Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Creating a Purpose-Driven World

Is Rick Warren building a global church organization? Or, a global political organization?

In an article (5/25/06) in the LA City Beat, "The Purpose-Driven World: Pastor Rick Warren proposes using his church organizing methods to tackle global problems like hunger and disease," reporter Andrew Gumbel notices Warren's skill in mobilizing a grassroots movement. After the usual Hawaiian-shirted description of Rick Warren, Gumbel notices that Warren's organizing abilities are extra-ordinary:

"All that, though, is a distraction from his real forte, which is organizing. Warren knows how to create networks better than anybody, starting with his own congregation, which has grown from the initial seven families who showed up on Easter Sunday in 1980 to the more than 20,000 who come every week now. He has trained more than a quarter of a million pastors around the world, several thousand of whom download his sermons off the Internet each week and deliver them to their own congregations. He has mobilized a small army of volunteers to do community service, like feeding three square meals a day for 40 days to the entire homeless population of Orange County, or establishing a panoply of ad hoc social services from drug addiction recovery to sheltering abused women in Tijuana." [emphases added]

Gumbel focuses on the fact that Rick Warren is organizing his church into grassroots cell groups. This is being done by Warren in the name of a "Second Reformation," which is connected by ideology and personnel with what is also called "The New Apostolic Reformation" (NAR). This "New Reformation" not only changes doctrines, but also restructures the church into cell groups. Gumbel observes the global nature of this structural change:

"Now, with the success of his book, and the money and attention it has brought him, he has ambitions to tackle what he calls the 'global Goliaths' – problems so vast and intractable that nobody has yet managed to come up with a solution for them. He’s talking about poverty and illiteracy and pandemic disease, and even more abstract concepts like spiritual emptiness and egocentric political leadership. What he really wants to do is launch a new Reformation, in which the organizational power of churches – any churches, representing any faith – is harnessed to deliver what politicians and international aid organizations and NGOs cannot.

'The first Reformation was about creeds, and this one is going to be about deeds,' he told me a few days ago in an interview right next to the cavernous Worship Center on the 120-acre Saddleback campus.

"And so he has launched his so-called P.E.A.C.E. program – for 'Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation' – a kind of viral marketing project for global stability, economic justice, and access to health care and education. For now, his organization has undertaken a series of pilot projects in 67 countries, just to see how it goes.

"This is all heady stuff, but Warren means business. Already, he has the ear of presidents and prime ministers – Rwanda has willingly earmarked itself as an entire purpose-driven nation. He’s spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, at major universities around the world, and at the Council on Foreign Relations. Among his friends he counts business leaders, prominent management consultants, and Bono of U2." [emphases added]

Gumbel zeroes in on the political ramifications of Warren's grassroots church cell group organization. It is this same cell group structure which was used by Pat Robertson's Freedom Council in the early 1980s, locating Christian activists in neighborhood precincts by using the addresses found in local evangelical church directories. The G12 cell group concept (an Amway-style pyramid of network marketing) also claims to build religious/political cells. The NAR plan is to use this simple yet effective mechanism -- borrowed from the Communists -- to help build the "kingdom of God" on earth. The reporter observed:

"The secret of Warren’s success, and the reason he serves as such a powerful example to any religious, political, or social cause, is his ability to mobilize and motivate large numbers of people. The key is to break groups down into small, manageable units – 8-15 people, in his model – and then empower them to set up their own projects and recruit others. In a domestic context, that might involve picking a project (anything from helping a troubled neighbor to running a soup kitchen), recruiting people with the appropriate expertise, and seeing the whole thing through to its completion.

"In an international context, it often means finding what Jesus, in the Bible, describes as the local 'man of peace,' the person with decisive influence over a community, and then working through him (or her). This is crucially different from the traditional, paternalistic model of missionary work – or, for that matter, the old-fashioned, top-down approach to political campaigning." [emphases added]

One key way in which Warren's style of "evangelism" is different from the traditional is that it does not require that the local "man of peace" be a Christian. Why? Because this activity is based upon marketing theory, which identifies a key individual to be a "change agent" to market a new product or idea to his/her sphere of influence. Any "leader" in a local community can become a "change agent for transformation." Which is why Warren's purpose-driven brand can be merchandised across the planet without the encumbrances of the Gospel of Truth.

Gumbel compares Warren's cell church network marketing strategy to current political operations nationally and globally.

"What it resembles is Joe Trippi’s model for the Howard Dean presidential campaign (which ultimately failed because there wasn’t enough mobilization of key players on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire) – or, for that matter, the sleeper cell structure of a guerrilla organization like Al Qaeda. The parts are all connected to the whole, but they are also autonomous and self-regenerating. Warren spent most of the 1980s building up his church locally. In the 1990s, he set about creating purpose-driven churches across the United States. And now he wants to take the movement across the world. Joe Trippi has often used the image of a pebble in a pond creating a ripple effect far and wide. That is very much Warren’s ambition, too.

"Warren’s view – and he has to be right about this – is that religious institutions, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever, are the only viable network that can reach into every community, from the smallest village in Africa to the most alienated of big-city neighborhoods. Tap into those, and suddenly anything seems possible. 'In many places, in fact, churches are the only civil service structure available,' Warren said. 'They can provide universal distribution. They are able to provide the largest possible pool of volunteers. And … they have local credibility.'" [emphases added]

This type of political operation, being done under the guise of religion, is the mechanism by which the New Apostolic Reformation leaders intend to change "governance" and "governments." Finally, in noting the effectiveness of such cell group organizations, Gumbel observes:

"Want to know why George Bush won the 2004 presidential election, and why no mainstream political pundit anticipated the large turnout of grassroots, single-issue Republicans? It was because of networks just like Warren’s, based on churches and propagated through multiple means starting with the Internet. When it comes to AIDS, or poverty, or inadequate health care, Warren argues that the existing system is broken beyond repair and a new form of activism needs to take its place. . . . The Warren model holds some valuable lessons for us all." [emphasis added]

The Truth:

The structure of the New Apostolic Reformation ("Second Reformation"), in combination with these slick marketing methods, has nothing in common with the simplicity of the Gospel. This is based on psychological and sociological research theories, which hijack high-tech machinations to begin the implementation of a global "kingdom" -- a kingdom which is intended to be both religious and political.

For more information on cell group structures, see the Cell Church reports and tapes at Discernment Ministries.

"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." (2 Corinthians 1:12)