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Purpose Driven Adventism?

How then should we present our timely message and to what purpose?

Some ten years ago Rick Warrens (RW) books Purpose Driven Life (PDL) and Purpose Driven Church (PDC) were marching through our ranks, disturbing the hearts and minds of many Seventh Day Adventists (and other Bible founded Christians for that matter). His books contain some nice one-liners, but many more false suggestions SDA-believers should strongly oppose to. And as usual those falsifications are almost undetectable, ‘under the radar’ as he says himself.

Back then in 2005, after a curious glance in the first chapters of PDL, I was right away convinced that the book is of little value to my relationship with Christ, because it presents “faith on human terms”. Because our local church was considering a courtship with RW’s ideas I kept on reading though, not wanting to discard something without knowing what it is. Well friends, I stumbled over many false and unbiblical ideas. It is really wrong to use these ideas as a gospel method, because we would simply lure people in and start them on a wrong foot by giving them a wrong account of the purpose of the gospel truth. I was glad that our church broke off the engagement.

Actually the first sentence in the book - “It is not about you” - is downright wrong. My friends, IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU! When Jesus wrestled in the garden, He saw your need and He pledged to give himself up, until His last breath, ALL for your rescue! The moment sin entered our human existence, God in heaven issued the Code Red Alert and all rescue teams came into a state of focused readiness for your salvation. God so loves the world, that he gave His only Son! (Joh 3:16). To God there will always be YOU. The whole bible is one huge promise to you and you alone!

In the last ten years, because many members protested against Saddleback and Willow Creek  inroads, we see success driven pastors becoming extremely busy changing our message from within by rewriting PD and WC books, and giving them the certification of Adventism. This course of things is foretold by an amazing old lady, many do not find worthy to listen to anymore.

“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.” – Selected messages, Bk 1, p. 204,205.

We see this all too clearly in our Church today. New books are issued, spiritual formation is part of theology curriculum, hypnotic prayer sessions, Youth administrators calling local Youth leaders to send youth members into the cities to do common community work on the holy Sabbath day. In order to finance the mega endeavours Union administrators agree together to hold back funds that had to be transferred to the World Church for sustaining poorer fields. Unions shop in the card of the World Church by unilaterally appointing the Week of Prayer offerings to their local fields. They tell the people to be faithful and trust the Lord to provide in all their needs when they bring a full Tithe to the treasury, but they cannot be faithful stewards of their charge (Mat 23:4).

What has happed to many of our shepherds that they are proclaiming what they have strongly warned the people against during the last 150 years? Was our message one big lie? How have we become this poor and blind that we go back to that which we have purged long time ago? The Church has warned her members for the secret New Age influences, and now she is embracing it? Who has bribed us in believing a cursed gospel? (Gal 1:6-10; 3:1-5)
“But,” one asks: “is it forbidden to use success proven methods?” Of course not. But firstly, is success calculable? Isn’t it that our commission is to sow, and nothing more? The promise is that when the gospel is preached, Jesus will come. Not, when the whole world is on the SDA member’s list. The reaping task is not ours.

Secondly, the PD series is not merely a method. The content is very, very important. Those two are inseparably intertwined. RW says that he has made the gospel acceptable and relevant for the masses; he has rid it from old fashioned nonsense. And in his opinion the calculated success in numbers is a direct result of that modification.

We SDA’s have always been comfortable with relatively small congregations, but we were not ashamed, because we knew we were doing the right thing. The content of our faith has always been fundamentally different to main stream Christianity. We were always against moderation for the mere sake of adjusting the gospel to the indulged and lazy ears of the hearers. That’s why we were never fancied by the masses, and we never will.
That’s why the PD method will not have the same results in our ranks, unless we belie our principles which we believe are approved by God. When this sinks in, we will go for quality growth in stead of quantitative expansion of our membership lists. When we realize that growth in real faith is not the outcome of our efforts, but that God himself adds souls to the church (Acts 2:47), only when our weakness is strengthened by His power, our funds are expanded by His blessings and our will is subdued to His. For God defines success as knowing Him and being willing to outlive His truth in our daily lives.

I have heard pastors commenting on PDL saying: “Nothing new under the sun; we have this also in our books. Cell groups? That’s how our movement started! Ellen White describes the same methods in Evangelism.” When this is true, I beg of you, why don’t we turn back to those great books? And yet, the same pastors embrace the confusing mind waves of fallible beings in their hunger for man defined success. Our Church has indeed received great light. But we have neglected and despised that light to the extend that we have come to believe we have nothing worth proclaiming anymore. But if we had worked faithfully with what was given to us, others would have come to learn from us! I am convinced that our Church has many highly educated, sincere preachers who are more than able to show us the right path to a real purpose driven live, without New Age mysticism, marketing strategies , wrongly quoted bible verses, spiritualized text exegeses or a blind focus on numbers.

Numbers or big churches are not important to God. God once choose to win a battle with 300 against 135,000 though 32,000 volunteered (Judges 7:3,7; 8:10). God seeks people who firstly seek Him (Ps 14:2) and give all to know His will. It’s not about being relevant, entertaining the crowd, audio visual PowerPoint sermons, cultural adaptation, youth churches or music that sounds good to the ear. Being a Christian is not the same as having a good and affluent live or social status or personal success. Sometimes those things will be given unto us (Mat 6:33), sometimes they will not. Only Satan promises instant success in the here and now (Mat 4:9). If this is what’s ticking our clock, the here and now will be all we’ll ever get.
Packed churches do not have to mean that God has blessed the work. Often we ask for His blessings over things He can not bless, but still we insist on going our own course and in the end we wreck the ship at the cost of treasured lives. Balaam couldn’t curse God’s people, because the Lord wouldn’t let him. But his influence was disastrous for those who followed his advise (Num 25; 31:16; Rev 2:14).

Everlasting Gospel
YES, we may – no, we MUST – look for new methods to reach the lost because that is our commission. But the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ – God is Creator, Babylon is fallen, Don’t adhere to her false doctrines, Come out of her, My people - is the present message we have to bring. That everlasting gospel is a positive message of love and hope, warning and justice. Those four elements ALWAYS go together. This Jesus saves, really involves everything we need:
God created the heavens and the earth and the sea and the fountains of water has proven His worthiness of our love, honour and worship (Rev 14:6);
He forgives our sins, because the sacrifice of His Son is “the guarantor of a better covenant” (Heb 7:22);
He urges us to come out of the false Church systems of the world into His Kingdom and to tell the people in those Churches to do the same (Rev 18:1-4);
  1. God wants to give our life a new direction, He renews our way of thinking and makes us into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17);
  2. His Spirit enables us to live our life according to His will and in honour to Him (Heb 13:21);
  3. He repairs everything that has been broken in our life from the day we were born until now and tenderly tells us: “I love you and I know. Trust Me. Have faith in Me for I will prepare you a way” (Ps 34:18);
  4. He is preparing a place for us, close to His heart and He is coming back to take us home (Joh 14:3);
  5. He will judge all men in righteousness, according to their works and He will exterminate the originator of evil (Rev 20:12);
  6. He makes us His rightful heirs of the new earth (Rom 8:17; Gal 3:29).
Now tell me, what more is there to whish for!
Love? He is the author of it.
Compassion? He weeps over our suffering because of our sin.
Mercy? He keeps mercy for thousands, forgives abundantly.
Patience? He waits 6.000 years, and is even now waiting for you to come.
Righteousness? He will by no means clear the guilty and will speak justice to clear the name of those who believe in Him.

What can we add to this mighty gospel or which part shall we dare declare irrelevant! We should be humbled by this love and love Him in return with all our hearth and soul and power and mind, and because of that we will carry a burden for those who do not know Him yet. And when people see all this purpose driven love of God and ours, they will calculate the costs and will conclude there is much more to gain by being part of God’s worldwide people.

Jesus Saves is the unique threefold message of Revelation 14, and the midnight cry to a fallen world (Rev 18). It is our creed and our identity. It is a message of awareness of who we are, which God we serve and what we believe. It is also a message of separation from those who pervert the gospel of Christ (Gal 1:7). It is not a message of being part of the common culture around us, doing what everybody does and feeling good about it, or even being spiritual, or successful.
For what other Church shall declare this message when we don’t? Will the Baptists or Evangelicals take our message to the world? Should God have to rely on street cobbles? When we refrain from proclaiming this unique message we become invisible and unheard. Then just that will happen what we fear the most, we will submerge in the crowd and lose our legitimacy!

Words of Pride
Because of our insights in the end time prophesies we know that the world is heading towards one false world religion in which everyone who does not comply will be an extremist, eligible for the dead penalty (Rev 13:15). The rumblings of that course are getting louder every day. Even now the protest of the Reformations is declared to be a rebellious lie. How come that we name ourselves team players with those who will sign our deadwarrants? Or do we think that we are untouchable, because we are rich in the knowledge of the ways of the Lord? Knowledge is worthless if we do not choose to live up to it.

The leaders of the so called Contemporary Church Growth Movement don’t leave us in doubt about their main direction: a New World Order of peace and justice (Warrens Peace Plan); a world where it doesn’t matter how and what we believe as long as we comply to a basic set of rules and are spiritual. Don’t you hear the self-righteous pride in this? We know what those basic rules are: Sunday worship, occultism, worshipping the Beast - one World Religion under Rome. We have been raised on this. Those are the signs we were told to watch for, to know the time on the prophetic clock. Therefore it is not surprising to hear the alarm bells and sirens in our heads and to remember the words of the Lord: “Behold, I have forewarned you. Do not be misguided!” (Marc 13:22,23,33)

Many of our leaders are stepping on the platforms to silence the sirens. “Don’t panic, forget the nineteenth century hang-ups, everything in control. We are in a post modern world now and we must go along or miss the precious opportunities of the Lord,” they say.

Don’t give up on your crown!
Dear friends, don’t put your faith in the hands of fallible men, even your own pastor’s! Our only guarantor is Jesus. When, after soul searching, study and earnest prayers, you come to the conclusion that you must step aside from the latest fad in church. Step back! Do not think: our pastor knows what he is doing when he tells us it’s save. There is the Internet, look up the information for yourselves. Some will tell you that it’s a bunch of lies or conspiracy theories. Even if 90% is (men’s heart is deceitful above all things! – Jer. 17:9), there are many websites on which the leaders of the church growth movement speak out for themselves. A few dead flies spoil a whole pot of perfume (Ecc 10:1). The saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is inappropriate here, because we are not in the same team with Rick Warren or Billy Hybels and it still matters what we believe. To God the methods used matter.

The Bible says that in the latter days the hearth of the children shall be drawn to the fathers and the hearth of the fathers to the children. In so called revitalized churches we often see the opposite: diner, coffee- and thee-party divine services. Their “reformed” members are extremely intolerant towards those who are against display and dramatization of sermons. Churches are being wrecked; families come into crises; church members scorn one another; youth is separated from the elderly and worship apart; sheep are scattered; hearths grow cold and hard as steel; power plays are taking place; manipulations and church politics are being displayed; people worship their own petty gods (music, fashion, positions, alcohol, coffee, thee consumption, extra marital relationships, homosexuality); new rituals of worship are being introduced under the name of “liturgy and authentic spirituality,” ... but with all of this the Lord is not honoured.  A display of “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim 3:5).

They will tell you that the crowd is looking for new forms of religion and new worship styles and that we MUST adapt to reach them. Don’t be fooled! The natural man is declined to his own carnal pleasures. But the Bible tells us to look for the ways of the Lord and that it is not mere a matter of spirituality but of holy faith in a living God. Faith that put God and His laws first! It is a matter of knowing God and Jesus, even when we are miserable, and low in funds, and of knowing that God knows us!

We became an international Church with over 18 million baptised members without the ‘blessings’ of  Saddleback or Willow Creek. I am convinced that the next more millions are waiting to be gathered in and the work can be done without the obscure methods of the Mega Church Movement. God’s promises are sure. Our message may not be fancied by the masses, but it is the TRUTH. When we believe otherwise we should leave and look for truth beyond the SDA Church, and not coerce the church from within to change to our cultural based ideas!

Great work to do!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against new methods that bring awareness and sense of urgency about our commission to the church, and show us how privileged we are to be co-workers with God. I am against methods where the end justifies the means; against methods that mix truth with error in order “to win some more for Jesus”.  
And yes, it’s time for us SDA’s to get up, stand for truth and go! Earth's history is coming to a close rapidly! Prophesy is fulfilling before our eyes! We MUST tell the world what we know, because if we tell them what RW or BH knows, who will tell them what we know? Who has the courage to tell the emperor that he is stark naked? Who has the courage to go against the flow? We used to have that courage, but somehow we’ve lost it along the way. Lately I wonder whether we have traded it for a “Respectable Adventism” and the love for big numbers.

Ellen White admonishes, “Who has authority to begin such a movement? We have our Bibles. We have our experience, attested to by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. We have a truth that admits of no compromise. Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth?” – Selected messages, Bk 1, p. 205.

We need the holy anointing to be ready to do the job and we must have a sense of urgency and discard those senseless service programmes we follow Sabbath after Sabbath. We are in need of the Holy Spirit promised in the book of Joel. Let’s start praying for the fulfilment of that marvellous promise by doing what is needed to be showered over. Let’s pray and weep and cry out to the Lord. He will listen, for He never falls short on His promises. Let’s ask for the ointment for our blinded eyes and answer the call of the Lord with: “Here am I Lord, please send me!” (Isa 6:8)

God wants to finish His work and He loves us – loves me - so very much that He gives me the privilege to team up with Him.
Am I willing?
Do I believe Him when He says that His words will bear fruit through me?
Am I willing to pray as never before to cleanse me from all self-righteousness and selfishness?
Do we as a church and as individuals give ourselves to Him to do with us as He pleases? Does God still means something to us, to me?

“We have the lifebuoys,”… lifelines, lifejackets  and lifeboats “for a drowning Titanic world that thinks itself invincible.”  Let’s throw out those rescue resources humbly and prayerfully and the Lord will bless our church too. Also with numbers!

  1. Likewise, the methods of Willow Creek’s Billy Hybels .
  2. For a far more better analyses than mine, see the booklet of Thomas Mostert: Hidden Heresy? 2005, Pacific Press Ass., Idaho, USA. I stumbled upon this book after I wrote this article. It convinced me that I was not  “seeing ghosts”. Also look for that book of Lewis R. Walton, Omega II.
  3. This is the core philosophy of the entire contemporary Church Growth Movement.
  4. “Give the lady what she wants”
  5. Cited from a sermon by Rob de Raad, pastor to SDA Church in The Netherlands

Dutch translation pending....

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