Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aaron Wolf on Church Growth

In the June issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Aaron Wolf offers up part two of his analysis of the church growth movement. His essay primarily focuses on Rick Warren, and the influence of management guru Peter Drucker on Warren's "methods" of church-growth and evangelism. Wolf concludes that the hubris inspiring Warren's approach to ministry is not something new or unique, but is a manifestation of the heresy of "Americanism," defined as the perspective that "we are the terminal generation, that we are special on the stage of world history, that everything must conform to our vision of ourselves."

Anyone having even a passing familiarity with "conservative evangelical Protestantism" is familiar with the malady described by Wolf.

More: “How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was? And then, there are purpose and strategy and vision—all three which cannot be left to chance, if today’s business and Church-growth experts are right….

What, exactly, drew the Irish to Patrick? Was it the thrilling promise of a miracle? Did Patrick pass out vellums advertising a Three Night Life-Changing Crusade? “Watch Snakes Vanish, Before Your Very Eyes!” Did he carefully compose relevant, contemporary music (so as not to frighten away the hipster Celts) for singing “The Breastplate”? “Ooh, ooh, ooh, the splendour of fire!/Whoa, oh, oh, the flashing light’ning! [Repeat 6x’s.]” Did he speak to their felt needs, urging them to trade in all of their cares, anxieties, and their depression for a relationship with Christ?

And how did he ensure that those he persuaded to make Life-Changing Decisions to keep coming to church? Did he create special ministries for Celtic youth, for young Irish families, for the mothers of Preschoolers? “Today, after mass, Pastor Pat will be talking with the Nifty fifties about living with osteoporosis.” Or “Irish Youth in Service (IRIS) will be having its annual God-Hain bonfire this Saturday night. (Parents, please: No devil masks.)”

No, Patrick preached. He evangelized (“gospelled”) as he went, wherever he went. He did not have a mission statement: He had the Great Commission. He did not have marketing techniques: He had the Holy Ghost, the word of God, and his ordination. He did have slick music or a “relevant message”: He had the Body and Blood of Christ, the stern rebuke of God’s Law, and the promise of the forgiveness of sins”


Anonymous said...

Rick Warren isn't about church growth and marketing. He's about church health and the power of God's Good News to change lives. Rather than being the antithesis of Patrick, his life's mission of evangelizing a pagan culture actually makes them a lot alike.

Anonymous said...


You must have hit a nerve with the Saddleback folks because they sent Mark Kelly (the Saddleback spin doctor) to set you straight.

Mr. Kelly your stock-in-trade is half truths and scripture twisting. For instance you shared with us this lovely half-truth "Rick Warren isn't about church growht and marketing." You should be banned from ever commenting on this board after that wopper.

Here's relevant quote from the Purose-Driven website.

"The Purpose Driven model offers leaders in your church a unique, biblically-based approach to help them establish, transform, or maintain a balanced, growing congregation. What is a balanced, growing congregation? It’s one that is growing larger in numbers as it grows deeper in carrying out the God-given purposes for churches... "

Well...umm...that sure sounds like 'church growth' to me.

The Purpose-Driven Church conferences have workshops on:

• Targeting Your Community for Evangelism - Understanding Who You are Trying to Reach

• Attracting a Crowd - How to Design Seeker-Sensitive Services

• Building Your Congregation - Turning Attenders into Members

• Structuring Your Church on Purpose - How to Organize Your Church for Growth

Again, this sounds like church growth.

Face it Mark, Warren doesn't even preach on repentance and sins because according to him 'seekers don't like to be scolded' and he prefers a more 'positive approach' to evangelism.

Sorry but Rick Warren doesn't deserve to mentioned in the same sentence as St. Patrick unless you are praising Patrick and rebuking Warren.

Ken Silva said...

Mark Kelly said: "Rick Warren isn't about church growth and marketing."

Right, unfortunately this seems to be an argument as if to say by repeating it enough it might just become true. With all due respect, Warren is semi-pelagian and heavily influenced by Church Growth guru Robert Schuller.

Schuller even tells us Warren graduated from his Institute for Church Growth:

And even on Warren's Purpose we read: "Warren is well-known as a spiritual and social entrepreneur. Peter Drucker called him 'the inventor of perpetual revival' and Forbes magazine has written, 'If Warren’s church was a business it would be compared with Dell, Google or Starbucks.' "

Looks like Mr. Kelly should do less spinning for and more reading about Rick Warren.

Darrell said...

Looks like these brothers have disposed of Mr. Kelly on my behalf. And here I thought it was a love for Hawaiian shirts that joined Patrick and Warren at the hip.

Lee Shelton said...

If Jesus and his followers knew about the Purpose Driven Church, they might have learned how to be more seeker-sensitive. Maybe then people wouldn't have been so eager to crucify or stone them. I mean, you have to admit, their message was pretty offensive.

Anonymous said...

I didn't expect to change anyone's mind. Rick is on the record about his beliefs regarding church growth and marketing. Anyone who wants to know the facts can simply read his books and articles.

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