Purpose Driven Life and the church
The success of the Purpose Driven Life is a sad testimony on the state of the church today. Christians have become so used to eating the processed food found in seeker sensitive churches, glitzy conferences, and the Christian marketing industry that they can’t tell what is truly good for them. I fully acknowledge that some people have been “helped” by PDL. There have been many fads and gimmicks that have “helped” Christians but in the end the church is still in decline across North America. Does anyone remember how inspired they were coming back from Promise Keeper conferences, or how cell groups were going to transform church community? How about “Evangelism Explosion” or spiritual gift tests, the Passion, WWJD bracelets or the Prayer of Jabez. If we take a step back and look at all the activity and so little fruit yet we continually get sucked in. More and more so it is profit driven companies that push us to consume what they sell regardless of it’s true spiritual value.
The great danger in PDL and other books like it, is that people are never sufficiently challenged to go directly to God or the scriptures. The PDL, for all its good points, mishandles scripture by using the most convenient translation available. It makes scripture communicate things it really doesn’t. It deeply concerns me that church members and leaders don’t catch this stuff. I’ve heard of a local pastor who said PDL was second to scripture!
PDL isn’t a terrible book. Rick Warren makes some solid points in it. However it deeply concerns me that people are glossing over it’s weaknesses, and are elevating it to such lofty heights. By continually buying in to the next fad, the next quick fix for the church, we risk losing our theological and spiritual moorings. When we become guided by someone’s interpretation and application of scripture rather than scripture itself, we lose the ability to discern. Essentially that is what has already happened, and slowly there is this theological creep from solid Christian doctrine to something different. The end result is a church with lots of activity and very little fruit because it is no longer connected to God.
Good is often the worst enemy of best. People read a book or go to a conference and come away from the experience feeling better. They slowly become convinced that these good experiences are what Christianity is all about, but really they are missing out. Jesus said that the road to life is narrow and hard (Luke 7:13). There are no shortcuts to God. To truly connect with God and be transformed takes effort, discipline and time. The real depths of the Christian life involve a total transformation, but it is hard, and it will certainly never sell well.
There is a quote from the movie Braveheart that I find myself revisiting in my head. William Wallace is talking with the nobles of Scotland. These nobles were all so ambitious that they allied with a “cruel pagan, Edward the Longshanks” of England. They were satisified compromising with evil so long as they get a little benefit but the completely missed the big picture of what they could have.
“Why? Why is that impossible? You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank’s table that you’ve missed your God given right to something better.”
The church is so busy buying in to the next Christian fad that it has missed it’s God given right to something better.
I’ll admit that I am very biased against popular Christian culture these days. I see people being turned away from God because they equate following Jesus with the spineless, lifeless, commercialized Christianity that is so pervasive in these days. I want to scream out – NO THAT IS NOT WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW CHRIST! Don’t reject Christ because of those idiots. There is hope and life and healing and truth and justice. There are people who follow Christ who actually do love their enemies, and have servant hearts, who are kind and compassionate.
The fate of the church doesn’t rest primarily in the hands of it’s leaders, but in the presence and character of Christ in its members. We are always learning, always hyped for the next fad, but never come to maturity (Eph 4:13) or a knowledge of the Truth (IITim 3:7).