"Purpose Driven?" July 2011
Before I get into the heart of the message this month, I want to first say, “I am not seeking to find fault, I am seeking the truth”. As born again believers’ of Christ our personal goal should always be the desire to know the truth. It is the truth that makes us free. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) And truth, real truth, comes through only one source- God’s word. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
There is a certain “phenomena” that has been sweeping through the churches for the last couple of years. Recently, I have been hearing pros and cons about it throughout the whole church-world. As I listened to both sides, I decided that the best thing for me to do was to seek the truth about it for myself. We are instructed in the scriptures to try the “spirits” for ourselves and not just believe everything we hear. “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 John 4:1) The Apostle Paul even commended the people who were at Berea for not believing everything he taught them without searching out the truth for themselves. “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.“ (Acts 17:10:11)
What is this phenomena that has been sweeping the churches? One way it has come in is in the form of a couple of books that have become very wide spread and popular among Christians of all denominational backgrounds. These books have been read by millions. They are called “The Purpose Driven Life” and “The Purpose Driven Church”. Perhaps you have heard of them- maybe you even own a copy of one or both of them. I happen to own a copy of both. It seemed like everywhere I turned the subject of these books was coming up. I know from past experience that when this keeps happening the Lord is trying to show me something. So I set out on a personal quest to seek God and find out the truth for myself about this subject. I took my books and Bible in hand and asked the Holy Spirit to show me the truth about the teachings- and I began to read. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13)
Before I begin, I mentioned these two books because they are the most familiar, the most widely read on the subject- having sold over six million copies- and the “instruction manuals” at the forefront of this movement. Of course, these are not the only books out there and their author is not the only proponent of this teaching- there are whole networks, organizations and ministries that are centered around propagating this teaching.
I feel I need to say something else before I get into what I discovered about being “purpose driven”. I know these books come highly endorsed by an impressive list of well known pastors, theologians, Bible scholars and professors- many of them I greatly admire. I am in no way saying that I am smarter or know more than these great men of God- I don’t. But at the same time I know that the Lord does not speak to and reveal His truths to a certain few only- as many leaders in the church would have you believe. He will speak to any of His children who will seek Him with a desire, an open mind, a hearing ear, and a receptive, sincere heart to know the truth. “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27a) “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3) “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)
Let me also say that I am not here to criticize or tag as a “false teacher” the author or anyone else who endorses this teaching. I am not here to “throw stones”. I am here to present what I have found and believe to be the truth, and then it is up to you to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you out of God’s word about what you read. We should all be “truth seekers”. If I am revealing the truth through this message, then it behooves you to heed the warning. Yes, it is a warning- do not be deceived; do not fall prey to what the scriptures don’t endorse, teach or back up. We can be sincere about something, and still be “sincerely wrong”. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6a) If we are wrong, then we are being set up for the enemy to come in and “steal, kill and destroy”. (John 10:10) But as the verse earlier said- knowing the truth will make you free; free from deception and destruction.
As I read these books, I found that the author had some really good things to say- at least they sounded good. He brought out some good points and I find nothing wrong with them. For example, his opening paragraph in chapter one of a “The Purpose Driven Life” says, “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose.” That sounds good and right on, so where does the problem lie? Since I am not “critiquing” his work, I am not going to address all the points that are in these books- it would take writing a book for me to do that. I want to highlight some areas that I think are key points as to why I believe that this teaching is off base. So what is wrong with having a life driven by purpose? In “The Purpose Driven Life”, the focus is on being “purpose-driven” instead of “Spirit-led”.
Let me define the words “driven” and “led” for you. To be driven means: being under compulsion, as to succeed or excel; implies a controlling force pushing or forcing a passive subject. Led is the past tense of lead which means: to act as a guide; show the way; escort; to prepare the way for; implies a choice on the part of the one being led. Christianity is not about being “forced” but about having the “choice” to be led or not. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)
God does have a purpose and plan for each of our lives. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11- NIV) His primary plan is that we are saved. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17) “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3,4) He has a purpose for our lives as well. His purpose for every born-again believer is to glorify Him. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (2 Corinthians 6:20) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) But we are not told in the scriptures to focus on and pursue our purpose, we are told to be focused on a life that is led by the Spirit. This is where the problem lies with this teaching. As a matter of fact, this contradicts the author’s opening statement- “It is not about you”. When you are driven to pursue a purpose, it does become about you. It becomes about what you can achieve, accomplish and make happen. You may argue and say that Jesus was driven by His purpose, so that means we should be as well. Yes and no! Jesus did have a purpose and He never lost sight of it, but He was not driven by it, He was focused on it- meaning He kept it in clear view. But His primary focus was on the way to accomplish His purpose- which was to be led by the Spirit of His Father. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1) “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” (John 2:4) “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30) “And he must needs go through Samaria.” (John 4:4) When you are “purpose driven”, you have one thing in mind- accomplishing that purpose. You want to reach your purpose without delay, without any obstacles to climb, without any lessons that might have to be learned along the way. etc. Had Jesus been “purpose driven” instead of “Spirit led”, He would have gone to the cross a lot sooner than He did- being compelled, or tempted, to succeed quickly with His purpose. But the Spirit led Him to fulfill the purpose of redeeming mankind from sin at just the right time. “Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come. For my time is not yet full come.” (John 7:6a,8b) This is why He could declare from the cross, “It is finished”. (John 19:30) You and I will never reach God’s intended purpose for our lives until we are first led by His Spirit. We must keep our eyes on Him and our ears attentive to what He would say to us and be led by Him.
I am not going to take any more time discussing “The Purpose Driven Life”. I want to primarily focus on “The Purpose Driven Church” because it is alarming that so many churches are going in the direction of its teaching by patterning their services and mission after its guidelines. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, let me give you a synopsis. This book is a book on church growth with emphasis on membership. It is a laid out plan for incorporating a new system of beliefs which will allow the Church to complete the Great Commission. It provides a “better way” to reach the lost through entertainment, seeker-friendly programs and teaching only “positive” subjects. The goal behind the “purpose driven church” is to bring the lost into the church to get them saved.
I am not going to “nit-pick” each and every thing that has been written in the book because the whole book is a mixture of truth and error- it would just take too long. Again, I will highlight what I consider to be the “major” errors of this “church growth / church transition / post modern Christianity” movement.
First, I will talk about the one thing that I consider the most major and overall problem with this whole “Purpose Driven Church plan”. This plan that is mapped out on how to grow the church dishonors the Holy Spirit. Yes, I said, “dishonors”. How? It leaves the Holy Spirit completely out of the equation. In Acts chapter two on the Day of Pentecost the church was born. It happened when the Holy Spirit came into the Upper Room like a rushing mighty wind and filled all those who were in the room. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4) The Holy Spirit “birthed” the church and Jesus is the head of the Church. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Ephesians 5:23) Even though the Holy Spirit is the One who birthed the church, this “church growth movement” leaves His leadership out of the picture. It takes the attempts of man, humanistic wisdom, business concepts and marketing strategies and combines them all together to present a program that is “appealing” to the un-churched so that church will become “palatable” to them thereby-- growing. The Holy Spirit is no longer a part of bringing people to Christ. He is not consulted as to what the will of the Father is for the sermon. Place for His transforming power has been replaced with man’s attempts to reach people through positive messages that affirm the flesh and make you feel good on the inside. May I say, without reservation, that you can NOT grow a church without the presence of the Holy Spirit. Oh, you can grow an organization. You can grow a social club. But you can’t grow the church without His anointing and His convicting power. “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6) Man’s attempts are not what adds souls to the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47b) It is the Spirit that draws men to repentance. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44) Without repentance there is no new birth. Without the new birth, you are not saved. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:3-7) When you do not give place to the Holy Spirit to do a work that only He can do, you have to look to the arm of flesh and lean to your own understanding to devise some sort of plan that will reach people. The problem with that is that if you use flesh as the means, all you wind up with is flesh- not that which is spiritual. Man’s problem is a spiritual one- sin is at the heart of it. In order to deliver man from a spiritual problem you have to have a spiritual solution- not a fleshly one. “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments.” (1 Corinthians 2:13-15- NIV)
This movement tells you what to preach and how to preach it. What happened to pastors getting their sermons through fasting, prayer and Bible study? The Holy Spirit has been speaking to and anointing pastors/ministers with the message for the congregation for centuries. He is the One who inspired the written word of God as holy men of old were led by Him. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16a) “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21) Back on the Day of Pentecost Peter delivered a sermon under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and 3,000 were added to the church in that one day. This purpose-driven movement boast of gaining two hundred members in a year or a thousand in ten years. One sermon anointed by the Holy Spirit can bring more people to Christ in ten minutes that a hundred years of sermons preached out of our own understanding.
The bottom line is this: if the Holy Spirit doesn’t have enough power to convict of sin, save a soul and add to the church, then what makes us think that all our programs, videos, concerts and social gatherings will do any better. But then that is “old fashioned” and “out dated” thinking, which the advocates of this “modern day” church movement insist won’t work. They claim that it hasn’t worked in the past so it is time to bring in something “new” and “exciting” that will do the job. But here we go again, full circle, the problem is that it leaves out the Holy Spirit.
This brings me to another reason there is a problem with this teaching. This philosophy uses what I call “bridge events” to reach the new members and assimilate them into the church. Bridge events are “seeker friendly” events that are intended to “bridge the gap” between the believers and the non-churched so that they feel comfortable in our services and want to become a member of the church. They are presented with a wide array of entertainment that they can choose from. They are even presented with surveys that ask what they would like to see and do, and even what kind of music they would like to hear so that the “worship” can be geared to making them feel a part, and not like an outsider. You might ask, “What is wrong with that?” Again, the Holy Spirit is dishonored because everything is geared to the responses on the surveys (what the people want) and not to His leading.
“Bridge events” and seeker friendly services do away with anything that looks conservation or like fundamental Christianity. It does away with traditional music and replaces it with contemporary music that is geared to reach one group. It does away with anything that may seem outdated or used by another generation. They also attempt to do away with church adherents who do not “get on board” with this “modern” idea. There are a variety of names given to these who don’t go along with it- they are called “unhealthy” (like a cancer in the body); resisters; rebels; non-submissive. They are labeled as the ones who are bringing disunity to the Body of Christ. But this teaching is actually the thing that is most destructive to the Body of Christ, because it promotes division between various age groups, gender groups and dis-fellowships with those who don’t share the same views. “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-23)
“Bridging the gap” between the saved and lost is not scriptural. There will always be a gap between the two. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Nonbelievers have no part in the fellowship of the believers. But didn’t Jesus eat with publicans and sinners? Yes, He did. We do too at social gatherings, but there is a difference in that and having true Biblical fellowship with them. Christian fellowship is based on a deeper level of communion with each other because of our relationship and fellowship with Christ- nonbelievers don’t share this intimacy/fellowship with Christians because they don’t share it with Christ.
One way they try to close the gap is by making the lost feel comfortable in church. That is not scriptural either. The gospel is to be preached and it will not make you feel comfortable, it will bring conviction. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 12:4) It won’t be an “easy” thing. These proponents of the “church growth” teaching talk about Jesus’ ministry and how He loved people and met them where they were. This is true, yet they forget that Jesus didn’t preach “easy” messages. He taught: deny yourself; take up your cross; if you love mother or father more than me you are not worthy of me; can you drink of the same cup that I will drink; except you drink my blood and eat my flesh you will have no part of Me; let the dead bury their dead; you will be hated of all nations for My sake; sell all you have and give it to the poor. He taught us that there was a price to pay in following Him- not a bed of roses. Just His very presence would often convict people of their sins and they would turn in repentance. Peter was one who recognized that he was a sinful man. Zacchaeus repented and made restitution by giving back everything he had stolen unlawfully from the people.
Because we don’t understand what the “church” really is, we try to make the sinner feel comfortable in our services so that hopefully they will get saved. The church is not a building- the church is all those who make up the Body of Christ. According to the New Testament, the church was comprised of those who were already believers. The church building is the place where the real church gathers together in fellowship for the purpose of growth and encouragement so that we can receive what we need to go out and fulfill the Great Commission. The purpose of the church building, and Sunday morning services, was not to be a place for the lost to come and find Christ. If that happens it is wonderful. Jesus’ command was for us to “go” and reach the lost with the gospel, not for the lost to come into the church building and then get saved. We have it confused and have changed the purpose of the church building. After they are saved then they come into the church building when it is time for the real church body to assemble. That may sound radical, but that is what the Bible means when it talks about the church.
As I have already talked about, the “church growth” movement focuses on making everyone “comfortable” and “happy”. And like I already said, Jesus didn’t teach a comfortable easy gospel. When you preach a “no cost” gospel and don’t preach about “sacrifice” you deceive people and withhold the truth from them. As stated a couple of times- the truth is what makes us free- without the truth people will be deceived living a life of sin thinking that all is well with their souls.
If this “new church” idea brings people to Christ, is it really so bad? Is it as “dangerous” as I have made it sound? The danger lies in laying an unbiblical foundation. When you build upon anything other than the rightly divided Word of God, Jesus even said that you were like a foolish man who builds his houseupon the sand. This foundation will not stand the test of time. When the storms come, the house that is built upon it will fall. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27) These teachings are purely not Bible based. The early church was built on the foundations of the apostles and the prophets- I don’t see where the Bible says this will change. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) What was that foundation? “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) That is where the danger lies- this “modern church growth” movement teaches that a new transformed model of procedure, with its organized cell structure, accountability and mandated productivity is a better way to save souls than preaching Christ and His cross. If the preaching of the cross is unproductive and obsolete then there is no message. There is no salvation. There is no Christianity. We are all doomed to be hopelessly and eternally lost- because we have no foundation for our belief. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
While some may think that this “church growth/purpose driven church” is a “positive alternative” to “doing church”, it is moving us further away from Biblical emphasis and replacing it with a gospel of compromise and human philosophy... and that is dangerous.