Are you a "Sanballat?"
By Eric Barger
Changing a church from traditional Bible teaching to the Purpose Driven approach isn't always so easy. This is especially so with many Evangelicals who have more awareness of the Scriptures. But Rick Warren, as capable as he may be at convincing pastors to forsake their old ways for the greener pastures of Purpose Driven, does have other outside help in accomplishing the task. Enter one Dan Southerland, the founder of Church Transitions Inc.
The Church Transitions, Inc. website boasts that he and his associates have led thousands of churches to transition to the Purpose Driven model. Southerland's bio states that he has trained over 100,000 pastors on how to change existing churches into Purpose Driven churches. My research indicates that Southerland has spoken at many leadership gatherings including Southern Baptist ministers conferences and has done "transitioning" work with the Florida Baptist Convention. For the past seven years he has also been a regular speaker at Rick Warren's own Purpose Driven Church Conference held at Saddleback. According to the Church Transitions, Inc. website, half of the events they take part in each year are actually co-sponsored by Warren's Purpose Driven Ministries.
Southerland's book, Transitioning: Leading Your Church Through Change, is promoted and sold through Rick Warren's Pastors.com website. In the book, Southerland outlines the plan to bring a church into the Purpose Driven camp. Chapter six is relevant to our discussion here. Its aptly titled: "Dealing with Opposition."
On page 116 of Transitioning Dan Southerland states: "We have experienced two major sources of criticism during our transitions. The first is Christians from more traditional backgrounds. They sometimes struggle with transitions in the church. Not all of our traditional backgrounded Christians have been critical - just the ornery ones. Our second source of criticism is traditional church pastors. Again, not all traditional church pastors -just the meaner ones. I believe that is because they do not understand what we are doing. I hope it is not out of jealousy of our results...." It isn't brain surgery to correlate this statement with Warren's recent and repeated statements about getting rid of troublemakers (see "Handling Disunity Rick Warren's Way"). By the way Dan, if I have a choice between "results" or standing for Biblical truth, guess what's most important to me?
The Church Transition, Inc. website states "We teach a process for leading change that is biblical - based on the book of Nehemiah." Dan Southerland's book repeats this theme as well. On page 115 Southerland writes of Nehemiah's evil adversary, Sanballat, likening him to Purpose Driven opponents in our day.
"If you have read Nehemiah recently, you will remember that Sanballat is Nehemiah's greatest critic and number one enemy. Let me put it plainer than that. Sanballat is a leader from hell. We all have some Sanballats in our churches. This is the guy who opposes whatever you propose.... You cannot call this guy a leader from hell to his face - but you could call him Sanballat."
Think carefully about what is being said in that statement. Southerland is encouraging pastors to think of those who may be their brother or sister in Christ as actually "leaders from hell!" Why? Because they question the validity of a church growth program which lacks Scriptural basis to support it. Talk about demonizing your opposition because you don't have a solid argument with which to respond to them except "Everybody's doing Purpose Driven" or "it gets results." I guess this motes operandi is not reserved for pundits and politicians alone.
So, let's get this straight. According to Church Transitions' Dan Southerland in a book endorsed and sold by Rick Warren, Purpose Driven opposers are equated to filthy, demonic, unbelieving pagans - which is exactly what the real Sanballat actually was. I think we've discovered a new depth to which the Purpose Driven proponents will stoop to in order to have it their way. I Awonder what lengths will they go to next?
Southerland's treatment of Nehemiah is truly Warrenesque eisegesis. Just as in The Purpose Driven Life, the appearance of credibility by the mere use of Scripture seems to preside here over context, historical truths and sound extrapolation of information from the Scriptures. We need to ask just who the "leader from hell" really is? Is it the traditional, biblical Christian with their Bible's open pointing out the fallacies of the Purpose Driven philosophy and thus refusing to walk the plank or is it actually leaders like Southerland (with Warren's approval) leading the church away from the mandates of Scripture?
Southerland recounts a deacons meeting at his former church in Florida when an angry deacon accused him of not preaching the Gospel. The deacon went on to say "We need to go back to the way we used to do church!" Southerland says he responded "This is where I have to go. I must do church for the unchurched; I can’t go back to doing church for the already convinced. If you want to go with me, please do." Though I do not know exactly how the church in Florida "did church" before Warren infected Southerland, I'll guess that the deacon was right.
It appears from Scripture that no matter how desperately Warren, Southerland, Hybels or anybody else may want it to be, the Church is never to be designed for the LOST. Instead, Church is for the strengthening and training of the FOUND. The very founders of the Church gave us an unchangeable mission statement to follow.
"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." - Acts 2:42
Contrary to Purpose Driven thinking, if the unchurched attend our services they should be exposed to the real gospel which, according to Acts 2:37-38, pricked people in their hearts and was followed by Peter's insistence that they should repent. He didn't strive to make the lost feel particularly warm and fuzzy by being non-confrontive and ultra positive did he? If the LOST do happen to get FOUND while in our meetings then Praise the Lord! However, just getting them in the building doesn't win them unless we clearly present solid preaching, teaching and testimonies.
Do we want the lost saved? Of course. Should we mix evangelism into our services? Without question. But in the end, it is not our job to save anybody. That is the Holy Spirit's business. Its our job to be absolutely faithful to the message of the New Testament. The Church who still cares about following God and honoring His word needs to concentrate on preaching the cross, repentance and holiness instead of buying into the latest market survey indicating what the lost might prefer that we present. Perhaps then, God might bring His favor and anointing back to us.