Secret Forces of the Church: Rome and the Church Growth Movement
By Pastor Hal Mayer
This month we are going to explore another secret force that involves more than the Roman Catholic Church, a secret force that is intended to deceive many people and get them caught up in a false system of worship. It involves an amazing network of connections that are preparing to sweep hundreds of thousands into eternal destruction.
Have you ever heard of Willow Creek? Have you ever heard of Saddleback church in Arizona, and the book called The Purpose Driven Life? Amazingly, these popular places and books and teachers have swept through Protestantism like a storm. Millions of their books have been sold. Thousands upon thousands of pastors have attended their seminars. But what is behind this church growth movement? Where does it come from? And will it help us prepare for the coming of Jesus? The following message will clearly show what is happening behind the scenes and how Rome is using the church growth movement to her advantage. Some of the players may not even realize it, but they are involved in a secret plan to destroy God’s last church. The research we have pulled together with the help of a friend of mine in the Netherlands will open your mind like never before. But before we get into our message for today, let us pray to our Father in heaven and ask Him for His Holy Spirit so that we can be discerning.
Our loving Heavenly Father, today we come to You and ask for Your Holy Spirit to lead us as we look into the movement that threatens to destroy the effect of Your last message to Your people in these last days. We love You and want to live with you for eternity and don’t want to be deceived. Thank you for revealing to us the future, which is really the present, as prophecy is fulfilled right before our eyes. We ask that Your Holy Spirit will ever be by our side and keep us free from all taint of sin and evil. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Turn with me in your bibles to 2 Peter 1:19, 21. You may not think that the verses we are going to read have to do with the message for today, but they do as you shall see. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts… For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Satan is very sneaky. He tries to come to God’s people and deceive them by those things that sound good, but are not of sound doctrine. Most people just breeze over what they hear from the pulpit without giving a second thought. They think that what they have heard is right, but it is not biblical. They become deceived. They feel good. They feel happy. But they are really in a spiral that will lead them to eternal destruction.
The mega-church movement has spread all through evangelical Protestantism as well as other churches, but as we near the close of probation, what effect does it have on the truth for this time? Will it deceive those that have been given a special message for this hour?
Often, those who are emotionally tied to a particular practice or idea will not listen to the facts. Their emotions are caught up in the excitement and when they are presented with the details of the ministry of Satan in the church, they become defensive and angry. Others simply won’t listen to any warnings concerning the teachings that they are so determined to follow. But the Bible tells us that we must “be sober, vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist stedfast in the faith,…” 1 Peter 5:8, 9.
These verses tell us that we cannot just drink in anything we are told from the pulpit or from some respected church leader. We must search for ourselves to see if the things we are taught are indeed of God and sound in scripture. It is a life or death matter that we must believe only sound doctrine. It is vitally important that pastors, teachers and other ministers of God must speak “the things which become sound doctrine. Titus 2:1.
What amazes me is that sometimes there are those that will listen to a sermon that is teaching the truth in all it’s beauty, and they will rightly say what a blessing it was. The following Sabbath, they will hear a sermon propounding exactly the opposite teaching and full of error, and again they will say what a blessing it was. While the first sermon was indeed probably a blessing to them, there seems to be a lack of discernment on the part of many to comprehend what they are hearing from the pulpit. Satan is indeed a roaring lion, “seeking whom he may devour.”
In his book called Charismatic Chaos, John F. MacArthur, Jr. warns us that “Unsuspecting churches and denominations have opened their doors – and their pulpits – to Third Wave teachers, many of whom sport very impressive academic credentials. The Third Wave is now rolling like a destructive tsunami, leaving chaos and confusion in its wake. (Zondervan, 1992, p.158).
What is the Third Wave? C. Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Thelogical Seminary School of World Mission identifies the first wave as the Pentecostal movement, the second, the Charismatic movement and the third as the signs and wonders movement.
Jesus said that “false christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” Mark 13:22. Just because there are wonderful signs and wonders, it doesn’t mean that it is from God. But Jesus said, “take heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.” Vs. 23. Jesus has told us what is coming and some of it includes signs and wonders. But you may be looking for the wrong signs and wonders if you aren’t careful to follow sound doctrine. Jesus said in Mark 13 that the sun would be darkened, and the moon would not give her light. The stars of heaven would fall, and the powers of heaven would be shaken. That’s verses. 24-25. Healings, speaking in tongues and other personal manifestations are not in the same class of signs at all.
MacArthur goes on to say, “Third Wave devotees believe that fantastic signs and wonders demonstrate the genuineness of their movement. Miraculous phenomena are the very heart of the Third Wave credo. Third Wavers are persuaded that miracles, visions, tongues, prophecies, and healings are essential supplements to the gospel. They view Christianity without those things as impotent, adulterated by the Western, materialistic mindset.
“Signs and wonders are the key to Third Wave evangelism,” wrote MacArthur. “Some Third Wavers even say that unbelievers must experience the miraculous to be brought to full faith… Most people will not believe without seeing miracles…” (Ibid pp. 158, 159.)
People are distracted by exciting things, and when miracles are added to the mix, they become obsessed with the movement. Their attention is taken away from the truth of the word, and placed on the miracles. They no longer need the word to assure them of the rightness of their course, but rather the signs and wonders. This is one of the key problems with the church growth movement. The movement is not focused on scripture.
One such example was the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, started by John & Carol Arnott. Worship experiences included miraculous phenomena of signs and wonders in addition to the usual Pentecostal emotionalism. One interesting addition to this type of worship was known as “holy laughing.” The most common described behaviors include hysterical laughter, physical spasms or jerks, falling to the floor under the Holy Spirit’s power, which is called “slain in the Spirit” and speaking in tongues. Other less common behaviors resemble roaring like lions and barking like dogs. At one time the TACF website described it thus: “The Toronto Blessing is a transferable anointing. In its most visible form it overcomes worshippers with outbreaks of laughter, weeping, groaning, shaking, falling, ‘drunkenness,’ and even behaviours that have been described as a ‘cross between a jungle and a farmyard.’” From Wikipaedia, article “Toronto Blessing.”
Behind the “Toronto Blessing,” as it was called, was something known as the Alpha Course, a 10 to 12 week program developed by Nicky Gumbel at the Anglican Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London in the 1980s. The Alpha Course emphasizes only that which all the churches have in common. The idea is to facilitate a relaxed atmosphere with a unified spirit in which participants feel at home. Perhaps it is most significant that the participants are advised to lay the Bible aside so no one will be deterred. It is also customary not to say a prayer in order not to embarrass the guests.
Nicky Gumbel developed the Alpha course after an encounter with John Wimber in 1982 who spoke at the Brompton church. Nicky describes his experience. “after [John Wimber] had been praying for about 30 seconds… I felt this incredible power – it was like 10,000 volts… going through my body…
Is this a sign or wonder that the Bible warns us about? To answer this question, all we have to do is understand who John Wimber was and we will have a clear picture of where the Alpha course comes from. Wimber was the founder in 1962 of a rock-and-roll band known as the “Righteous Brothers.” He was converted to Christianity through the Quakers in 1963. Eventually he joined the faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary and founded the Department of Church Growth. Wimber became very interested in how charismatic healing was affecting church growth in third world countries. In 1982 he joined the early Vineyard movement in S. California. He wrote his main book called Power Evangelism, Signs and Wonders Today in 1986 which teaches about “signs and wonders” as an essential element in genuine Christian experience. Wimber assigned great credibility to Roman Catholic miracles because of Rome’s supposed “careful documentation of them.” Actually Rome has often fabricated miracles in order to progress someone to sainthood, or keep the gullible enthralled. Wimber’s wife was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. After a difficult separation, Wimber says they were remarried in the Catholic Church. Wimber wrote for a Catholic charismatic publication known as New Covenant.
Wimber was the main leader of the Vineyard movement for many years. The Vineyard movement was very ecumenical because of Wimber’s influence. He often praised the Roman Catholic Church including several statements in his book. He had nothing but praise for the Pope and the Catholic Church. In Power Evangelism, he praises Roman Catholic saints such as Pope Gregory the Great, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Benedict of Nursia, and Ignatius of Loyola. Apparently he seemed to overlook the false teachings of these alleged “saints” and gives no warning about them. Some of these saints were the founders of some of the most diabolical aspects of Roman Catholicism such as the Jesuits and the Inquisition.
Wimber even recommended the writings of Jesuit priests Dennis and Matthew Linn. He wrote: “Father Dennis and Matthew Linn are Jesuit priests who have written books which deal with physical, psychological and spiritual wholeness. They are highly trained in psychology and combine the best insights in this field with theological understanding, shaped by charismatic experience.” (Quoted by Albert James Dager, Latter-Day Prophets: The Kansas City Connection.) Could it be that the Jesuits have been involved in the charismatic movement in order to break down barriers to the teachings and influence of Rome? A de-emphasis on Biblical truth as our guide in favor of emotions and feelings always benefits Rome and leads eventually to a reaction; moving away from the chaos of the charismatics to the ritualism of Catholicism. It is amazing but true.
The connection between John Wimber and the Jesuits is very revealing. But there is more. When Pope John Paul II was planning to call a decade of world evangelism Wimber said “I am thrilled with the Pope and glad that he is calling the Church to this goal, to this work.’ A report in the New Age Bulletin said that Wimber had been told informally that the Vatican had shown ‘a real interest’ in using Vineyard Ministries International’s concepts for the decade of evangelization ‘and possibly even [Wimber himself] to help train priests who will be used as trainers in the program worldwide’” (“Off to Rome with Wimber,” New Age Bulletin, June 1988 quoted in The Hidden Agenda, by Jan Voerman). Imagine that, the Catholic Church using a Charismatic to train priests that can then be used to spread the Catholic praise, teachings and whatever else worldwide. Something doesn’t seem right about this. I wonder if there is more here than meets the eye with John Wimber. There is something we don’t know perhaps in his connections with the Jesuits or the Catholic Church. Would the Catholic Church use non-denominational, mostly protestant churches, to promote her own agenda? Why not, they might well become very effective tools in the hands of the Pope, thanks to the Jesuits and others.
In his church planting seminars, Wimber would extol the use of relics as a means of healing. “In the Catholic Church for over a 1,200 year period people were healed as a result of touching the relics of the saints,” he said. “We Protestants have difficulty with that… but we healers shouldn’t, because there’s nothing theologically out of line with that,’ he would say. During a pastor’s conference, he even “apologized” to the Catholic church on behalf of all Protestants by saying that “the Pope, who by the way is very responsive to the Charismatic movement, and is himself a born-again Evangelical, is preaching the gospel as clear as anyone in the world today.”
Here we see another background force working to strip Protestants of their Protestantism and eventually bring them back into the Catholic church through the charismatic movement. The Vineyard Churches were so ecumenical and emotional, that they certainly played a significant role in bringing much openness if not outright interest in the Catholic Church, particularly its charismatic side.
Extreme ecumenism is behind the creation of the Vineyard Church Association. And behind that was the teachings in Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha Course. Then came a new phenomena called the “Toronto Blessing.” The “Toronto Blessing” was an extreme charismatic manifestation in which people were often falling backwards, stumbling around as if drunk, trembling, convulsing, and laughing. In the May 1995 issue of Renewal (pg. 15), Gumbel says of the Toronto movement and the Alpha Course, “I think that the two of them can go well together.”
Besides these extreme manifestations in the Toronto movement, what do their leaders teach?
John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto church, made it clear: “Toronto is like a flowing stream. Don’t try to test it or discern it. Just jump in, you’ll understand it after you’ve jumped in.” (J. J. Prasch, Why Three Years of Toronto and Still No Revival? Moriel Ministries, p. 9.)
Rodney Howard-Browne, who has been closely associated with the Toronto movement, says: “Don’t pray. Just accept. Just receive.” (Ibid.) He also declared: “People come trying to be all serious and praying. No! This is not the time to pray. This is not a prayer meeting; get in the joy; you can pray on the way home.” (Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival, Word Publ. Dallas Texas, 1997, p. 223.)
Even though the Bible says that “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9), Rodney says: “You can’t understand what God is doing in these meetings with an analytical mind. The only way you’re going to understand what God is doing is with your heart.” (Stephen Sizer, Rodney Howeard-Browne, A Critical Examination of his Theology and Practice, p. 4.) In other words, the Bible doesn’t matter. You must not think about it. You can only feel it. Imagine if our distinctive doctrines were verified by feelings and not by scripture. Where would we be?
Then another movement arose, known as Willow Creek. Bill Hybels, the founder of the Willow Creek Association got much of his mentoring under Robert Schuller who is the host of the well known television show in America: “Hour of Power.” Schuller uses humanistic ideas in his teaching. Schuller is also a follower of Norman Vincent Peale, who “plainly admitted that many of his principles came from two leading occultists: Earnest Holmes, founder of “Religious Science” and Charles Fillmore, co-founder of “Unity cult.” (Dave Hunt, Occult Invasion, Eugene, Oregon, 1998, pg. 460). Peale said on the Phil Donahue show back in 1984 that “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine… I’ve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere.” Phil Donahue was shocked and responded, “But you’re a Christian minister; you’re supposed to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, aren’t you?” Peale replied, “Christ is one of the ways. God is everywhere.” That was taken from Christian News, May 12, 1997, p. 11. This is sheer New Age nonsense. Norman Vincent Peale was teaching New Age Philosophy. He mentored Robert Schuller who mentored none other than Bill Hybels. As false teaching is developed over time, one person seems to be in the spotlight for a while. During this time he trains others, and then they come into the spotlight and train others who in turn come into the spotlight. Hence error is spread generation after generation.
Robert Schuller says of Bill Hybels, “I am so proud of him… I think of him as a son. I think of him as one of the greatest things to happen in Christianity in our time… Bill Hybels is doing the best job of anybody I know. (G. A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services, Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church, Baker Books, 1996, p. 56.) According to Dave Hunt, Robert Schuller is a 33rd degree Mason as was his mentor Norman Vincent Peale. (op. cit. Occult Invasion).
Bill Hybels, of Willow Creek fame is also a very strong ecumenist. He invited F. M. Laz, a Roman Catholic priest of the “Holy Family Church,” to help the members and associates of Willow Creek to understand the things that Protestants can learn from Catholics. When he introduced Laz, Hybels told that he was invited to a conference to speak in the Holy Family church for a group of Catholic leaders, and that he had gained much admiration and respect for Laz as a brother in Christ. (Audiotape M9010 WC Seeds Tape Ministry.)
Ellen White makes it very clear where the ecumenical movement is heading. “The opinion is gaining ground that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome… The people need to be aroused to resist the advances of this most dangerous foe to civil and religious liberty.” That is from the book Great Controversy, pp. 563 and 566. She also wrote, “the pacific tone of Rome… does not imply a change of heart. She is tolerant where she is helpless.” Great Controversy, p. 565
In his apostolic letter: Ad Tuendam Fidem, May 18, 1998, John Paul mentioned canon 1436.1 which says, “One who denies a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or who calls it into doubt… is to be punished as a heretic or an apostate with major excommunication…”
Karl Keating, in his book Catholicism and Fundamentalism, published by the Ignatius Press in San Francisco (1988) stated, “The Catholic Church did not change any of its doctrines at Trent and it did not change any at Vatican II.” No wonder Ellen White wrote: “Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation…” That is also from Great Controversy, p. 571
Bill Hybels invites Christian ministers from all denominations to Willow Creek to learn how to do church growth and spread his New Age, pro-Roman Catholic ecumenical concepts in their own churches. The style of service is patently marketed as “seeker friendly,” which means that the sinner is approached in affirming ways, not in a confrontational way. They need to be listened to and everything that can be disturbing or hurting to them by word or act must be avoided because they should feel perfectly comfortable. Everything possible must be done to make everybody feel happy.
While we should be courteous and thoughtful to all sinners, we must avoid anything that would hinder the work of the Spirit whose first work is to convict of sin. For the scriptures say that “when the Spirit of truth is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment to come,” wrote the apostle John in his gospel. [16:8]
Instead, of presenting convicting truth, contemporary, popular music is played. Stories, skits and other entertaining trappings are used to keep the attention of the masses as they are told to relax and that God loves them just the way they are. While this is true, it is not the whole truth. God also insists that change is necessary for salvation – a change of heart which works a change in the life.
Today the church growth movement as promoted by Willow Creek presents an attractive gospel that caters to carnal desires. The Bible is presented in a friendly, non-confrontational manner while in reality presenting a concept which conflicts with its principles. The purpose is to make everybody feel comfortable.
But Paul writes plainly: “for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Galations 1:10. Ignoring this principle, church-growth leaders do everything possible to please men. A clear “thus saith the Lord” is not a part of the program. Kimon Howland says: “’seeker church pastors make orthodox theology less offensive and more civil for a pluralistic society.’ The gospel isn’t put aside but repacked ‘in a kinder, gentler format.’” Wrote Nathan Busenitz in The Gospel According to Hybels & Warren, Pulpit-Shepherds Fellowship, 2003, p. 3, 4. “Gone are the hard sayings of Jesus,” writes Os Guinness. “Gone is the teaching on sin, self-denial, sacrifice, suffering, judgment, hell. With all its need-meeting emphasis, there is little in the church-growth movement that stands crosswise to the world.” (Os Guinness, Dining with the Devil, Baker Book 1993, p. 78.)
In an article called, Baptist Churches Caught in Willow Creek Web, published in the International Social Pulse Newsletter, November 2003, the author says, “Bill Hybels is one of the most dangerous religious leaders in America. Through his ministry at Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois, and the Willow Creek Association, he is leading many Baptists into the web of compromise. Churches are being destroyed, while at the same time they are growing in membership… Every Sunday morning about 15,000 people gather in the Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC). This is not your regular church service. There is no organ, piano, hymnbooks. They do not join in singing the grand old hymns of the Christian faith. Neither is there a biblical sermon preached. This is the so-called Seeker Service, which is produced in order to get lost people to enjoy church without guilt or shame. There are no sermons against sin, nor is there a call for repentance. Instead of this, there is plenty of rock music from a rock band. Instead of a biblical sermon they feature dramas and multi-media. Of course, the lost man likes to be entertained, and he gets plenty of that at WCCC.”
I’m sure that it is not only Baptist churches that are experiencing this type of service now days. It is interesting and instructive to see which churches are involved in Willow Creek. In fact, the list of churches that are members of the Willow Creek Association is very long indeed. According to their main website, there are more than 12,000 member churches from over 90 denominations in 35 countries around the world, and they are growing at a rate of about two churches per day. They seem to span all or most all denominations including, Anglican/Episcopal, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Non-Denominational, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Roman Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist, etc.
The WCA website says that “All WCA Member Churches have affirmed the central doctrines of the Bible reflected in the WCA Statement of Faith and also presented in the historic creeds of the Christian faith.” Now, let us understand what this means. The historic creeds of the Christian faith would certainly include the Roman Catholic creed as well as the Anglican, the Methodist, etc. Some of these creeds contradict each other. But still members must presumably affirm these creeds even if their denomination has rejected them. My friends, there is one megachurch behind all megachurches. Rome’s creed supersedes them all. She is the mother of all mega-churches.That is what the ecumenical movement is all about; bringing the churches into harmony with Rome’s creed.
Members must also affirm the WCA Statement of Faith. The WCA statement of faith says “[Salvation] is a gift that must be received by humble repentance and faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross.” This is in direct conflict with scripture. Christ’s work of salvation wasn’t finished on the cross. His sacrifice was full and sufficient on the cross, but the work of salvation goes on. He continues this very day in the heavenly sanctuary his ministry of salvation in the lives of His followers. The WCA statement of faith, denies one of the most important principles of scripture that applies specifically to those living at the end of time – the Most Holy Place ministry of Christ.
The WCA statement of Faith also says that the Bible is “the inspired, infallible Word of God, and the supreme and final authority on all matters upon which it teaches…” If Willow Creek truly believed this, then there would be no way that 90 denominations could be united together in an association because so many of them believe things that are explicitly in contradiction to the Bible.
For example, the WCA Statement of Faith also says “Death seals the eternal destiny of each person.” What happens to the soul in death is not addressed. This may well be strategic because there are differences of opinions concerning what happens in death. The Bible is clear about what happens after we die, but Willow Creek is not – even though the WCA statement claims to believe that the Bible is the supreme and final authority… How could a Roman Catholic Church affirm that the Bible is the supreme and final authority in all matters on which it teaches when the Catholic Church affirms that tradition is just as authoritative as the Bible and in practice places tradition above the Bible?
There can be considerable argument about what the Bible actually teaches between the many denominations involved in Willow Creek. So it is impossible for the WCA to define its beliefs clearly so that members actually know what they must believe. This nice sounding statement about the authority of the Bible is meaningless.
What is going on at Willow Creek? Though Willow Creek has a nice sounding statement of faith that many protestant churches will support or accept, though it has a reference to the historic creeds so that Catholics perhaps will feel comfortable joining, in practice, biblical truth is sacrificed. One statement which seems to override all others says, “Spiritual unity is to be expressed among Christians by acceptance and love of one another across ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, national, generational, gender, and denominational lines.” That is the key point. Spiritual unity is not based on truth, but on acceptance and love; anything but doctrine. This is an ecumenical effort to unite all churches in large bundles and reduce denominational distinctives to only those things upon which all can agree.
God’s messenger says: “The enemy has used the chain of dependence to draw men together. They have united to destroy God’s image in man, to counterwork the gospel by perverting its principles. They are represented in God’s word as being bound in bundles to be burned. Satan is uniting his forces for perdition.” That’s from the sixth volume of the Testimonies for the Church, pg 242.
Listen to God’s last day messenger who says, “The wide diversity of belief in the Protestant churches is regarded by many as decisive proof that no effort to secure a forced uniformity can ever be made. But there has been for years, in churches of the Protestant faith, a strong and growing sentiment in favor of a union based upon common points of doctrine. To secure such a union, the discussion of subjects upon which all were not agreed—however important they might be from a Bible standpoint—must necessarily be waived. Great Controversy, p. 444.
This is precisely what is happening with the Willow Creek Association. Ultimately, the only point on which it will seem possible to unite will be Sunday worship. Under the pressure of a national or international crisis, it will be very easy to suggest that no other points mean much of anything and that we all must rally around this one key issue. Listen again to God’s last day messenger, “When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.” Great Controversy, p 445.
The watered-down WCA Statement of Faith is part of the process of preparing the churches to be deceived and receive the mark of the beast by worshipping according to man’s dictates rather than by the commandments of God. God’s church on earth is defined by the fact that they keep the commandments of God. The Willow Creek Association is leading thousands of churches and their people into an ecumenical web from which it will be very difficult to extract themselves.
Another major influence in modern ecumenical Christianity has been Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega-Church in Lake Forest, Ca. He is the author of The Purpose Driven Life. Church growth for Rick Warren means to homogenize Christianity in the ecumenical fashion. Similar to Bill Hybels in Illinois, Rick Warren misuses scripture to suit his purposes. He says, “…I have deliberately used paraphrases in order to help you see God’s truth in new and fresh ways.” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 325)
While this sounds good, what really happens? Listen to John 4:23 from the King James Bible. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” The Message paraphrase, which Rick Warren uses in his book says; “That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in worship.” It is quite different isn’t it? The Message “Bible” suits Warren’s purposes and doesn’t emphasize worshipping in truth. In Rick Warren’s mega-church, just as in virtually all seeker friendly churches of whatever size, everybody is supposed to feel at ease, whatever his opinion or way of thinking. Warren deliberately avoids distinguishing the truth from falsehood. Worshippers are to be “simply and honestly themselves.”
The Alpha course and these church growth teachers hinder sinners from experiencing the gospel by encouraging them to believe they are Christians, while they haven’t given themselves fully to God. Most of us don’t want to face the fact that we are sinners. We want to come to church and be told that we are ok as we are. So we hear affirming sermons, sermons about love and unity. But we rarely hear sermons dealing with our apostate lifestyle and the need to get our lives right with God. We are being set up to accept the church growth model. The underlying assumption is that those who have been baptized and regularly attend church are somehow on the path to heaven. While that may be true of some, it is certainly not true of all.
These mega-church leaders are all following the same path to a man-centered gospel in what sounds like a Christ-centered approach. They use the modern perversions of scripture to emphasize the love of Christ, but strip that love of its convicting and transforming power.
Rick Warren says “…anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the felt needs to his or her heart.” (C. Matthew McMahon, Pelagian Captivity, p. 19. Cf. The Purpose Driven Church. P. 219.) Hybel’s explains “We are a love starved people, with broken parts that need the kind of repair that only he can give long-term.” (Ibid, pg. 20.) The Bible teaches however that the unbeliever is by nature more than broken. He is dead in trespasses and sins, (Ephesians 2:1) and must be raised from death to a new life. It isn’t a matter of recognizing our love-starved selves, but it is a matter of understanding our sin. The only remedy for that sin is not pop-psychology, but the total surrender of our sin-burdened souls to Jesus Christ.
Rick Warren says, “It is… critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign… our message has to be adapted to the needs of the audience. (George Barna, Marketing the Church, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1988, p. 145.) What he is saying is that the truth of the Bible is not as important as felt needs of the people. This is one good way to become popular, but it is not the way that heaven approves.
The underlying problem in using all the various scripture revisions is that it is almost impossible to determine what biblical truth actually is. This leaves those who are thus confused questioning what really is the truth that we must believe. Rome has the perfect answer. Since there is no consistent, clear, biblical interpretation or authority available, then the Pope is the one to determine what is truth. He is the only authoritative voice in the ecumenical world today. Rome greatly appreciates all the modern translations. In fact virtually all of them harmonize with her corrupted western texts. The modern Bible translations are designed to create confusion over doctrine, so that eventually the churches will turn to Rome for final authority. Ecumenical churches such as the mega-churches are very effective agents of Rome. Not only do they extol the Pope, the Jesuits and the Catholic Church, they use translations that harmonize with Rome’s corrupted scripture in an effort to come as close to Rome as possible without alienating their Protestant supporters.
The church growth movement also de-emphasizes prophecy. Rick Warren writes in the Purpose Driven Life [p. 285], “When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, ‘The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that!’ …If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy. It is easy to get distracted and sidetracked from your mission because Satan would rather have you do anything besides sharing your faith.” As you can see Rick Warren actively discourages the study of prophecy because to him it is a snare of Satan to keep us from fulfilling our mission.
Listen to this very prophetic statement from the Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, p. 92 “Satan is not asleep; he is wide-awake to make of no effect the sure word of prophecy. With skill and deceptive power he is working to counterwork the expressed will of God, made plain in His word.”
Warren dares to suggest that the details surrounding Jesus’ coming are none of our business. If it is none of our business, then why did Jesus give us a very clear description of it in several places in scripture? What Rick Warren doesn’t know apparently, is that Satan is planning to counterfeit Jesus’ coming, and that it is essential that we know as much about it as Jesus himself has given us, so that we won’t be deceived (see Matt 24). A correct understanding of prophecy is indispensable and invaluable so that God’s people can prepare for His coming.
Do you remember our first scripture that said “we have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn…? When Rick Warren says that we should not focus on prophecy, we can say that instead of receiving God’s blessing he and all those who follow him in this way will at last find themselves in darkness, since they have no shinning light to show them the truth and the right way. They don’t have a prophetic light shining into the future.
It is not surprising that the church-growth movement is tightly connected with the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican is very enthusiastic about the Alpha Course which under girds church growth movement. The Calvary Contender, March 2004 said in an article called Alpha the Unofficial Guide, (p. 55.) that, “the Alpha Course is proving to be a most profitable vehicle for Rome’s ecumenical goals.” An Evangelical Times article wrote that Alpha fever “will inch its adherents inexorably closer to the Roman Catholic Church. Rome has welcomed the courses, and waits with consummate patience to embrace those who wander from the path of scripture… (Alpha Courses and Catholicism)
Ambrose Griffiths, Roman Catholic bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, England, says that Alpha, “doesn’t contain anything that is contrary to Catholic doctrine.” (Paul Fitton, The Alpha Course: Is it Bible-Based or Hell-Inspired? Part 2)
Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has nothing but praise about Alpha. “Those who complete the Alpha course are ready and eager to take part in the small communities that are forming in parishes – ready and eager to learn more about our church and her sacraments and to serve and evangelize others. (Alpha News International, Aug-Nov. 1999)
With all this background, why then do churches and conferences who claim to have God’s truth send their pastors to Willow Creek to learn of these methods and teachings? Why are books like the Purpose Driven Life urged upon church members? Why do pastors quote from Catholic mystics like Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and other famous churchmen? The fact is that there is a great desire to be like the world-loving churches so that their churches will grow. Listen to this enlightening statement from The Signs of the Times, August 27, 1894. “Ministers of popular churches are… softening down and diluting the plain word of truth. They are obscuring the light, and changing the message, in order to accommodate it to the prejudices, and adjust it to the opinions and habits, of the people. Thus they cater to the taste of the world-loving members of the church.”
More than 12 years earlier Ellen White warned that “Some ministers are adopting the customs of other churches, copying their habits and manner of labor.” That is also from the Signs of the Times, May 25, 1882.
Here is the problem for God’s last day church. Those that follow the mega-church methods very quickly discover that one cannot attract a large crowd if one preaches the distinctive message of the Bible for the last days including the Sabbath, the non-immortality of the soul and the investigative judgment. They then have to avoid preaching them or give them up all together. The result is that God’s last day church loses her clarity concerning her message and becomes insecure in its proclamation. Once that insecurity sets in, there is no end to the compromises that will be made in order to make people comfortable with modern worldly lifestyles. When we bring in drums and rock music, clowns, mimes, skits and other forms of entertainment, when we water down the message and just preach an emaciated love and truthless unity so that everyone is happy and have no fear of sin and God’s displeasure with it, we give the enemy of souls an open door to enter into our midst to lead us from the truth, all in the name of worshipping Jesus. What a masterful deception! How important it is for us to be alert to the plans of Satan! He wants to bring us under the influence of the ecumenical movement so that he can eventually bring us under the power of Rome and Rome’s false worship.
Ellen White warns us again, that “there is to be no compromise with those who make void the law of God. It is not safe to rely upon them as counselors. Our testimony is not to be less decided now than formerly: our real position is not to be cloaked in order to please the world’s great men. They may desire us to unite with them and accept their plans, and may make propositions in regard to our course of action which may give the enemy an advantage over us.” That is from Selected Messages, book two, p. 371. How true are these words!
If your pastor has attended Willow Creek, love him, but tell him of his danger. If your church is a member of the Willow Creek Association, perhaps it is time to make a presentation to the board of the dangers of this type of worship and loss of the distinctive truth for this time. Maybe you have been unaware of the false teachings of the “Purpose Driven” movement, and have been attracted to its ideas. This is the time to open your eyes and awake to your danger. Give no more time to this deceptive plan of Satan to lead you astray. Rome’s secret forces are at work, deceiving if possible the very elect. She is using every method, including the church growth movement and the ecumenical movement to deceive your soul and lead you under her control.
Now is the time to make your soul right with God and make sure that you understand the message for this hour. Your time and talents are God’s and we should not be using them to entertain or lull others into comatose carnal security. This is the time to be true watchmen on the walls of Zion proclaiming God’s last warning message to the world. It is not the time to be softening it down.
Let us pray that God will awaken those that are caught up in this church growth deception and that we will never be deceived by unscrupulous preachers of a false and watered-down gospel.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for revealing to us the truth and exposing to us the deceptions of the devil. Help us Lord not to be deceived and become blinded by the false teachings of men that sound so good, but are unbiblical. Please Lord, there are those who have been deceived. Please undeceive them and help them to open their hearts to the truth for these last days. And Lord, if there are some pastors that have become caught up in these methods and teachings of the church growth movement, please help them to see the error of their ways, and turn and proclaim the true message with power. May we truly represent Christ and His faithfulness in every way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
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