Purpose Driven Pastor Season

It’s Purpose Driven Pastor Season here in Southern California. Pastors from all over the world are here to visit Saddleback Church and learn how to help their churches grow.

Every year around this time the tell-tale signs appear in our area (a stones throw from Saddleback).

• Unusually long lines at Starbucks, Denny’s, Chili’s, donut shops and other eating establishments.
• Men in their 40’s and 50’s with slick backed hair, jeans or pants pulled up too high, wearing Hawaiin shirts like all Californians do. ||wink, wink||
• Women with big hair, lots of makeup, wearing knit slacks, with lots of big jewelry.
• People gathering together at resturants, holding hands and praying loudly with reverberating resonance.

I can only imagine that most of the conversations in and around these conferences include many phrases such as:

“Where you at brutha?”
“How many ya runnin’?
“How many you got on staff?”
“How many small groups you got?”

And of course the old standbye, “Well, Praise the Lord” or “God Bless Ya!”

Standing in line at Starbucks the other morning and watching these people interact, I was so thankful not to be a part of the theatrical drama that is played out in ministry conferences like this and others like it around the world. Everyone puts on their best face, smiles their best smile and places that best foot firmly forward. But like the Hollywood sets located about an hour north of here, once you walk behind the door and peek behind the curtain you discover it is only a facade… it looks good on the outside, but it has the same problems, shallowness and sin that your church has. It’s just bigger, that’s all!

47 thoughts on “Purpose Driven Pastor Season”

  1. Ugh. Theatrics. Only the church can corrupt such beautiful beautiful art. Pastors are especially bad at it. *pukes*…And I just can’t help but lol until my karaoke-happy neighbors tell me to shut the hell up:<>“Is that your purpose, or are you just happy to see me?”<>I can drop that line anytime at any given convention, and whoever I’ll say it to will instantly believe that I’m his “the One.”

  2. Does this discussion make anyone feel dirty? I’m not sure how to describe it but I feel like we shouldn’t be talking about these people like this. Shouldn’t we show some level of respect for the people God has called? Now, don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that the purpose driven movement (not a number 2 but the church movement) is shit. But, couldn’t we chalk that up to some sort of infiltration of the church with something that isn’t of God, God’s people once again being deceived by the things of this world. I know I’ve been duped by the world before. In fact, I’m sure we all have. Don’t we have some responsibility to offer grace in light of their failures? I’m not saying that we should sit idly by while they corporatize the church; we’ve had enough of that crap. But, we should at least help them see the fault in the logic that has led them to this sham. What do you think?

  3. Wouldn’t agree with your summary but not going to split hairs! Think sacrifice & hard-work are essential to everything <>except<> our salvation, where all the hard work & sacrifice have already been done. I do think it’s Biblical to see God honouring/blessing sacrifice & labour … even in a secular context.Don’t think Mega-churches & the ‘narrow road’ are mutually exclusive. Until they get to the scale of Walmart they’re still only reaching tiny % of the population. Am I getting this right, are you seriously saying God wants only small congregations … that when things start to grow then God isn’t in it. How small do you have to be to know that God is really with you? Should we be rejoicing at the proposed closure of my own church because we are experiencing such blessing!I don’t think all churches should be ‘mega’, but certainly don’t think they should all be ‘mini’ either. And certainly don’t think we should be having a dig at one another simply because we are different.Having said all that … thought Steve’s stereo-types in his original post were pretty funny ;o)

  4. Ha, that photo reminds me of a faux-< HREF="http://www.despair.com/" REL="nofollow">despair.com<> poster that I have up on my blog.

  5. I think it is somewhat ironic that it is the attempt or “drive” to connect with people such as Steve that has brought the “Purpose Driven Pastors” to your area. The Bible,(pardon me for looking to it), shares a parable of Jesus in Matthew 25 that is relevant to this discussion. The parable of the talents shares the concept that a master gave 5, 2, and 1 talents to 3 respective people and left them to work with what they had. The master simply gave the talents. It was up to the servants to maximize the loaned money. Obviously the servants had to put to work their own ideas and skills to double the master’s money. The one servant who did nothing ended up being “thrown outside” and called a “worthless servant”.I really don’t think it is ” religious, superstar-minister, idol-worship,” that brings these pastors to your area. It is the desire to do what God wants people to do with what He has entrusted to them.Sure, it has the look of “corporate America” but, Pastors are simply trying to maximize what God has given them to do. That is why they get together from all over the country and world to see what other pastors are doing.

  6. Agreed, I don’t think we should be at eachothers throats over this. Also, I don’t think size matters (actually, I really hope that’s true). I think what we’re all trying to say is that in a large church, the stupidness of the SCP is more obvious…

  7. Uh Sheildsy… I think that’s just what I said…well at least in part….<>“But like the Hollywood sets located about an hour north of here, once you walk behind the door and peek behind the curtain you discover it is only a facade… it looks good on the outside, but it has the same problems, shallowness and sin that your church has. It’s just bigger, that’s all!”<>I think some of what you say is true, but I couldn’t disagree more with this statement…<>Could it possibly be that they are growing coz God is blessing them, coz their leaders have made sacrifices that you and I wouldn’t dare to, coz they are humble and GOd can trust them with success.<> Nope, sorry, don’t buy that one.

  8. i thought that’s a very interesting comparison you make to hollywood and saddleback confrences…interesting post.–RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  9. Don’t forget the occasional “Praise the Lawd!” or “Alleluia, brotha!”. I hear those on occasion and I don’t even attend a mega-church. (!)

  10. kinda makes you wish you could turn off thier air conditioning and see if they start swearing at each other.maybe you could go hand out SCP shirts?oh, better yet, here’s your money maker:SCP Polos with the little slogan“Proud member” (heh heh heh)“Tool of God”“Is that your purpose, or are you just happy to see me?”

  11. My response wasn’t a dig at your post in Steve … think your’s is one of the more honest assesments. You might not “buy it” but take an honest look at most organisations (secular or religious) and the sacrifice and hard work of their leaders is definitely a very significant factor in their growth (though not the only one). ‘Success’ very very rarely just lands on your plate by ‘providence’. Certainly not got the experience of you guys (i.e. Americans!) in relation to mega-churches, but the leaders I’ve heard of <>have<> made (and some <>still<> make) some tremendously big sacrifices.As for their humility … God’ll have to be the judge of that one. Some of the ‘celebrity’ worship leaders I’ve encountered are incredibly humble guys and I’m sure those 2 facts aren’t unrelated. Don’t think God would ever trust me with too much success coz of my propensity to pride.God’s blessing … why not? Do only ‘small’ things experience God’s blessing whilst ‘big’ things come about by man’s own shrewdness, marketing & manipulation?

  12. … sure makes me wanna don pleated Khakis, grab my copy of PDL and head down to the local Denny’s for a 5-course high fat breakfast after all the festivities at Saddleback end at 2 AM.

  13. Just discovered your blog/posts – love it!!! I work in Irvine, CA – live in Signal Hill. I’m a recovery mega-churchian as well – Church of God. Although I loved the atmosphere, I too discovered that there are more followers than disciples. Even recently, I came across an article reporting that my old church (about 7,000 – three services on Sunday – like herding cows) decided not to help the hungry and the widows of the city through a city-wide network of faiths because there were Catholics participating, then they changed it to they didn’t want to participate because Muslims were involved (or something crazy like that). So what I got from this, these “Christians” had the means to help, but refuse because who else were helping. Am I missing something here people? FYI, I work with many of these Saddlebackians . . . let’s just say I can see how they get caught up in atmosphere. Check out my blog at wildernesswanderings.org if you get a chance.

  14. Duffelhead, I love the “tool of God” shirts. That shit would be right up their alley. Now that’s what I call truth in advertising.

  15. Great post.You can usually spot those who are NOT from California from a while away.Living in SF I feel sorry for the folks who show-up in shorts and tee-shirts in July and freeze their asses off.When don’t have Church conferences in SF ’cause no one cares about Church except about 2% of the population.

  16. I’d love for you to join the conversation at http://www.signposts.org.auWe’re sharing horror stories from megachurches.Several contributors at Signposts were former staff of the Australian megachurch Hillsong, and they’re telling all; the bullying of staff by the senior pastor, the ridiculous directives they’ve been given in staff meetings (told to sit up the front in services and say ‘ay-men’ loudly and repeatedly, and told to carry with them $5 notes and stuff them into the offering plate as an example to others)and the post-traumatic stress that results from being ex-communicated when you don’t measure up to the megachurches ideals.All eye-opening stuff.Bring a whip and a chair though, because we don’t hold back in our debates…but I think you’d offer just the perspective we need….a former American megachurch insider.

  17. Shieldsy, You may have nailed it. Essentially your post above can be boiled down to hard work or sacrifice = blessing by God or success. That is the basis for all works for salvation religions. That type of religion is the antithesis of Jesus. We can only be made right by faith. We can only be made successful (in a spiritual sense) by the providence of God. Now, to your second point: All of the people who were waving palm branches were gone on the day he was hanging on the cross and they did not speak up when Pilot was asking what he should do with this man. They wanted a political upheaval that would oust the Romans. When Jesus wasn’t about that, they left. If great throngs of people are following it, that is usually a sign that God isn’t behind it. The road is narrow and the gate is small.

  18. I want to start off by saying that I read blogs and have never responde to any of them. However, I feedl as if I need to say what is on my heart. I am a small group pastor at a new church plant that has been off the ground and running for 9 months. We hope to be a mega church. By that i mean we hope to reach as many people as the Lord allows. We are running over 300 right now. Those 300 are people and I can’t wait to get more of them. Now that I have said that i wanted to also say that for us to talk about whether or not Jesus would preach at a mega church is assumptuous. And you know what that makes us. I am 28 years old and I say that to let you know where I am coming from. I am tired of church as usual however, I do not have the right to point fingers and to say they aren’t doing it right. I feel like we are doing the same thing that the older generation did to us when the worship movement came about. I think that we all(the church- in he big sense) need to realize that we are fighting the wrong battle. We are fighting with each other and pointing fingers. Have we forgotten there is a bigger battle going on. I may not agree with everything someone doee but as long as they see Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith and they are preaching that then i am cooll with it. Let’s not tear the church down anymore on either side and quit putting walls up. We need to remember what Paul say’s in Phillipians 2:1-2(look it up) and actually live it out. I am tired of it and really don’t have time for all of the pointing fingers anymore. Let’s get to work.

  19. At first glance, I thought those two ministers were holding hands. Then I saw “Saddleback” and I thought, “Not a chance…”What do you think draws them to a mega-church convention like that? The size of the church? The best-seller? The promise of growth?I mean, I’ve got nothing against Rick Warren. He apparently is putting his personal funds to good use in Africa, combating AIDS. That’s awesome. But do you know what makes him different from the Purpose-Driven wanna-be’s attending the conference? He probably (hopefully) read his bible, prayed and heard from God for himself. The wanna-be’s seem to think that the best way to hear from God is to read Rick’s book. “What’s God’s divine purpose for me? What’s God’s divine purpose for my church? I’ll get Rick Warren’s books and find out… (pray.. what? bible… huh?)” Damn. That’s messed up!What this kind of religious, superstar-minister, idol-worship leads to is a superficiality of spirit, based on feeble attempts at imitation without relationship. Ultimately, it fleshes itself out in fake, christian-speak, external “holiness”, and really ugly untucked shirts (designed to hide the ever-protruding effects of ‘fellowship’ with the bretheren).Basically, this is what happens when churches & pastors follow the “American Dream” instead of the “Kingdom of God”.Damn!

  20. I get very irritated when people say, “God must be in this because they are successful…”Do I need to list the number of cults that have lots of people, loyalty, money, and “nice people” in them? Is God blessing them? Our litmus test is all wrong.Those polygamists who refuse to pay taxes, trade spouses, drive visitors out of town, and are building Branch Davidian-type compounds in Texas have all the same criteria that Shiedlsy lists in her comment. Satan “blesses” too.Can you picture Jesus pastoring a purpose-driven church? Can you picture Jesus marketing a Seeker-Driven church? I can’t. If you can, more power to ya.

  21. Steve, you hit a nerve of truth, which is identity through performance and results. It was Rick Warren’s book, <>The Purpose Driven Church<>, that stressed the command of Jesus to go and bear fruit. When Pastors read that book, the pressure is increased all the more to achieve results and “look good” to fellow ministers.I know first hand because I was church planting when that book was getting popular in our area of New Jersey. I hated going to fellowship meetings with other ministers because they would always ask me how many we were running. I had to stand and give a report of my bearing fruit. I began to feel that numbers were the most important factor in determining whether or not I was a “success” at pastoring..

  22. I like “Tool of God” myself. Reminds me of the old Whittenburg Door article about the donkey at Jesus’ triumphal entry: “Let God Use Your Ass.”Where do you suppose they’re coming from? The Purpose-Driven Barber? The Mohel at the circumcissery?

  23. Oh man, does this bring back memories. I remember the first pastor “conference” I was forced to attend. It was excruciating as was every one after that. I did have a partner in crime….the youth pastor. She and I would utter under our breath, like a mantra, “how many are you running?”, which was always followed by a knowing look of disgust and a good laugh.

  24. I here you. In fact, that’s my dad’s ex-bullshit passion. In more fact, this–among many other reasons–is why I decided to post a first rant on my new blog at http://www.downwithjabez.com. My dad has been hurt by this purpose driven bend over lifestyle. So thank you guys.

  25. 1. we’are all “called”2. there’s little to no chance they would see anything. i’ve tried once. anyone else tried to show the light to a pastor?

  26. Help a newbie here, would you?Is it impossible for a “mega church” to be sincere? Are the two that diametrically-opposed?I’ve seen my share of slick church marketing and shallowness, but I’ve also seen churches that would be considered “mega chuches” by most that seem to be truly focused on helping people grow in their faith. Or am I just naive?

  27. <>but I’ve also seen churches that would be considered “mega chuches” by most that seem to be truly focused on helping people grow in their faith.<>eric, could you name a couple of them?

  28. Ok guys. Pretty cool site. Here’s my take:The church has a lot of flaws. When I joke around with my wife, we make fun of “stupid church people.” I’ve always hated the “scene”, the jumbo trons, the empty syntax, the fake smiles, the obnoxious-for-Jesus facades, the relentless control freaks that pastors always seem to be, but I still don’t understand your means.I understand the “end.” The end for all is truth. The crux! Honest Christ seekers want some fucking truth and honesty for a change. We don’t want praise music and 15 repeated choruses with an unspoken pressure to look like we’re really feelin’ the Holy Spirit. We want to address problems, have a good time, pat each other’s backs, and leave the church feeling spiritually revived and hopeful as we enter back in the world.I’ve been to a Bible college, a liberal arts christian school, and grew up in church. My church was DIVIDED by PRAISE music. That’s right, shitty-ass praise music. My father, the minister of music and classical pianist left that church because he felt betrayed and disrespected. My point is, I got a lot of reasons to be pissed, but I’m not going to publically show that I’m pissed. I still have hope in the church. I will NOT abandon the church.I mean, how can you really be “pissed” at an organization made up of individuals? You guys sound like hippies lashing jerkedly at the “system” ( whatever the hell the system was and is…). You know good and well that alot of church leaders just don’t know any better. They don’t exactly have VIP memberships in the avant-garde crowds and intelligentsia. But they sure as hell TRY to do the right thing. In order to understand what I’m saying is to think relatively. God expects our BEST, whatever that is. Your best is probably more viscerally efficient and long-lasting than say Billy Bob’s “best” who goes to the local University and bashes the homos and liberals. Billy Bob don’t know no better. You feel me? Don’t fault him for it. He’s tryin! If God gives you a stick and matches, make fire. If God gives you X-men capabilities to manipulate light….you catch my drift. Drink beer, make fun of people in the comfort of your homes, say “fuck” and be content the God probably doesn’t care much about our language as he does our hearts, but I think it’s a bit silly to PUBLICIZE material that would OSTENSIBLY say to the target “jokes” that they are idiots. No one is an idiot. NO one. No one is spiritually stupid. No one deserves the right to be called that because they have control issues. Hey I’m all for being politically incorrect for the sake of satire and a good dose of truth, but the rash criticism of church leaders without prudence is, (and I never thought I would say this in my life) uncalled for. How do we make the church a better place? Beats the fuck outta me, but I’m not here to tell people what they’re doing wrong….ha ok maybe I’m HERE telling you that, but I think your means is flawed because you feel justified by some blatant and condoned sin the prevails in the modern church. As the old trite saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, I think it applies here. God is love. God does not make fun of stupid people alone because to him we’re all friggin’ tailwagging buttsniffing adorable canines anyways. We’re all idiots in a metaphysical “figure stuff out” sort of way. We don’t know shit. I sure don’t. Now that I’ve meandered out of play I’ll say one more thing. I think what you guys are trying to do is EXTREMELY noble and truth-seeking. I’ve rarely come across honesty and passion like the two of you share. I’m not trying to sell you my argument with a bonus compliment, I really mean that. And, if you continue this website, no big deal. I’m not you. I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve been through. I just figured I had some cents to spare. Thanks.

  29. Ducks “quack” and eagles soar! You guys are a bunch of ducks quacking as you spend time critizing Rick and other pastors who are seeking to make a difference.Get a life!!!Dave

  30. I come from a tiny chruch (20 adults … threatened with closure by our denomination), in an urban area in the UK (Bradford) with a massively diverse ethnic mix, struggling in lots of ways to keep our heads above water. You think I’d get p****d off more than anyone about mega-churches (we have one of the UK’s biggest just up the road). However, I get more annoyed about small minded people who love to take a smug, self-righteous swipes at them.Are mega-churches perfect … never found anyone who claims they are. They have all the same problems you and I have in our little congregations, but applified 100 times coz they are successful & big. They also have a whole load of other problems that you and I don’t ever encounter coz we’re just so small. (As far as I’m aware there aren’t any websites dedicated to slagging off St Mary’s, Bradford yet!).I for one am grateful for the ministry, support and example of a number of mega-churches. Instead of having a go at them, why not take a look at them and see what you can learn. Could it possibly be that they are growing coz God is blessing them, coz their leaders have made sacrifices that you and I wouldn’t dare to, coz they are humble and GOd can trust them with success.Sorry if that all seems rather heavy. Just getting a bit tired of the lets-knock-mega-church-off-it’s-pedastal sort of mentality. Thought we were meant to rejoice with those who were rejoicing. I for one rejoice at the success of the mega-church we neighbour with.

  31. Shieldsly said:“But I’d call speaking to a crowd of 5,000+ quite ‘Mega’, or having streets lined with banner waving admirers quite ‘Mega’, or packing out villages so that you had to climb a tree to get a view seems quite ‘mega’, Peter preaching to 3,000+ seems quite ‘Mega’ … or is that all different?”I think you’re confusing the numbers who ate as a result of and were admirers of Jesus as being relevant to the discussion. Sorry, but it’s not. I’m sure that there were many thousands more who witnessed His condemnation and crucifixion.What is more telling, I believe, is what happened to the “megas” of people you mentioned when He said that in order to be His disciples they would have to “eat His flesh and drink His blood.” In other words, it was not that they wanted to follow Him from devotion to Him but for what they got from Him (i.e., food, possibility of Roman expulsion, etc.).After Jesus told the “megas” of people to basically “eat Me,” they left…leaving His original disciples.Warren and other “church growth” gurus may know how to put butts in the pews…so what? The question is: How many true disciples are they making? (My bet is virtually zero)

  32. <>Can you picture Jesus pastoring a purpose-driven church<>As an itinerant preacher, I can’t picture Jesus pastoring most churches. But I’d call speaking to a crowd of 5,000+ quite ‘Mega’, or having streets lined with banner waving admirers quite ‘Mega’, or packing out villages so that you had to climb a tree to get a view seems quite ‘mega’, Peter preaching to 3,000+ seems quite ‘Mega’ … or is that all different?

  33. The subject line and the photo made me laugh out loud. Gold. Now I have a strange urge to dig out my dad’s shotgun…

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