Forgotten Word Ministries

“The Purpose Driven Church” – a critical book review.

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Thank to Stuart L. Brogden who wrote and sent us this article.  We pray it will be a blessing to you in your search for the truth.


Spiritual Cotton Candy


Stuart L. Brogden
November 2005

All the work of all men contains error.  That I perceive error in Rick Warren’s work is not note worthy.  But the repeated patterns of false teaching over 20 or more years and 25 million or so books combine for something to take notice of.  This book proclaims an Armenian, man-centered view of the world and its Creator, claiming all the while to be a Biblically sound God-centered work.  I think it is actually Biblically bankrupt, gilded with the false gospel of pragmatism.  As subtle and dangerous as the serpent in the garden, Warren calls us to believe a lie.

Curious – Many people have criticized Rick Warren by calling him a disciple or associate of Robert Schuller.  Warren has denied in this in myriad letters and articles, wanting to put distance between himself and the father of “possibility thinking”.  So why does Warren include Schuller’s effusive endorsement of this book (on the third page of the endorsements in the front of the book)?  And why does so much of Warren’s instruction sound so much like Schuller (see quotes at the end of this review)?

“The Purpose Driven Church” (PDC) is a humanistic, psychological view of how to handle a church, sprinkled with scripture in whichever translation or version can most easily be used to allegedly support Warren’s claims.  Whereas “The Purpose Driven Life” started out with a truth and spent itself in contradiction, so does PDC – claiming rightfully (page 14) “Only God makes the church grow” – and spending nearly 400 pages telling man how to manipulate people into something that only looks like church growth.

The foreward is a sugary sweet, sappy tribute from a once credible W.A. Criswell.  In his opening statement, Criswell declares that “God could not have a given me a more beloved and effective ‘son in the ministry’ than Rick Warren.”  You know a man is wrong when he limits God or assigns human characteristics to Him.  Criswell claims Saddleback “has grown without compromising the mission or the doctrine of a New Testament church.”  (Italics in the original.)  We shall see.  Criswell parrots the Schuller/Warren principal – “If churches are to be successful in evangelizing our society, which is becoming more pagan by the day, they must learn to think like an unbeliever.”  (Sic)  Right there, Criswell shows that he has lost sight of the New Testament church.

In what appears to be the introduction, Warren tells us the church must “look for the spiritual waves” of church growth, saying “because our churches haven’t been taught the needed skills, we are missing the spiritual waves that could bring revival, health, and explosive growth to our churches.”  Evidently, Warren’s Bible is not adequate instruction to the church or its members on the topic of spiritual outreach and discipleship.  He shows us right off that he is focused on “growth”.  And in this introduction, as well as throughout the book, Warren pays lip service to God while heralding and teaching humanistic methods.

It appears, even in the introduction, that Warren has slipped into an Armenian worldview, saying churches need to ask, “What barriers are blocking the waves God wants to send our way?”  (pages 15 & 16)  Poor, God Almighty – needs the church to move barriers out of the way.  Warrens tells us (page 17) “the key issue for churches in the twenty-first century will be church health, not church growth.”  He then goes on to tell us, same page, that he’s “been a student of growing churches” for over twenty years. 

On page 18, Warren rightly lauds the Bible, and then declares, “My greatest source of learning, however has been watching what God has done in the church I pastor.”  This pragmatic view – study men and how to motivate them - pervades this whole book, and everything of Warren that I’ve read.

In Part One, page 26 & 27, Warren reciprocates Criswell’s sappy sweet foreword, quoting a Criswell prayer/prophecy of church growth for Warren, convinced that God had called him to pastor a church – sounding much like a mutual admiration society.  Warren admonishes us (page 27) to not “copy things we did without considering the context”, but to look at the “transferable principles”.  We will see what these “transferable principles” are shortly. 

Still on page 27, Warren states, “Very little of Saddleback’s ministry was preplanned.”  Remember this claim.  He then devotes the balance of chapter 1 describing all the planning that went into the “planting” of Saddleback.  His research led Warren to conclude that the pastor is the key figure in the health and growth of the church, describing the pastor as the “daddy” of the church!  Any church that has this view of its pastor has already failed. 

In spite of telling us that only God grows the church, Warren’s research drew him to the fastest growing population center in the country, a fact that “grabbed me by the throat and made my heart start racing.”  Lots of people moving into an area typified by upper middle class Americans certainly set a solid stage for numerical growth – a very pragmatic view. 

On page 38, Warren recommends a list of preachers he heard on the radio.  While several on Warren’s list are sound pastors, he recommends to his reader Robert Schuller and John Wimber as well.  No disciple of Christ should recommend these false teachers to anyone, much less the wide and long term audience of a book. 

And on the next page, Warren says that, with Saddleback, he ”determined to begin with unbelievers, rather than a core of committed Christians.”  Consider this statement carefully.  In the first case, the church is comprised of believers, not those who don’t believe.  By purposefully refusing to build his church surrounded by mature saints, there was nobody to hold Warren accountable as a preacher.  Who in this group of lost folks that he gathered could understand anything spiritual?  The Bible tells us those who are lost cannot discern spiritual matters.  A “pastor” with only lost people in his “church” is no pastor.  What Warren started was an evangelistic outreach to middle class lost Americans – not a church.  Near the end of this page Warren tells us he spent 12 weeks studying lost folks in order to know what his “church” should be like.  “No planning” went into the founding of Saddleback, he told us.  Studying heathens, rather than scripture, was how he planned Saddleback.  Apparently without any elders or other biblical safeguards, he was swept away by one of the “spiritual waves” he was surfing for.

Page 44 – “pastor” Warren excitedly recounts how Saddleback “caught a wave”, when over 200 heathens showed up to the service designed with them in mind.  While many churches have operated in temporary settings, Warren touts Saddleback’s “homeless” years as if they were a special virtue.  Thankfully, he recounts a proper understanding of the Great Commission (page 46), yet he leaves this reader wondering how many of his “seekers” make it around the “bases” to becoming a “servant-hearted Christian.” 

Starting on page 47, Warren uses “conventional wisdom” to create several straw-man myths to knock down.

  • “Myth #1: The Only Thing That Large Churches Care About Is Attendance.”  While many have rightfully pointed out the tendency of many large churches to focus too much attention on attendance, I have never heard of any rational person saying it’s the only thing.  Warrens’ own words, with the series of “if” statements leave out the essential bit of the Gospel, wherein the lost are confronted with their sin and the attendant need of a Savior.  He “validates” his Gospel-lite by observing, “it’s happening all over the world.”  On page 49 we are told that “Intentionally setting up a strategy and a structure to force ourselves to give equal attention to each purpose is what being a purpose-driven church is all about.”  None of Warren’s 5 listed purposes (page 49) convey the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Myths 2, 3, & 4: Once again, Warren touts all-or-nothing myths that are, in truth, common failings among many churches.  In talking about purpose #4, Warren discloses that his view of church discipline consists of dropping from membership those rogues who fail to fulfill the membership covenant.  I don’t think that’s what the Lord tells us in Matthew 18.

  • “Myth #5: If You Are Dedicated Enough, Your Church Will Grow.”  Any pastor who believes this “myth” has lost sight of Who builds the church.  To counter “good, godly pastors” who are dedicated yet have churches that are not growing, Warren provides a prescription that follows the same rabbit trail as his “myth” – relying on human effort.

  • “Myth #7: All God Expects of Us Is Faithfulness” In the short list that follows, Warren tells us we must also bear fruit (true) and makes it sound as if we can make ourselves be fruitful.  Bearing spiritual fruit is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of saints, not a trait the person can develop.

Let me take a break and say that I think pages 64, 65, 68 – 79, and 393 & 394 are sound teaching.  Not all in this book is worthless or dangerous, but even these passages are mere “spiritual cotton candy”.

On page 77, Warren uses metaphorical, non-Biblical definitions to build a case for churches being driven.  In Scripture, the word drive and derivatives are used in conjunction with people being punished.  Those being treated kindly by God are led, as sheep, not driven.  Context is key to proper interpretation, and Warren strips a word out of its Biblical context and uses its tertiary meaning to lay the foundation for his whole trademarked “driven” model, pulling people away from the Biblical view of how God leads His children.

Near the bottom of page 79, Warren gives a welcome warning to not “allow seekers to drive the total agenda of the church.” – but I must confess that this book, as a whole, leads me to believe Warren allows “seekers” to drive entirely too much of his church’s agenda. 

After listing, on pages 77 – 79, seven things that should not drive churches (tradition, personality, finances, programs, buildings, events, and seekers), he reveals, on page 80, “What is needed today are churches that are driven by purpose instead of by other forces.”  And, “You must begin to look at everything your church does through the lens of five New Testament purposes”.  Warren’s 5 purposes are culled from scripture, but, again, churches and saints are to be led by the Spirit of God – not driven by anything.  And his 5 purposes are not “the lens” of the Word.

On pages 86 & 87, Warren uses different Bible paraphrases to ensure the word “purpose” is used.  On page 91, he tells us that the church in Philippi was “captivated by Paul’s mission” (Philippians 4:15); whereas Paul makes it clear that he preached Christ crucified and resurrected – people were captivated by Christ and led by His Spirit, not Paul’s “mission”.

On page 93, we are pointed to scripture for the correct question, but led to Warren’s self-proclaimed mentor, heathen business guru Peter Drucker, for the diagnostic standard: “Your church’s purpose statement must become the standard by which you measure your congregation’s health and growth.”  Oops.  I thought the Bible and the Holy Spirit give us everything needed to live a righteous life in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 2:1 – 3)

Page 95: Warren tells about a church that he claims was “theologically sound” and “sound asleep”.  He says, “the church leaders had become lazy and lethargic.”  That does not sound like a “theologically sound” church to me.  It appears to be labeled as such to create a straw man to be knocked down by Warren.

On the next page, Warren tells us, “Prior to starting Saddleback Church I took six months to do an extensive, personal Bible study on the church”.  Remember page 27 – not much planning went into Saddleback?  As part of Warren’s Bible study on the church, about a third of his listed scripture passages are from the four Gospel accounts – they describe Christ’s life, but not the church.  Remember – most of the life of Christ took place before the New Testament church was founded.

In Part Two, Warren describes “the 5 purposes for the church” – Biblically sound purposes but not completely sound in his exposition on them.  “Purpose #3: Go and make disciples.  This purpose we call evangelism.”  One must indeed evangelize (preach the Gospel to) lost folks before they can be discipled, but the focus of this aspect of the Great Commission is on the making of disciples – not evangelism.  Seeker sensitive churches are widely critiqued as being ineffective in discipleship – this error may explain that, in part.

In describing Saddleback’s purpose statement, Warren notes “three important distinctives”, the first of which is, “it is stated in terms of results rather than in terms of activity.”  This is a common failing of man – trying to control the results of his activities; pragmatism defined.  (From John MacArthur: What is pragmatism?  Basically it is the philosophy that results determine meaning, truth, and value–what will work becomes a more important question than what is true.  As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside.  Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.”)  Throughout His Word, God calls His people to obedience – not to results.  Often, the results He brings about are not what man expects or would seek.  I believe the Biblical pattern is to remind us that our efforts have no merit before God – only the work of Jesus does. 

On page 109, Warren sums up his argument for your church to adopt his purpose-driven model by saying, “To do less is to leave to chance the great responsibility we’ve given by our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (emphasis mine)  This is another glimpse into what appears to be Warren’s Armenian view of God.  And if recommending Schuller and Wimber are not enough, Warren touts David (or Paul) Yonggi Cho’s occult Central Church in Seoul, Korea.  This man has written "You can create the presence of Jesus with your mouth.  He is bound by your lips and by your words."  He and Schuller are fans of one another and disciples of the risen Lord Jesus should view neither of them credibly.

In chapter 6, Warren teaches pastors how to communicate their purposes.  He reviews the narrative of Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem and discovers what he calls, “the Nehemiah principle”.  Since the Jews working on the wall grew discouraged after 26 days of work, Warren projects that onto every church and declares, “Vision and purpose must be restated every twenty-six days to keep the church moving in the right direction.”  Certainly, a degree of repetition is a hallmark of effective communication.  But the larger issue is that of deriving a key principle from a narrative contained in scripture.  This is a dangerous practice, the best example I can think of being Bruce Wilkerson’s subtly deceptive book, “The Prayer of Jabez”.

On pages 113 and 114, Warren encourages good personal management techniques – once again showing how to create “good results” by manipulating people and calling it God’s work.  “People tend to do whatever gets rewarded, so make heroes of people in your church when they do the work of the church.”  God tells us not to seek the applause or rewards of men, but to trust God who is faithful to reward those walk by faith, not by sight.  Biblical leadership often flies in the face of accepted “good personal management techniques.”

Warren stays on track into chapter 7, opening with a story about George Whitfield and John Wesley.  Whitfield preached 18,000 sermons to 100,000 people but left no organization behind, whereas Wesley left us the Methodist denomination – as if what we can see today determines the value of the work these men did.  And as far as I can tell, the Lord Jesus did not leave us much of an organization – what would Warren say about His legacy?  Further in this chapter, pages 126 & 127, Warren recommends false teachers among others who are Biblically sound.  Check out the teachings of Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Peter Wagner – men who think themselves modern prophets and apostles of the church. 

In discussing Saddleback’s “5 Circles of Community”, pages 131 and following, Warren tells us he focuses evangelism efforts on those who have already attended his church.  He is either derelict in failing to send witnesses out into the lost world or admitting his “church” is fairly well full of lost folks.  He admits that a heathen cannot worship God, but is “convinced that genuine worship is a powerful witness to unbelievers if it is done in a style that makes sense to them.”  Genuine worship is a spiritual act and impossible for a lost person to comprehend.  But note that Warren emphasizes the style of worship, as if the emotional connection with the music can save anyone.  And this from a man who adamantly maintains style and methods don’t matter in justifying his use of all sorts of culturally relevant music and drama.  He goes on to say, “If an unbeliever makes a commitment to regular attendance at Saddleback, I believe it will be just a matter of time until he accepts Christ.”  With Warren’s declared determination to avoid preaching the law or anything that would convict a lost person of his sin, one wonders what in Saddleback would cause anyone to be saved.  Time hanging with supposed saints won’t save anyone unless the Gospel is preached – which does not appear to happen at Saddleback.

On page 133, Warren describes Saddleback’s membership covenant, which requires “a commitment to three spiritual habits: (1) having a daily quiet time, (2) tithing ten percent of their income (Nowhere in scripture are Christian instructed – even implicitly – to tithe, but give as the Spirit of God leads and not under compulsion. - 2 Corinthians 9:6 & 7), and (3) being active in a small group.”  This sounds like the chains of legalism – whereas the Bible tells Saints to be led by the Spirit in such matters.  He sets up this disclosure by describing people who are “dedicated to growing in discipleship” … “but they have not yet gotten involved in ministry.”  This is a contradiction in terms, indicating that pastor Rick has a non-Biblical definition of discipleship. 

Warren says, “Jesus started where people were – at their level of commitment – but he never left them there.”  I do not see this when I read the Bible: lost folks have NO commitment to Christ.  He says Jesus “didn’t lay any heavy requirement” on John and Andrew, but every Jewish boy knew the total commitment required when a Rabbi bid one, “come”.  Further on page 135, Warren claims that Christ did not issue “his ultimate challenge to the crowd” until these people had hung around Him for three years and saw the ways in which He loved them.  “Jesus was able to ask for that kind of commitment only after demonstrating his love for them and earning their trust.”  Unlike sinful man, Jesus the Christ does not need to earn anything before He speaks Truth to anyone.  Warren puts too much emphasis on the lost person rather than on the Gospel. 

In chapter 8, Warren tells us “There are ten areas you must consider as you begin to reshape your church into a purpose-driven church.”  Where in Scripture are pastors advised to “reshape” the churches they shepherd?  He says he cautions other churches to not clone Saddleback, yet lists 10 mandatory “principles”, 5 purposes, and his own “circles of influence” that these churches must embrace.  “Notice that I suggest you grow your church from the outside in, rather than from the inside out.”  Read the book of Acts – the church was made up of saints and disciples who were sent out into the cities, the reverse of what Pastor Rick suggests.  “The problem I have found with an ‘inside-out’ approach is that by the time the church planter has ‘discipled’ his core, they have often lost contact with the community and are actually afraid of interacting with the unchurched.”  This is another indication that Pastor Rick knows very little of Biblical discipleship, but at least gives credit for this backwards idea where it is due – false apostle C. Peter Wagner!

On page 139, we find out that the first year of Saddleback, when ostensibly everyone was lost except (?) Pastor Rick, he “preached very simple, straightforward evangelistic series such as ‘Good News About Common Problems’ and ‘God’s Plan for Your Life.’”  These are pop-psychology messages with a Bible flavor – not evangelistic, or Gospel, presentations.  How can he say that “most of them (the 200 attenders) were brand new believers.” considering his messages?  God’s Word shows the error of this approach: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  1 Corinthians 2:12 – 14

In a highlight box on page 156, we are admonished, “Never criticize any method that God is blessing!”  Yet all the criteria Warren urges us to use are that which the eye can see, and ignores the Biblical command to “test all things, hold on to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), with “good” being in accordance with God’s view.  On page 157 we are urged to use market research to determine “when, where, and how” evangelism should be pursued and on page 158 tells us a church “driven by market forces rather than the Word of God” will be “unstable and unbiblical.”  One page is wrong, one is right. 

Page 160, Warren continues in his study of man as first priority: “I must pay as much attention to the geography, customs, culture, and religious background of my community as I do to those who live in Bible times if I am to faithfully communicate God’s Word.”  The Word of God cannot be understood or communicated unless one seeks to know the literal, grammatical, and historical context of the text.  Nobody in scripture paid that much attention to the spiritually dead people they encountered.  They proclaimed the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and commended men to believe on Him!

Pastor Rick advises us to tailor the presentation based on the worldly concerns our “crowd” is perceived as having – resulting in a false gospel that might as well be delivered by Joel Osteen.  By telling lost folks how God can make their marriage better, we teach people to look to the Lord for temporal rewards that satisfy our flesh.  But in truth, lost people need to know they are dead in sin, convicted by the Law, so they might realize their deepest need and cry out to the Lamb of God for mercy.  If “god” makes their life more comfortable and they are not confronted with their rebellion against the Holy Creator God, we have made their path to hell all the more pleasant – heaping judgment on ourselves (James 3:1).

Opening up chapter 10, page 173, Warren declares, “Even a casual reading of the New Testament will show that the Gospel spread primarily through relationships.”  Relationships are important, but the Gospel was and is spread through the preaching of it – mostly to people the preacher knows only superficially.  In the next page, we are told, “The people your church is most likely to reach are those who match the existing culture of your church.”  This is true if you do not make disciples and send them out into the world to proclaim the Gospel to all tongues and nations.  The church is not intended to be a reflection of the culture – it is, by definition, counter culture and intended to make a difference in the world.  Warren’s advice is for the church to be conformed to patterns of the world, contrary to Romans 12:1 – 2.

Pastor Rick reinforces this un-Biblical nonsense on pages 188 – 189, where we are told to think like lost people.  This is Warren’s interpretation of the scriptural mandate to “understand the times”?  He shows a shallow view of the Lord: “Jesus often knew what unbelievers were thinking.  He was effective in dealing with people because he understood and was able to defuse the mental barriers they held.”  (emphasis mine)  We are to believe that Jesus sometimes did not know what people were thinking – a limited God.  Warren tells us Christ relied on popular psychological theory in order to effectively deal with His creatures.  And we are once again told, “We must learn to think like unbelievers in order to win them. … “The problem is, the longer you are a believer, the less you think like an unbeliever.”  The Bible tell us the old man is dead – we have been re-born as children of God and are now “a peculiar people”; that we are to be salt and light; that lost folk love darkness because their deeds are dark; and that we are not to hide our light under a bushel.  Pastor Rick thinks the church exists to be valued by pagans!  Paul gives a different prescription in 2 Corinthians 4:3 – 6: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

You can read many objections from Rick Warren anytime someone publicly associates him with Robert Schuller.  But again, on page 190, Warren shows us how big an impact Schuller had on him.  It should not be a surprise that so many of Schuller’s people pleasing ways are embraced and endorsed by Warren.  Near the bottom of Page 191, this pearl: “The unchurched aren’t asking for watered-down messages, just practical ones.  They want to hear something on Sunday that they can apply on Monday.”  Warren’s idea of church is to help lost folks have a better life, according to the world’s standard.  The Creator’s idea of church is for the saints to come together for worship, discipleship, fellowship, and be sent into the world proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And yes, we welcome lost people into the church – we simply don’t expect them to be comfortable there.  They should be confronted with the Word of God and their sinful nature.

Warren’s own “tale of success” in the early days of Saddleback tells the sad truth in what is left unsaid.  He defined Saddleback as “a church for the unchurched”, and he attracted many of them, summing up with, “You have to decide who you want to impress.”  Warren wants to impress lost folk – his charge, however, is to honor God.  On page 195: “This is the heart of Saddleback’s evangelism strategy: We must be willing to catch fish on their own terms.”  Fish don’t want to be caught!  And lost men do not seek after God.  His Word doesn’t tell us to be on the same wavelength as lost men, He tells us to be fishers of men – different from them, with a mission they cannot understand.  Warren tells us (page 197) that he has determined that Jesus had no “standard approach” in evangelism.  He is talking about “style points”, not content or motive.  I am convinced that a careful reading of the New Testament shows that Jesus did have a “standard approach.  Evangelist Ray Comfort sums it up thusly – “With the Law we break the proud heart; with the gospel we heal the broken heart.”  And, “If we care about the lost, we will not hesitate to speak to them about sin, righteousness, and judgment … the way Jesus did.”  In Mark 10:17 – 22, the Lord used the law to expose the rich man as idolater, in John 5:45 – 47, Jesus confronts the Jews with the accusation of the Law of Moses.  In John 4:4 – 26 the Lord seeks out the woman at the well and uses the law to gently confront her with her sin – violating the 7th commandment.

On page 219, Pastor Rick says, “Jesus often established a beachhead for evangelism in a person’s life by meeting a felt need.”  And he cites not one example - because there are none.  Dr. Luke records this encounter with the “crowd”: “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:25 – 27)  The Apostle John recorded this encounter (John 6:24 – 27):  “When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.  And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?  Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”  And in verses 52 – 61: ”The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.  These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.  Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?  When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? Culminating in verses 65 & 66: “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

 Jesus doesn’t sound like Rick Warren.  To Whom shall we listen?

Ever the pragmatist, Warren tells us (page 224) that a passage in Luke 4 is all about Jesus “meeting needs and healing hurts.”  Jesus used that well known passage from Isaiah to establish His claim as Messiah, not “meet needs or heal hurts”.  On page 230, he beats the same drum: “The unchurched are not asking that we change the message or even dilute it, only that we show its relevance. …  I’ve found that the unchurched in America are very interested in Bible doctrine when it is applied in practical and relevant ways to their lives.”  What I’ve observed is that lost folks – whether they be “churched” or “unchurched” – want their ears tickled.  They want to be told that God loves them and wants them to be healthy and wealthy – things that are “practical and relevant”.  This is why prosperity gospel pimps such as T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen can fill up stadiums!  The Word of God tells us to preach the simple Truth and not work to earn the approval of men.  Lost folk do not need motivational messages on how to “live large with Jesus” – they need to repent and be saved.

Warren thinks (page 232) that the major purpose of Christ’s parables was to entertain folk and ensure they would remember His story.  But in Matthew 15, Mark 4, Mark 7, Luke 8, John 10 and other passages, His very own disciples failed to understand the parable and sought an explanation.  And while Pastor Rick cites Matthew 13:34, he did so as a proof-text, as verse 35 makes clear: He spoke in parables to fulfill scripture, not to satisfy the felt needs of unchurched Harry.  But if His purpose was as Warren claims, why did so many people need – and still need – an explanation of them?  To close this question, the Lord Himself gives us the answer in Matthew 13:10 – 13 (And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.)  And Luke 8:9 – 10 (And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?  And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.)

On page 241, “America’s Pastor” tells us “More people are won to Christ by feeling God’s presence than by all our apologetic arguments combined.”  This is a false argument: apologetics is not what wins people to Christ – the Gospel does that.  It is by preaching the Word of the Lord that people are saved – not by feeling anything.  He ascribes the salvation of the 3,000 people recorded in Acts 2 to their having felt God’s presence.  But the Bible makes it clear that the Spirit of God empowered Peter and it was the Word of God proclaimed by Peter that caused the response.  Read Acts 2:1 – 36 to see the set-up and the message of Christ crucified.  Then in verses 37 - 41: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Do you perceive these people were saved by having “felt God’s presence” or by the Word of God piercing their sinful hearts?

Page 243, Warren joins countless seeker sensitive fans by misappropriating 1 Corinthians 14:23.  Paul’s main argument was not to restrict the use of tongues so lost people wouldn’t think them foolish – this is a final argument in Paul’s long, passionate discourse against the improper use of this spiritual gift.  His main point was to encourage the saints to speak in a known tongue so others in the church could understand them.  It’s almost “and by the way, don’t you see how a heathen who might wander in here could think you mad?”  It was not normative in the early church for lost people to fill up the meeting place.  The church was of and for believers.

On pages 244 and 245 Warren furthers his humanistic view that unchurched people ought to have their felt needs addressed from the pulpit.  He again tells us these unchurched “expect to hear the Bible when they come to church.”  How would such a person know what to expect from the Word of God?  Go back to 1 Corinthians 2:12 – 14.  Pastor Rick tells us “They are looking for solutions, not a scolding.”  The problem for Rick and other seeker sensitive pastors is that unless a lost person is confronted with his condition (being dead is sin) he will not see any value in the Lamb of God.  The Gospel is not a scolding – but neither is it offering solutions to life’s circumstantial problems.  Warren instructs, “Design one worship service to edify believers and another service to evangelize the unchurched friends brought by your members.”  He then describes how he has marginalized the Saints by devoting weekends at Saddleback to lost folks.  We can readily surmise that Saddleback is a church on Wednesday evenings, but not on Saturdays or Sundays.

In chapter 14 – Designing a Seeker-Sensitive Service, Warren once again relies on and recommends a false prophet to make his point – citing “Apostle” Peter Wagner on page 267:  “When you run out of space, you experience what Pete Wagner calls ‘sociological strangulation’.”  But many churches have experienced true fellowship and spiritual growth while struggling with the logistical constraints of what experts see as too little space.  My wife heard a pastor in such a situation say, “Some pastors think you need 200 square feet per person.  We have 200 people per square feet!”  And he was praising God – not complaining about being “sociologically strangled.”

On to chapter 16 – Preaching to the Unchurched, Pastor Rick says, “The common ground we have with unbelievers is not the Bible, but our common needs, hurts, and interests as human beings.”  This is fine guidance on how to start a fraternal organization, such as a Rotary Club – the Bible tells us that unbelievers’ greatest need is salvation.  That we saints share some of the same sinful “habits and hang-ups” as the “unchurched” can be an encouragement to the lost, as we teach them that all are unworthy apart from Christ.  Nowhere in this chapter does Pastor Rick advise the use of the law to convict people of their sin; he only wants the lost folk to know they are valuable and loved, etc.  They may well go to hell thinking this, having never been convicted of sin or saved by grace.  Good feelings save nobody.

On page 312, Warren poses a handful of questions that unchurched people want answered before they are willing to join the church:

  • Do I fit here?

  • Does anybody want to know me?

  • Am I needed?

  • What is the advantage of joining?

  • What is required of members?

Rick shows us, once again, that his focus is on growing the “church” by answering the “felt needs” of the flesh – not following the Biblical mandate on how to lead a flock of believers.  He is building a social fraternity and calling it “church”.

In chapter 16 – Turning Members into Ministers, Warren mixes some solid Biblical instruction with a humanistic, Jungian psychological matrix appraisal of people – his five SHAPE factors.  A detailed comparison of Warren’s SHAPE to Jungian psychology and God’s Word can be found at the end of this review.

Page 384, Warren again confirms he sees man as more important than does our Creator: “The most critical factor in a new ministry isn’t the idea, but the leadership.”  Jesus, the most important human ever, said this about Himself vs. the message (or idea): “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.  (John 8:28)”, “but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, (John 15:15b – 16a).”  The Bible tells us the main thing is the message, not the messenger.

Lastly, page 395 – “Purpose-driven churches are led by purpose-driven leaders.”  Although I care nothing for Warren’s penchant for using “purpose-driven”, leave it aside.  Consider this – Churches are led by leaders.  Now consider the Words of the One Who “wrote the Book” on “how to do church”:  “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  (2 Timothy 2:1 – 2)  And recall the Words of Jesus, above – He spoke and worked only what His Father told Him.  The only leadership is from God and the truly effective pastor will be purposeful and Spirit led.

Quotes from Schuller – or is it Rick Warren?

Rick Warren denies virtually every connection and influence with or of Robert Schuller.  But judge for yourself – read a few choice quotes from Schuller and see if Warren’s teaching doesn’t line up near perfectly.  Read more at

 "Yes, here is a theology for church growth.  Here is a theology for success, for the secret of success is to find a need and fill it.  Truly, when the church reforms and refines all of its theological expressions around every person's daily need for self-affirmation, it shall flourish 'like trees planted by rivers of water.'"  (Robert Schuller, "Self-Esteem: the New Reformation," page 175)

 "People who have studied our work and read our materials have said that historically we are not like other churches.  Denominations and religions started with teaching a theology about God.  Whenever there was disagreement with each other about a certain detail, the result was to establish a new religion or branch thereof, so today there are many different denominations and lots of different religions.  When I started this ministry, I chose to focus on human need and said,

"Let's ask what a human being really is?  What does he need?"  And is there a God who can provide for those needs and what kind of God does he need?  So we started talking about the needs in humanity and we defined the single deepest need of the human being."

(Robert Schuller, "Mirror or Window People: Which Are You?”  August 2, 2004)

 "Classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be 'God-centered,' not 'man-centered'."  (Robert Schuller, "Self-Esteem: the New Reformation," page 64)

 "The classical error of historical Christianity is that we have never started with the value of the person.  Rather, we have started from the 'unworthiness of the sinner,' and that starting point has set the stage for the glorification of human shame in Christian theology."  (Robert Schuller, "Self-Esteem: the New Reformation," page 162)


(extracted from





“When you minister in a manner consistent with the personality God gave you, you experience fulfillment, satisfaction, and fruitfulness.” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 246)

“…when you are forced to minister in a manner that is “out of character” for your temperament, it creates tension and discomfort, requires extra effort and energy, and produces less than the best results. This is why mimicking someone else’s ministry never works. You don’t have their personality.” (PDL, p. 245)

“…the ultimate aim and strongest desire of all mankind is to develop that fulness (sic) of life which is called personality… To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being and does not rise to personality, he has failed to realize his life’s meaning.” (The Development of Personality, Collected Works 17; from The Essential Jung, pg. 191, 207)

There is absolutely no biblical precedent for this position. Personality typology has never been a criteria for God choosing someone for ministry, but is in great part grounded in Jungian psychology.

 Did Paul rely on personality assessment to guide his ministry? Hardly...

“God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.” 1 Cor 1:27-29

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:9-10





“You may be driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief.” (PDL, p. 27)

“(Guilt-driven people) often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success.” (PDL, pp. 27-28)


“The unconscious . . . is the source of the instinctual forces of the psyche and of the forms or categories that regulate them, namely the archetypes.” (The Structure of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 342)

“Constant observation pays the unconscious a tribute that more or less guarantees its cooperation. One of the most important tasks of psychic hygiene [is] to pay continual attention to the symptomatology of unconscious contents and processes.” (The Portable Jung, New York: Penguin Books, 1986, p. 156)

The “unconscious” is the foundational concept of both Freudian and Jungian psychology, and has no biblical basis whatsoever. In fact, Scripture does not allow for the idea that people are “driven” by an “unconscious belief.” By endorsing the idea of the unconscious, Warren is promoting the Jungian belief that people must analyze the forces of the unconscious to discover their life’s purpose. 

According to Scripture, any driving force outside of God’s will is sin, no matter where it resides. Psychology, however, downplays our personal accountability for sin by making the “unconscious” the ultimate reservoir and bastion of unavoidable human instinct.

“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23





“If I asked how you picture life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It’s the view of life that you hold, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind.” (PDL, pp. 41-42)

“Your unspoken life metaphor influences your life more than you realize. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities.” (PDL, p. 42)

“An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors.” (“The Psychology of the Child Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 267)

Archetypes are not inborn ideas, but “typical forms of behaviour which, once they become conscious, naturally present themselves as ideas and images, like everything else that becomes a content of consciousness.” (Collected Works 8, par. 435)

“Indeed, the fate of the individual is largely dependent on unconscious factors.” (“Conscious, Unconscious, and Individuation” CW 9)

The analysis of “metaphors” housed in the unconscious is a trademark concept of psychology, not of Scripture. The use of images, fantasies, and dreams to better understand our “unconscious” is a signature feature of Jungian psychotherapy that borders on the occult.





“God made introverts and extroverts… He made some people thinkersand others feelers.’” (PDL, p. 245)

“Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities. For instance, two people may have the same gift of evangelism, but if one is introverted and other is extroverted, that gift will be expressed in different ways.” (PDL, p. 245)

“Ask yourself questions:… Am I more introverted or extroverted? Am I more a thinker or a feeler?” (PDL, pp.251-252)

“Two types (of typical differences in human psychology) especially become clear to me; I have termed them the introverted and the extraverted types.” (“Introduction” Psychological Types, CW 6 par. 1)

“I have found from experience that the basic psychological functions, this is, functions which are genuinely as well as essentially different from other functions, prove to be thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. If one of these functions habitually predominates, a corresponding type results. I therefore distinguish a thinking, a feeling, a sensation, and an intuitive type. Each of these types may moreover be either introverted or extraverted” (“Introduction” Psychological Types, CW 6)

Warren is explicitly using the specific terminology of the psychological typology theory originally conceived by Carl Jung. Despite the claims of his supporters, Warren has clearly based his Personality Theory (the "P" in his SHAPE teaching) on the unbiblical foundation of Jungian psychology.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” 1 Cor 2:12-13





“The Bible gives us plenty of proof that God uses all types of personalities. Peter was a sanguine. Paul was a choleric. Jeremiah was a melancholy. When you look at the personality differences in the twelve disciples, it’s easy to see why they sometimes had interpersonal conflict.” (PDL, p. 245)

“There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ temperament for ministry.” (PDL, p. 245)

“…the physicians of ancient times…tried to reduce the bewildering diversity of mankind to orderly groups… The very names of the Galenic temperaments betray their origin in the pathology of the four “humours.” Melancholic denotes a preponderance of black bile, phlegmatic a preponderance of phlegm or mucus, sanguine a preponderance of blood, and choleric a preponderance of choler, or yellow bile.” (“Psychological Typology” CW 6)

“The whole make-up of the body, its constitution in the broadest sense, has in fact a very great deal to do with psychological temperament…” (“Psychological Typology” CW 6)


Despite Warren’s claim, the Bible never gives “proof” of the classification of personalities; it is a purely pagan concoction. The four temperaments, as conceived by Hippocrates and later developed by Galen, was a prevalent Greek philosophy during the time of Paul’s apostolic ministry. Unlike Warren and Jung, however, Paul did not implement these Greeks ideas into his teachings. In fact, he categorically rejected them and “determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor 2:2).

“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane [and] vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:” I Timothy 6:20

Worse yet, Warren is teaching that a person’s “no right or wrong” personality is somehow unaffected by the fall and is always beneficial for ministry. How, we ask, does a “phlegmatic temperament” towards laziness and slothfulness serve God’s purpose in ministry?





“Today there are many books and tools that can help you understand your personality so you can determine how to use it for God.” (PDL, p. 246)

MBTI is “based on Jung’s theory of psychological types.” (Isabel Briggs Myers, Introduction to Type, Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1983, p.4)

“The (MBTI) Indicator was developed specifically to carry Carl Jung’s theory of type (Jung, 1921, 1971) into practical application.” (Dr. Gordon Lawrence, People Types & Tiger Stripes, p. 6, also p. x)

“Carl Jung’s psychology lies behind...the MBTI.” (Robert Innes, Personality Indicators and The Spiritual Life, p.8)

Without qualifying this statement, Warren is promoting any and all Jungian personality and temperament tests and theories, including the widely-used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Kiersey Temperament Sorter (an offshoot of the MBTI), and the Enneagram Test, which has its origin in Sufism, a mystical offshoot of Islam. (Click here for more information on Enneagram).

Despite the contrary advice offered by Warren, Christians must acknowledge the Bible as the only book needed to understand the human condition:

“For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

(See also II Timothy 3:16-17)





“Every behavior is motivated by a belief, and every action is prompted by an attitude. God revealed this thousands of years before psychologists understood it.” (PDL, p. 181)

“(Unconscious phenomena) manifest themselves in the individual’s behaviour… ” (“Conscious, Unconscious, and Individuation” CW 9)

“Modern psychological development leads to a much better understanding as to what man really consists of.” (“Psychology and Religion” CW 11)

Warren is suggesting here that psychologists have the same understanding as God on the issue of human behavior, thus putting man’s “wisdom” on equal footing with God’s revelation.

If Warren truly believes in the preeminence of God’s revelation to understand man, then why does he rely so heavily on the “useless wisdom” of psychology instead of Scripture?

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS‘; and again, ‘THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.’” I Cor 3:19-20





“The best use of your life is to serve God out of your shape. To do this you must discover your shape, learn to accept and enjoy it, and then develop it to its fullest potential.” (PDL, p. 249)

The SHAPE program states: “To discover your S.H.A.P.E. is to discover where God is calling you to do His work in the world.”

“Only the man who can consciously assent to the power of the inner voice becomes a personality.” (“The Development of Personality” CW 17)

“The achievement of personality means nothing less than the optimum development of the whole individual human being.” (“The Development of Personality” CW 17)

“In so far as every individual has the law of his life inborn in him, it is theoretically possible for any man to follow this law and to become a personality, this is, to achieve wholeness.” (“The Development of Personality” CW 17)

Finding your SHAPE has no biblical support. Warren’s teaching that one must “discover his shape” is philosophically and systematically akin to Jung’s teaching that a man must “consciously assent to the power of the inner voice” and be true to “the law of his being.”

While Warren has rightly acknowledged God’s sovereign purpose in creating us, he has mistakenly made God’s divine purpose synonymous with our so-called “shape” by advocating the Jungian idea of developing the personality to “achieve wholeness.” This Jungian process, however, does not serve God, but serves the god within us.

Scripture calls for an active, heartfelt obedience to God’s will through the transforming power of the Spirit, not a misguided exploration of our natural psychological makeup to define our God-given purpose.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“…your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:5


Yes, Jesus associated with sinners, but he certainly didn't borrow his teachings from the Pharisees or any other false teachers. Clearly there is a very tangible connection between Rick Warren's SHAPE teaching on personality and the psychological theories of Carl Jung. Not only does Warren base his teachings on parallel psychological concepts, but he uses exact Jungian terms to make his case. By focusing on assessing and developing one’s personality as the key to a successful life or ministry, Warren, like Jung, is promoting a reliance on one’s inner self instead of on God’s transcendent truth and the working of the Holy Spirit. As a popular Christian teacher, how can Warren ignore the crucial biblical truths of the sufficiency of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to perfectly furnish every Christian with the ability to minister according to God's purpose?

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God Bless,
Rev. Robert Wise