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Church Growth Movement

hands holding growing plantThe Church Growth Movement, also known as the Purpose Driven Church/Life Movement, is sweeping through many churches throughout the United States today. Because this movement has caused the breakup and division of those churches, we receive more questions from our listeners and supporters about the Purpose Driven Church Movement than on any other subject.

These concerns from listeners prompted us to set up a resource section for those who want to find out more about the Church Growth Movement and the Purpose Driven Church Movement/

About the Church Growth Movement

According to Dr. Larry Spargimino in his article "The Megafall of the Megachurch," Donald A. McGavran, known as the "father of the church growth school," and one of his students, C. Peter Wagner, promoted the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary throughout the evangelical, pentecostal, and charismatic movements staring in the 1960s.

Wagner went on to establish the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism. Its first international congress was held in 1974, headlined by none other than Billy Graham. However, basic Bible doctrine was the great casualty at the conference because it was viewed as being divisive.

What the Church Growth Movement Believes

Every movement has a set of core beliefs, and the Church Growth Movement is no exception. The founders set forth five basic tenets:

  • God's will for every local church is numerical growth. It is important for churches to grow numerically. However, according to the Church Growth Movement, small churches are failures. If that is so, when Noah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, among others, would be considered failures by the Church Growth Movement. 
  • The needs and opinions of lost people should determine the strategy of the church. The world says, "If it feels good, do it." Jesus said, “. . . Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The Word of God must always determine our standards and values, not the world.
  • The lack of adequate church growth worldwide proves the needs for a new reformation. The Protestant Reformation involved doctrine; the Church Growth Reformation emphasized practices and living, feedig the poor, and curing disease. Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is either far down the list or not mentioned at all.
  • Man's "sacred need" for self-esteem will bring this new reformation. Church Growth leaders say that people need to learn to love themselves and talking about those who are "saved" and "lost" is counterproductive. Jesus said, “. . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
  • Appeal to felt needs. People have many needs—some for basic food and shelter, others for fame and fortune. Jesus said, “. . . I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Jesus didn't promise earthly gain but eternal life, and He lost many followers because he refused to change His message (John 6:66). Neither should we.

To learn more about the Church Growth Movement, download Dr. Spargimino's article Megafall of the Megachurch. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download it here for free.

Rick WarrenAbout the Purpose Driven Church Movement

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren has sold over 25 million copies. Rick Warren presents specials on major television networks like Fox News and CNN, and his Saddleback Church in California is touted as a model for Christian churches in the United States and throughout the world.

But what does Rick Warren actually believe? In an article titled "The Church—The Greatest Force on Earth," Rick Warren explains, in eight major points, how great the church is. However, these eight points never mention the main reason for the church and the Author and FInisher of the Christian faith—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Warren has promoted the Purpose Driven Church/Life format he uses at Saddleback Church to convince and train many pastors and church leaders to become Purpose Driven Life churches. Consequently, many churches in the past several years have changed to this format, leaving church members confused and bewildered.

Rev. Noah Hutchings has written an excellent pamphlet for those whose churches have changed or are in the process of changing to a Purpose Driven Life format. Rev. Hutchings explains in a brief and succinct manner what the signs are that your church is becoming a Purpose Driven Church.

24 Signs That Your Church Is Going Purpose Driven

  1. There is a change in music to a contemporary rock style.
  2. There is a removal of hymn books and elimination of the choir.
  3. The organ and piano may be replaced with heavy-metal instruments.
  4. Rather than hymns, there is a repetitive singing of praise lyrics.
  5. Dressing down to casual and informal attire is accepted.
  6. There will be a elimination of business meeitngs, church committees, council of elders, board of deacons, etc.
  7. The pastor, or a new leader with a few assistants, usually four, takes charge of all church business.
  8. A repetitive 40-day Purpose Driven Church study program stressing psychological relationships with each other, the community, or the world begins.
  9. Funded budgeted programs are abandoned, or ignored, with ambiguous financial reports made.
  10. Sunday morning, evening, and/or Wednesday prayer meetings are changed to other times; some may even be eliminated.
  11. Sunday school teachers are moved to different classes, or replaced by new teachers more sympathetic with the changes being implemented.
  12. The name "Sunday school" is dropped and classes are gven new names.
  13. Crosses and other traditional Christian symbols may be moved from both the inside and outside of the church buildings; the pulpit may also be removed.
  14. In accordance with Dr. Warren's instructions, new version Bibles are used, or only verses flased on a screen are referenced during regular services.
  15. Purpose Driven Church films, purchased from Saddleback, precede or are used during regular services.
  16. The decor, including the carpets, may be changed to eliminate any resemblance to the former church.
  17. The word "church" is often taken from the name of the church, and the church may be referred to as a "campus." Denominational names may also be removed.
  18. An emphasis is placed on more fun and party sessions for the youth.
  19. Altar calls and salvation invitations at the close of services will be eliminated.
  20. There will be an elimination of such words as "unsaved," "lost," "sin," "Hell," "Heaven," and other Gospel verities from the pastor's messages.
  21. The saved and the lost will be reclassified as the "churched" and "unchurched."
  22. Those who are not avid promoters of the new Purpose Driven program will be marginalized or ostracized.
  23. There will be closed meetings between the pastor or chosen staff members without any reports made to the general membership.
  24. There will be open hostility to members who do not openly embrace the new program, or who may have left for another church.

You can download a copy of the entire article, "IsYour Church Going Purpose Driven? How Can You Tell?" for free. 

For more resources, please go to the Purpose Driven Church section of our "Products" page to find books about the Purpose Driven Church Movement.