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Book Review – Who’s Driving The Purpose Driven Church?

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While much has been written about the church growth movement and Purpose Driven principles, I believe that Who’s Driving The Purpose Driven Church is the first book-length treatment dealing specifically with this topic. The title is slightly deceptive, as this book deals particularly with Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life which has sold nearly 20 million copies in just two years. The book purports to be a “documentary on the teachings of Rick Warren.” Because of the overlap between The Purpose Driven Church (targeted at pastors and church officials) and The Purpose Driven Life (targeted at the wider church body as well as unbelievers), Who’s Driving is relevant to people who have concerns about either book.

I would like to thank James Sundquist for providing me access to the manuscript before the book was published. I asked him about his motivation for writing the book and he replied that he was not directly thinking of an intended audience but simply went through The Purpose Driven Life line by line, precept upon precept and compared each to Scripture. “My hope and prayer is that that the book will be a training manual to help and warn pastors who are considering The Purpose Driven Life, to equip the saints in churches already doing the program to remove themselves (and hopefully their church) from this snare, and finally to be a balm of Gilead to heal the broken and wounded saints who have been bludgeoned by this movement. The book is also a response to the SOS’s coming in from all over the country by people who want to confront their church leaders, but just need the documentation to do so.”

This book, then, was born of a desire to equip Christians with the information they need to properly examine Purpose Driven teachings; to give facts and proof about which of Warren’s teachings are unbiblical. “One of the most precious doctrines and resources of Christianity is truth! If we compromise truth, we will have lost the savor in our salt and will eventually and rightfully be trodden under foot.”

Among the topics the author confronts are:

  • The false premise of a 40 day journey.
  • The Scriptural support for requiring readers to sign a covenant with the author.
  • The accuracy of the Bible translations and paraphrases used throughout the book.
  • False teachings.
  • The importance of doctrine.
  • Promoting the teachings of false teachers.
  • God’s pattern for worship.
  • The Celebrate Recovery program.
  • Prophecy.
  • The SHAPE program and its ties to Carl Jung.
  • Judgment and separation.

There is also a large Question and Answers section where the author addresses questions and criticisms that have been sent to him from a variety of sources. The book closes with several appendices which provide Biblical comparisons of psychology to the Bible, comparisons of the Purpose Driven Church to the Bible and the close ties between Carl Jung, Myers-Briggs and Rick Warren’s SHAPE test.

Time would fail me to discuss any of these in depth as the author covers each one in depth with the book weighing in at 270 pages. Suffice it to say that he does exactly what he claims to do, examining each aspect of the Purpose Driven program in the light of Scripture. While he finds that some is acceptable, the vast majority of the program fails under the light of the Word. This conclusion is unavoidable when one comes to realize that the program is built on a variety of false premises.

I will address a couple of weaknesses I found in the book. Many subjects, while covered thoroughly, where neither introduced nor concluded. The author waded immediately into the topic at-hand without first introducing it. While that did not affect my enjoyment of the book it may hinder and even confuse some who are not familiar with The Purpose Driven Life. The book seems to presuppose a certain level of familiarity with Warren’s book. But perhaps when this book is viewed as a documentary or commentary the approach makes sense. Similarly, the book had no conclusion; it just ended. I was anticipating some closing thoughts and exhortations, but there were none to be found. And finally, the book seemed to be inconsistently formatted so that some chapters contained questions and comments while others did not. The formatting varied from chapter to chapter, sometimes using subheadings and sometimes not. However, none of those complaints detract from the usefulness of the book.

The book will be available beginning in October of 2004 at Southwest Radio Church Ministries. I give it my recommendation, especially to those who are uncertain about whether they or their churches should begin a 40 Days of Purpose program.

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