Culture At Large

Purpose-driven church splits

Andy Rau

The Wall Street Journal is running a lengthy piece on the deep split among evangelicals over Rick Warren's purpose-driven theology, particularly over the implications of said theology for church planning and growth. Churches are splitting, leaders are being fired, and angry words are a-flying over the issue--some pastors and church leaders advocate Warren's strategy for church growth while others fight what they see as an unbiblical marketing strategy.

In one corner of the ring, Rick Warren and supporters of his ideas:

Mr. Warren acknowledges that splits occur in congregations that adopt his ideas, though he says he opposes efforts to expel church members. "There is no growth without change and there is no change without loss and there is no loss without pain," he says. "Probably 10% of all churches are in conflict at any given point, regardless of what they're doing." That, he contends, "is not just symptomatic of changing to purpose-driven. It would be symptomatic in changing to anything."

And in the other, people like Ron Key:

The Rev. Ron Key, then the senior minister [at Valley View Christian Church in Dallas], says he objected to the church's "Madison Avenue" marketing. "I believe Jesus died for everybody," Mr. Key says, not just people in a "target audience." He says the leaders wanted church that was more "edgy," with a worship service using modern music. Mr. Key was demoted, then fired for being divisive and insubordinate.

This discussion might be worth having, but this looks like an awfully ugly aspect of the debate. If this article is painting an accurate picture, there's more than a hint of ego-tripping and willful stubbornness in the way the debate is playing out in churches. One hopes that prayerful consideration and Christian discussion are taking place somewhere in the midst of all that....

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology