Why criticize the Purpose Driven Life?


Why criticize the Purpose Driven Life?


As pragmatic Christianity grows it becomes increasingly difficult for people to see anything wrong with someone that seems to work.  The believe is that if the PDL helps someone it must be good so why bother attacking it?  If a specific kind of church institution or program brings people in it must be good.  This perspective is short sighted.  From a broader biblical, social and historical perspective it is easy to see how damaging church fads are. 

Jesus cleansed the temple for a reason.  As I apply the principle I take from that story I must conclude that the blatant cross-promotion and commercialism in religious consumables such as PDL or Revolve is sin.  Pulling out all the stops to profit from kingdom work is wrong.  Just because people are inspired to grow that doesn’t change anything.  The church needs to wake up and realize that some elements of the Christian marketing industry will compromise biblical ideals for profit.  Unfortunately we don’t have a viable alternative to the free market model.

Each year some new fad crops up.  The Passion was supposed to be the most powerful evangelistic tool we’ve ever seen.  PDL is supposed to change the lives of millions of people.  We spend millions of dollars and people hours on this stuff, but in the end nothing seems to change.  Lots of people say they’ve changed, but for most people the change was shallow and it didn’t take root.  These kinds of fads deceive people in to thinking substantial change can be achieved with so little cost.  As churches and individuals we spend a lot of time and money on stuff that doesn’t us very little good but makes us feel better.  In the end we trick ourselves in to thinking we are spiritually healthy when we are not, and the church continually declines.

  1. #1 by chris on October 21, 2004 - 9:21 pm

    I’m with you on the contempt for the whole Christian marketing dilemma, but I understand where your critics are coming from too. Doesn’t Paul say, “It is true that soem preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill…The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” And because of this we should rejoice. While I’m pretty disgusted with the way that we have sold out the church and discipleship to program and marketing, there are some good things happening from PDL and PDC. (Jabez is another story…but we probably shouldn’t go there.)

    It really the difference between 1st order and 2nd order change. 1st order change is like moving the couch from one wall to the other while second order would be changing houses (that’s a quick lesson in therapy in one sentence). We think that if ANY change takes place it’s a good thing – which to an extent is true, but it’s not the kind of change that God’s people should spend much of their time and money pursuing. God calls for transformed lives not just changed behavior for a 40 day period of time. We’ve settled for shallow for so long that we wouldn’t know the deep end if we ever found it!

    (sorry for the long comment…this one gets me going)

  2. #2 by dan on October 21, 2004 - 10:16 pm

    Leighton, I think we have a lot of this in our churches too. How many times have people in churches volunteered to do something they really want to do and “feel called to” in a church setting (eg run a fete, do a musical etc etc) and it doesn’t really add anything to the ministry of the church.

    There is often a real reluctance to say no to someone who is wanting to do something. It is the same with programs, it is as if any critical evaluation of a program or a topic means that you are criticising the people who experienced some success in it.

    I remember when I was elders at one of my churches and they wanted to do a new program aimed at evaluating the weaknesses of the church and then focussing on that. After reading the material I suggested that our results were going to be worthless because the program framed “passionate spirituality” in terms which were a fair way from our denomination’s traditional understanding of what it means to be passionately spiritual. It went ahead and sure enough, that was the weak link. But working on it for 50 years wasn’t going to make a difference, because we were never going to make our denominational self-understanding match the proposed model.

  3. #3 by gerard on October 22, 2004 - 5:13 am

    I think its good that are people out there who

    take a critical view like you do. Its really doing a service and the Church does require people like that. That is why I read your blog and those associated with it and have been enriched by it. Thanks LT! There was one thot going on in my head over the last few days and I am not sure if you will find it to be relevant…and it is that I think you guys are looking for some Holy Grail of a program/church etc?? But it will be quite a fruitless search if we look at history. Every program, even spiritual revival is flawed and its just as a reflection of our human flaws, the works of our flawed humanity. We can rejoice in the good parts of it…the fact that it touches the lives of some and we also should be sobered by the negative aspects of it or the overhyping…like the Passion movie example.

    I for one was not moved by it…I didn’t like it at all. To me the best is the one by Bruce Marchiano. Nevertheless I know many are moved

    and so I wouldn’t spoil their experiences by being too negative in their presence.

    Back to the spiritual health part…and to continue with Darryl’s fast food example, I think

    the Church does provide fast food because if not

    many people would skip lunch/dinner and end up

    with gastric problems. Its not just a church problem but a problem with our times…eg some churches are having weekday services…and I mean midweek services for people who work over the weekends for example. Much of the fastfood to me

    is really the Church reaching out to people caught up in a world culture short of time. Its not ideal or spiritually healthy in the LONG RUN…but it is a good starting point and is better than having people going hungry…a burger and a ice lemon tea..maybe a lot better than coffee and chips nutrition wise or skipping a meal. And its sad…that there are losses…losses losses. We want to save/help everyone…we want true transformation for them

    but as program leaders we can see that the very same program that transforms Peter has not impact on Paul and there are far too many Pauls. So I think its also a little tied up with the mystery of who we are as persons and how much we have to depend on God to to care of the rest even as we do our best. Sorry for being long!

  4. #4 by Darryl on October 22, 2004 - 5:52 am

    “The blatant cross-promotion and commercialism in religious consumables such as PDL or Revolve is sin.”

    This has got me thinking about the publishing industry. As an aspiring author, I think most good authors and publishers make too little money while ones like PDL are run-aways.

    I want authors who are good to be able to make a living. I wish we could do this without adopting some of the worst practices out there and promoting stuff that is overhyped at best.

  5. #5 by Leighton Tebay on October 22, 2004 - 6:57 am

    Gerard:

    Being part of a house church I’d say I’m much more interested in a more relational community than program ministry. Where my heart is at with some of these PDL posts is that people would begin to seek God on their own and engage in the spiritual disciplines. If we are going to use the food metaphor, start making their own nutritious meals. This comes from my own experience. Some of the most profound times I’ve experienced are me alone for a couple of days by a lake. It takes effort to cultivate and practice the disciplines like meditation and solitude, but it is well worth it.

  6. #6 by Toni on October 22, 2004 - 9:41 am

    The quote above about sin makes me immediately think of the ‘left behind’ series. I used to think Tim La Haye was sound, but not after that.

  7. #7 by Jacob on October 22, 2004 - 5:51 pm

    I don’t like the overt milking of Christian books and other material for monetary gain either.

    However, I think sometimes certain types of personalities have the tendancy to repulse anything if it’s popular (I used to be one). We did the forty days of purpose in our church over 2 years ago (of course 1/3 of the church was automatically against it) and still people are drawing on what they learned during that time. We had 2 people that got saved through it and were baptized just after it finshed and they are still growing in the Lord.

    Sure the book isn’t perfect but a book written by a mere man never will be. It was very practical and challenging and aside from a few problems I had regarding secondary issues, I thought it was theologically sound as well.

    IMHO there’s a lot more problematic issues within Christedom to invest the time and energy on 3 blogs and numerous comments slamming this book.

    Jacob.

  8. #8 by Jacob on October 22, 2004 - 5:52 pm

    I don’t like the overt milking of Christian books and other material for monetary gain either.

    However, I think sometimes certain types of personalities have the tendancy to repulse anything if it’s popular (I used to be one). We did the forty days of purpose in our church over 2 years ago (of course 1/3 of the church was automatically against it) and still people are drawing on what they learned during that time. We had 2 people that got saved through it and were baptized just after it finshed and they are still growing in the Lord.

    Sure the book isn’t perfect but a book written by a mere man never will be. It was very practical and challenging and aside from a few problems I had regarding secondary issues, I thought it was theologically sound as well.

    IMHO there’s a lot more problematic issues within Christedom to invest the time and energy on 3 blogs and numerous comments slamming this book.

    Jacob.

  9. #9 by Andrew on October 22, 2004 - 11:25 pm

    I agree. Leave poor Rick Warren alone. Let’s trash the ‘Left Behind’ series and its attendant industry instead! Now that’s real crap!

  10. #10 by Leighton Tebay on October 23, 2004 - 2:21 am

    Jacob:

    There are lots of imperfect books written by imperfect people. Most of them don’t suffer from the same sin that prompted Jesus to grab a whip and chase people out of the temple.

    Instead of pointing to the “good” something did explain to me biblically how the blatant commercialism in PDL is not sin. If it is sin, then how do we respond? Do we tolerate sin just because we see a few benefits?

    Why does the church get up in arms about gay people marrying because they consider it sin, yet they condone and promote sinful activity in their own midst. The church just doesn’t seem to care of their own misrepresents scripture, is blatant commercialistic, or deceives the nation. Jesus told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more, he used a whip to cleanse the temple, and he called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. We just don’t see the gravity of the sin in the church.

    There are a lot of problems in the church and commercialism is a huge one. This is not minor stuff, it is major stuff.

  11. #11 by Darryl on October 23, 2004 - 5:21 am

    LT:

    I’m not sure the Temple story is about commercialism. The merchants were exploiting the poor, and using the room intended for Gentiles to worship. It’s not exactly the same thing as Zondervan marketing a book. That in itself is not sinful.

    Should Zondervan be a not-for-profit company? Should Rick Warren make no royalties? What is a viable alternative?

  12. #12 by Leighton Tebay on October 23, 2004 - 10:14 am

    Darryl:

    I apply the cleansing of the temple differently. In the historical context the merchants in the temple were charging inflated prices for the smaller animals like doves to sacrifice. Jesus was offended that it was happening in his Father’s house. I take a few principles out of this.

    1. Profiting from people when they can be easily exploited is wrong.

    2. Doing so in spiritual or worship context perverts what should be for God.

    I don’t have a problem with a publisher marketing a book. I do have a problem when the book insperses commercial messages with spiritual ones. I see it as manipulative. People buy a book being told it will change their life, they are reading it with the desire to change, and there are subtle messages to buy more stuff. Mixing the gospel with commercial messages empties it of its power. It perverts what should be for God’s kingdom and makes it about profit.

    I also believe there is an inherent amount of dishonesty involved when people make ridiculous claims in their marketing.

    Should Zondervan be a not-for-profit company? I think the whole system is messed up, and changing one company in that system wouldn’t change much. Zondervan is owned by NewsCorp, and as such they would never cease to be a profit driven company.

    As far was I know Rick Warren donates the profits of the book to charity.

    What is the viable alternative?

    There is nothing that compares to what we have now, but I think that eventually the Internet is going to change things. I believe it is time we built an alternative.

  13. #13 by Jake on October 24, 2004 - 11:17 pm

    Zondervan publishes Warren’s book?

    I wonder if they are printed in China?

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