Purpose-Driven Church Movement

What Are the Fruits of the Purpose-Driven Church Movement?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Churches dominated by unbelief & unbelievers; sinful lives revealing unchanged hearts; ecumenism that deconstructs Christianity.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

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



The sad fruits of the Purpose-Driven Church movement include these: churches increasingly dominated by unbelief and unbelievers; sinful lives revealing unchanged hearts; and ecumenism which ignores the Biblical definition of Christianity.

Unbelief and Unbelievers

After operating under the Purpose-Driven paradigm for more than a decade, one church that is considered a flagship of the movement, and one of the most influential Evangelical churches in America, discovered these things in a survey of its people:1

  • "47% of our people don't believe in salvation by grace." This means, quite simply, that nearly half of the people in this Purpose-Driven Church of over 9,000 are not saved, even though 85% identify themselves by the spiritual categories of "growing in Christ" - "close to Christ" - or "Christ-centered".
  • "57% don't believe in the authority of the Bible." The Purpose-Driven church paradigm teaches man-centered authority, not Biblical authority. This church is even worse off in this regard than the Evangelical church at large. Broad-based surveys show that 37% of Evangelicals in America don't believe the Bible is totally accurate and authoritative.
  • "56% don't believe Jesus is the only way to eternal life." The Purpose-Driven church paradigm is pluralistic and inclusivist. This particular church's finding statistically coincides with broader polls of American Evangelicals, which show that on a nationwide basis 57% don't believe Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life, and 57% believe good works play a part in gaining eternal life.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the leaders of this church were surprised by these findings. (And sad to say, they have done nothing to change their Purpose-Driven direction.) But such findings about the spiritual fruits of the Purpose-Driven Church movement are not surprising to anyone whose thinking about the nature and purpose of the church is driven by Scripture alone. All one needs to do is compare the fruit these churches bear with God's definition of good fruit in His Word. The Lord Jesus put it very simply in Matthew 7:15-20: Beware of false prophets. A good tree tree bears good fruit; a corrupt tree bears corrupt fruit. "Therefore by their fruits you will know them."

Sinful Lives Revealing Unchanged Hearts

Another megachurch built on the Purpose-Driven model found that although 91% of its people stated that their highest value in life is having a deep personal relationship with God, 25% of the church's singles, 38% of its single parents, and 41% of its divorced members "admitted to having illicit sexual relationships in the last 6 months."2 The Purpose-Driven paradigm affirms people in their sins, and does not confront them from Scripture with their need for repentance and faith in Christ. It does not confront people with the Biblical teaching that those who are truly born from above, though not perfect people, will live changed lives as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, Purpose-Driven churches are increasingly filled with people who have never truly been born again, and who therefore are not experiencing and exhibiting the fruits of Spirit-wrought sanctification in their lives. Yet these very people are being encouraged to become active in the outreach activities of the church. In spiritual terms, they can only bring in more people like themselves. Thus the Purpose-Driven congregation is in a downward spiral: The percentage of unbelievers in its ranks continually goes up; the percentage of genuine Christians continually moves toward zero; and within a surprisingly short time, the thinking and practices of the unbelieving super-majority come to dominate the church.

Rick Warren himself has revealed what can at best be described as ambiguous moral thinking. At a Pew Forum on Religion, Politics, and Public Life in 2005, the architect of the Purpose-Driven Church movement said, "I don't accept gay marriage. I don't think a gay relationship is exactly what God wants in life....By the way, my wife and I had dinner at a gay couple's home two weeks ago. So I'm not a homophobic guy, okay?"3

At the same meeting, a reporter from the New York Times asked Warren, "Where are you on the death penalty and stem cell research?" Warren answered, "Let me ask you this - if I answer that question, to your disagreement, will it affect our relationship with each other?...I'm saying, for you, is that a make-or-break issue? See, it's not for me....I believe that everybody makes a decision on these issues based on their values. I happen to base my values on certain values that I get out of the scriptures. Other people base their values on some other beliefs. Everybody makes a value-based judgment."4

Ecumenism Without Biblical Christianity

At the same Pew Forum, Rick Warren gave his view of the Protestant Reformation, and the need for a "second Reformation" to be led by the Purpose-Driven church movement. He thinks the Protestant Reformation was a mistake because it was based on differences in doctrine. He views churches and churchmen of all stripes, regardless of their beliefs, as "Christian". And, he believes that a "second Reformation" will bring them all back together under a single, Purpose-Driven, big tent:

"You know, 500 years ago, the first Reformation with Luther and then Calvin, was about beliefs. I think a new reformation is going to be about behavior. The first Reformation was about creeds; I think this one will be about deeds. I think the first one was about what the church believes; I think this one will be about what the church does.

"The first Reformation actually split Christianity into dozens and then hundreds of different segments. I think this one is actually going to bring them together. Now, you're never going to get Christians, of all their stripes and varieties, to agree on all of the different doctrinal disputes and things like that, but what I am seeing them agree on are the purposes of the church. And I find great uniformity in the fact that I see this happening all the time. Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. Now, that's wide spread. We had Catholic priests, we had Pentecostal ministers, we had Lutheran bishops, we had Anglican bishops, we had Baptist preachers. They're all there together and you know what? I'd never get them to agree on communion or baptism or a bunch of stuff like that, but I could get them to agree on what the church should be doing in the world.

"And the way I expressed it is that the Bible calls the church the body of Christ, and what's happened in the last 100 years is that the hands and the feet have been amputated and the church has just been a mouth, and primarily it's been known for what it's against. It's been known for what it's against. And I am working toward a second Reformation of the church....

"...it's what Augustine said: 'In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.' And I think that's how evangelicals and Catholics can get together....

"A fundamentalist basically would look at many others in Christianity and say, 'You're not even a Christian.' They'd say it about Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics. You know - even evangelicals. It's interesting - maybe 15-20 years ago, [a well-known television preacher] stopped calling himself a fundamentalist, and actually left the fundamentalist fellowship, and he went and joined the Southern Baptist Convention - which is as wide - I mean you can find anything in that."5

As we conclude this series, we'll deal with this question: "What is God's answer to the Purpose-Driven Church movement?"




1. Spiritual Life Survey Results, Granger Community Church, Granger, Indiana, as viewed on 10/6/2008 at http://blog.revealnow.com/reveal/files/reveal_granger_slides.ppt#625,1,SPIRITUAL LIFE SURVEY RESULTS.

2. A survey conducted by George Barna as reported in G. A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996), p. 236.

3. "Myths of the Modern Megachurch," a transcript of Rick Warren's remarks to the Pew Forum's Faith Angle Conference on Religion, Politics, and Public Life, May 23, 2005, Key West, Florida, as viewed on 2/15/2013 at http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Evangelical-Protestant-Churches/Myths-of-the-Modern-Megachurch.aspx.

4. "Myths of the Modern Megachurch"

5. "Myths of the Modern Megachurch"


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