In a new video at PurposeDriven.com, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church invites pastors and churches to embark with him on a new 40-day campaign. Behind this latest endeavor is the re-release of Warren’s bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life (PDL).
“If you want to help your church,” says Warren, “become stronger, healthier, more stable and experience exponential growth,” then joining this campaign is the way to achieve such goals. The implication seems to be that, in participating in such a campaign, a church may experience similar growth as Saddleback Church. Most pastors would claim to give God the glory for such explosive church growth as Warren has seen, even if such declarations were merely lip service. In this video, however, Rick Warren unequivocally states that the “single-most important ingredient in the growth of Saddleback Church” has been “the power of the annual campaign.”
Though perhaps unintentional, such a statement appears to imply that, for Rick Warren, his own endeavors hold more power and influence than the Word of God. The words of Rick Warren in this video seem to indicate that he is reliant upon pragmatic, self-concocted schemes to fill the seats of Saddleback Church. Christians know, however, that Christ declared that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18), and such growth, whether large or small by man’s standards, is achieved through the preaching of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In June 2012 it was reported that Rick Warren’s bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, would be redesigned for its upcoming 10th anniversary. Set to release on 6 November 2012, that anniversary has nearly arrived, and a press release states:
After 10 unprecedented years as the best-selling non-fiction hardback in history, Dr. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” (Nov. 6, ISBN: 9780310329060, $26.99) is being re-tooled and re-released by Zondervan.
“There is an entire generation who was too young to read ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ 10 years ago but are now asking the critical question of ‘what on earth am I here for?’” said Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. “This anniversary edition represents a new approach for a new generation incorporating a new understanding of barriers that keep people from finding their purpose, based on thousands of readers’ letters I have received.”
The book not only has received a newly designed front cover, but also includes two new chapters of material (this differs from original reports which stated that four new chapters would be added):
“The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?” 10th anniversary edition will feature two additional chapters addressing the issues of “The Envy Trap – I must be like you to be happy” and “The People-Pleaser Trap – I must be liked by you to be happy,” taking the book from a 40-day to a six-week individual or small group study. Source
With the initial announcement of this new material, CRN noted “that critics of the book will be eager to see what additional ideas are contained within these new chapters.” This eagerness stems largely from the fact that the original book appeared to be largely devoid of the true gospel message. CRN’s previous article shared two particularly condemnatory quotes from Dr. John MacArthur and Nathan Busenitz, who is a professor of theology at The Master’s Seminary. For example, in 2003 Busenitz would write:
From a theological perspective, The Purpose Driven Life fails more in what is not said, than in what is. Key doctrines are sometimes altogether ignored, explained incompletely, or discussed without adequate scriptural support. The gospel, for example, is presented without mention of repentance, the reason Jesus died on the cross, or the eternal consequences of sin. Instead, the reader is simply asked to “whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: ‘Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you’” (p. 58). Warren continues by writing, “If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God” (p. 59). His definition of the “Good News” later in the book goes no deeper—emphasizing the benefits of grace without explaining man’s desperate condition or God’s command to repent (see pp. 294-95). Source
It seems that The Purpose Driven Life has seen as much numerical success as Warren’s Saddleback Church. The press release for PDL goes on to state:
Over the last 10 years, “The Purpose Driven Life” has transformed countless lives, selling more than 32 million copies worldwide in 50 languages including Afrikaans, Arabic, Farsi, Rwandan, Sango, Swahili and Zulu. Source
However, as John MacArthur once noted,
You will look long and hard in this book, The Purpose Driven Life, to find the gospel. Now I don’t know how you could ever live a purpose driven life if you didn’t know how to get into the kingdom of God or how to be saved. Source
This is an astute observation. Can a life genuinely be transformed without the power of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps one may see “life change” in a temporal sense, but justification, regeneration, sanctification—those are works wrought only by God, and one cannot be saved and thus experience these things if one does not hear the good news of the gospel.
Based solely upon the titles of these new chapters as revealed by the press release, “The Envy Trap – I must be like you to be happy” and “The People-Pleaser Trap – I must be liked by you to be happy,” it appears to be a safe assumption that the content of these chapters does not address some of the concerns that have been raised by Warren’s critics in the past decade. It is hoped, then, that the other edits Warren claims to have made will address in particular the poor and lacking gospel presentation. If his recent appearance and failure to clearly present the gospel of Jesus Christ on Oprah Winfrey’s Lifeclass is any indication, however, then it may not be preposterous to expect that the new edition of PDL may once again fail to properly share the message of salvation.
Over the next few months, there is little doubt that this revamped PDL will make its way into the hands of many professing Christians. Then, with the start of the new year, a myriad of churches will join with Saddleback in this latest annual campaign, which will be based upon the 10th anniversary edition of the book. While many may read it and find what they believe to be their “God-given purpose,” without repentance and faith in Christ this “purpose” will be worked toward to no avail. It is the Word of God and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that truly transforms lives, not a book of man, and certainly not a book that fails to clearly articulate the saving truth of the gospel.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Rom. 1:16