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Saddleback (Rick Warren)
Bethany World Prayer Centre, (Larry Stockstill)
Faith Community Baptist, Singapore (Lawrence Khong)
We continue our study of the cell-church systemby looking at organisations that have given rise to the termthe "Purpose-Driven Church" (PDC). But the purpose
is not so much to save people fromsin and damnation, but to attract people to sign up as members of the churches represented by this movement.
According to one commentator "The Purpose Driven Church came out of the teachings of Campus Crusade, Young Life and Sun Life in the 70 s, researched
and produced by the Fuller Institute In Pasadena, Ca in the late 80 s, and popularized by Rick Warren and Saddle Back in the 90 s."
The Seeker-Sensitive Model, exemplified in the WillowCreek Community Church since the 80 s targets people who want to find out more about God or
Christians who have left church feeling bored or upset with what they found there.
These meticulously-run megachurches have a name for being "seeker-sensitive", which in practical terms means the meat is spiced into extinction for the purpose
of wooing as many people to the meetings as possible and not scaring themaway with anything "religious".
Famous in this category is Willow Creek Community Church in Sth Barrington, Illinois, possibly the largest evangelical church in America
with between 17 and 18 thousand people attending the weekend services. The Church is pastored by Rev. Bill Hybels, who claims Robert Schuller as his
mentor. (See more about Schuller in the earlier part of this series).
WillowCreek is a high-tech and slick entertainment centre, where according to one article "drama and soft rock are served up on a stage washed in pink and
blue spotlights". The building has nothing identifying it as a church. Inside, it is an auditoriumwith theatre seating, and twelve huge TVscreens showing
multimedia presentations of the big names and celebrities of the modern Church or closeups of the on-stage action just like any rock concert.
The live music, stage shows, dramas and other activities are reminiscent of a TVshowand were it not for the soft-sell sermon and topics discussed you
might imagine you were anywhere but a church.
WillowCreek is theologically conservative; it holds to the inerrancy of the word of God, salvation by faith alone and other tenets of the Protestant faith, yet it falls
over itself to cater to the crowds and address their needs rather than openly challenging their standards and sins.
It preaches a gospel message, but one so compromised that it fails in its primary purpose to move people out of the fallen world and into the kingdomof God.
The WillowCreek methodology as described in one publication is this: "Take a poll of lost people, find out what they want in religion, then make an all out effort
in the church to provide what they want." (5)
In his book about WillowCreek, ("Rediscovering Church") Bill Hybels clearly sees himself as God's appointed leader to transformthe world about him.
Claiming that when God needed to accomplish any great task of transformation in society he would seek out "leaders" such as Moses, David and Solomon,
Hybels says " after all, who is going to cast the vision of, or creatively imagine the future for, a biblically functioning community?" (6) and "Leaders have the ability
to cast a vision: People with the spiritual gift of leadership have a God-given capability to imagine a preferred future for whatever kingdom-related enterprise
they're leading.....God has created human beings to respond to a worthy vision when it's passionately presented by a gifted leader". (7)
What a contrast to the Apostle Paul's denunciation of human effort and human words in preaching the gospel, for Paul recognised, in humility, that it is only the
Holy Spirit's unction and drawing ability that will convince any human being of the need to repent.
"And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For
I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in
much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of
the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Cor 2:1-5)
Bill Hybels in several places in his book touches on this theme of "imagining creatively" as a method of introducing change. He even implies that Jesus
"imagined" the Church into being because he "challenged his followers to imagine a city perched on a hill..." and " his followers imagined a beacon of hope,
a lamppost of love, a torch of transforming power - and the church was born" (8)
Another foundational influence on Bill Hybels was the zeal of co-founder Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian who seems to have launched into the idea of seeker-
sensitive churches after having a major warmfuzzy on the idea of "caring communities reaching out to the world in love". The blurb for the book "Community 101"
by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian on the WChome site says that "Nothing is more essential, or more basic, to the church than the oneness of community." I would
have thought the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ was the bedrock of the Church, not living in community with other Christians.
But the idea of community in society and the world ranks as one of the most important theories of the NewAge. One quote plucked at randomfromthe thousands
of NewAge sites that preach this concept as a model for transforming society is this:
"We wanted a "co-creative community"- reflecting the integration of feminine and masculine virtues and whole-
centered consciousness. We wanted, as individuals and as a group, to align the values of sharing and nurturing with the traits
of focused purpose and action in the world. We wanted to replace dominance with partnership and empower each individual to
express his or her unique gifts. This alignment of Self to Self, horizontally and vertically, is what we mean by "co-
creation." (from Global Family)
Compare this to Dr. Bilezikian who "learned that the original church was a community of believers who were discovering their spiritual gifts, getting involved in
small groups, having closeness and togetherness, and applying problemresolution (and) deeply desired for that kind of church to exist today. That
passion permeated his teaching and eventually led he and a student of his, Bill Hybels, to start WillowCreek Community Church in 1975". (fromhttp://
www.ncclagrange.com/dr_B.htm) [See also: http://members.aol.com/diakonii/bileziki.html]
The goals of "sharing, caring" partnership, empowerment of the individual, development of spiritual gifts, tolerance of other cultures and beliefs, male-
female integration, love and acceptance for all, and transformation of society are also the goals of the cell churches and the seeker-sensitive churches.
Bill Hybels talks about his mission and the mission of his church organisation much more in terms of "changing the world" than bringing individuals to faith in
God and saving themfromhell. He has this trait in common with his fellowleaders in the cell-church and Church Growth systemas a whole.
Compromise leads people to jump into bed with those they should be denouncing. Thus Hybels does not seemtoo particular about those with whomhe
keeps company. In 1989 'Christianity Today' photographed himwith Robert Schuller and C. Peter Wagner at Schuller's Crystal Cathedral. He had monthly
meetings with Bill Clinton and Tony Campolo according to one article, (1) and the Grand Rapids College (nowCornerstone College) carried Hybel's article in
which he favorably quoted MScott Peck, a prominent NewAger and ecumenist. (2)
At a leadership conference hosted by WillowCreek in 2000, "Bill Hybels interviewed Rich De Vos (Amway co-founder) and did a 90-minute interviewwith
Bill Clinton" (3) in which he helped whitewash the President's activities and implied Clinton was a Christian brother. (4)
A month after the September 11 tragedy, a Muslim cleric, Fisal Hammouda, shared Hybels's pulpit for a discussion about Islam.
The imam and pastor discussed strong ties between Christianity and Islam and the congregation was impressed. ... Hybels
was concerned that there "are some Christians spreading rumors and half-truths that the Qur'an encourages violence."
Hybels's mentor in ministry is Robert Schuller, whose compromises with Islam are notorious. From personally preaching in the
mosque of the Grand Mufti in Damascus, to allowing the Islamic leader's cleric son to preach from his own pulpit, these things
are nothing new for someone who sponsors "Christians and Muslims for Peace" at his Crystal Cathedral. [from Berean
Call Newsletter, May 2002]
Leaders like Schuller and Hybels tell us they are providing for a wide variety of personalities and lifestyles in order to introduce themto a better way of life in God.
But as one observer noted: "Carnal Christians led by consensus are more likely to FEEL secure in their group-led opinions and actions knowing they're not alone
in them, even if they are unbiblical. But unfortunately, many today have made consensus their conscience in order to avoid any personal responsibility
or accountability for sin". [Paul Proctor. See his article: The People’s Church and one on the related subject of Diaprax ]
Says Proctor: "For those unacquainted with the term 'Diaprax', it is simply another word for the Hegelian Dialectic or
consensus process ... Diaprax, a word coined by author and teacher Dean Gotcher, essentially brings together people of diverse
and often opposing backgrounds, worldviews and belief systems in hopes they will forfeit their own values, traditions and absolutes
for the emotional rewards of group acceptance."
Again, the intention is to "save the lost" and no doubt many of the "unchurched" do develop a curiosity and belief in God by attending WillowCreek services,
but when we mingle the vital truths concerning God, salvation and our eternal destiny with the worldly search for enjoyment, freedom, pleasure and excitement
we end up with only one result - COMPROMISE.
God did not send Jesus Christ to make our life on earth comfortable and trouble-free. Salvation is not about meeting our needs, keeping us happy,
wealthy, contented, and entertained! Faith and holiness is not about reaching a consensus in society about what is tolerable. It is primarily about our
human condition of wretchedness before God, and our need to repent and submit our lives to Him. This brings joy and peace, but it is not designed for our
pleasure, but for the greater glory and praise of God, and so that we might serve and honour Himin all things - despite our circumstances.
The word of God says:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in
the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is
passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17)
●For an in-depth look at Bill Hybels and WillowCreek go to the following article http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/
●For a series of snippets about Hybels and his beliefs, go here: http://wayoflife.org/fbns/hybels.htm
●Excerpts froma Christian News report at this site: http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/hybels/news.htm
●"WillowCreek: Conversion Without Commitment" a major study by Laura M. Kaczorowski at http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/
RICK WARREN AND SADDLEBACK CHURCH
In many ways, all that is said above of WillowCreek applies to Saddleback, for their philosophy is the
same. Rick Warren has turned the church in Orange County, California into a centre for "reaching
the unchurched" with messages that appeal to today's values.
But the Saddleback church itself is only the tip of the iceberg. The PDCphilosophy is out there, in the wild and spreading round the globe - see The
PDC website for details.
One report states that: "Over ten thousand churches in 83 countries around the world have adopted the Purpose-Driven Church paradigmfor church health
and growth. Over 175,000 church leaders have been trained in the purpose-driven principles through conferences, DVD, satellite and the internet. Over 1
million copies of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Church, have been distributed in 22 languages. Purpose Driven has grown beyond Saddleback Church
-it's nowa global laboratory."
In January of 1998, Dr. Dennis Costella attended a "Building a Purpose Driven Church" seminar where Warren taught that the following must occur to transform
a traditional church into a dramatic growing church:
1. Acontemporary-styled, non-threatening "Seeker Service" must replace the traditional Sunday worship service;
2. The dress must be casual;
3. The music must be contemporary, the kind that people hear every day.
4. The message must be only positive so that saved and unsaved alike can feel better about themselves after a message that often mixes psychology and an
uplifting Scripture text;
5. Church ministries must be geared to meeting needs, with support groups for depression, eating disorders, infertility, homosexuals' family/friends, post-abortion,
and marital separation. Warren scoffed at the idea of passing out gospel tracts or going door-to-door since the typical "Saddleback Sam" is offended by such
6. Doctrinal instruction is not given to the church as a whole on Sundays, but is available in sub-groups apart fromformal church services;
7. Aspirit of pragmatic compromise must prevail. Warren said, "It really doesn't matter your denomination, folks. We're all on the same teamif you
love Jesus." [March-April 1998, "Foundation" evangelical magazine]
As the above writer states:
"Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Church" and the related publications of Saddleback's literature ministry have influenced tens
of thousands more who have never attended any of his seminars. As Warren indicated in a closing prayer, the impact of
the Saddleback experience is extensive: "Thank You that there is a movement, a stealth movement, that's flying beneath the
radar, that's changing literally hundreds, even thousands of churches around the world." It is necessary for the faithful believer today
to be wary of any "stealth" (camouflaged, secretive) program intended to fly "beneath the radar" in order to avoid detection. For
many years now the church growth movement has certainly flown into congregations undetected by thousands of churches
worldwide. The onslaught must be detected, the warning must be sounded now!"
●Book Review of Purpose Driven Church (scroll page)
●Christianity Today article on Rick Warren
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