OK, I realize that in many circles, Rick Warren and the whole Purpose Driven phenomenon are revered as one of God's great gifts to the church in our time. Churches all across the country are reporting staggering growth, revitalization and revival. On the other hand, Rick Warren has become a whipping boy for the anti-Church Growth crowd. He is popular, he is out there in the public eye and is an easy target for those who disagree.
Although I'm one of those who have some problems with the whole phenomenon, I'm trying to low-key it on the criticism. He's receiving so much criticism in some circles that it looks to some as if people are jumping on the "Purpose Driven is Eeevil" bandwagon the way its advocates are jumping on the "Purpose Driven is Wonderful" bandwagon. The temptation of the advocates is to say "you're just a malcontent, trying to explain away your own failures and lack of growth in your church."
So, although I've got some definite opinions on the matter I'm trying to go as low key as I can, at least until I can finish reading his book to see if the criticisms are true. However, back in March when I was in California I did get to visit his church and Grace Community Church (with John MacArthur) on the same Sunday. I am planning to publish a blog entry on that experience called "A Tale of Two Churches." I just haven't gotten around to it.
Today I came across something in the Get Religion blog that raised a question for me. Terry Mattingly wrote an article on Wal-Mart and linked to a separate article from one of Warren's critics. This critical article says, among other things:
"People have said this is like the 'Wal-Mart effect' -- that is, you have a big entity organization within your community [that] offers all kinds of products, all kinds of things," he says. "And usually that draws from smaller churches -- it certainly doesn't draw from just the lost."I think the Wal-Mart effect refers to the fact that, when Wal-Mart's go into a town, all of the mom and pop shops around tend to close down. Obviously, this guy is saying that the Purpose Driven thing tends to draw Christians from other churches, more than it does from the lost.
I'm just curious to know if this is true. Is all this church growth from the Purpose Driven campaign just from Christians leaving one church to go to another? Or are there multitudes of people coming to Christ.
If it's true is it necessarily bad? For example, if Warren is preaching the gospel (and there is some doubt about that in some quarters), then its not a bad thing for a person to leave a liberal church which doesn't preach the gospel to come to one that does.
These are just a few questions worth asking for friends and foes of Purpose Driven alike.