Purpose-Driven Church Movement

Is the Purpose-Driven Church movement's 'Bible' the authentic Word of God?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The "Bible" most often used by Rick Warren and others in the movement is The Message, a radical paraphrase written by a liberal apostate that is nothing like a faithful translation of God's inspired Word. The Message openly promotes the Purpose-Driven agenda.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

This is the eighth in a series of articles about the Purpose-Driven Church movement.


The "Bible" most often used by Rick Warren and others in the movement is The Message, a radical paraphrase written by a liberal apostate that is nothing like a faithful translation of God's inspired Word. The Message openly promotes the Purpose-Driven agenda.

Biblical Illiteracy

The Purpose-Driven Church movement encourages Biblical illiteracy. We saw this previously as we answered the question, "What is the Purpose-Driven approach to preaching?" But the movement also encourages Biblical illiteracy through the use and promotion of Bible versions that are not faithful translations of the Word of God, but man-centered paraphrases.

The Message

The one used most often by Rick Warren and others in the movement is The Message.1 The author of this Bible paraphrase is Eugene H. Petersen, who was for thirty years a pastor in the liberal Presbyterian Church, USA. Petersen's own attitude toward Scripture is that "Christians...should be studying [the Bible] less, not more. You just need enough to pay attention to God."2

Since this certainly reflects the attitude of the Purpose-Driven Church movement, it is no wonder its leaders should be comfortable, even enthusiastic, about The Message. Compare, for example, these passages in the New King James Bible and in The Message.

???¯???»???¿"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36, NKJV)

"Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn't see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that." (John 3:36, The Message)


"My Father is greater than I." (John 14:28, NKJV)


"The Father is the goal and purpose of my life." (John 14:28, The Message)


"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV)


"You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3, The Message)


"For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Romans 8:6, NKJV)


"Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life." (Romans 8:6, The Message)


"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name." (Matthew 6:9, NKJV)


"Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are." (Matthew 6:9, The Message)


"The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." (John 4:23, NKJV)


"That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship." (John 4:23, The Message)


And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30-31, NKJV)


"Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you'll live as you were meant to live - and everyone in your house included!" (Acts 16:30-31, The Message)


Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:24-27, NKJV)


So God said, in effect, "If that's what you want, that's what you get." It wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them-the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes! Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either-women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men-all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it-emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches. (Romans 1:24-27, The Message)


Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, NKJV)


We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, The Message)

As even these few passages demonstrate, the favored Bible version of the Purpose-Driven Church movement thoroughly supports its philosophy and theology. It presents a false gospel; a false view of Jesus Christ Himself; a false view of man in need of "purpose" rather than salvation from sin; a psychological rather than spiritual "sanctification"; and a man-centered, self-centered, view of worship.

Next in this series, we'll deal with this question: "What are the fruits of the Purpose-Driven Church?"




1. Eugene H. Petersen, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress Publishing Group, 1993-2002).

2. Michael J. Cusik, "A Conversation With Eugene Petersen," Mars Hill Review, Issue number 3, Fall 1995, pages 73-90, as reproduced at http://www.leaderu.com/marshill/mhr03/peter1.html and viewed on 10/6/2008.


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