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Posted: 06/03/08

My Visit to Ask Rick Warren to Preach Christ

By Bob DeWaay


In May, one of the pastors at Saddleback Church invited me to attend a Purpose Driven conference-at Saddleback's expense. Their only caveat was that I say nothing until the end, at which time I would be able to comment about why I disagree with the Purpose Driven movement. I declined on the grounds that I had already studied the movement and had no need to hear more from its proponents. When I saw the lineup of speakers I realized that it would have been exasperating to listen for hours to what I have already rejected. Rick Warren's chief of staff e-mailed back and offered to have me come only on Thursday in order to talk to Warren in person. Since the Bible says that we should be ready to give a reason for our hope in the gospel (1Peter 3:15) I decided to go.

            I arrived in time on Thursday to hear the last hour and a half of the conference, which featured Warren promoting his PEACE plan. It was typical of many other Warren speeches I have listened to. He spoke about meeting with world leaders and how he plans to help them solve problems in their countries. He gave reasons why 1 billion Christians are the best hope of solving the world's biggest problems. What was lacking was any commitment to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly to all people. That was exactly what I planned to urge Warren to do when I met him. Listening to his speech only reinforced that commitment.

            After the speech (and some seriously loud, ear-splitting music) I was able to meet up with fellow Warren critic, Mr. Chris Rosebrough, who had attended each day of the conference. We waited for about an hour while Warren held a press conference-he eventually appeared for our meeting with about a half dozen others.

            At the beginning of our meeting Warren asked us to share our "stories" with him. Both of us had come out of bad doctrine and faulty movements to become gospel centric. I shared my experience of learning church growth theory at seminary and showed him a first edition copy of his book The Purpose Driven Church that was required reading for me in 1996. I also shared how discouraging it was to study church growth teaching when our inner city church was shrinking at the time. I shared how I found hope and inspiration from John MacArthur and that I chose his ministry model rather than church growth theory.

            After sharing our stories I made the main point I had hoped to make, which was an appeal to preach Christ. To make sure he understood what I meant, I shared the gospel itself according to the four points I use in my own sermons: 1) Who Christ is; 2) What Christ did; 3) Why we need Him; and 4) What He expects of us. I filled in the details as follows: Jesus Christ existed as God and with God from all eternity. He was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life. He performed many miracles to prove He indeed was the promised Messiah. He predicted His own resurrection from the dead and was indeed raised. That makes Him unique and unlike any other religious leader. It proved His claims. I then proceeded to share that He died for sins, shedding His blood on the cross to avert God's wrath against sin for those who believe. He bodily ascended into heaven and will return to judge the wicked world. What He expects of us is to repent and believe the gospel. To repent means to turn away from sin, self, religion, the world-and anything else we have been trusting-and to put our trust only in Christ.

            Pastor Warren responded neither positively or negatively to that but specifically asked us why we were opposing him. Our answer was that we did not hear him publicly preach Christ in a forthright manner. Chris shared his experience of listening to the Purpose Driven message Warren himself taught and hearing lots of material that challenged him to do more and do better-but not hearing about the forgiveness of sins. In that regard Chris specifically mentioned the lectures at the Saddleback summit he had just attended. I thought he made a very good point that also pointed to the need for gospel preaching.

            The second point I made was the need to adhere to sola scriptura (Scripture alone). I specifically told him that his Purpose Driven Life was an amalgam of scripture and human wisdom gleaned from general revelation and that the body of work is presented as a seamless whole to his readers regarding what God expects of them. I gave as an illustration his exposition of Romans 8:28, one passage he correctly interprets and applies. I said, therefore, what he said about Romans 8:28 is binding because it came from what God said in the Bible. But the problem is that everything else is presented in the same manner, like "keeping a journal." I told him that God has not commanded us to keep a journal, so we can safely ignore that. But his readers are given the impression that everything he says in the book is what God wants them to do.

            I also pointed out the serious problem with "confused universal application." I explained to Warren that he takes Bible passages that apply only to Christians and applies them to everyone in general. That creates confusion and possible false assurance. His reply was that the book was originally intended only for the congregation at Saddleback so it was written to Christians. We did not take up a debate on that point, wanting to stay on the issues of preaching Christ and sola scriptura, but I think that claim is questionable in light of other things I have heard him say about how the book came to be. Besides, there are statements in the book early on addressed to non-Christians.

            I gave him copies of my book and the Purpose Driven discernment tool, which we publish on our Web site.[i] He took both. So he has in his possession detailed arguments against his Purpose Driven movement.

            The final point that I made concerned building a ministry on general revelation (what can be observed in nature as opposed to specific revelation, which is only found in Scripture). I said, "You cannot have a new reformation grounded in general revelation." His response was, "But Jesus told us to do good works." My response back was that Christians doing good works do not appear any different than people of other religions doing good works. I then said that the only two things the church has to offer that people cannot get anywhere else are salvation and sanctification. Neither of those can be gained through general revelation.

            I did not get a chance to go into more detail on that point because that was the end of our meeting. But it is a very important point. For example, SHAPE, and PEACE are grounded primarily in general revelation. General revelation can help a person solve problems, but it cannot make him holy in the sight of a holy God! Better living in this life while facing God's wrath in eternity is not what Christianity is about. We must preach the gospel first; changed lives are then the result of God's work of grace, not the use of human wisdom.

            One of the disconcerting things about dealing with Rick Warren is that in spite of many problematic, public teachings, he claims to agree with orthodox Christian doctrine. His church Web site does have an essentially orthodox statement of faith.[ii] When I researched for my book Redefining Christianity, I found that the deeper I dug into the movement, the more conservative it appeared. Warren and Purpose Driven appear liberal in public (at least to us critics) and conservative in private. I describe this phenomenon as "file cabinet orthodoxy" in chapter 8 of my book.[iii] In our private meeting he again asserted that he believes orthodox theology. He said, "I am not a hyper-Calvinist, I am a Kuyper-Calvinist." (Abraham Kuyper was a Reformed theologian from the Netherlands.)

            Some people have questioned the wisdom of speaking with Warren and feared that I would be subjected to a "dialogue" that would lead to "consensus" after the manner of the Hegelian synthesis. Nothing like that happened. Warren mostly listened to what we had to say and did not attempt to recruit us for his movement. The one point he would not listen to was when I brought up the damage that is being done to churches and Christians by pastors who have joined the Purpose Driven movement. He claimed that he is no more responsible for what is done in the name of Purpose Driven than Luther is for what is done in his name, or Calvin for what is done in his name. I do not agree with the analogy because, as I show in chapter 3 of my book, Purpose Driven sells material that influences pastors to remove "resisters." But wanting to keep on the topic of gospel preaching and sola scriptura, I did not argue the point until the meeting with his chief of staff, which happened after the meeting with Warren. There, we had more of a debate and I was able to share a horror story about what happens in the name of Purpose Driven.

            There was no rancor or animosity from either side during the meeting. Warren is in person as he is in public, which is warm and accessible. Our problem is not with his personal demeanor, but with his ministry philosophy which pushes gospel preaching and Bible teaching out of churches. Purpose Driven is about making a version of Christianity that is inoffensive to the world and thus attractive to people so they attend church. But the gospel is offensive to Jews and foolishness to Greeks (1Corinthians 1:23). However, it is God's means of salvation. We were able to urge Rick Warren to start preaching it. He did not say whether he would or would not. I expected him to say that he is already preaching Christ but he did not make that response to us.

            Anyone will be able to see if he does start preaching Christ; they merely need to listen to his public speeches before mixed audiences. If he does not, then nothing has changed. I stand by the analysis of Purpose Driven as explained in my book and other writings.




[i] Available here:  It is free.

[iii] Redefining Christianity Understanding the Purpose Driven Movement, (21st Century Press: Springfield, MO, 2006) 164. Available here:

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By Bob DeWaay

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The Gospel According to John the Baptist - Repent!
Posted On: 07/31/10 12:02:54 PM Age 39, CA
To:"Oh I See Now" from Tx. Ah, John the Baptist - crazy wilderness man or Holy man on a mission from God? The damnation message was proclaimed by John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord and was directed toward Israelites who for the most part had a knowledge of God and what sin is according to the moral law a.k.a. the 10 commandments and not the Roman Catholic Church, who then as now consistanly break the 1st and 2nd commandment and teach others to do so. God sent John for this purpose, to preach repentance, I do not recall John being very nice about it either. The Bible is clear that the 10 commandments were given to show us that we are sinners in need of a savoir, we cannot work our way to heaven. Inevitably you hear someone claim that it is impossible to keep or "obey" the 10 commandments, and the law had been replaced by grace. First of all, God tells us to "keep" His commandments in the sense of garding, and protecting them and cherishing them as opposed to stompping on them and holding them in contempt. God knew we would not be able to "obey" them all the time-we are prone to sinning, but we can hold them in high esteem and revere them and when we do that we are more likely to actually practice them. Secondly, grace is also an Old Testament and involves the good actions of one toward the other, i.e. "if I have found grace in your eyes" which gives the impression of someone who's actions are pleasing to another, it is not free or unmerrited like many teach. God's grace was freely given to us THROUGH Jesus, because He perfectly pleased the Father by His thoughts and actions, so now all we have to do is accept that grace by faith in guess who? - Messiah Jesus! The Old Testament is still God's word and is the foundation for the New Testament, if it is not in the Old, it will not be in the New,which makes it true! When sinners are not told that their behavior is offensive to a Holy and righteous God then how will they know they are in serious trouble with an all powerful perfectly righteous God and need to repent, or turn away from their sin, and go the other way toward God and His righteousness? Being told you are a sinner is not a warm and fuzzy, ego messaging message but it is the truth, and it does lead to true repentance and salvation. John the Baptist's fire and brimstone message was highly endorsed by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Remember, the true gospel is both divisive and offensive to the unrepentant sinner who loves his/her sin, but to the one who is helplessly trapped in sin and the affects of it with no seeming way out, it is an eternal life line! Unfortunately Rick Warren is a man fearing double talker who has compromised the gospel of Messiah Jesus for the love of this world and I hope and pray he repents and comes to the saving knowledge of the True Jesus he refuses to preach! Thank you Bob DeWaay for sharing the gospel of Jesus Messiah with Rick Warren, may it take root and produce good fruit!

Start with helping the church become live
Posted On: 07/22/08 07:38:48 AM Age 41, IL
If you really care about the church you will start to use language acceptable to Jewish people (eg stop saying "Christ"), then the church can become alive again, as Paul puts it, and stop flailing about with all this nonsense. The fact is, "Christians" have become a lawless people and a rootless people, that is the reason they flail about in all directions. Saddleback is just an anti-semitic church, in the SBC you can do whatever you want because there's no hierarchy, no discipline, that is why unfortunately, the SBC once a beautiful pearl, can no longer be relied upon.

I agree
Posted On: 07/13/08 03:14:56 PM Age 41, ENGLAND
Yes, my thoughts exactly. It is a very man centered book. I also think that we have laid ourselves open to this type of deception by not grounding our churches in fundamental doctrine. I know christians in their mid and latter years who cannot and will not see the error taught by this man. All they needed to do was examine and research the quotes to see that Warren is decidedly wrong on the most basic of christian doctrines - the gospel. We must defend scripture and the Lord to the very last irrespective of the popularity of Satan`s latest attack against the glory of God.

Warren and Dewaay
Posted On: 06/22/08 11:11:54 PM Age 40, WA
Pastor Bob, You preached the gospel, and did not compromise with Warren's PDL heresy, even face to face with him. God bless you for your stand on Sola Scriptura and the other four "Solas" of the Reformation. Even if the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God become PDL apostates who disregard the "Solas," you have not. Bob Dewaay has be slandered as having caved-in to Rick Warren, and now embraces him. NOT TRUE! Bob Dewaay stands by his book "Redefining Christianity" from 2006 in opposing PDL.

Revisiting Remembering the Word in the Debate
Posted On: 06/08/08 09:54:54 PM Age 39, TN
Matthew 18 was not even mentioned in our argument, brother. There are many texts which teach us to discern who "false teachers" are and, if need be, name them (see 2 Tim. 4:10-15). It is the message we condemn... not the messenger... for we only long for him to be restored to the truth if indeed he is our brother... or come to a saving knowledge of the truth if he is lost. Check out these texts on false teachers (and the phrase IS in the ESV, NASB, KJV, and NIV) "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine" -1 Tim. 1:3. "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction" -2 Peter 2:1. "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" -Jude 1:3. And of course there were many false prophets in the OT. These "marketers" like Warren will fall... as will their churches... but the true church of Jesus Christ will live forever... praise the Lord!

Revisiting Remembering the Word in the Debate
Posted On: 06/07/08 04:32:57 PM Age 0, TX
The instruction that Jesus gave us in Matthew 18, concerning correction of a brother, is specific to one who sins against you directly. The heart of this teaching is clearly God's reconcilation and forgiveness. And, there is an initial caveat added "just between the two of you." DeWaay and others who attack, denounce or condemn, or seek to expose something they disagree with in anothers minsitry have no Biblical position to do so. They are standing in judgment, and so my previous comment stands. Even if one believes Warren is a "false teacher" (though that phrase does not actually appear anywhere in Scripture) 1 Cor 4:5 instructs - "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." We might not all like the teachings of other Christian leaders but if they claim to be in the faith then it is not for us to judge. I see no evidence to the contrary in Warren's ministry, though he is clearly no fundamentalist. DeWaay obviously went to Warren with a purpose (no pun intended) to write an article that denounced his ministry, albeit he was more gracious than some. DeWaay even begins by stating that his presuppositions were set to oppose the ministry. So let's do remember the Word in the debate; if we do we might find there is really no debate. Instead let us "accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (Romans 15:7)

Remember the Word in the Debate
Posted On: 06/07/08 03:42:05 PM Age 39, TN
Age 100, from TX, you said, "Nowhere in Scripture are we told be critical of another's work for the Lord." "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." -Eph 5:6-11, ESV. "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." -1 Cor. 5:12,13 "...first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." -Matt. 7:5 " will know them by their fruits." - Matt. 7:20 How would one determine fruit unless a judgement or concludion was made? This is not a condemning judgement, but a discerning one, in hopes of bringing a brother to repentance restoring a brother to the truth (see James 5:19,20). It is a very loving thing to confront one you consider a brother, when you think he is teaching heresy or doing damage to the church. If I fell into some kind of teaching like Warren's, I would certainly hope a more knowledgeable and discerning brother would care enough about God's truth and about me to get me back on the straight and narrow.

Remembering the Word in the debate
Posted On: 06/06/08 04:43:26 PM Age 00, SC
I think Bob Dewaay handled himself as well as his concerns regarding Rick Warren quite Biblically. He went to his brother and while he confronted him, there was no rancor or judgmental attitude if all transpired as per this article. It is in stark contrast to those who criticize various ministries w/o first praying and then confronting the person in gentleness and humility such as represented by the author. That is what the Word tells us to do and it seems to me, that is what Pastor Dewaay did. So he DID remember how the Word instructs us to confront those who are in error.

Agree totally
Posted On: 06/05/08 09:24:58 PM Age 24, WA
finally some people who just preach the gospel and do not add extras in. Looking at your book now.

Oh, I see now
Posted On: 06/05/08 07:56:00 PM Age 0, TX
After reading the posts of those who denounce Warren, I understand their argument now. If you don't let people know that they are hell-bound due to their awful sinful state then you're not preaching the Gospel. This extremely narrow view of Scripture is not the Gospel that Jesus, Peter, Paul, James or John preached. Yes, it's important to come to an understanding of our sinful state apart from Christ's redemption and yes Hell is a reality. But Jesus used the language of damnation only with the most hypocritical folks he encountered, like some who post on this site. Peter when he stood up to proclaim the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost only said to "repent (for clarification that is to turn turn from the direction your going) and be Baptized (follow Christ's example)" mentioning nothing of Hell and damnation. Yes, the unregenerate will perish in Hell for eternity. The Bible makes that much clear but that is not the Gospel - only a sad reality for those who reject it. First, we must lead people to Jesus as Peter did on that fine day by telling folks who Christ was. But before we can even do that we need to get their attention, as Peter did. Second, in a post-modern world it's shere arrogance to think we can begin with the message of damnation; the actual history of such theology is actually rooted historically in the Roman Church. And, third, let's remember mercy triumphs over judgment. There is some good stuff on this site but when we attack other Christian leaders we seriously miss the mark.

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