Quite a fury has been stirred in some congregations, with many evangelicals charging that this approach is diluting Christianity. Some say it is "inappropriate for churches to use growth tactics akin to modern management tools, including concepts such as researching the church 'market' and writing mission statements. Others say it encourages simplistic Bible teaching." I've read some comments online calling it pure evil.
Mr. Warren preaches in sandals and a Hawaiian shirt, and he encourages ministers to banish church traditions such as hymns, choirs and pews. He and his followers use "praise team" singers, backed by rock bands playing contemporary Christian songs. His sermons rarely linger on self-denial and fighting sin, instead focusing on healing modern American angst, such as troubled marriages and stress.I see two possible problems here. First, when the goal is to reach marketing objectives and gain popularity, the message of repentance often has to go. If so, it could be Apostasy 2.0. Of course, growth and dilution of the Gospel message don't necessarily have to go hand in hand. As for the second problem, I'm not into Hawaiian shirts.
There may be other serious issues, including hardball tactics used to implement the marketing plans:
Some pastors learn how to make their churches purpose-driven through training workshops. Speakers at Church Transitions Inc., a Waxhaw, N.C., nonprofit that works closely with Mr. Warren's church, stress that the transition will be rough. At a seminar outside of Austin, Texas, in April, the Revs. Roddy Clyde and Glen Sartain advised 80 audience members to trust very few people with their plans. "All the forces of hell are going to come at you when you wake up that church," said Mr. Sartain, who has taught the material at Mr. Warren's Saddleback Church.I suspect that WSJ is being too harsh on the purpose-driven approach. I've had some acquaintances praise it and say that it has really helped them get religion back into their lives. And any change is going to be controversial and get some people riled. We've seen that plenty of times in our own religion.
During a session titled "Dealing with Opposition," Mr. Clyde recommended that the pastor speak to critical members, then help them leave if they don't stop objecting. Then when those congregants join a new church, Mr. Clyde instructed, pastors should call their new minister and suggest that the congregants be barred from any leadership role.
"There are moments when you've got to play hardball," said the Rev. Dan Southerland, Church Transitions' president, in an interview. "You cannot transition a church...and placate every whiny Christian along the way."