"Now in our 24th year of standing for truth!"
Eric & Melanie Barger
Ministry Update - March 9, 2007
Melanie and I are greatly encouraged by the inspirational cards, emails and financial support that God is bringing to us through you. Though the ministry of apologetics is a somewhat lonely and often misunderstood field, our loyal friends make it so much easier. There is no way to adequately express our love and appreciation for your encouragement, prayers and support.
Because of the continuing and increasing demands of caring for Melanie’s ailing parents this continues to be a very trying time in our lives. Please especially lift my bride up in prayer as she shoulders the emotional and physical burden with our family while I prepare for what is going to be a very busy season of traveling and speaking nationwide.
Regardless of fatigue, stress or just living behind "enemy lines" in a fallen world it is indeed an awesome privilege and blessing to live flat out for Jesus in these last days! His strength and peace define the difference between hope and despair each day. When I look back on the many years I spent separated from God’s love, I marvel at how the unsaved make it in a world so chaotic? It is no wonder that both illegal and prescription drug use is rampant in our society. But authentically born-again Christians have the hope of glory and the courage of the Spirit to depend on. We are, as Paul said, not like the world who has no hope…praise God! However, many church members today – who would certainly consider themselves Christians – have accepted a brand of religion that is subtly leading them away from “the simplicity that is in Christ.” (II Cor 11:3)
The “Feel Good Gospel” Lets People Down
Greetings! God bless you as you continue to preach the TRUTH!! I have a question about The Purpose Driven Life series...At first it seemed good, then the more it was popularized the less I thought about it. I feel that the book is held in too high of regard and somehow Christ and the Word of God seem to play second fiddle. I did read the book and a couple of months later - I reflected back on the text and sometimes felt like that book fed more of my flesh than it helped my soul (spirit) to grow deeper in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Any thoughts on The Purpose Driven Life craze? I also thought that in some ways it appears to be misleading to the non-believer and makes the Christian life out to be easy. I believe that making a decision for Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life is not something to be taken lightly.....and by giving a "feel good gospel" to unsaved people I feel we are letting them down by not giving them the whole gospel message.
Anyway, sorry this is so long, but I think a lot about deception in the Church these days. It seems that more deception is creeping in and less discernment is being used today. It is hard to find a Church that is just preaching the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST these days. I am not meaning that to sound legalistic in any way, shape or form. I just do not want to be deceived in these last days.
Again, may you continue in exposing darkness and deception. May Jesus Christ be ever-glorified in everything you do!
The disturbing condition that we evangelicals find ourselves in surely didn’t happen overnight. It has been a slow, sometimes unnoticeable slide away from biblical truth and into spiritual relativism. I and many other bible believers are burdened and grieved by the condition we find the Church in today. I know how distressed many folks are about the issues I’m about to raise here because I talk to them at my ministry meetings and hear from them through phone calls, emails and letters. What is perhaps most disconcerting (yet biblically prophetic) is that it has not been some overbearing sinister human force from outside the Church that has caused our slide down the proverbial hill toward biblical ruin. Instead, it has been a constant chorus of teaching, books, programs and formulas all slickly marketed (primarily to church leadership) as the sure fire answer to fix sagging attendance and “outreach” problems. In an effort to put warm bodies in the pews and often driven to the end of their rope by looming building debts or growing pressure from demanding elder boards and committees or even a sense of unworthiness due to modest congregation size, many well-meaning pastors have found the Modern Church Growth Movement. Aided by the support of undiscerning or biblically ignorant congregants, the MCGM offers what appears to be a cure for their ailing numbers. But the spiritual results have been anything but positive for now our churches - our evangelical churches - have fallen headlong for one of Satan’s predicted and prophesied end-times trap. (For more about the MCGM see “Christianity: Extreme Makeover Version”)
Like many other baby boomer evangelicals who were firmly rooted and committed to biblical principles, practices and doctrines, I suppose I had misread how widespread our disturbing spiritual condition had become. I thought evangelicals were resolute and unflappable when it came to tenaciously holding onto biblical truth. I now admit though – I was wrong.
Having been thoroughly aware of how theological liberalism had invaded the mainline denominations and seminaries in the last century, I was living under a false assumption that nothing could dislodge and subvert evangelicals away from the truth. I suppose I had repressed the fact that 150 years ago 99% of Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans were stanch evangelicals too – and look what has happened to those once great movements. Though some will recoil at the thought, the same sorts of spiritual delusions are happening again on our watch. Many are in a state of denial and most will feel very uncomfortable with what I am saying but the truth is that a number of the institutions and leaders with whom we once thought God’s Word and righteous standards were safe have lost their way. Evangelicals, Pentecostals and even fundamentalists all need to beware. The biblically prophetic end-times decapitation and removal of truth is well underway. What we once presumed to be safe and biblically sound is anything but that. The truth, for those willing to admit it, is that many of the messages and methods being presented by growing numbers of churches, Christian publishers and religious media sound Christian but are clearly not biblical. The problem for me in particular is that anyone pointing this out is immediately deemed the bad guy and is accused of being judgmental, legalistic and negative. So be it.
I really never wanted to be a part of this controversy. However, I knew the day was coming when I could no longer hold back publicly commenting on Dr. Rick Warren’s books The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church. Addressing these issues are not going to win me a popularity contest in some circles but please understand, it’s not that I want to speak up – it’s that I must. I know it’s not going to be pretty because just as when liberalism infected the mainline churches decades ago, today millions of people in thousands of churches have been led away from the truth and are now accepting a “form” of godliness” and we’d rather not hear about it. However, as Bible believers are fast discovering, we’d best be aware that if one chooses not to be lethally drugged by the self-centered religious siren song of the neo-evangelical “feel good” movement then we had better bring a healthy dose of discernment to the pew every time we come.
Tragically, there are plenty of people in plenty of churches content to enjoy the perks of this new pseudo-Christian religion that are either oblivious to the fact or completely reject the notion that anything is amiss. Having been fed religious sounding, yet humanistic ideas and plans - in place of the real thing - many new “converts” find authentic biblical Christianity (which cries out for men to repent) a very hard pill to swallow. Considering that many have been mentored in the Purpose Driven system (which at no point challenges its followers to forsake and turn from their sins) its no wonder. Herein lies the crux of why Dr. Warren and the “feel good” preachers have done incalculable damage to individuals, congregations, and to the cause of Christ in general. Made famous by their ability to draw crowds and grow congregations, we have become enamored with Dr. Warren and other “growth gurus” and seem content to accept their teachings based on sheer results - instead of carefully putting what they say to the appropriate test of Scripture.
So, as untoward as it may seem to some, is it biblical to sound a warning and openly illustrate the dangers of a particular man’s teaching inside the confines of what appears to be “The Church?” Paul and other New Testament writers thought so.
In II Timothy 3:1-5 the Apostle Paul describes this very condition which we are seeing flourish in the Church in the days just before Christ’s return.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, (literally “a form of the religion of Christ”) but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Notice he doesn’t say the remedy for this is to “hang around and see how much common ground you can find with those preaching or believing error.” He says turn away. Why? Because doctrinal error, promulgated by those who are blind to its evil, has a tendency to spread like a plague to those who don’t vacate from its religious and deceptive entrapments!
Paul wrote: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (II Cor 11:3)
Jude begins his short letter to the Church by stating that he intended to write and encourage them about the great salvation that we enjoy together but instead, he was impelled to warn them about false teachers in their midst.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-5)
This was also Paul’s heart as he warned his beloved Ephesian elders in Acts 20.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch... (Acts 20:28-31a)
Peter echoes these thoughts as well.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (II Peter 2:1)
These are among those pesky parts of the Bible that the modern “feel good” preachers ignore. We are told that they are a detriment to church growth as is any teaching that exposes our fallen sinful nature, our need for repentance and our utter bankruptcy without the Cross of Christ. The Modern Church Growth gurus tell pastors that messages bringing conviction to the hearts of men are bad for business. So instead of embracing the sobering truth that in the last days there is coming a great apostasy (II Thess 2:3), multitudes - sitting in once sound evangelical churches – have now been brought to crave self-help messages and neat little smooth sounding sermonettes which never cut through to the quick of mankind’s eternal issues. This is exactly why the theologically weak and erroneous philosophy of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life is the rage. It sounds Christian; gives people a plan to help placate their religious needs; taps into the human inclination to do good, etc. – yet it fails to mold authentic disciples and deceives those who follow it into accepting a different plan for salvation than that which Jesus and the Apostles taught.
What I am saying here is not the standard “Christian bashing” where one writer or preacher ruthlessly bludgeons another due to disagreements on peripheral doctrines and practice. I happen to detest the gratuitous disputes over nonessentials that we’ve all seen arise as of late and folks, this ain’t it. In fact, if you have heard me preach, seen my DVDs or read my writing for long then you know that I rarely if ever name names inside what is perceived as the Christian world. However, I am absolutely convinced that the only way Warren’s writings could have propelled him to the top of the church world is because either the Church doesn’t know their Bibles or don’t care to know what the complete council of God’s word states. I am equally convinced that Rick Warren’s current teachings - even if he may at some future time back away from particular aspects of it - must be highlighted as spiritually dangerous and pseudo-Christian at best.
For the sake of the Church, Paul instructed Timothy on how to deal with situations such as this.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (II Tim 4:2)
“Reproving” and “rebuking” isn’t pretty. However, when error arises – no matter how widely accepted it is – we must expose and correct it.
Whether Warren’s ideas are a cause or a symptom, the fact remains that astounding numbers of churches that preached the Gospel of Christ in days gone by are now espousing what amounts to “the gospel of Rick Warren.” In Dr. Warren’s case I can’t even give his teaching the backhanded compliment I’ve heard others give it, calling the Purpose Driven system “Christianity lite.” For though his gospel has a religious ring to it, employs Scriptures, feels good to the senses and may fill up the pews it is surely not the REAL gospel. If this is true, and concern over the Purpose Driven system is indeed more than just a clash of the differences between one style of church vs. another, could anything be more deadly to the Kingdom today?
I realize that these are strong statements but for those willing to follow the Bible instead of “The 40 Days of Purpose” I hope you’ll allow me to lay out my case. As you can tell however, this short newsletter will not allow for the details and depth which many of you may desire. It is for this reason that I have prepared a special report which underscores in detail the points I have raised here. I encourage you to request this special report entitled Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy. If printed in standard hardback book format, this thoroughly footnoted resource would be over 60 pages in length (13,000+ words). In it, I outline many pertinent points that clearly frame both the theological and experiential arguments against the basic premise and teaching found in The Purpose Driven Life by bible believing Christians. I site eleven key areas of disagreement with Dr. Warren’s teachings and particularly outline that if one was to follow the plan of salvation in The Purpose Driven Life it would result in a spiritual stillbirth. I also quote Christian leaders as diverse as Chuck Smith, David Wilkerson and John MacArthur Jr. who have all denounced the Purpose Driven philosophy.
Long ago I realized that I couldn’t take up every cause if I was to be effective in any. I have genuinely tried to get away from dealing with what I have written about here and in Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy. But conflicted as I might be the Holy Spirit just wouldn’t let me off the hook. My friends, I have written, edited, prayed and researched for this project for over 15 months waiting on specific direction from God as to when – if ever – to release it. Now the time has come but I want you to understand that it has come with a price.
To my dismay, I have already been nearly cut off from fellowship from a few due to my mere suggestion that Warren’s positions were off the mark. In fact, one pastor, whom I’ve known and preached for several times over the past twenty years, has made it clear that he would sever ties with me if I release this report. Satan has tried relentlessly to intimidate me into silence – even as I have been writing this newsletter. I keep hearing his ugly voice say, “you’ll lose friends, you’ll lose support, you’ll lose churches where you speak…” I just know that he’s a liar, that truth always wins in the end and that regardless of my own personal emotional and spiritual struggles, I simply cannot remain silent on this any longer. The truth must be told and for better or for worse I just have to trust the Lord for the outcome.
Before I close I want to recommend that you also acquire both of my seminar teachings “The REAL Purpose of the Church” and “The Most Dangerous Cult” on DVD and show them to everyone you can as well. Perhaps order multiple copies of them and the special printed report for friends, family or your pastor too.
Click here for information on receiving the Special Ministry Report "Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy" and the DVDs, including a preview of "The REAL Purpose of the Church."
These tools will assist you in doing what the Scripture implores Christians to do. Lets remember: our mission as Believers is to bring both the obviously lost as well as the misguided church member to the knowledge of the truth before they perish.
Thanks again for praying for us and for your financial support this month!
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