Should Your Church Implement the Purpose Driven Church Model?

by Mike Ratliff

My fellow believers, when I posted “The Macedonian Call” Sunday night I had no idea that it would create such strong emotional responses both for and against what I shared in that post. If you haven’t read it, please go here and read it before continuing. I got several requests for the “paper” that I gave my ex-pastor last year about my research into the PDC model. I emailed it to a few people who asked for it then decided to post it. The content below is a modified version of that paper. I have taken out the identities of several people in our old church as well as the church name. Please prayerfully read this. Take your time. I know there is a lot detail here. It took me about two weeks to gather all of this data last year. I pray that the Lord will shine His light of truth into your heart as you read this.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

There is no doubt that Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church, has had a huge impact on the Protestant Church in the West. If that fact plus the number of churches that have implemented this model was to be the criteria for making this important decision then it would a no-brainer. However, there is much more to consider.

Rick Warren’s understanding of salvation is biblical, he trusts in the sovereignty of God, evangelistic zeal pulsates from his heart, he affirms the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, he believes in regenerate church membership, and he has been practicing church discipline for 21 years now. In fact, his theology matches my own in many ways. Without the Purpose Driven Church Model, Rick Warren would be considered a Reformed Baptist like John Piper, Albert Mohler, Ray Pritchard, Tom Ascol or James R. White. However, there are several questionable methods implicit within the Purpose Driven Church model that we must consider.

One of the primary functions of the church is presenting the Good News to this lost and dying world. The gospel message is unchanged since the Apostles preached in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. However, the methods we use to spread the gospel and build the church will not just be determined by our understanding of gospel and church. The relationship is reciprocal. Our methods will in turn play a subtly formative role for those converted under our ministries in their thinking on gospel and church. For instance, I have been a believer since January 1986. However, my theology has been Reformed for a relatively short period of time. (Spring of 2005) For 19 years, my concept of the gospel and its relationship to church was determined by a very fuzzy and incomplete understanding of theology. However, since God opened my eyes to the realities of His sovereignty in every aspect of salvation, my concern for the appropriateness of how we worship, preach, and teach in our church has changed proportionally.

The Purpose Drive concept is more than an innocuous or isolated add-on to a church’s existing ministries. Instead, it is an all-inclusive method for all the ways a Church ministers. The actual spreading of the gospel and building up of the church will be so influenced by this model that those brought to Christ within these ministries will have a conception of the Church and the Gospel deeply marked by it.

There is no arguing with the success Warren has had in his own church. Let’s look at his own primary thesis. What is needed today are churches that are driven by purpose instead of other forces (p80) The method’s structure consists of looking at everything through the five New Testament purposes of the church along with the process for fulfilling them. (p80) The five purposes are from Matthew 22:37-40 and the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. Churches that employ this model must strictly adhere to these five purposes.

Worship love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37)
Ministry – love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)
Evangelism go therefore and make disciples (Matthew 28:19)
Fellowship baptizing them (Matthew 28:19, identification with the Christian community)
Discipleship teaching them to obey all that I command you (Matthew 28:20)

On page 86, Warren states that the foundation of such a healthy church is laid by clarifying in the minds of everyone involved exactly why the church exists and what is supposed to do. There is incredible power in having a clearly defined purpose statement. After the foundation of biblical purpose is laid, the pastor must define his purposes, communicate his purposes, organize around them, and apply them.

After this stage, the pastor is walked through the process of implementing this new perspective. He must target his evangelistic audience. He must attract an un-churched crowd. Then he must meld this together in a process to build up the church.

The church/pastor must determine how to target strategically the segment of the local population that best matches the current make-up of the church. (pp172, 174)

To attract unbelievers Warren suggests that the preaching or teaching needs to be restructured to teach them in interesting and practical ways. (p208) The church’s method of worship, preaching, and teaching needs to be scaled and changed to be seeker-sensitive. (p243-244) In fact the actual presentation should be done in completely non-threatening way. The focus should be on showing the unbelievers the benefits of knowing Christ. (p298) The whole restructure must the teaching about God our savior attractive. (pp269-270)

New members’ classes will be mandatory in order to make local church membership meaningful. They are asked to sign a membership covenant and encouraged to participate in small groups. Spiritual maturity is then simply a matter of learning certain spiritual exercises and being disciplined to do them until they become habits. (p334)

There is much more. However, let’s ask: Should churches be driven by purposes? Should we change our evangelistic methods if they do not work? Is seeker sensitivity in worship a biblical command? Should we use audience analysis to make it easy and attractive for people to become Christians?

Here are a few interpretive difficulties with this model:

The Purpose Driven model takes Jesus’ ministry as a model for our own in meeting needs as the foundation for evangelism. (p219)
This conception is a common method of various seeker-sensitive models to understand and apply the ministry of Jesus. However, the accounts of Jesus healing miracles were intended to function as messianic markers that proved Jesus is the Messiah. This cannot be understood that Jesus intended for the church to use this as a model for ministry.

Warren states that Jesus often began evangelistic encounters with the question, What can I do for you? Actually, Jesus is only recorded as saying this five times in all four gospels combined. Three of those are occurrences of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, and perhaps a companion (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-51; Luke 18:35-43). In each of those passages, His question is a response to the blind men’s request for mercy. In each passage the men twice acknowledge Jesus as the Son of David, the Messiah. Therefore, we see that Jesus’ question was not intended as a model for evangelism, but rather to reveal who He is. When Jesus asks that question in Mark 10:35-45, it is in response to the disciple’s desire for status in the kingdom. Only in John 1:38 do we see something close to Warren’s point. Jesus asked his future disciples , What do you seek? They then ask where He is staying and He responds, Come and see.

A close study of the four gospels makes it clear that when Jesus sensed that when the crowds were swarming around Him just to get their needs met, he left and preached elsewhere (Mark 1:35-39) Jesus did not view His purpose as meeting felt needs. His purpose in coming was to seek and save the lost by preaching the gospel (Mark 1:14-15)

The main glaring contradiction between the Purpose Driven Model and Jesus methods is He rebuked the crowds for coming to hear Him just because of felt needs while the PD model assumes that it does not matter why people come to Christ.

The Purpose Driven model claims that Jesus attracted the crowds by teaching in interesting and practical ways. (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 22:33; Mark 11:18; Mark 12:37) Warren uses these passages to show that the crowds are variously amazed or pleased by His teaching. However, in every case the reactions were to the authority of Jesus’ teaching rather than His style. (Matthew 7:29; Mark 11:15-17; Mark 12:37) In addition, Jesus never hesitated to offend His listeners if it meant clarifying the gospel. How many times did people threaten Him with stoning as a result? The Purpose Driven Model’s method of preaching evangelistically by emphasizing only the benefits of knowing Jesus, or by appealing to their felt needs and tastes of unbelievers is not supportable nor can it be justified from sacred scripture.

The Purpose Driven model interprets 1 Corinthians 14:23 as a mandate for seeker sensitivity in worship. Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? Warren’s conclusion from this verse is, God tells us to be sensitive to the hang-ups of unbelievers in our services. Being seeker sensitive in our worship is a biblical command. (p243) This is blatant eisegesis. The context of 1 Corinthians 14 is the edification of the church (vv3,4,6,12,17,26), and specifically the superiority of prophecy over tongues in corporate worship (vv22,24,21) While Warren is correct to see an application for the way we treat unbelievers in church, Paul’s primary solution to this circus is not accommodation or tongue interpretation, but rather prophecy. In other words preaching! The gospel will seem foolish to unbelievers no matter how it is presented (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14). It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make the connection in their hearts. We do not do it by seeker-sensitivity.

The Purpose Driven model cites 1 Corinthians 10:32 as proof of Paul’s seeker sensitivity. Give no offense either to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32) From p243 Although Paul never uses the term seeker-sensitive’, he definitely pioneered the idea. He was very concerned about not placing any stumbling blocks in front of unbelievers. Once again, Warren takes a passage out of context and attempts to misuse it. This passage is not addressing how preachers should get the gospel across in corporate worship. Instead, it is all about how a Christian should live a cross-centered life to the glory of God. (v31) Paul wants believers to live seeker-sensitive lives. This has nothing to do with seeker-sensitive worship services.

The Purpose Drive model cites Luke 5:38 (new wineskins for new wine) as proof that new generations require new ministry methods (p121). Again, this passage is used by most seeker-sensitive models to prove their point. However, the context of this passage is for the people to have the proper reaction to the Messiah’s physical presence, not the need for a new ministry methods in new generations (Luke 5:33-39). Jesus was making a point about the fact that He is the Messiah along with the implications of His incarnation. In other words, His presence called for feasting not fasting (v35).

These few examples show us that the Purpose Drive Model is a hermeneutic that often overlooks scriptural context. This results in a different interpretation of the text than the text makes itself.

Here are some methodological difficulties:

Only the Gospel has driving power for the Church. Warren’s primary claim is that churches need to be driven not by programs, tradition, or even by the seekers themselves, but by purpose (pp75-80). The Bible does not ascribe driving power to purposes. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

This passage teaches not only that God’s word succeeds or accomplishes God’s purposes, but also that God Himself distinguishes between His word and His purposes. They cannot be equated. In the New Testament, we see that the driving power for the Church is only available in God’s Word. For example, Paul is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18; James 1:18, 21; 1 Peter 1:23-25) God’s Word is what provides the driving power of His purposes. You must ask yourself whether your church needs to be a purpose driven church or a gospel driven church.

Method and Message are Biblically Inseparable. Warren encourages us not to confuse methods with the message. The message must never change, but methods must change with each new generation (pp61-62; see also p200). However, as we saw above, God is committed to accomplishing His purposes by His Word. The implication is clear, the method and the message are inseparable. The message of the Gospel is His method (Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 1:16). When a church buys into the concept of the method being a forever moving target generation after generation, it leads to a whatever works best mentality when it comes to deciding how to do things. Warren softens this burden with the following blessing, You must figure out what works best to reach seekers in your local context (p248). I’m in favor of any method that reaches at least one person for Christ as long as it is ethical.We should never criticize any method that God is blessing (p156, cf. p62). Those statements sound grand and very much in the vein of common sense. However, the measuring stick is that God is blessing. How do we measure that? How do we know if God is really blessing those methods? Obviously, Warren uses numbers. In his economy, numbers measure evangelistic and ministerial success.

At Saddleback, we identify the result we expect to see coming from fulfilling each of the five purposes of the church. For each result, we can ask questions like: How many? How many more than last year? How many were brought to Christ? How many new members are there? How many are demonstrating spiritual maturity?…How many have been equipped and mobilized for ministry? How many are fulfilling their life mission in the world? These questions measure our success and force us to evaluate if we are really fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (pp107-108, emphasis mine).

We must ask ourselves if this would be a valid evaluation of whether the ministries at your church are successful or not. If numbers equate to success, then it makes sense that numbers function best to justify the method of ministry employed at our church. In the Purpose Driven Model that is exactly how they are used (pp178-179; 248).

Even though the model tells the pastor not to concentrate on numbers, but on purpose (p394), numerical growth is exactly what the seeker service is designed to promote.

Increasing the size of your church does not require the intelligence of a rocket scientist: you must simply get more people to visit!…. What is the most natural way to increase the number of visitors to your church?… The answer is quite simple. By creating a service that Christians want to bring their unsaved friends to, you don’t have to use contest, campaigns, or guilt to increase attendance. Members will invite their friends week after week, and your church will experience a steady influx of unchurched visitors (p253).

Think of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. If numerical growth was the key indicator of success in evangelism and ministry, what does this tell us about their effectiveness? Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the gospel (Acts 7). How successful was Stephen’s ministry? If we compare his to Peter’s who had three thousand converts in one day at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) things don’t look so good. However, didn’t Stephen cry that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father as he died? Think of Adoniram Judson, a faithful missionary who struggled for years to see the fruit from his ministry. Think of John Bunyan. God allowed him to be imprisoned for over 12 years because he refused to stop preaching. In our zeal for converts don’t we often forget about the function of the preached gospel as that which hardens disobedient men and women as they refuse to repent (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)? God’s measure of His ministers is according to their faithfulness rather than numbers.

Building on Purpose leads to false unity. According to Iain Murray’s Evangelicalism Divided, the number one contributing factor that led many evangelicals into false ecumenism with liberal churches in the last half of the twentieth century was their uniting around purpose before uniting around a biblical understanding of the gospel. Unfortunately, this changed the primary focus from the Gospel to the purpose of evangelism. The Gospel no longer regulated our participation in these purposes. The tragedy of this mistake was a complete lack of commitment to the Gospel. The liberal churches were not preaching the same gospel therefore the united effort didn’t accomplish the same purpose.

Sadly, the Purpose Driven model’s idea of building on unity of purpose rather than on unity in the gospel is repeating the same mistake. The result of this unity is something less then Christian. Your church should unite around the gospel before uniting around God’s purposes because the gospel is what enables, regulates, and empowers our participation in God’s purposes. It is very dangerous to get this reversed.

The Evangelistic Method of the Seeker-Sensitive Model:

Those advocating the Purpose Driven Model claim that the gospel is primary, but they insist that its effectiveness is TOTALLY due to how it is packaged. What does that mean?

The following two points are from the vision statement of Saddleback Community Church. It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance, and encouragement. It is the dream of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the hundreds of thousands of residents of south Orange County (p43). Warren has five more dreams listed in the vision statement, but never defines what the gospel is, or that it requires repentance and belief. He read this vision statement at the trial run service before Saddleback got started. His aim was to try to paint, in attractive terms, the picture as clearly as I saw it (p42 emphasis mine) When he mailed out his promotional letter to unbelievers announcing his first service, he surveyed the community for their perception of their own needs, and their major complaints about churches. The answers he got back were as follows: The messages are irrelevant, the members are unfriendly, the church just wants my money, and child care should be better (pp192-193). What was his response? In the promotional letter, he announced, At Saddleback Valley Community Church you

Meet new friends and get to know your neighbors
Enjoy upbeat music with a contemporary flavor
Hear positive, practical messages which encourage you each week
Trust your children to the care of dedicated nursery workers (p194)

Why did he do it this way? Warren claims that he was simply using the upbeat approach that [Jesus] message offered practical benefits to those who listened to Him. His truth would set people free’ and bring all sorts of blessings to their lives (p224) Is this what Jesus taught? Didn’t He call His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him in salvation and discipleship. Jesus preached the necessity of repentance and belief right at the outset of His ministry (Mark 1:14-15). What did He tell the rich young ruler to do first? He was directed to part with his possessions (Matthew 19:16-26) because they were an idol separating him from belief. Jesus preached a costly grace that was cross-centered (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34-38; Mark 10:17-27), not a gospel of health, wealth and prosperity. However, Warren says, Crowds always flock to hear good news. There is enough bad news in the world that the last thing people need is to hear more bad news when they come to church. They are looking for anyone who can give them hope and help and encouragement.A good salesman knows you always start with customer’s needs, not the product (p225; cf. Also p271)

We should be uncomfortable with the concept of integrating sales techniques and positive thinking with the Gospel to make it effective. Is this how the Apostles shared the Gospel? They regularly accused the unbelieving Jews of crucifying Jesus (Acts 2:37; 3:13, 26; 4:2, 10; 5:29-30; 7:52). What was the result? Peter was imprisoned (Acts 4:1-3) and Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:54-60). Did this kill the spread of the Gospel? But the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem (Acts 6:7; cf. 13:24; 19:20) Nothing has changed in Jesus’ command to make disciples from all nations. Christians are called to simply and clearly preach the gospel, calling people to genuine repentance from their sins and belief in Christ for forgiveness.

The Purpose Driven Model packages the gospel according to audience analysis because Warren has determined that that is the key to its effectiveness. Anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart (p220). The preacher must constantly be on guard to never preach the gospel in a way that may offend. SoWe like to use passages that don’t require any previous understanding. We also like to use passages that show the benefits of knowing Christ (p298) Think carefully about this way of doing evangelism. Are there implications? You bet there is!

It obscures the gospel. The gospel is a blend of benefits and costs. The PDC model emphasizes the former and ignores the latter. However, true gospel preaching must include God’s demand for repentance (Mark 1:14-15). Even churches outside of the PDC model have experienced the shipwreck of telling people to come to Jesus so He can make your life better without telling them of the cost. We end up with people who take the bait, but who refuse to repent when they learn later that biblical Christianity actually requires a lifetime of continual repentance from sin.

It leads to false assurance. No one is saved outside of repentance and belief. Telling people who are simply religious converts that they are truly saved is deception. They are most likely still in their sins. This is tragic.

It misunderstands man’s ability and God’s sovereignty in conversion. Warren’s statement from p220 that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart ignores both the inability of the natural man to understand the gospel of grace, and the sovereignty of God in dispensing His saving Grace. Only the Holy Spirit can change men’s and women’s and children’s hearts to see the truth, repent and believe (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14). The Father is sovereign in giving to the Son those whom He intends to save (John 8:43-47; 10:26-29). Warren’s statement is biblically inconsistent and utterly false. This method depends upon manipulation to convert people.

It builds a worldly perspective. Warren states, We must learn to think like unbelievers in order to win them (p189; see also p186). However, he does acknowledge that baby believers don’t know what they need (p311). That being true, how much less, then, do unbelievers know what they need? Therefore, building an entire evangelistic method on suiting the tastes and meeting the needs of unbelievers is utter foolishness. However, this is the very foundation of the seeker-sensitive service. Once you know your target, it will determine many of the components of your seeker service: music style, message topics, testimonies, creative arts, and more (pp253-254)

When Paul stated that he became all things to all people in 1 Corinthians 9::19-24 (p197), he did not mean that he was willing to think like an unbeliever (p189) in order to make the gospel attractive to unregenerate minds (1 Corinthians 2:14). He meant that he was willing to give up his freedom from Jewish ceremonial law in order to win Jews to Christ, and the he was willing to use that freedom when with Gentiles in order to win them to Christ.

It tries to make the gospel appear attractive on the world’s terms. The Purpose Driven evangelistic method is built on the perceived need to exegete the community. I must pay as much attention to the geography, customs, culture, and religious background of my community as I do those who lived in Bible times if I am to faithfully communicate God’s Word (p160). Yes, if the gospel and its requirements are not to be misunderstood by hearers, then it must be clarified where it contradicts culture, and where culture has made it hard to understand the implications of the gospel in everyday lives. However, this is not what Warren means. Warren’s purpose in cultural exegesis is to make the gospel appear attractive on the world’s terms, as we saw above. Think carefully through this! It is impossible to make the exclusive cross of Jesus Christ attractive and appealing to a religiously pluralistic, morally relativistic culture by structuring our approach according to their preferences. Unbelieving Americans do not believe in absolute truth, or universally binding morality, or that exclusive claims of truth in religion can even be made. They also do not believe in sin. The genuine Gospel contradicts all of this. Once adulteration of the Gospel takes place in an attempt to make it culturally relevant serious damage has been done to its eternal effectiveness.

Worldly Necessities:

The Purpose Drive model states the necessity of worldly elements for effective evangelism. It makes secondary things primary such as multiple services and programs (pp200-201), the arrangement of chairs (p266), to sanitized nurseries (p268), to the building itself (p269), Warren insists that churches won’t grow if these things aren’t in place. In America, it takes parking to reach people If you don’t have a place for their car, you don’t have a place for them (p254). Come on! These things are nice, but they are not primary.

Conversion and the Seeker Sensitive Service. The Purpose Driven Model raises problems for the doctrine and experience of Christian conversion. Making a service comfortable for the unchurched doesn’t mean changing your theology, it means changing the environment of the service (p244). Unbelievers have a much deeper need than feeling comfortable. In fact they need to feel UNCOMFORTABLE in their sins in order to repent and believe the gospel. Repentance is always a battle. Comfort is precisely what must be overcome. If this is overlooked then it must lead to a change in our theology.

I have always had a problem with people who are against things changing, but offer no solution to the obvious problem the changes were meant to address. Therefore, please let me make a suggestion that, hopefully, would help your church be exactly what God wills for it to be. The 9 Marks is a ministry based in Louisville, Kentucky. Its director is Mark Dever. Here is the greeting from his web site.

Dear Friend,

Have you ever considered what it means for a church to be healthy? Have you ever thought about how that health is nurtured and sustained? If so, have you reflected on why you answer those questions the way you do?

These are the questions that have captured us at 9Marks. Perhaps you’ve been mulling over these same questions in the context of your own church for a while now; or maybe this is the first time you’ve ever encountered them. Either way, we’d like to personally invite you to think with us about the health of the local church and the methods God has designed to promote it.

Contrary to much popular wisdom, we think that God has spoken clearly in the Bible regarding the purpose, leadership, organization, and methods of the local church. So we want to challenge you to join us in reconsidering the clarity of God’s Word when it comes to the healthy growth of local congregations. We believe God designed the church to be fundamentally a display of His own glory and wisdom (Eph 3:10). And we think He has deliberately structured that display in the shape of a loving community that illustrates for a watching world the close fellowship of the Trinity and the redemption that He has accomplished for us in Christ Jesus (John 13:34-35).

Our goal is not simply to point out all the problems with the church; nor do we intend to suggest a fresh approach to “doing church”. In fact, there is nothing really new or innovative here at all. Rather, our goal is to point the way back to healthy church life by calling attention to the timeless Biblical priorities, principles, and methods that God has ordained for the maturity of the local church – God’s work, God’s way. Whether you read as a concerned member or as a vocational pastor, we hope that what you discover here is not just a plug-and-play method, but a God-centered mindset. We’re glad you’re here. Welcome to the website of 9Marks the Word building the church.

Your brother in the Lord,

Mark E. Dever

How does that contrast to the Purpose Driven Church model? Listed below are the 9 Marks of a Healthy Church.

Starting Over

New models are a dime a dozen. But is there really anything new under the sun? We actually think we need to return to an old, neglected model and recover it for today. If the church is to fulfill her mission, she must again become distinct from the world (John 13:34-35).

9Marks is committed to helping local churches pursue, develop, and maintain nine of the most important marks of any healthy church. In identifying and promoting these nine, we are not intending to lay down an exhaustive or authoritative list. There are other significant marks of healthy churches, like prayer and fellowship. We want to pursue those ourselves as well, and we want you to pursue them with us. But these nine are the ones we think are most neglected in most local churches today, with the most damaging ramifications. So we think it is wise for us to concentrate on these nine and let other parts of the Body universal promote other important marks of a healthy local church. Here’s a brief summary of what we mean by each of the nine marks.

1. Mark 1
This is preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hearing God’s Word and to recovering the centrality of it in our worship.

2. Mark 2
Paul charges Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Our concern should be not only with how we are taught, but with what we are taught. Biblical theology is a commitment to know the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

3. Mark 3
The gospel is the heart of Christianity. But the good news is not that God wants to meet people’s felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. We have sinfully rebelled against our Creator and Judge. Yet He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin, and He has credited Christ’s acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is the good news.

4. Mark 4
The spiritual change each person needs is so radical, so near the root of us, that only God can do it. We need God to convert us. Conversion need not be an emotionally heated experience, but it must evidence itself in godly fruit if it is to be what the Bible regards as a true conversion.

5. Mark 5
How someone shares the gospel is closely related to how he understands the gospel. To present it as an additive that gives non-Christians something they naturally want (i.e. joy or peace) is to present a half-truth, which elicits false conversions. The whole truth is that our deepest need is spiritual life, and that new life only comes by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus. We present the gospel openly, and leave the converting to God.

6. Mark 6
Membership should reflect a living commitment to a local church in attendance, giving, prayer and service; otherwise it is meaningless, worthless, and even dangerous. We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons or lack of attention. To be a member is knowingly to be traveling together as aliens and strangers in this world as we head to our heavenly home.

7. Mark 7
Church discipline gives parameters to church membership. The idea seems negative to people today didn’t our Lord forbid judging? But if we cannot say how a Christian should not live, how can we say how he or she should live? Each local church actually has a biblical responsibility to judge the life and teaching of its leaders, and even of its members, particularly insofar as either could compromise the church’s witness to the gospel.

8. Mark 8
A pervasive concern with church growth exists today not simply with growing numbers, but with growing members. Though many Christians measure other things, the only certain observable sign of growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial. These concepts are nearly extinct in the modern church. Recovering true discipleship for today would build the church and promote a clearer witness to the world.

9. Mark 9
What eighteenth-century Baptists and Presbyterians often agreed upon was that there should be a plurality of elders in each local church. This plurality of elders is not only biblical, but practical it has the immense benefit of rounding out the pastor’s gifts to ensure the proper shepherding of God’s church.

Mark Dever and Paul Alexander have written a book called: The Deliberate Church.

Foreword by D.A. Carson

Mark Dever and Paul Alexander provide a model of a biblical church in this resource for pastors, elders, and others interested in the vitality of their church. This highly practical book proposes an attitude of complete reliance on and submission to the Gospel in building a healthy church.

Here is a review by Tim Challies:

As I closed the cover on this book, having read it over the course of several days, I felt a strange disappointment. This book has no 10-step path to success! It has no baseball diamond model for ministry and no acronym-driven program planning guidebook. Nope. It’s just old-fashioned Bible-driven, Spirit-led Christianity. And somehow I let myself feel disappointed by that. I guess I’ve just read too many market-driven, church growth books that make church into a program, defining it in sexy terms and slick marketing. I should have paid more attention to the final page where the authors summarize the book. “The message of this book isn’t about flow charts and outlines. It’s not about fresh metaphors or new growth graphs. It’s about a vision of a whole church deliberately ordered and led so as to facilitate its own edification and ministry…The Deliberate Church is designed to help liberate both leaders and members from the tyranny of popular growth models and church fads” (page 202).

The authors, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, are honest about what they are proposing through The Deliberate Church. “Before you start reading in earnest, let us clarify what The Deliberate Church is not, just for truth in advertising. First, it’s not new. It’s old … really old. … Second, it’s not a program. It’s not something you can just plug into your church and press PLAY. … Third, it’s not a quick fix. In other words, don’t expect to read this book, implement its suggestions, and see immediate, observable results” (page 20). So what, then, is this book all about? “Simply put, it’s the Word building the church” (page 20). This could be called a model of ministry, but in reality it’s merely an attempt to be deliberate about putting the gospel at the very center of all the church is and does, allowing that Good News to feed the church’s growth, progress and ministries.

Lying at the heart of the deliberate church are four key principles. First, theology drives method; second, God’s methods determine ours; third, the gospel both enables and informs our participation in God’s purposes; and fourth, faithfulness to the gospel must be our measure of success, not results. Already, only thirty pages in to this book, we see a clear contradiction between TDC and the methods advocated in the church growth movement. This book has a clear focus on deriving all method from the Scriptures.

What builds upon that foundation is a host of short chapters, discussing one of four themes: “gathering the church,” which discusses preaching, praying, discipleship and evangelism; “when the church gathers,” which examines the regulative principle and its practical application to the worship service; “gathering elders,” which discusses the importance and role of elders; and “when the elders gather,” which provides biblical wisdom on the priorities of elders.

I can think of no better book than this to provide a biblical framework for a new church. A church planted on the principles laid out in The Deliberate Church would necessarily be planted on the foundation of the Bible. But it is not only new churches that can benefit from this book. A church looking to refine its worship or government will benefit as well. While I recommend reading it from cover-to-cover, the short chapters make it a useful reference volume as well, as in only a few minutes a person can receive practical, biblical guidance on almost any area of the church.

If I had the ability to put a copy of this book in the hands of every pastor I know, I would do just that. The Deliberate Church begins and ends with the gospel, and thus it begins and ends with the perfect, unchanging Word of God. It is challenging, practical and biblical. I highly recommend it to pastors and lay people alike.

My suggestion for any church is that instead of obliterating the gospel and secularizing your Church with the likes of the Purpose Driven Church Model, at least look at the 9Marks and The Deliberate Church first. Moreover, of course, everyone involved needs to have some serious secret prayer time with our God about the health and direction of HIS local Church.

Addendum: Nearly all of the analysis in this “paper” came from an article by Paul Alexander, which I found after much research, on the 9Marks website. I never intended to post this publicly. It was intended to be a position paper for the leadership of my former church. Here is a link to the original article: The Purpose Driven Church a Review by Paul Alexander

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41 thoughts on “Should Your Church Implement the Purpose Driven Church Model?

  1. Rick Warren is exactly the kind of person Paul warns the Ephesian Elders about in Acts 20. He is a savage wolf and a false prophet. He is probably the most dangerous “pastor-wolf” on the face of the earth today along with McLaren. I don’t know why we continue to cut this man slack. I have his interview from the TED conferences. His gospel is the same as that of Judas in John 12. “why wasn’t this ointment sold to feed the poor.” Cute. I have witnessed his destructive influences even here in South Africa where he has managed to mesmerise a heap of pastors and believers who were itching to go his route. Until we get back to a proper biblical reformed soteriology and church membership we will only see the apostasy that has been prophesied about and that I believe we are seeing unfold before our eyes thanks to Mr Warren, his ilk and the jelly-fish pastors around the world who know better but because “they love their own lives” too much will not dare stand against it.


  2. John,

    Amen brother. I agree completely with you. It’s one thing to complain about the PDC and Rick Warren, but it is an altogether different thing to compare what he says and does with what scripture says then make the right decision to have nothing to do with him and his followers. Then we must tell everyone who will listen what is really going on, biblically.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  3. Hey Mike,

    As you know, I’ve been reading your blog now for awhile and I can identify with what you’re going through.

    For a few years, I had really strong convictions about church.

    I won’t go into a long drawn out history, but I just wanted to share with you about how God has been working in my life lately.

    I’m sure you can also tell a difference in my attitude when you compare my old blog, ‘New Covenant Believer’ to my new blog, ‘There and Back Again – a pilgrims journey. ‘

    You see, I had pulled away from the more ‘liberal’ church in my case, the PCUSA and had gone to a more ‘conservative’ church, the PCA. At the time, I had thought it was a no brainer.

    But during the time my family and I had attended at the PCA church, I had grown allot in the Lord and I figured out a few things.

    1. There is a strong view with in some circles of the Church today, including web-sites and blogs that really pursue ‘perfectionism.’ While this focus is heartfelt, I believe it strays from Biblical truth. YES, the Apostolic/New Testament/First Century Church was received letters of admonishment and exhortation from the Apostles, so I do believe we need to take our sanctification seriously. But I believe that our righteousness is as filthy rags and that there is no one righteous, no not even one, all have fallen short of the glory of the one true, living God. We are born into sin and even after we receive His spirit that resides in us, we are still effected by our sin. Our glasses are cloudy and one day ‘knowledge will pass away’ but ‘LOVE’ will endure.

    I believe that our Worship, our Fellowship and the Ministry of the Church isn’t about being perfect. We don’t aim to please God so he won’t hit us with the discipline stick. We our is adopted children, our sins have been forgiven past, present and future. We are covered in the blood of His Son and He loves us completely.

    So my opinion on the Church has changed and I have stopped relying on externals and people and the body and the Church as much and instead have started to lean on Christ as the head of the Church much more. I find that when I keep my focus vertically rather then horizontally that I tend to be freed up from worry about what my brothers and sisters are doing around me.

    My main ministry is my Home. We are told in Acts that the Promise is for our children and for those far off. I’m very ‘Covenantly’ focused in my understanding of God’s Redemptive history. For me, the Church is a continuation of the Nation of Israel and as such, it has very similar characteristics. We are very much like the Israelites, the Church today consists of the invisible and visible church. When we are baptized, it is a sign and seal of covenant status, not true saving faith.

    What I’m trying to say is that there are many in ‘covenant relationship’ with God but who remain unbelievers. Then there are many who are also new believers who are still like children.

    I believe that there is a place for admonishment and exhortation and church discipline. But more so, there needs to be Love and Forgiveness, Kindness, Charity, Patience and so on.

    Again it’s not about being perfect and it’s not an external thing, it’s a heart issue. That is why I am now able to be free of worry about how every thing is done and instead focus on my family and my own personal faith more. Because the Promise is for our children and for those far off. My main ministry is to love my family and be their shepherd. I don’t rely on the church anymore to be a good witness or ‘influence’ on my family, I take that responsibility fully upon my shoulders.

    For myself, Church is now where my family goes and gathers with the body, a body of ‘cracked pots’ and ‘broken vessels’ of sinful habits, of having the stresses of the world on their shoulders, of knowing fear, pain, suffering and so on, just like me and my family. So I am much more focused on ‘my’ own ‘personal’ actions and how my family and I can be a positive witness and influence to others no matter how ‘imperfect’ they are. For my family and myself it’s about rolling up our sleeves and going to work.

    I have sense gone back to the PCUSA, to our old church. Not because there was anything wrong with the PCA, but because we had left good long lasting friendships when we left our old church and it was this that really brought us back. For my family and I, it’s not about leading a perfect Worship or finding the perfect church, instead it’s about serving each other and our friends and about looking to Christ to help us in our lives and about helping and encouraging each other.

    I had also changed allot in my presuppositions in my interpretation of the Bible. I tend to take every verse in the New Testament as ‘literally’ as I used too. So this too frees me up from being convicted of certain ‘cultural’ problems that exist in the Church today.

    Why am I writing this Mike? Well, I suppose at the end of the day I just found myself in a pretty miserable state in my own personal faith and in my attitude towards my family and my brethren. I wasn’t very happy or joyful and I didn’t have much peace in my life and one day, I decided that this can’t be what God intended for me.

    So in my humble opinion, yes…. the Church has it’s problems, just like it has for the past 2000 + years.

    But no church is perfect and I continue to walk with a plank in my own eye and a thorn in my own side, so far be it for me to worry about anyone else. For me now, it’s about discipling my family and focusing on Christ and His love of us and our love for each other. Let us not look to the law but instead focus on the fruits of His spirit. Let us get up each new day and thank the Lord for it and lead our lives in and amongst the fallen and broken people around us with the attitude of allowing them to see Christ in us. Let us develop loving bonds and friendships in our local assemblies and concentrate on being loving and edifying the sinners that we worship with and not worry so much in the exact direction that the Church might be going it at any particular moment.

    Remember, God’s timing isn’t our timing and there is nothing new under the sun. Church leaders come and go and so do 40 day, event driven, methodology programs. 🙂

    Christ WILL sustain His church, He will change peoples hearts and minds, His Word will continue to be effective and administer to those who are in need.

    Let us remember that it’s through Christ and Him alone and let us rely on the power of prayer and not on any one person or our own efforts and strength.

    Mike, I like Sovereign Grace Ministries. I think they are a truly God honoring ministry. But where ever you decide to worship, I just pray that you and your family will find true friends in Christ and a true peace and continue to serve and edify your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and enjoy their fellowship. 🙂

    In His grace,



  4. Method and Message are Biblically Inseparable. Warren encourages us not to confuse methods with the message. The message must never change, but methods must change with each new generation (pp61-62; see also p200).

    Excellent analysis Mike. I pasted the above RW comment to make a small analysis myself. It is not just RW that believes that methods must change with each generation. It is each generation itself that believes this. In the past cultural artifacts such as music , fashion, art, mannerisms, entertainment and such were determined by the elders of a society. These artifacts were used to teach maturity and to ensure a continuity with the past , whether that be family , national, or religious. Youth have always rebelled , but they were kept in check by the elders of the society. As they accepted and moved into what elders deemed as “normality” of culture, they were then accepted as adults and matured. Since the 1960’s this all changed. We now have youth deciding what cultural artifacts our society will embrace, because post WW2 parents did not understand this concept and were being persuaded by the new philosophies that were being exported by the University ie. Dr, Spock, Hite, etc. This new youth culture is called Pop culture. This is the culture of youth and it, being rebellious in nature and in form has devoured other cultural forms such traditional/folk and classical/high cultures. This culture{Pop} will by necessity change in methodology with each generation , while keeping its rebellious blood {form}at center. Thus BabyBoomers can relate to Xers and now Emergents at the base factor of rebellion or disdain for the other cultures.

    Rick Warren , being a Babyboomer knows of no other way than to express the youth oriented culture that he was reared on and embraces, believing it is right or ok just because it exists. Here is where I believe the church, of all places should have held firm. The 5th commandment is to Honor Father and Mother. This means more than to just respect them , but also to revere them. Just as God exercises authority over all creation, He gives and delegates in this world that authority to parents, elders of society, law, teachers and down the line. This is the natural order and this should be protected by the church if they are truly obeying God. Since the WW2 parents disobeyed this command by renegging on their God-given responsibility, I believe the sins of the fathers are being passed on to the 3rd and 4th generations. Unless the corporate church wakes up and honors God in this once again, I can only see further disintergration of the church. The church must be salt and light, not conformed to the cultural ways of the world or our society.

    I want to add that the church is becoming a subset of our culture and not an entity against it. By conforming to culture , especially Pop culture , it may become relevant in a social context, but that is not its primary function. I am not suggesting isolation, but obedience to all the Word of God, wherever that leads, even if it is a rejection of our culture standards and by then showing a higher standard, God’s standards, which are Good , True and Beautiful. Of course the world will hate us. That is how we know we are His and are obeying Him.


  5. Dave,

    Good morning brother. I believe that God took me out of organized church for a season so that I could see that my relationship with Him had very little if anything to do with organized religion. We were churchless for several months and my faith and devotion never wavered. In fact, it grew stronger. However, I missed corporate worship and edifying preaching. I listened to godly preaching via podcast or when we visited my daughter’s church in Oklahoma. I think you are right about our faith not being based on our church. That is horizontal and we need it, but the vertical is far more important. I am still Reformed in my faith, but I am never going to sever fellowship with any other Christian except over obvious heretical beliefs.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  6. Fred,

    You hit on a point that I see as very critical. The church has become a subset of our culture or society or whatever… Yes, it has, and that is one of the things that is very wrong with church right now. That is probably one of the root causes of much of what we are seeing. We are supposed to be in the world, but not part of it. Organized Christianity has become a fully functioning part of society with all of it norms. I think God took me out of organized religion for a season so I could get a sense of this as well. Great comment Fred.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  7. I would have to say, while on one hand, the Church shouldn’t be conforming to the world and it’s standards, but on the other, it should be aware of it’s surroundings and not become a stumbling block.

    Objectively the Church should mirror Christ. Yes without a doubt. the definition of ‘Church’ is to be ‘called out’ or ‘separate.’

    Subjectively the more ‘liberal’ Church seems to have allot more of a higher attendance then the more ‘conservative’ Church.

    There are several reasons for this, some good some bad and I won’t get into it or have to time too. But I’ll say this, I believe the focus should be equally on sanctification and growing and repentance as well as being evangelical and relevant.

    Again, it’s not about being perfect or conducting a perfect worship, because when this starts to happen and the focus shifts to primarily ‘sanctification’ then It has been my subjective experience that this can create a stumbling block for non and new believers.

    I also don’t agree with the reasoning of bigger and more liberal churches are simply ‘stealing’ away members from smaller churches in their community. While this might happen, It has been my personal subjective experience that there are also new believers coming in as well who might feel less intimidated then they would in a ‘traditional’ or ‘liturgical’ setting.

    Believe me, I don’t like using ‘buzz’ words and I do have issues with all the new church ‘movement’ and ‘growth’ methodology….. but I also try to step out of the box and try to recognize what is Biblical and what is the tradition of men.

    Well anyway…. all this should always be brought before the Lord in much prayer and meditation and it is only through Christ and His wisdom that we will experience His direction, comfort, strength and peace in ourselves, our families and our church.




  8. Dave,

    How we handle the gospel is key. That ALONE should influence how church is done, not culture, not social norms, not relevancy. Our secular minds recoil from that statement, but the gospel is unchanging and cannot be tailored to fit what people WANT TO HEAR. Instead it must be the truth from the Word of God – PERIOD. If that is done then the Holy Spirit will do His work of saving people instead of people doing church in way that pleases people so they can be converted. There is a huge difference.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  9. Mike,

    I agree, in fact I have just recently posted on my blog about how we should be Christ centered and how the gospel should be our center.

    I guess I would just have to say that WE are His instruments and we can share the gospel either two ways……

    loving or unloving.



    Sorry, is has not been my intention or is ever my intention to carry on to far with any post, it is neither edifying or effective. Please don’t see my comments as ‘trolling’, I just wanted to share some of my perspectives.

    with much love.


  10. Mike stated: Organized Christianity has become a fully functioning part of society with all of it norms.

    You are so right here Mike. Many in the church are so in love and involved with the culture which they are bombarded with in the media and in our social areas such as school , work and even trips to the store or eating out at a restaraunt. They can not truly critique the culture or properly discern the times for they are like men with their noses up against the mirror trying to look at their whole selves. By rejecting the past as a guide post for the here and now, they are only concerned with the here and now alone, with an eye to the future. Again here lies a problem in thinking. We can not know the future . The past is all we can know and the here and now is being played out in the present. Without the past and what we do know and by only living with regard to the present {cultural relavancy}we are as blind men, groping around in the dark and grabbing whatever tickles their fancy and what tickles today’s society’s fancy is Pop culture.

    I believe what the church needs to do is go back and try to understand why church music was different from all other music, in content and form, why worship service was different than going to the theater, why the church tried to exalt the best man had done in relationship to the first great commission ,to subdue the earth. History will tell us why men could aspire to reach greater heights in culture because they wanted to create a culture that held up the highest standards and represented the attributes of God such as virtue, beauty , goodness, truth and law, not for Man’s sake but for God’s; to exhibit in Christianity some of the Glory that God has and at the same time showing compassion for the weak and poor by lifting them out of their misery by showing them not just physical , felt needs compassion , but the message of the Gospel. The need today is not to be relevant to a certain culture , but to be relevant to the state of Man’s soul. Cultures will change, maybe for the better as men turn towards Christ, but that is in God’s hands. What we have been charged with is to preach the Gospel , subdue the earth for God’s glory and love God and one another. By concerning ourselves too much with cultural relevancy we take the focus off our sinful nature and Jesus Christ who offers life, not in a mundane way as our Pop culture represents, but more abundantly. Just a thought.


  11. Dave,

    There are two contaminants in Liberal churches that are deadly to the gospel. They are Humanism and Pragmatism. When they are applied to the Gospel it causes it to change so that only half is preached – the benefits. While preaching the genuine Gospel may appear as unloving, it is in fact very loving. When it is preached in full then the Holiness of God is contrasted with the depravity of man. The consequences of that depravity is fully laid out. Then the solution is given which is the cross. This FULL GOSPEL is what the Holy Spirit uses when He regenerates a Heart unto Repentance and Belief. This is the most loving thing we can do for people. It causes many to reject it and turn away, but those whom God saves are His and never fall away.

    The contrast is a large church full of converts with only a handful of them actually being regenerate Christians or a smaller reverent church full of regenerate Christians who only want to live for the glory of God.

    I have no idea how anyone could teach perfectionism from that, but if they do, then they are in error.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  12. Fred,

    Great insight! What you are describing sounds to me like a new Reformation. 🙂 I’m all for it. Let’s pray for God to send His Spirit upon us, restoring what the locusts have eaten, giving us a Holy perspective again. I yearn for this. Perhaps we are being given a vision of “Home” brother.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  13. Dave,
    You stated: “I would have to say, while on one hand, the Church shouldn’t be conforming to the world and it’s standards, but on the other, it should be aware of it’s surroundings and not become a stumbling block.”

    I agree with this statement. The question is how do we become a stumbling block? By not offering up what the world desires? By holding up higher standards? If a culture is wrong in its very philosophical presupossitions as ours has become, why should we worry about that? We are to please God , not men. We need to be careful about what we mean by the traditions of men. All things are traditions. Even todays culture is a “tradition of todays man”. If traditions are in violation of Gods commands and precepts then yes we should discard them. But just because something is not specifically stated in the Scriptures does not mean that they are not implied as rules of life. When we choose to worship corporately do we strive to sanctify and give God the best and first fruits of our culture? In my other post , I attempted to show that it is the elders that should be dictating what we use in worship and in culture. This is a rule of God. Nowhere does it state that the younger are to teach the elder. There is a reason for this. With age should come maturity and sounder reasoning. Youth are rebellious by nature and have to be “broken” or matured by teaching and example. This is not happening today. So many say that because we are not doing things the way a rebellious youth driven Pop culture wants things done we are therefore placing a stumbling block. I call this nonsense.


  14. An exhaustive and comprehensive post, Mike. I for one was very blessed and exhorted. Our brother Dave seems to be weary and in such we all know that can sometimes make us vunerable. This particular statement seemed to reveal a real and pervasive danger among believers today:

    “Let us develop loving bonds and friendships in our local assemblies and concentrate on being loving and edifying the sinners that we worship with and not worry so much in the exact direction that the Church might be going it at any particular moment.”

    In light of Luther and many others that seems to reveal a weariness in the battle. We need to pray for Dave and ourselves that we will not be satisfied to participate in an obvious compromise (if it exists in that particular church) but that we will lovingly and with grace and humilty remove ourselves from a local flock that is either knowingly or unknowingly moving away from the cross centered gospel message.

    It is hard, Dave, and all of us can empathize with much of what you shared but the battle of truth and grace leads through Golgotha, not the loving bonds and friendships that can be found around almost any church regardless of the many and varied directions. We owe it to our Lord and Saviour to honor Him and His truth preeminently and let Him bring who He desires into our life of fellowship. May God strengthen you, you obviously love Christ.


  15. “Let’s pray for God to send His Spirit upon us, restoring what the locusts have eaten, giving us a Holy perspective again. I yearn for this. Perhaps we are being given a vision of “Home” brother.”

    Amen Mike and well stated. Sometimes I feel alone in all of this as the trend seems to suggest a different way than I see or understand from our forefathers in the faith. It is great to know that there are others also. I love your site here Mike. God Bless your endeavors for and with the Lord.

    A Brother in Christ,


  16. Make no mistake about it, many will come in Jesus’ name and deceive many. Were it possible, even the elect would be deceived–that will never happen!


  17. Let me clarify something here.

    I am not talking about ‘Gospel Light’

    I have not mentioned anything about watering down the gospel or Compromising the gospel.

    The ‘whole counsel’ of God, the ‘whole gospel’ needs to be preached from the pulpit…. period!

    I am not discounting that and if I ever attend a church where I feel and or discern that the whole gospel isn’t being preached, then I will leave that assembly with my family.

    When I say ‘liberal’ I’m not automatically meaning that the gospel is being neglected.

    Everyone here who knows me and who has visited my blog and read anything I’ve written concerning my views of the gospel knows that I know and understand the gospel message.

    That we are born unto sin, we are sinners by nature that there is no one righteous, not even one, our righteousness is as filthy rags.

    There has only been one person who has been able to meet God’s moral demands, that person, the second Adam, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died for our sins and was raised on the third day and is now interceding on the behalf of all whom are called to be His children.

    There are ‘liberal’ churches who are preaching and teaching the gospel.

    I fully believe that it is ONLY through Christ that we are justified and sanctified.

    I’m talking about the ‘method’ of how we do church. Traditional vs Contemporary.

    I’m talking about ‘human’ traditions, but I’m not talking about ‘humanism.’

    If my Church ever becomes a secular humanist social center, I’ll leave, no questions asked. I’ve left before, I’ll do it again.

    But embracing a Rick Warren 40 day style program is a far cry from apostasy. Rick Warren isn’t heretical. I’ve read purpose driven life and to my knowledge it still talks about how we need Christ as our savior and why we need him as our savior.

    All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and that I just believe that the enemy often times has us so focused on error that our faith becomes miserable.

    The Church is fallible. Sorry, but it is and it has been my experience that, true saving faith doesn’t happen after a couple of edifying sermons…. it’s a long process. A process where the unbeliever who is lost in the darkness slowly makes their way to the unbearable light.

    Friendships do matter, very much. Discipleship is done through friendships. Being a good witness to others happens through charity and fellowshipping.

    All I’m saying is that it has been my personal experience that, some of the more conservative churches are such a turn off to non believers because their light is ‘too’ bright that they never have the chance to ‘keep’ the unregenerate long enough to allow God’s Word to effectually work in their hearts.

    I know that there are many who don’t agree with what I’m saying and that’s ok. I understand where you all are coming from and again I’m not trying to be divisive or erroneous.

    This is my main concern, because I’ve been there myself……. When it seems like you can not find a single church in your area that you can be happy in….. then my heart goes out to you. Because, I think that fellowshipping and friendships are important and I believe that we should never forsake the assembling of ourselves, because the world is a hard place I believe we need each other. Thats my concern here, I am pained when I hear a brother or sister that says that they can seem to find a church body that they can be happy with.

    In His grace,



  18. I understand what you are saying Dave. And you are correct in saying that no church is perfect. What I am trying to point out that we do not have to go the Rick Warren or CGM way just because it fits our cultural understanding. In fact I believe it is to our detriment to do so. Even if I concede that he is delivering the Gospel ,as far as salvation goes, there are also living aspects of this Gospel that need to be taught. Here is where the presuppositions , that our culture is ok , need to be addressed. But it can not be unless the church is willing to look at our culture from a distance {history} and not from within its own context. As long as we allow a culture that is philosophically bankrupt to dictate how we will deliver or adjust the Gospel message we will tend towards error, not necessarily apostacy. But again we must also be aware that error may lead to apostacy.

    As far as relationships being the key to discipleship , this is correct. But discipleship must be done by matured Christians , not those that are more concerned with feelings over doctrine. Church is not a social center, but a learning/teaching temple where social relationships may flourish in the context of correct Gospel living. When we make churches to suit one aspect of culture , that is improper evangelism. We are actually leading youth away from a proper understanding of relationship. Parents/Child -Teacher/Pupil- Law/Obedience. Our culture disdains this sort of heirarchy and so does it seem ,the CGM , (unless they are the ones dictating the terms.)

    Your last paragraph show a lot of heart. I too feel saddened by people not able to find a church. The difference is that the people that have been displaced are sincere , God seekers and disciples , at least from what I have seen and experienced first hand myself. The CGM appealed not to them but to weaker bretheren , those that wanted the world and church too. When I hear the displaced person saying they can not find a church , it is not over friendship , but over the message and the life style/ worship style of the new churches. When I hear an unregenerate person say he can’t find a church it is because of those very same reasons, they don’t like the worship and message. Same reasons , different message and methodology.

    I agree with you Dave , we need the whole counsel of God taught. I do not believe the CGM does this because they start off on the wrong presupposition , which is relevancy, instead of the Gospel presupposition of sacrifice and dying to self. We must count the cost if we are going to follow Him. What cost does the CGM ask of us? Except for trying to be a little more moral , I do not see any sacrifice. I believe we need to give up our worldly ways of thinking and I believe that will cost us everything. I know because I am experiencing it. It seems most everyone disagrees with me. All we need to do is add Christ to our usual lives and try to be moral and help others. That is todays Chrisitianity. {it has happened before also}. There is no real sacrifice , unless we feel it is sacrifice to give up immoral acts. That is not the sacrifice and dying to self that I believe the Scriptures are exhorting us to. It is our total way of thinking. We are new creatures , not just changed old creatures. Our thinking should be on things above , not on this world and her desire to be relevant , influential, in vogue and on the cutting edge. These are thinkings of the world, not of a new creature, a new life. I understand that this does not happen overnight. But this is where the elders , especially in the church need to teach and give example. The church should not,as a entity, be ignorant of this, though individual believers will be at different stages in their maturity. Yet the elders / parents of the church must be in control with Christ as the head teaching all things that pertain to life as the Holy Spirit teaches them. The younger should listen and obey so that they by way of the teachings handed down , they to will eventually become equipped for all good works. See Dave , it is a matter of obedience to the Law after salvation. We may be saved , but disobedience cost all of us , even the church. God can not bless the church if they operate in disobedience, and that is the deep rooted problem that I see in the church today. We have a youth cultured society running the show and no matter how well intentioned, it is still disobedience , whether recognised or not. I hope this make sense to everyone.
    In Him,


  19. My dear brother, thank you for delving deeply into the theology behind the PDC. It has been enlightening. However on the marks of a healthy church the Gospel is still defined as humanity-centered. Wasn’t Jesus’ message
    “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”?
    Wasn’t his main message, The Kingdom of God?
    (I believe most theologicians agree with this.) So why do we still continue to define the good news as the salvation of man? ( Please, I am not trying to minimize in any way God’s salvation only questioning our centralizing the gospel on it).
    The more I read and study the word, the more I find The Kingdom of God as the central message of the gospel.
    May God bless you and give you peace,
    sincerily, Othon


  20. Othon,

    Thank you. Also, I agree with you. Jesus did speak of the Kingdom of God a great deal. The Gospel is the good news that allows sinful Man to become part of the Kingdom of God. Our Churches must become Gospel centered while never losing or forgetting that their salvation has included them into God’s Kingdom.

    I try to pray that my Heavenly Father’s Kingdom will come. That is, I pray for the fulfillment of His Kingdom when Christ returns. That should be what all Christians look “forward” to.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  21. Christ not only preached but set an example, sometimes turning grapes into wine and
    raising the dead. The miracles he performed were a way of attracting believers to his main message. I thi9nk he must be higly bored with all the words written about him and the message, never mind the preaching. People just dont get it. We arent better christians becasue we can intrepret every single word in the bible. The message is not christ. The preaching is not christ. Christ is in the one who goes out of her way to give comfort to the sick, the old, the dying, the disposessed.
    we dont live in the kingdon but the real world, warts, scabs and all. All the centuries of preaching and trying to figure things out
    have not contributed one thing to changing the inhuman
    conditions that exist here on earth. Christ said, pray in secret. What did he mean by that? Attending church and letting everyone see and hear you isnt going to get you far.
    Do good works, anonomously, quietly, give of your self, your time, your efforts,a your love to those unloved. Those are God’s children. Not the great washed herd on sunday all smiles and pious.

    Or not.


  22. The micro-defining of terms that basically point to the same thing is counter-productive. Kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, gospel, good news, glad tidings, and others have at their core one glorious plan that was put into action by the sheer love of God –

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”

    To try and weave a verbal obstacle course because we think that God is not described in any of those terms as being the center of the whole thing is to become doctrinally paranoid. Rest in it, brothers, it is majestically and gloriously simple!


  23. Mike. I believe Christ died for our sins and as we put our trust in Him we enter into His Kingdom but I believe the Gospel or good news is that He reigns and is inviting us to reign with Him. Salvation as he defined it is not a confession of faith but “Knowing God and Jesus whom He sent” Jn17:3 where knowing is an intimately interactive relation as in “Only you have I known amongst the families of the earth” Amos 3:2 or Luke 1:35. This might seem like knit-picking terms but it has made a world of difference in my own Christian walk. May God continue to bless you,


  24. Othon,

    What you are describing would be something that most believers would have to “grow” into. There is no way I would preach the gospel that way. The Philippian jailer asked how he could be saved not whether he could reign with Christ. Salvation is a rescue from the wrath of God that comes to those who believe. This faith is a gift from God which causes those who are Born Again by it to repent of their sins and follow Christ.

    Salvation is a confession of faith that is based in Knowing God and Jesus whom He sent. You are talking about an understanding of the gospel that is way beyond what should be preached to non-believers. This understanding would be what we would use to disciple them.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  25. Satan has an IQ of one billion — and increasing.

    He knows the Scriptures better than any of us.

    He hates Jesus Christ and his Bride. Both usurp the place he wanted for himself.

    And is an arch-deceiver, liar and murderer.

    Therefore his main task is to deceive the church.

    And obviously it’s working with many of you men. God help the poor man in the pew with many of you pastors agonizing with yourselves which door to let the wolf in and where to slot him in the order of service.

    Rick Warren is not a pastor. Saddleback is not a church. And he has Rupert Murdoch and a top-shelf publicist to protect his reputation. Your coffee break is over. Get back to work. Much of that discussion above is nothing but sentimental, slothful, sluggardly, unthinking rubbish. The struggling or sick or weak or ignorant lamb in the crowd need real men leading them. Stop feeding Rick Warren and his galactic ego while he eats the sheep right up to the knee bone.


  26. Charles,

    This post is a “paper” I wrote to give to my ex-pastor in order to show him and the leaders at my ex-church that the PDC is evil and leads to apostasy. Even though I was ignored and had to leave that church would you say I was sentimental, slothful, sluggardly or unthinking in my resistance to this deception?

    I agree about the conclusion of your comment and that is what I am trying to do by informing as many people as possible about the fact that the PDC is not Christian.

    Also, the main focus of this blog is to teach Christians to place their hope, their treasure, in Heaven not here. When they do they will abide in Christ and obey Him. I am no pastor, but I suppose that I would be Christian leader and I try to get as many as possible to turn their hearts to God for fulfillment rather than their flesh.

    God is Sovereign and I am His servant. I don’t know what else I could be doing except pray and teach as I have been called to do.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  27. Excellent blog. I am going to post a link on my page.

    I have always been suspicious of Warren- ever since I checked up on his scripture quotes in Purpose Driven Life. What you say squares up with what I found.

    In Christ,
    John Kaiser


  28. Hi Mike,

    Thank-you for posting your paper. I identify with and share your “cold shoulder” experience.

    My comments were not aimed at you particularly, but a general sense of equivocation towards Warren from several of the writers. We should know when we write in the public domain it is fair game. Nor do I nor assume all responding are pastors. But I believe there is no room for compromise here and in that spirit I vehemently disagree with you paragraph beginning with “Rick Warren believes in the sovereignty of God…. his theology agrees with much of my own… without purpose driven he would be considered a Reformed Baptist like John Piper…..”

    Sorry, but where did I miss Warren’s theological writings, sermons and commentaries? And tell me you discerned that from reading his pulp fiction? John Piper? You owe that man and the others in the list an apology.

    As the saying goes, “Demons believe…(name it)…


  29. Charles,

    That’s okay brother. I understand. That statement was written nearly a year ago and was based upon Rick Warren’s own statement of faith from Saddlback Valley Church and from the Purpose Driven Church book where he describes his theology. However, I agree with you that in practice he has compromised that statement of faith big time. Also, if I was writing that “paper” now that section probably would not be there or would be modified some. Thank you for your insightful comments. I also thank you for pointing these things out that need clarification. I never want to be a compromiser so I do appreciate you making your concerns known.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  30. Rick Warren strips the faith that was once delivered to the Saints of all doctrinal soundness, and then accessorizes it with worldly, human wisdom that sounds good, looks good and most importantly FEELS good. Then he cleaverly turns into a journey of self-discovery as did his predecessors Norman Vincent Peele and Robert Schuler and then he makes it “marketable,” sells it to an unsuspecting, aleardy doctrinally weakened church as Christianity. He’s very good at what he does…so is Satan!!



    Subject: Huckabee Purpose Driven

    Don’t know if you all know this yet …but baptist preacher 2008 Rep. Pres. candidate Huckabee is Purpose Driven (PD).

    Ref. Link is to Huckabee’s official web page above…his blog…Huckabee uses PD’s founder, Rick Warren’s quote…hoping for an official endorsement from him. Purpose Driven is a cult that has taken over the mainstream church.

    SERIOUS PROBLEM: There are 38.8 million baptist in the USA. This is what has spiked Huckabee ahead in the polls suddenly. This could spell disaster for the US if these millions of baptists vote. Approx. 50% of voters vote, then say, the last election went something like 62 million for Bush vs. 59 million for Kerry-Dems. —you see, now in 2008, we have 38 million baptist….then, add on to that, millions of foolish nonbaptist christians who will get on the bandwagon–especially, if Dobson and other ‘leaders’ endorse Huckabee? Huckabee has the baptist’s vote…then, think if PD Warren does official endorse him. Huckabee is the worst choice on the republican ticket–and the ‘chrisians’ are fixed to give us another Bush. I’ve friends personally who were PD ‘resisters’ and were thrown out of Lamar Baptist Church in TX. Huckabee (and you know the baptist demonination has fully accepted PD false teachings) does not recognize the error of PD—what kind of christian is he–another deluded one, like universalist GW?


  32. I often wonder……Is America past the point of return? Our dollar is falling. Most Americans still believe that that paper note that you call a dollar is backed by gold. Most of the individuals which I speak with don’t even know what a euro is. How discouraging. Call me negative or whatever, but I am a realist. In Jeremiah 23, you can see that the people had become so careless that they believed that no evil would ever come to them.

    Sept. 11 was a wake up call for America to repent and stop being careless. If you like the idea of a vast American empire, then I would like to know where this money will come from and why you think that the world likes the idea of PaxAmericana. The Romans practiced this concept and eventually fell apart. How can America be any different? I am a veteran, I love our military, and admire the way we fight. But I don’t believe that trusting in our military will stand up to the judgment of God. Just because we say, “In God We Trust,” or “God Bless the USA,” it doesn’t make the Lord obligated to honor us. He honors societies who do not make a habit of sin, nor promote it. We on the other hand, live as though sin is no big deal.

    American politicians suffer from a lack of discernment. Our borders are wide open. The tax system and the Federal Reserve is a form of usury. Since the reserve note is not backed by anything, then why should foreign countries invest in it.. I wouldn’t… Would you?


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