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40 More Days of Warren

This fall, Rick Warren will be encouraging thousands of churches to join his 40 Days of Community program. Warren descripes this program as “a next step in spiritual growth for your congregation, and we believe it’s a necessary step for deepening healthy, balanced, purpose-driven lives.” 40 Days of Purpose is a prerequisite to move on to Community.

On the surface, it sounds decent enough if you are a fan of all things Purpose-Driven. “The primary focus of 40 Days of Community is to encourage congregations to work together on fulfilling God’s five purposes by developing and deepening an authentic community within your church and reaching out to the community around your church.” Who can argue that deepening authentic community and reaching out to the community could be a bad thing? So what’s the problem?

The problem is that this whole program is Warren Driven. The campaign depends on six essential tools. “Our research from 40 Days of Purpose has shown that churches that use all six of these tools experience much greater results than churches who left out one or two of them.” So if you leave out any of these six tools your efforts are almost guaranteed to fail. Here are the six tools:

  1. The 40 Days of Community kick-off Simulcast.
  2. Seven weekend messages and worship plans.
  3. The “What on Earth Are We Here For” devotional book with 40 days of daily devotional readings and journaling pages. New to this campaign is the inclusion of the small group study guide in the devotional book, creating a complete, comprehensive campaign resource.
  4. Six small group or Sunday school lessons. These lessons will also be available as optional video curriculum in VHS and DVD formats.
  5. Six weekly scripture memory verses
  6. Multiple church-wide events designed to deepen the commitment of your members and move them into active participation in your congregation and community.

Essentially, what Warren wants is the ability to run your church for seven weeks. He will start the campaign with a simulcast where he will cast his vision for your church. Then he will either preach or tell your pastor what to preach for the next seven weeks. It seems he’ll even tell you what songs to sing (and probably what dramas to act out and so on). For forty days your congregation will study Warren’s writing through daily devotionals. During Sunday school or small group time they will study his curriculum. They will memorize Scripture verses, undoutedly in some awful translation and then participate in church-wide events he suggests.

Truly this man must believe he has the exclusive hold on some great truth. What pastor should be willing to hand his church to this man for seven weeks? Do pastors have so little confidence in their own abilities and in their own walk with the Lord that they will defer to Warren’s perceived abilities? I just don’t understand.

The registration cost for this program is roughly $1000 depending on the size of the congregation participating. That price does not include any additional resources you may order. Strangely, there is no indication what that registration fee actually includes.

While I am on the topic of Warren I thought I’d point out that The Purpose Driven Life won the The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) Charles “Kip” Jordon Christian Book of the Year Award for the second consecutive year, beating out Wild at Heart and The Case for Christ. The only other book to win this award twice is none other than that magnificent volume of exegetical excrement, The Prayer of Jabez. Past winners of this dubious distinction include: “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” (Jim Cymbala with Dean Merrill), Just Like Jesus (Max Lucado), What’s So Amazing About Grace (Philip Yancey), The Body (Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn) and a whole lot more Lucado and Yancey books. Warren finds himself in some interesting company.