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Piggyback Saddleback: Who Is Driving the Purpose Driven Church?

This article is not directed to Saddleback Valley Community Church or its pastor, Rick Warren. It is useless to tell a man who is boating a twelve-pound bass that he is using the wrong bait. This article is directed to the pastor who may be pressured into converting their traditional services and mission into a Purpose Driven Church program without due consideration.

When I get my prescription medicines filled at my local pharmacy, there is a page of instructions with each one. At the top of this page is a notice concerning why I am to take this particular medicine. Following is a longer paragraph giving me ten to fifteen reasons why I might not want to take this medicine, because in taking care of one’s health problem it may cause many other problems.

Quoting Rick Warren:

To artificially plant a Saddleback clone in a different environment is a formula for failure. Despite my clear warning, some have tried anyway and then wondered why things didn’t work out. … Not one of the twenty-five daughter churches we’ve started is doing ministry exactly like Saddleback. … God has a custom ministry for every church. Your church has a unique thumbprint that God has given it (Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren, pp. 67–68).

In spite of this clear warning by the man himself, thousands of churches worldwide are trying to piggyback on Saddleback, like fishermen in Oklahoma who watch a TV sports show from Florida and rush out to buy the same bait that is catching fish in Lake Okeechobee.

One of the problems I have with some of Pastor Warren’s pronouncements is that he will make a rigid statement on one page and then modify or qualify it on the next page. Quoting from an article by Berit Kjos entitled “Spirit-Led or Purpose Driven”:

There are some really good things and points that Rick Warren brings out. But they always seem to be mixed with so many confusing and theologically weak points that you go crazy trying to keep it all straight.

While Pastor Warren warned against applying Saddleback preachments and practices to the local church, he employed marketing agencies resulting in 60,000 pastors worldwide subscribing to his e-mail newsletter, and more than 250,000 pastors and church leaders from over 125 countries attending Purpose Driven Church seminars.

Quoting from Saddleback’s Purpose Driven web page:

There are thousands of Purpose Driven Churches around the world. Here are just a few that have used the principles to transform their churches. Each of these churches have won a Purpose Driven Church Health Award. Purpose Driven encourage church leaders to investigate PD model churches.

While Pastor Warren decries the cloning of Saddleback Church, his church has spread to a worldwide movement.

(Excerpted from the March 2004 Prophetic Observer by Noah W. Hutchings)

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