Here at Apprising Ministries you’ve heard me warn you on a regular basis about the despicable Church Growth movement (CGM) which slithered slithered out of the spiritual black hole known as Fuller Theological Seminary (FTS). Briefly, we trace the origins of the CGM back to Donald McGavran who in 1965:
was asked by Fuller Theological Seminary to establish the School of World Mission…. His major book Understanding Church Growth does not primarily focus on Theology (but rather on the social sciences. McGavran’s theology is primary apologetic.
Although the name of his book is Understanding Church Growth, he focuses mostly on growth and little on the church. (source, bold in original)
At this point it’s important to note that C. Peter Wagner [now deceased], McGavran’s partner in spiritual crime at FTS is listed as the co-author of Understanding Church Growth.1 You might also notice that the mythology of McGavran and Wagner sounds an awful lot like the seeker driven Purpose Driven Church methodology of Rick Warren.
There’s actually good reason for this as I shared a couple of years back in Rick Warren on Mentors like C. Peter Wagner. For you see, “Apostle” Wagner—the wingnut who developed the spurious New Apostolic Reformation—happens to be the mentor for Warren’s doctoral dissertation at FTS on, you guessed it, church growth.2
Since this isn’t the main point of this piece, let me just point out that these men essentially espoused the same man-centered theology as the late Robert Schuller3 who once wrote the following foolishness:
Classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be “God-centered,” not “man-centered”…[and teaching about] a holy God who hates sin…we [need to] redefine our doctrine of sin.”
Historical theology has too often failed to interpret repentance as a positive creative force… Essentially, if Christianity is to succeed in the next millennium, it must cease to be a negative religion and must become positive.4
So, if you didn’t know where these man-centered myths came from, now you do. Here’s why this is important before you read the devotional teaching to follow. Another entity of the CGM, which would also slither into the visible church to marry man-pleasing mythology to business methodology is Leadership Network (LN).
It’s no secret that Rick Warren has been deeply involved with LN for decades.5 You need to know that LN teaches a fable known as “pre-conversion discipleship.” For example, we consider the following from Emergent Church “missiologist” Alan Hirsch, who was very involved in the early Emerging Church.6
we need to reframe evangelism within the context of discipleship…even “the Twelve” (and “the Seventy”) were all what we would call “pre-conversion disciples.”7
That’s from Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship where Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren himself gushed in his foreword:
Fortunately, Alan and Debra have written just what needs to be said. Untamed is a desperately needed shot of spiritual adrenaline into our mild-mannered and mediocre attempts at following Christ.
The starting point is to get a new vision of who God is, how he acts, and what he expects from us. In Untamed you will discover a wild God, a God who loves us so much he dove into humanity headfirst, He didn’t play it safe, and he expects you to take risks in faith also.
In these pages you are about to read, Alan and Debra will carefully and clearly lead you to truly transforming discipleship.
No, sorry about that Rick Warren; they are clearly teaching a mythology that someone who is still in the flesh can actually be discipled. However, the critical fact is that the Twelve and the Seventy were very specifically chosen by Jesus Christ Himself and interacted directly with Him; and thus they were converted before they were sent out.
This brings me to the most important part of this short article. The CGM has really crippled the Christian witness outside the Body of Christ and produced the neutering of the Gospel of repentance and the Cross. As such, you need to know that there are scores and scores of false converts kidding themselves that they are Christians.
George Whitefield was a leading figure in the Great Awakening, a major revival “that swept through the American colonies between the 1730s and the 1770s.”8 Well, I offer Whitefield saw more conversions to Christ than Rick Warren et al could ever dream of seeing. He was once asked, “Why do you always say, ‘You must be born again!’?”
Whitefield simply replied, “Because you must be born again!” Don’t deceive yourself, no one can follow Christ in the flesh or ever hope to please God (c.f. John 3:3-7; Romans 8:7-11). If you don’t find what you’re about to read happening to you personally, then you have every reason to wonder whether you are a regenerated Christian:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
If you fail that test you just might cry out —Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24). If this be so, good; the Lord is calling you. Now you’re ready for the Good News; there’s repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name. Come to HIm now; He died on the Cross for your sins.
And if you’ll but reach out for Him, then your next cry wil be — Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you would.” Galatians 5:17
In this one verse the apostle Paul describes the thing that continually plagues every Christian. We, as the people of God, desire more than anything to love God perfectly, but can’t. We long to cease from sin and ungodliness, but can’t. We strive to worship our God with our entire being, but can’t. We try to do good and honor God in all things, but can’t.
Why do we continually do, say, feel, and think things that are evil? Why are we so hard-hearted, unforgiving, and ignorant? Why can’t we do what we desire most?
It’s because we have two natures called . . . flesh and spirit, sin and righteousness, Adam and Christ.
We do indeed believe our God, but not as we would. We do love our Savior, but not as we would. We do live for His honor and glory, but not as we would.
Our flesh won’t allow us. It always interferes. It keeps us from doing the things that we would. When we would do good–then evil is present with us. Our most fervent faith, is mixed with unbelief. Our most selfless sacrifices, are mixed with selfishness. Our most ardent prayers and supplications, are marred by our infirmities. Our most spiritual moments, are contaminated by our sickening carnality. Our meekest hours of submission and dependence on God, are corrupted by our self-will and pride. Every mountain top experience of spiritual pleasure, is tinged with shameful wanderings within. Our clearest views of Christ are darkened by error, misconceptions, and preconceived notions. Even when our hearts seem to be most fixed on God’s glory, they are torn between this world and the next.
The reality is, that as long as we live in this world–we will be at war within ourselves! The flesh will not submit to the Spirit–and the Spirit will not submit to the flesh. We will be . . . pulled this way one moment–and that way the next; believing one moment–and doubting the next; praising God in the morning–then murmuring at night; seeking God’s will today–and our will tomorrow. As long as we live in this body of flesh there will be a constant struggle within us–a struggle between flesh and Spirit.
Lost unregenerate men know nothing of this struggle! This internal warfare is peculiar to believers. Unbelieving, unregenerate, impenitent, rebellious, lost sinners know nothing of this fight with SELF. They don’t loathe themselves as all believers do; they lovethemselves. They have but one nature–and that is sin, which rules in their hearts supremely. Lost men do not have grace within, to oppose the works and motions of the flesh. All they have is a nature that is dead in trespasses and sin, that walks according to the course of this world.
The struggle doesn’t begin within a man, until that man is born of God’s Spirit and given the gift of life and faith in Christ.
This war between our flesh and Spirit is best for us. If it were not so, then God would not allow it. God is control of this fight, and has ordained it for us in His infinite wisdom and grace. This constant battle within our hearts is good for us, because it keeps us looking to Christ–ever seeking Him, His grace, His help, His power. This lifelong fight will make the prize that much sweeter–when Jesus will present us “to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!” Ephesians 5:27
- http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Church-Growth-Donald-McGavran/dp/0802804632, accessed 4/8/14. ↩
- You’ll find helpful background material here: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/12/4/134435/084, accessed 4/8/14. ↩
- e.g. see Man-Centered Methods of Rick Warren a la Robert Schuller and Robert Schuller: Father of the New Reformation ↩
- Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation [Waco: Word Books, 1982], 64, 65, 104 ↩
- e.g. see http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/01/leadership-network-spawns-emergent.html, accessed 4/8/14. ↩
- The emerging church, another arm of the CGM, was also launched by LN. See http://www.herescope.blogspot.com/2005/11/how-leadership-network-created.html, accessed 4/8/14. ↩
- Alan Hirsch, Deborah Hirsch, Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010], 150. ↩
- http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/eighteen/ekeyinfo/grawaken.htm, accessed 4/8/14. ↩