Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aaron Wolf on Church Growth

In the June issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Aaron Wolf offers up part two of his analysis of the church growth movement. His essay primarily focuses on Rick Warren, and the influence of management guru Peter Drucker on Warren's "methods" of church-growth and evangelism. Wolf concludes that the hubris inspiring Warren's approach to ministry is not something new or unique, but is a manifestation of the heresy of "Americanism," defined as the perspective that "we are the terminal generation, that we are special on the stage of world history, that everything must conform to our vision of ourselves."

Anyone having even a passing familiarity with "conservative evangelical Protestantism" is familiar with the malady described by Wolf.

More: “How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was? And then, there are purpose and strategy and vision—all three which cannot be left to chance, if today’s business and Church-growth experts are right….

What, exactly, drew the Irish to Patrick? Was it the thrilling promise of a miracle? Did Patrick pass out vellums advertising a Three Night Life-Changing Crusade? “Watch Snakes Vanish, Before Your Very Eyes!” Did he carefully compose relevant, contemporary music (so as not to frighten away the hipster Celts) for singing “The Breastplate”? “Ooh, ooh, ooh, the splendour of fire!/Whoa, oh, oh, the flashing light’ning! [Repeat 6x’s.]” Did he speak to their felt needs, urging them to trade in all of their cares, anxieties, and their depression for a relationship with Christ?

And how did he ensure that those he persuaded to make Life-Changing Decisions to keep coming to church? Did he create special ministries for Celtic youth, for young Irish families, for the mothers of Preschoolers? “Today, after mass, Pastor Pat will be talking with the Nifty fifties about living with osteoporosis.” Or “Irish Youth in Service (IRIS) will be having its annual God-Hain bonfire this Saturday night. (Parents, please: No devil masks.)”

No, Patrick preached. He evangelized (“gospelled”) as he went, wherever he went. He did not have a mission statement: He had the Great Commission. He did not have marketing techniques: He had the Holy Ghost, the word of God, and his ordination. He did have slick music or a “relevant message”: He had the Body and Blood of Christ, the stern rebuke of God’s Law, and the promise of the forgiveness of sins”


Anonymous Mark Kelly said...

Rick Warren isn't about church growth and marketing. He's about church health and the power of God's Good News to change lives. Rather than being the antithesis of Patrick, his life's mission of evangelizing a pagan culture actually makes them a lot alike.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Over at the Contemporary Calvinst, several others have commented. Check it out...

I recall reading The Purpose Driven Life and thinking it extremely simplistic. But after reflection it does seem that Warren's theology neglects sin, repentance and the law of God as a means of demonstrating sin and reflecting the holiness of God.

6:35 PM  

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