researcher Bob Dewaay, senior pastor of Twin City Fellowship further informs us:
“Rick Warren begins the first day of his journey by saying, “It’s not about you” (Warren: 17). Yet the entire book “feels” like it is about you and reads like self-help literature. He dedicates the book to “you” on the first page after the copyright information and uses the pronoun “you” continually throughout the book. Consider the following from day eight:
You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into the world God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave Him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but He chose to create you for His own enjoyment. . . . Bringing enjoyment to God, living for His pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and He considers you valuable enough to keep with Him for eternity, what greater significance could you have?” (Warren: 63). (Italics in original; bold emphasis mine) [http://www.twincityfellowship.com/cic/articles/issue80.htm, emphasis in original]
So Who Are You Going To Follow?
So now let us must remind ourselves about what Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Lord that Warren says he is representing, had to say about mankind’s true purpose when He was asked:
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28b-31)
That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for your sinful selfish felt needs does it? And then we look closely at our text one last time:
“Whoever acknowledges Me before men. I will also acknowledge him before My Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in Heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be members of his own household.” Anyone who loves his father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”
So you see, we can almost agree with Christian flip-flopper Rick Warren after-all. Christianity is not about you – it’s about Christ!