Bob DeWaay is pastor at Twin City Fellowship in Minnesota, and founder of Critical Issues Commentary. He is also the author of the superb book Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Life Movement.
In May of 2008, Pastor DeWaay went (at Rick Warren’s invitation) to Saddleback Church. In his account of this visit, Pastor DeWaay nails the only two things that the church offers that people cannot obtain elsewhere:
The final point that I made concerned building a ministry on general revelation (what can be observed in nature as opposed to specific revelation, which is only found in Scripture). I said, “You cannot have a new reformation grounded in general revelation.” His response was, “But Jesus told us to do good works.” My response back was that Christians doing good works do not appear any different than people of other religions doing good works. I then said that the only two things the church has to offer that people cannot get anywhere else are salvation and sanctification. Neither of those can be gained through general revelation.
Pastor DeWaay’s full report of the visit concisely summarises the main problems with Purpose Drivenism. You can read it here:
In this post: The responsibility of elders for sound doctrine; Do ordinary believers have the right to judge an elder’s doctrine?; Doesn’t Jesus tell us not to judge?; Doesn’t Paul tell us not to judge another’s servant?; Is the Alpha Course really that bad?; Is God not able to use Alpha, even if it imperfect?; In praise of discernment ministries
The Alpha Course is a widely used evangelistic tool designed to introduce people to the Christian faith. The Alpha website describes it this way:
Alpha is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith in a relaxed setting over ten thought-provoking weekly sessions, with a day or weekend away.
The same website gives an indication of its popularity:
The Alpha course spread during the 1990s, initially in the UK and then internationally, as more churches and groups found it a helpful way to answer questions about the Christian faith in an informal setting. There are now over 33,500 courses worldwide in 163 countries and it is supported by all the major denominations.
In the introduction to my article, Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation, I mentioned (mostly incidentally) the Alpha Course and its developer, Nicky Gumbel. I drew attention to the fact that many people found the course’s theology to be deeply problematic. And I quoted from an article documenting Nicky Gumbel’s apparent denial of the core Christian doctrine that Christ was punished in the place of sinners.
In his comments on my article, my father made these observations:
You also know that I tend to be reluctant to criticise others who seek to proclaim the gospel, even though they do not understand it quite as I do. God is able to use even the most misguided of putative followers to bring sinners to Jesus.
In this post: On professing Christians who seemingly bear no fruit; Paul Washer on our unbalanced understanding of Christianity; Of those whose lives do seem to bear fruit in keeping with repentance; Bonus comments: Brief study of assurance in 1 John 3:14–20; Is it right to share our testimony of a changed life?
In my article, Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation, I argued that we should not point people to their good works for definite assurance of their salvation. I closed that discussion with these remarks:
Point me then, not to my own works, but to the exceedingly precious promises of Christ that are mine through His finished work on the cross. Call me daily to repentance, and tell me of the forgiveness of all my sin that has been accomplished through Christ’s death and the shedding of His blood. Exhort me not to look inward to myself, but outward to the one with whom I was buried through baptism into death, the one who was raised from the dead for my justification and even now causes me to walk in newness of life (cf. Romans 6).
In his comment on my article, my father made several observations on this topic to which I thought it would be helpful to respond.
In this post: Rick Warren; The Gospel obscured; Drs. Sproul and Mohler on the errors of seeker-sensitivity; Hostile church takeovers
In his comment on my article, Dangerous pragmatism – why a transformed life is not proof of salvation, my father expressed unawareness of the Purpose Driven Life movement.
I know that my father’s claim might appear scarcely credible to some. Yet he lives in deepest darkest Dorsetshire, in a small rural village near the south coast of England. It seems that Rick Warren has yet to reach the local Anglican parish church that my father attends there.
Now, despite the impression that some might have from my postings, I am not especially interested in talking about Rick Warren, criticizing Purpose Drivenism, or even in lamenting the problems readily apparent in today’s evangelical church.
I should much rather be proclaiming the true Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners like me, and raised from the dead for our justification.
It’s just that the errors of modern evangelicalism keep intruding upon my ability to do that, and it turns out that addressing those errors can sometimes be a useful foil for talking about the wonderful riches that are ours in Christ.
This blog is blessed with intelligent, thoughtful and gracious commenters. One of the delights of posting a piece is in the subsequent interaction with its readers. Whether they agree, disagree or are simply asking questions, I often find that the ensuing conversation helps me to sharpen my understanding of the glorious Gospel and its outworking in my own life and in those around me.
In this post: The defective gospel of the Alpha Course; False assumption 1 – We can judge what is right by whether it ‘works’; False assumption 2 – Growth in church attendance proves God’s blessing; False assumption 3 – A transformed life is proof of salvation; The right way, and the wrong way, to view good works; Bonus comment thread: why the Purpose Driven Life movement is problematic
I was chatting with a good friend last week. He is on the leadership track of a self-described Purpose Driven church, and we have a history of (mostly) amicable sparring over the nature of the Gospel and how it should be proclaimed.
(For anyone unfamiliar with the dangers of the Purpose Driven church movement, I recommend Bob DeWaay’s eminently readable and definitive book on the subject, Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Life Movement.)
Entirely incidental to the topic of our conversation, my friend happened to mention that the home group he leads had been showing a Nicky Gumbel video. Without thinking, I blurted out the mildly disparaging quip ‘Never mind.’
What is the Gospel?
I briefly covered this in my article, The mysterious case of the disappearing gospel. But the topic is so important that I return to it here.
St. Paul defines the Gospel very clearly and concisely in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
1 Cor. 15:1–8, NKJV
The Gospel, then, is the fact that Christ died for sinners, was buried, and rose from the dead.
My friend Mike Ratliff presents a superb article by Bob DeWaay that gets to the heart of the problems inherent in spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. As usual, Pastor DeWaay is Scriptural, clear, insightful and convincing. What more could you want?
If you have read my article Spiritual growth? There’s an app for that, you’ll be aware that there is currently a big push within the Church to adopt these dangerous practices. Mike and Bob show you why this is a Bad Thing.
Still here? Quick, go read the article now – but don’t forget to come right back:
For those who don’t know him, Bob DeWaay is pastor at Twin City Fellowship in Minnesota and the founder of Critical Issues Commentary. He is also the author of two superb books, both of which I highly recommend:
If you don’t have a copy of these books, go buy them now!
Have you noticed?
Christian organizations everywhere are emphasizing the importance of engaging in practical ways with the poor and needy. The talk is of ‘impacting people’s lives for the Kingdom’ and ‘responding to Jesus’ call to look after the poorest and most vulnerable’.
This is a good thing, surely? Is this not simply following the example that Jesus set? And does not Paul exhort the Galatians to ‘do good to all’ (Gal. 6:10)?
This short video makes a pertinent observation. (For best results, choose ‘720p’ and view full screen.)
Try this experiment:
The folks from Leadership Network are into innovation in a big way. And they have something shiny and new. It’s called Monvee.
Remember, Leadership Network is the organization that helped infect the church with the twin blights of Seeker Drivenism and Emergence Christianity. Leadership Network has marketing clout, and knows how to use it. Monvee could be huge.
One of the problems with the Church Growth Movement’s seeker-driven approach to mass-producing disciples is that it has largely failed to consider how to make disciples who are growing into spiritual maturity in Christ. When the most mature members of your own congregation tell you that they are ‘not being fed’, there’s a problem. And when the mainstream media writes that ‘megachurches like Saddleback are market-driven, with transcendence not on the menu’, and worse, describes you as the ‘butt end of Christianity’ using the words ‘bland, cheerful, dull’, the scary prospect of irrelevance beckons. And with irrelevance comes that worst nightmare of the Church Growth CEO pastor – stagnant or shrinking congregations.
Monvee is the solution to this problem of stalled Christian lives lacking in transcendence. Market research has uncovered a missed opportunity, and Monvee is the new product that has been created to fill this void.