Purpose Driven?

Q. I recently heard that the head of (a major evangelical denomination) came out publicly to state that if there were any of their churches that were following “40 Days of Purpose”, they would no longer be considered a member of (that denomination.)

If a church is teaching “The Purpose Driven Life”, why is this bad? In the “40 Days…” book, scriptures are quoted and then suggestions are given as to how to put the scriptures into action in our daily lives. Isn’t that helping to bring people to know Jesus Christ through scripture and get them more acquainted with the Bible? Isn’t He the only way we can get to heaven?

I am currently a member of a mega-church, which I credit for bringing me back into the church after having been away for 20 years, and for drawing me closer to Jesus than I have ever been. When my church did the “40 Days” study, I actually read my Bible and the book on a daily basis. I appreciated the opportunity to have a structured at-home study guide that was easy to read and understand.

I understand that some believe there are some truths, half-truths, mistakes, omissions, and errors in the book, but aren’t we all human – thus, fallible? I do not believe this book was meant for Bible scholars, but I do believe there is a place for this book, and that the purpose of the book has been reached…bringing people to God.

A. It was never the Lord’s goal to bring a lot of people into churches. In fact I can make a pretty good case from Scripture that the Lord doesn’t even like mega churches. The Lord’s goal is to bring people into the Kingdom, and believe me there’s a big difference. The fact that you were attracted to a seeker friendly church, and that it has brought you closer to the Lord is great, and I’m glad that’s happened for you. I don’t know if this is the case where you go or not, but the tendency among most seeker friendly churches is to down play the need for a personal salvation experience, and even serious Bible study, for fear of scaring people away.

Instead there’s a lot of talk about having a better life, some great music and programs, and good fellowship. In short it’s a very pleasant place to be, from an earthly perspective.

If the goal of the seeker-friendly movement was to get people saved it would be fantastic, but in many cases it’s not. It’s to get people into church. Seeker friendly churches generate lots of revenue by keeping attendance high. This revenue is necessary to fund all their programs and staffing requirements. Saying or doing anything that would curtail attendance is therefore avoided. Preaching salvation and the need to be born again is one of those things, so it’s often left up to individuals to learn about those things for themselves. And as the Bible says, very few people ever do. (Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ. Romans 10:17)

Matt. 7:13-14 says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Remember that on this road all are seeking salvation. Simply following the crowd can lead us in the wrong direction.

Paul also warned us against a watered down gospel. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

As for the Purpose Driven culture, some attribute its incredible financial success to a marketing strategy that forces people and churches into buying millions of dollars of materials every month, making its author a wealthy person for having simply re-packaged Scriptures into a more commercially palatable form, leaving out anything that could be offensive to non-believers.

Others say that while the book denies doing so, this approach takes the focus off God and puts it on self. Christians and Christian congregations are to be Spirit Led, not purpose driven, they say.

Still others say that rather than making a few human mistakes, the author has willfully misrepresented God’s word. First he relies heavily on a paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. A para-phrase is not a faithful translation of the original text, but bends scriptures to its author’s will. No legitimate theologian would rely on a paraphrase to explain what the Bible really means. Secondly, it appears that in at least some cases he’s searched through as many as 18 different translations and paraphrases to find one that says what he wants it to say. And third, he seems to rely on our ignorance by taking some passages out of context or re-interpreting them to conform to his philosophy. If this is true, it’s all very smooth and slick, and extremely well done, but manipulative none-the-less, and perhaps even deceptive, they say.

These ways are not God’s way. And the end doesn’t justify the means. (The major denomination) is far from perfect, and has turned into something that it’s founder never intended it to be. But they’ve stayed true to their original purpose, to present God’s word in as pure and unadulterated a form as possible. The Purpose Driven culture imposes no such restraints, and that’s why they and others who hold God’s Word as pre-eminent are critical of it.

Please know that I’m not asking you to take my word for any of this. There are several good websites where you can conduct your own research. But the truest test is one you’ve already used. Does it bring you closer to God? You say it has, and that’s all that matters. As a born again believer you have the discerning power of the Holy Spirit to guide you in your search for truth, and that’s a powerful advantage in the Purpose Driven culture, and in life in general.

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