Saturday, 21 July 2012

Church Growth Reflections

In churches that have embraced Rick Warren's purpose driven methods and outlook, there seems to be a man centred, bottom up approach to church growth and ministry. Some would dismiss Warrenism as a market driven approach, which is far too consumer oriented and not God centred enough. Rick Warren clearly wishes to make his church user friendly, but in doing so does he make serious errors and doctrinal disasters?  He wants to scratch where the people are itching, which some churches have completely failed to do. Undoubtedly his methods have put backsides on seats and have increased church membership and financial commitment, but at what cost?

While it is important to be aware of the needs of seekers and those who need to hear the message of salvation, grace and truth, I would argue that we must start with what God wants to build rather than want man desires and demands. While consumer surveys can help us determine policies and practices, the most important thing is to consult the Lord and find out how He wishes us to proceed. Unless the Lord is at the centre of the process, we are operating in vain.  Psalm 127:1 comes to my mind.

Rick Warren believes, according to the Purpose Driven Church, that anyone can be brought into the church if you find what really matters to them. It would seem that Warrenites believe that conversion comes through understanding and offering what the person deeply desires, and then once the bait has been taken the  seeker is ready to be reeled in. (When I find the exact passage then I will insert it here.)  My problem with this approach is that it in no way takes the sovereignty of God in the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit in conversion into account. Conversion is not something that we can manipulate, control or manufacture, no matter how good our marketing, methods and ministry. Conversion is a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to true repentance, faith and salvation.  It is not of our own doing. Through the gracious gift of God do we receive faith, and by God's workmanship we come to salvation so that we produce good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

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