Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

May 26, 2004

A Question from Susan

Here's the comment from Susan in response to yesterday's "last ever" PDL post:

"Just another question, if you don't mind, if the whole church is built on PDL foundation, and they ask you to leave if you don't join their purpose, but they do have other strong anointing, would you leave or stay?"

That's a very good question, Susan, and I really think that the answer depends on the particular situation you're in. Over at you can read some real horror stories in which people felt "driven" out of their church because they weren't supportive of the PDL program (scroll down to the long comments section at the end of the review). My quick answer is, watch and pray. It should be noted that Warren's 5 purposes (worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, and evangelism) are not in themselves a bad template for understanding the Christian life. However, speaking as one Charismatic to another, Warren's take on these things leaves out the Holy Spirit almost entirely.

I myself have "belonged" to only two churches in my Christian life. Leaving the first one, the church in which I was baptized and discipled, was very difficult. I do not encourage people to make that step lightly. In my current church, we have gone whole hog for the PDL program, and yet I have no thought of leaving it. In the four years I've been there, I've been in step with everything they've done and have grown in the Lord in many ways, and I have been pleased with the maturity of the teaching and leadership. PDL does seem to me to be a step backward for us, but I'm not going to abandon them because in this case I can't agree.

Maybe I should put it this way: If the church resorts to Warren's extremely watered-down message regarding sin, his vague and vacuous understanding of God's plan of salvation for your life (which includes the Spirit dwelling in you in power), and his shallow and self-serving use of Scripture, I would definitely consider moving on.

The purpose of PDL is growth, and its success is measured in numbers. The purpose of the Spirit's anointing is not measurable that way. The Spirit's whole purpose is to point people to Jesus and to His cross. Since PDL does not do that, I cannot imagine the Spirit's anointing continuing for long on that church. Watch and pray.


By the way, now is a good time to point my readers to the relatively new blog of Susan's husband, Peter. His blog is called JC's Apprentice. And while we're at it, have a look at another new blog from an old blogging friend's very close relation. Blogging-teen's Mom is now getting into the act! Her new blog is called Blogging Truth. Have a look.


Blogger Rick said...

Bob, you know me. And while I'm hardly an expert, even the least bit scholarly in my faith, for me the PDL campaign has been wonderful, and has answered many questions.

Yes, it is simplistic. In the very first chapters, it starts from the premise that the reader has no substantial understanding of the realities of being a Christian. In that light, you, Bob, are not the intended reader.

I understand how you feel about the PDL a lot better now. It is indeed too shallow for you. But for those of us without the depth and breadth of understanding, it's incredibly helpful.

I've asked some fairly basic (to me) questions about Christ and Christianity, and for most of them I get back platitudes and simply useless answers. "What is my purpose in life, now that I have taken Christ as my Savior?" was one. I got the usual answers - pray, worship, praise, obey, spread the word. Ok, so I go to church, etc... At least now I understand better that my whole life, everything I do, can be worship, and should be. That alone puts choosing well in a completely different perspective.

I'll grow past the PDL formula, probably, and maybe quickly. But for now, Rick Warren has illuminated important issues for me.

I was wary of the campaign from the first announcement, and avoided reading ahead to have a fresh perspective. I'm glad I did. It's ok to disagree, and I'll be working out all of this myself somehow.

I seriously doubt our church (Bob and I are members of the same church) would ever abandon the strong foundations laid in favor of a singular, driven, exclusive focus on PDL-ism. It's been a remarkable campaign, and I hope and pray it is a new-laid foundation for future growth. Any member who has followed through the six weeks cannot easily plead ignorance of at least some purpose in Christ.

I'm ready to go forth with more defined purpose. But I hardly think you needed such definition. You're a model to me in many ways. Be patient with us neophytes, as we stumble towards the light... k?


7:53 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Rick, thanks for commenting. Yes, my biggest complaint is shallowness. It makes no sense to depict this as a "for everyone" program. But beyond that, I have "issues" with things Warren says and with his use of Scripture that amount to misleading the new believers or those with very little Scriptural understanding. For example, in the video presentation for week 4 Warren says that God is going to put us through everything Jesus went through, for the purpose of building our character. This is just not true, Rick, and it is a serious issue. It's one thing to say that God uses even the bad experiences of our lives to help us grow, and quite another to say that God intentionally puts us through them, and, more importantly, to say that we will go through "everything" Jesus went through is just too wrong to be ignored.

There are many other such glib and cavalier quips of Warren's that our seriously misleading. Essentially, I don't believe the book is at all Christ-centered. It has subsituted a program for Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When Warren prays a supposed prayer of salvation in the first video session, he doesn't mention sin at all (he almost never mentions sin, except with reference to forgiving the sins of others). Instead of a plea for forgiveness, or something like "Lord I want to know you," he prays "Lord I want to know my purpose." After praying it he says, there, now you're a member of the family of God. Well, hold on a minute! Warren has created a generic duty-centered Christ-diminishing program in the place of "humble faith." There is surely something better out there for new believers than this tripe!

9:59 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

I agree that some things Warren says are contradictory. Some are just plain wrong. It is very glib and just plain dumbed-down. However, I don't think it is without merit. I don't think Warren was aiming at the seriously committed disciple, but rather those that don't know Jesus yet and those who have been introduced but haven't deepened the relationship beyond Sunday morning church attendance (the ones whose eyes would glaze over if it was filled with big theological words and ideas). He has found a way to get them listening and thinking. From that point, we can lead them so they aren't lead astray. For the rest of us, perhaps it serves the purpose of getting us focused on certain things again, thinking about them in different ways? The group I'm in all agree that we've heard nothing new so far, it has just made us think specifically about those areas being discussed. So, am I really learning anything? Not really, but I am focused more closely on God than I had been in a while.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

That's a fair comment. And that in fact has been my standard as a small group leader. Focus on the good things, and if there's anything you think is seriously misleading, point it out and discuss it. I agree that this isn't a completely messed-up program. There is good stuff throughout the book.

Another point: it's all well and good to say this book isn't for everyone, but that's not how it sells itself. It is energetically promoted as being an incredible breakthrough book that everyone can benefit from. I have a problem with the Madison Avenue pie-in-the-sky promotional gimmickry. I have a problem with the fact that when Warren suggests that there are thousands of books that can help us study the Bible, and to check the appendix for a brief list of some that have helped him, only to find when doing so that they're all "purpose-driven" spin-off products. This is not so much a book as an industry! Each product in the line "sells" another. Tote-bags, bracelets, bumper-stickers etc. can't be far behind!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I really appreciate your thoughts on my question.
I agree, changing church is a big issue in life and should handle it with great care. If leaving it to me, I’d rather stay in one for life. But it seemed to be the way that God has chased me from church to church. I don’t exactly know why. And at the moment I’m a bit scared of my own discernment. Normally I wouldn’t change church based on reasoning or comparing. I remember once I couldn’t find any reason (plenty of reasons why I should stay) to leave, just an inner urge, almost like a compelling, that I knew I had to leave. I couldn’t even talk to the pastor as I didn’t even know what I was doing. But two years later I knew.
I haven’t read PDL and really don’t know much about it. It’s interesting to hear what you have to say. But I don’t have any interest in going into it.(Hope that makes sense… I mean I don’t want to do the whole course).
One thing I’m sure, no matter how purposed you are, the primary focus has to come back to the relationship with Jesus Christ.
And thank you also for introducing Peter. You are such a blessing!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey bob, it is the missing John Cadman, how are you? I say we must do coffee before I forget what you look like. I was reading your blog, sadly the first time in about 2 months. I must say, your comments about PDL leave me wondering if the book is just empty, nothingness, or is there something else I am missing. I have not read the pdl series, not sure if it is good or bad. I would love your thoughts on this. I know there is a group at Janel's church that is thinking of doing it, because it is such a phenonema right now. Email me @

11:44 AM  
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